Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hello from the SD! Plus, I LIKE BRINK (see why below)

I'm here in sunny San Diego, man what a beautiful place! I was lucky enough to walk up with a few friends from work last night to walk right up to Petco and take in the Pads-Astros. What a beautiful ballpark! Beautiful 72-degree night, the Pads were hitting the ball, just a cool experience. I have to say that Safeco still rates higher in my book, however, as some areas of Petco just aren't as asthetically(sp?) appealing as Safeco. Maybe it's just a simple thing as the color scheme, lots of tan everywhere, but that's part of the area I guess. They have a cool picnic area in centerfield where little kids run wild and you can have a picnic and take in the game, really a neat deal. They also have a sandbox in right-center field bleachers for the kids, a neat touch too.

I found a pretty good highlight video of Alex Brink and the Cougs from the UCLA and Apple Cup last year online. It's a big file, 20 MB, but it's worth the download. I know it's highlights, hell, ANYONE can look great in highlights (I remember when the Sonics signed Jim McIlvaine, and on ESPN they were showing him block all sorts of shots and I was like "WOW" but we know how that worked out??). Anyway, watching the video now, it really is a good reminder that Alex DOES have a good arm, and he's got good feet too. To think that he'll be bigger, stronger, and better this year, well, I can't help but be excited for them to tee it up in 7 DAYS!

Check it out:

http://s7.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=02KHOJ915YFLT1RQ4K120RJV3I Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Response to Lawson - 8/23

1) THIS IS THE WORST HANDLING OF A QB SITUATION SINCE GARCIA V. BLEDSOE V. WHOMEVER...JUST AWFUL. That said, I am not surprised about the Brink thing, although I am surprised that things have gone this far, and that is where I think staff has just blown it. I mean, if you wanted Brink to be the QB in the first place, then he should have been named after scrimmage #1 or maybe even scrimmage #2 when all reports indicated he was ahead. As is, you now have Swoggs getting better and better to the point that he outshines Brink in scrimmage #3. So now, you have a real squabble on your hands and instead of taking a momentum guy who was your pre-camp #1, you're then showing your hidden intentions by naming Brink instead of the guy you named #1 (who you HAD to know would get better with more reps). Whatever. The main thing, just like last year, is that both guys have been around the offense and both have seen it BROUGHT at them by the Pac-10...so it isn't gonna be like there's no experience there....

I actually disagree here. I think they have gone about it the right way, really, provided they didn't have hidden intentions. Based on what that coach said a few weeks ago, really either the staff was/is split on who should start, or Swogger truly has had a below-average camp while Brink has stepped up his game both physically and mentally and is showing what the coaches want to see. You wanna see bad? Look back to the Degrenier/Deeds/Etc days. Although I'll admit it, that was less about decisions and more about a serious lack of talent!

Either way, there is breaking news - Doba told KJR that the decision has now been made. TONIGHT, the coaches will sit down with both QB's and explain their decision, and the story could break tonight or tomorrow. Doba did go on to say that both QB's would "most likely" play against Idaho, but there will be a clear starter and backup situation. They have said from day one that they want a starter, and they don't want the lines blurred, so they are making the decision. I'm personally glad they didn't drag it out any further, as in what UW is doing right now with their derby in which nobody is doing anything to grab the job, so at least we're further along than they are.

My prediction? Two days ago I would have picked Brink, but then when you read the last two days, Swogger is improving (at least according to the press) while Brink is staying about the same. And, in reading between the lines, Doba says he wants efficiency. That's one thing Swoggs has done this pre-season, and that's take care of the ball. He hasn't thrown many picks, and while the team has moved under Brink, he has turned the ball over. Plus, if you remember, last year it wasn't just the bad throws, but he put the ball on the carpet A LOT. I don't know the numbers, but I know for sure I saw at least 3 games where he turned it over on sacks. Him being bigger and stronger will help, but he still appears to turn the ball over.

I'm going to now predict, in a very tight race, that Swoggs will actually be named the starter.......but big 'ol Josh better not get too comfortable. If he lays an egg at, say, Nevada, they will pull his ass and it's the Alex Brink era vs. Grambling and beyond.

Also, tonight at 5:30 PM, the dynamic running back from Mead, Skyler Jessen, will announce his college plans. His finalists are OSU and WSU, but no official inside word where'll he'll end up. There was one thing I read last week that said it was a "slight lean" to the Beavs and he was blown away by his visit, but he also just visited the Cougs again so we'll see. He is announcing two weeks early, though, he was going to announce after Labor Day but changed his mind and is ready to pull the trigger. HOPEFULLY it's WSU, being the announcement is in Spokane? Might be good news. It would be nice to get a big-name kid in a big announcement on TV and all. Heck, he could be a serious celebrity in Spokane. Imagine spending xmas break in Spokane as the starting tailback for WSU? If he's into that, of course. :)

2) The Cougfan.com preview was simply great and I think the first REAL insider preview of the conference and its real key games. Did you see that the Beavs play ASU before us while we are resting with a bye. I tell you, THAT game is our season...win and we are 8-3 at worst...lose and I think were 5-6 to 7-4 with 6-5 being the probability.

I agree on the predictions, and the OSU game is THE swing game of the year. You are right and you have been all year, man, win that one, and there is a very good chance to be 6-0 going into Cal, or to dream further, 7-0 going in to USC? Wow. Just get through these first 3 games without major injuries undefeated, and I'll take my chances! But, I do disagree, we will NOT go 5-6 again. I think the worst possible scenario is 6-5, and that's if things go bad. I really see 8-3, with a Sun or Vegas bowl .

3) Saw a lot of the King Felix highlights...my dad (former all-state catcher in Ohio, seriously), who now has a summer place in Sequim, says that he reminds him of a young Pedro Martinez in Freddy Garcia's body. After watching the highlights I couldn't agree more...the 12-6 hook is really something, but nothing like the 97 mph gas that moves JUST like Pedro's stuff used to...And ya, the 8th inning stuff was STUPID...we get 2 runs to tie the game up in the 7th, he holds to become the pitcher of record and then we throw him out there in the 8th with everything to lose...so he gets his ERA knocked down .15 by pitching that scoreless 8th, but who the f cares??? Absolutely horrible managing...simply put: until it matters (like a pennant race), that kid should NEVER throw over 110 pitches...but man what stuff....

Glad you got a good look at that kid's stuff. Some of those curve balls are just freaky. Great comparison, too, Pedro's stuff (with better velocity) and Freddy's windup, yet as Bill Kruegor points out, a more fluid, repeatable delivery so the strain won't be on that arm. A nice, big frame too, no 5-10 Pedro stuff here, he's a horse.

Man what a star he can become with that stuff, and the best thing of all that they've been talking about? His makeup. Here we've seen him, twice, just battle in the first inning, but you know what? He minimizes the damage when he's trying to find himself, basically getting by without his best stuff, and then it's lights-out. He doesn't get down on himself and things just don't go to hell. That's probably going to be the book on him, get on him early or else once he settles into a groove, he's Pedro all over again. Since we've seen him scuffle in the first inning of two of his first five starts, that might be a trend. From what I've been able to read, that was more or less what the deal was with him in AAA. There are also theories that he was simply bored with AAA and knew he could get by for a while without his best stuff, he truly is THAT good and certainly that much better than guys several years older than him. Then you think about 16 singles, period, that's just unreal. Still no extra-base hits in 30 IP!

4) My buddy here says that word around the NBA is that the KINGS are the BIG winners so far in the offseason and that Phoenix is the big loser....He says that Kings management thinks they are still behind Houston and Dallas and WAY behind the Spurs, but that they will get on of the top 3 seeds cuz of the division...I REALLY question their backcourt depth, but I am not sure I disagree.....must see on the Wilkins front + Dale Davis....very interesting on the Supes front and MAN is it quiet, or what?

I know, more Kings stuff. I'll say this - on PAPER at least - they look like they could be a very good regular season offensive team. Will that get them a 3-seed? Hard to say. Shareef has been declining in every key category the last few years, and he's had some health issues, so he's no sure thing to roll out a 20-10 every night. But in the west when it's wide open play during the regular season and teams pick and choose the games in which they'll actually play serious defense, they are made to score a lot of points. They aren't what Phoenix was last year, and they won't be as good as some of George's best teams up here, but they do have a legit shot at a high seed. BUT, it's all paper, and bulletin board - chat room stuff right now, let's see how these guys acutally play together first before we predict 58 wins and a division championship!

Dale Davis is a Piston, but it appears the Supes will match on Damien. They are holding Minnesota hostage for this week but the rumor is they'll match at the last moment. Locke said so, at least, and he's pretty accurate. Anyway, Damien and Vitaly will be back, and they are just sitting around letting Reggie, Flip and Vladi try to get great deals, but it ain't gonna happen. I think for sure we'll see Vladi and Flip back, but I don't know about Reggie. I know you LOVE the guy, but doesn't it at least say something that a player like that hasn't even been rumored to be close to deal with ANY other team? I don't think the rest of the NBA cares too much for him, or else he would have been snatched up by now, especially when you look at the free agents still available. So this lineup will be the team next year:

Rid - Brunson
Ray - Flip - Damien
Rashard - Vladi - Damien
Collison - Fortson - Vladi
Vitaly - Collison - Swifty

I'm down with it.

By the way, Locke says be prepared for a LOT of Vladi and Rashard on the floor at the same time, especially in the 4th quarter, with Collison playing the 5. Defensively that leaves something to be desired, but offensively? Phew! Pick your poison. I'd like to see Shareef have to run out to the 3-point line with Vladi toeing the line! Also means a ton of wide-open looks for Rid! Let's not overlook the FACT that the Sonics have a SUPERSTAR 2-guard in his absolute prime, something they've never really had. We were lucky to get the best of GP and the best of Shawn, but we always lacked at that MJ-type 2-guard. Well, Ray ain't MJ, but honestly, outside of Kobe's pure scoring ability, I don't think there's a 2-guard in the west I'd rather have than Ray. Ginobli? He's a GREAT player, not good, GREAT, but can he carry a team on his own without an all-star at the 4? Doubtful. Carmelo? Rashad McCants? Bonzi Wells??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You saw it in the playoffs last year, there's no better feeling to know that you have a guy that absolutely, positively WILL TAKE and WILL MAKE that shot you need in a tight situation! That was always the biggest knock on the George Karl teams until GP grew up, and that was as talented as they were, nobody wanted the ball with the game on the line. Well, we've got that guy the next 5 years.

5) Could the Fleehawks be sneaking up on us...Telling you, with the 49ers on the schedule twice, they only need to go .500 on the rest of the schedule to go 9-7. I'm thinking 10-6 and a real street fight for the playoffs...Thoughts?

The Hawks looked sloppy last night, but that's ok. It's just preseason, and that's expected to happen, especially since they just broke camp and are in Kirkland for the first time. Really, I don't care if you lose 63-0 in the preseason, just survive and look decent with your 1's, and I'll take it. I will say this, though, they look a lot better defensively. Younger, faster, more enthusiasm, and best of all, a serious push up the middle with Tubbs and Darby combined with quickness and intensity off the edge with Wistrom and Fisher. They were much stronger against the run last night with their 1's vs. Dallas and their 1's, and Julius Jones against the revamped D really didn't do anything until the starters were out of there. Quite a contrast to last year, no?

If they improve from 26th to, say, 15th on D, with that offense, I think they are easily 10-6, maybe even 11-5 or 12-4. I know, I know, I bought in after the Green Bay playoff game and predicted Super Bowl last year but I drank the cool-aid like everyone else with that smoke-n-mirrors start to the season. They had some really bad seeds and Ruskell has weeded them out. Plus they were brutally injured on defense last year, where at one point they only had 3 starters penciled in during training camp actually ACTIVE FOR THE PLAYOFF GAME, and that's huge in the NFL. They say yeah, but injuries are a part of the NFL, everyone deals with them, blah blah blah. I tell you what, you take 8 starters off the Patriots or Eagles D from last year, and do you really see them in the Super Bowl? No way.

6) LAST WEEK WITHOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL!!!!! iTS ALMOST HERE.

Just about 1 week away! I'll be in San Diego tomorrow through Friday, then I'll be in Priest Lake on vacation all of next week. I'll have my cell phone with me, so give me a call Thursday night after the Cougs win 54-17! Read more ...plus comments

Monday, August 22, 2005

Many new updates 8/22

Ok, lots to get to, not much time to do it. I spoke to our incredibly well-informed "source" who had a lot of info. He was just over in the heartland this weekend and gave me an update:

1) BRINK over Swogger. He said from talking to some who would know, unless things change dramatically, it will be Brink. He said it was very apparent in the scrimmage he watched, and things just were a lot more smooth with Brink vs. Swogger. Swoggs timing is really off in all facets, and you can tell just by reading the recaps that he's not on his game right now. Our source said it's everything, from poor throws/reads, to footwork, you name it, he's just off right now and is battling a confidence issue to boot. Further, the coaches like the way Brink has competed for the job, and even though Swoggs was named the #1 guy coming into camp and after spring ball, Brink has been busting his butt in every way to steal the job. It's going to come down probably this week, so don't be surprised if this is the dawning of the Alex Brink era....until he gets hurt vs. Nevada that is!!?!?

2) The player we were worried about, due to grades? It's all taken care of. Don't know any more details, but everything turned out fine. I'll leave it at that.

3) Stadium info is new, they just finalized everything with the arcitect I think Friday. Don't know how the final meeting went, but both the athletic department and the board liked the idea of a deck on both sides and leaving the endzones, other than a slight upgrade, as they are. 45,000 seats, very intimate. Obviously the facilities will get a major facelift and all that, but two decks is now likely. Not sure when the final announcement will be, but it's coming down to the wire here, maybe for the Seattle game things will get going, who knows. It sure as hell takes a while to get all their ducks in a row before they fully launch the campaign, that much is certain!

4) The Auburn game WILL be officially announced this week. The good news? It's a featured ESPN game and Gameday and all that will PROBABLY be there. Plus, we're getting $850,000 from Auburn to play the game, and another $500,000 from ESPN to get us down there, for a nice $1.3 MILLION payday. Ok, the bad news (and this is bad news). There IS NO RETURN GAME. Auburn will NOT, under any circumstances, agree to play a game outside the south, and Seahawks Stadium or not, they will NOT ever come up here, period. The deal on the table now is a take-it-or-leave-it, one time only, and the money and national exposure it just too great to pass up. Supposedly UW heard about it and made some calls to them, but they said "no thanks, we want WSU first and foremost, but if they cancel you'll be considered from a list of schools."

5) Ticket sales are just under 30,000 for Grambling. They are expecting another 10-15K right up until kickoff, so probably in the neighborhood of 45,000 at the most. Then again, sales last year were lagging and then late in the process things picked up and we were close to a sellout, so we'll see.

That's it on the Cougs.

So how about King Felix? The fact that he battled through a rough first inning to completely dominate again is a story, when you think of the fact he was facing the Twins on the road, a team he has already faced, etc, but to think he went 8 innings only giving up 5 singles!?!? On the season, 30 IP, 16 singles, 4 BB, 30 K's and a 1.24 ERA?!?! He's better overall than I ever imagined, and to see him fight through a rough start to completely own them was amazing. That curve ball, too, YIKES. Some of the strike-outs were phenominal. You must go to MLB.com and look at the Saturday recap to see the video, the movement is Nintendo-like. He's a once-in-a-decade pitcher, Michael, and if they can PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH THAT ARM, we have something special! The fact they let him go 115 pitches though?? Scary. He was at I think 95 or 100 even after 7 IP, so that should have been enough, but who knows. I'm no pitching coach, I don't know what their plan internally is on the guy, and maybe they wanted to let him go an extra 15-20 pitches above the 100 mark to see how he does. Think about that, though, for a moment - 16 singles, no extra base hits, 4 BB's and a K-an-Inning!?!? It's just incredible. I can't wait for him to go again. I don't think it's announced yet, but he'll go either Thursday AM at Texas or Friday PM at home against the White Sox (if they have half a brain down there they'll hold him back for Friday at home, they need every gate attraction they can get right now). That one extra day of rest might be good after he threw so many pitches on Saturday.

Speaking of half a brain, it was nice to see they released SandFrog Spiezio. What a joke. What's even more sad is that the entire 2004 starting infield has now been released or traded for absolutely NOTHING of value in return. That 2003-04 offseason has to be one of the worst in franchise history, and has set them back several years in the rebuilding process. There are whispers that Bavasi is in serious trouble, and they are about to do something for the first time in nearly 100 years - win 90+ games two years in a row, to be followed by consecutive 90-loss seasons. Any way you spin it, that's a pretty lousy job. Of course Bavasi couldn't predict the future, and I really believed that coming into 2004 they'd be better overall with Spiezio and Aurillia both hitting their normal 15 HR's, and Olerud and Boone doing their normal things, but it all went to crap. Plus the Guillen-for-Santiago deal is easily one of the worst in franchise history. Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Spokesman-Review Blog - D-line preview and more

Check it out:

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/blogs/wsu/

Good read on the D-line. Man they are SO FRIGGIN' VITAL to how that defense plays this year! It trickles down all the way to the safety position. You get good run-stopping and pass rushing from your front 4, you don't have to blitz as much, your LB's can stay in coverage in the pass-happy pac-10, you don't leave your DB's in one-on-one situations, blah blah BLAH! But it's all true. Our best WSU defenses revolved around a strong d-line.

Look back to 1994 - Eaton, Sasa, DeWayne Patterson and a young man named Leon Bender were huge. They allowed superstar players like Ronnie Childs and Mark Fields to fly to the ball, remember?

















1997 saw the Senior Bender playing at an all-Pac-10 level, but Dorian BOOSE was a huge key as well and Spokane's own Shayne Doyle playing solid all-around.














The 2002 Rose Bowl team with Rien Long and Jeremey Williams inside, Acholonu and Brown on the outside might be the greatest first-team front-4 we ever suited up, dating back to the Keith Millard days.





That said, the 2003 Holiday Bowl champs who Texas found to be UNBLOCKABLE with Williams and Tupai on the interior with Cook spelling them, and Brown and Acholonu with rising frosh Mkristo Bruce and Adam Braidwood on the other side might be the deepest front 4 we ever had.

Guys like Ike doing this:



Allowed guys like Derting free reign to do this:

Yes, I'm having fun with pictures today!

All good football people will always tell you, it doesn't matter if you recruit flashy skill position guys, you MUST have horses up front or else you will fail, period! Take a good look at UW in the last year under Neuheisel and the two years under Gilby, and you will see that line play on both sides of the ball can make - or break - your team. The UW team that went 11-1 in 2000 was strong with Tui, but man, that offensive line was one of the greatest, top to bottom, in school history. They would just plow defenses into tomorrow late in the game, and they flat-out controlled the line of scrimmage. They put up some sick rushing yards, especially late in games when the opposing front-4 would be running out of gas. I hate them, of course, but man, what a great line they had!

Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

8/16 scrimmage - QB's even...or are they?? Plus Cougs land a 6-4 shooting guard


From the media reports, statistically speaking, both QB's looked OK (better, not great) in last night's scrimmage. HOWEVER, here's one take that I read on the premium message boards from someone that was in attendance. Note that this was written by a guy that has been to a lot of practices and scrimmages since the spring, so I would take what he's saying as pretty solid info:

"Swogger steps up? I have to say I saw it differently. I thought Brink was better by a significant margin. Enough so that I will predict that he will be the starter vs. idaho.Most of the scrimmage was 1s vs 2s. But, on the few occasions that it was 1s vs 1s, Brink carved up the #1 D. Once, they took 3 plays to take it in from the D's 25. He also marched them right down in the 2:00 drill. His TD pass to Hill was a beautifully thrown fade that showed arm strength and touch, and I don't think he makes that throw last year. If you look at who played better against the 1s, it was clearly Brink. The interception was a lob at the goal line. Ward got tied up with Bursey and fell; Bursey came down with the ball."

Some other observations:
"The goal line offense is still poor, and a major point of frustration with me. I don't understand why they march right down the field in the spread offense, then insist on packing everything in tight when they are inside the 10. Spread the field and make them cover you sideline to sideline. This offense isn't designed to push people around, so don't try to do it.The baby LBs (Trent, Stripling, Evans) continue to impress me. We are going to see a lot of them, even this season. I like Gibson and Ward a lot, too. Gibson looks like the second coming of Jason Hill in size and athletic ability, the hype is warranted and he looks like the best player in the '05 class. I'm hoping to see Woolridge and Tardy back out there soon. Overall I thought it was a good scrimmage. Neither side dominated, but both had their bright spots. The TD run by Harrison was a thing of beauty. The Force is strong with this one!"

So there you have it. Nice to read something different than the usual media reports. This guy has been saying all along that Brink has looked really improved since Spring, just bigger, stronger, more sure of himself and a lot more in command. But also told people to relax until right about now as Swoggs has to shake off the rust and trust the foot again. This is the first time this guy actually said he thought Brink was the better of the two, however, so this might be a real turning point.

IN basketball, the Cougs landed a 6-4 shooting guard from Pennsylvania by the name of Chris Matthews.

Matthews originally signed with James Madison out of high school, but didn't make it academically. The incoming true freshman who recently qualified chose WSU over offers from UMass, Providence, Tennessee, New Mexico State among others.

"I chose Washington State," said Matthews. "He was very excited, like I am. I just like Tony Bennett, his personality and how he says he's going to help me develop."


``I really like the coaching staff, the conference and I feel that the offense they have really suits me,” Matthews said. “Coach (Tony) Bennett seems like he’s dedicated to developing his players and seems like a very honest guy. He’s someone I’d like to spend my college career playing for.”

Matthews, who sank nine trifectas in front of Bennett in a Las Vegas tourney and hit at least a handful of long range shots on four separate occassions in the tournament, also considered UMass.
``I liked both schools,” Matthews said. “But in my heart, I wanted to go to Washington State. It feels good to finally know it’s over with.”

Sounds like young Bennett might have found a diamond in the rough here? All the experts agree, Tony Bennett can recruit. Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

S.Review - WSU corners under the spotlight

First, before I get the WSU story up, HOW ABOUT FELIX!?!?




8 IP (again)
99 pitches (2nd start in a row under 100 pitches yet still 8 IP)
67 strikes, 32 balls, continuing a better than 2-1 strike-ball ratio
11 K's
1 BB
3 hits - ALL singles (one of which was an infield single)

Absolutely FILTHY all night. His 11 K's are the first teenager to fan more than 10 in a game since Doc Gooden in 1984 (Kerry Wood was 20 when he got his 20-K game). Go to MLB.com and check out the recap, and watch the 1+ minute video on him. Some of the pitches he throw are not of this earth. The curve he strikes out Joe McEwing is amazing, McEwing actually dropped to one knee he buckled so much!

One more thing that is really interesting - 21 IP on the year, 21 K's, 3 BB's, 11 hits, 2 ER. Pretty impressive. Then consider this - ALL 11 HITS ARE SINGLES! In fact, a Baseball Prospectus writer wrote today that 9 of the 11 hits were ground-ball singles that bounced within 3 feet of the plate, and that there hasn't been a single ball hit yet that even came close to being a double/triple/hr. In fact, not a single ball has yet to be hit that even made the warning track. Just amazing. And, his 1 ER last night should not have been an ER at all. Mike Morse botched two double-play chances in the 8th inning, when he was extremely slow getting the ball out of his glove and Yuni had no chance to turn two. It was VERY frustrating, and last night was a perfect example as to why Morse should be a DH/LF, and NOT a shortstop! 2-run HR and a double, but can't field a valuable defensive position, period.

Here's a good write-up from espn.com about his start last night. Just think what the hype would be if he were throwing for the Yanks or Mets or Red Sox?? There would be 1-hour specials, interviews with his kindergarten teacher, you name it.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=schoenfield/050816&num=0

Now, the Review's write-up on our DB's. Encouraging that they are doing well, yet this is a green group. We should have the luxury of a strong pass rush with the D-line, plus blitzing LB's like Davis and Derting that have a clue about how to get to the QB. :

PULLMAN - They know full-well that they sit in the bull's-eye of every critic and opponent they'll face this over the course of the fall. They're aware that for every touchdown they allow people will grumble about inexperience รข€” and worse, inability.

And, with just more than two weeks left until the 2005 season starts, the cornerbacks of Washington State don't really seem to care.

"We don't have all those blue-chip players like USC has or anybody else like that but we work hard over the summer to be as good an athlete as we can," said senior corner Alex Teems, the one established link on the outside of the Cougar defense entering this season. "Right now, we're doing well in camp and hopefully the hard work will pay off."

With an improved front seven returning and an offense that seems poised to put more points on the board this fall, the concerns over this year's team have fallen in the laps of WSU's cornerbacks, who will soon be charged with covering the likes of Trojan star Dwayne Jarrett and Arizona State speed-demon Derek Hagan, among others.

The concern largely stems from the fact that Teems, who started for the first time last year, has little dependable help on the other side of the field - and for that matter, didn't always blanket receivers himself in 2004.

Omowale Dada and Don Turner have limited playing experience - Dada made one start last fall because of an injury - and they will be the ones sharing the onus on the opposite side of the field.
"I think that Wally and Donny Turner are both doing a good job," secondary coach Ken Greene said. "I'm real pleased with the progress they've made and I'd be real comfortable if things stay as they are right now that we'd be able to rotate all three of those guys around so they all stay fresh."

In reputation, both Dada (not athletic enough) and Turner (too many injuries) have their faults. But Greene said both have impressed this fall, and went especially far to defend his fifth-year senior, who is the likely starter opposite Teems.

"Every year Wally continues to impress me with his ability to keep pushing that ceiling up," he said. "He's a very heady player, he's jumping better, he's running better, he's leaner this year. I think he's a legitimate Pac-10 corner and I wouldn't have said that probably two years ago, maybe last year."

When asked about the importance of cornerbacks in the defensive scheme he helped piece together as a coordinator, head coach Bill Doba launched into an explanation of how the cornerbacks' abilities can affect the types of defenses WSU can play on every down. Long story short, he and the Cougar defensive staff knows that poor corner play means few options in a game plan. And that can easily spell doom on Saturdays.

Behind the top three corners are two unprovens, freshman Ian Bell - who's currently battling an ankle problem - and junior college transfer Lorenzo Bursey, an offensive player thus far in college. Doba said Bursey is making the transition well, but he still stands just one or two offensive injuries away from going back to wide receiver.

Once again, it seems, the cornerbacks find themselves on an island.
"What we may lack supposedly in size and speed on paper, we make up in heart and togetherness," Dada said. "We all work together and we're all on the same page on every single play.

"We're going to go harder than every other team, every other player on the field. We're ready. It's exciting, because people can look down upon us, but we love being the underdog coming out and knocking somebody out."

NOTES
WSU is down a couple of running backs because of a pair of injuries. Sophomore Jed Collins fractured his left thumb during Thursday's practice but didn't report the pain to trainers until Sunday. He's currently in a cast and able to participate in limited workouts during practice. -Freshman runner DeMaundray Woolridge, who showed off some nice moves in Saturday's first scrimmage, has a right knee sprain that's keeping him out of practice. The injuries mean Kevin McCall and freshman Dwight Tardy, along with senior fullback Brandon Asuega-Stark, are the primary options behind starter Jerome Harrison. Read more ...plus comments

Monday, August 15, 2005

08/15 - Lawson response

Lawson says:

You know, I am just going to take a few chill pills on this whole Swogger thing. Bottom line: I HATED Jason Gesser during his injured 4-7 or 5-6 campaign and then we go to two straight 10 win seasons with him...So, if Brink is going to be the man, then let him be the man...the main thing is that we know that whoever starts off the year is going to find time on the DL with our offense...so lets just hope that we get both in stride during the cupcake portion of the schedule.

Sean says:

I am in your camp on this too after thinking more about it. I openly pined for Matt Kegel after Gesser broke his leg in 2000 and Kegel led the team to a win at USC, but Gesser was always the guy players rallied around, and he did put up some great numbers (actually one of the greatest QB's in Pac-10 history, in TD passes and total offense he's in the upper echelon). For Mike Price to call him the greatest player in WSU history is something else.

The thing is? We heard the "inside" word on Brink, and it ain't good. BUT, what if what I heard from the horse's mouth isn't exactly accurate? What if that was his personal opinion getting in the way of reality? That source isn't with the coaching staff anymore, and maybe, just maybe, he was exaggerating a bit? He was very adamant, but you never really know the full story. All I know is from an outsider's point of view, the kid while pretty weak and skinny last year really did show us something by 1) leading the team back against Colorado, 2) beating UCLA at UCLA, and 3) winning the Apple Cup, something no WSU frosh QB had ever done. I know, Jerome Harrison had a lot to do with the late wins, and without him we would have lost at least two more games, but you can't argue with the result.

Look at the numbers from Brink in the Apple Cup from last year - 15 for 24, 240 yards, 2 TD's, 1 rushing TD, and NO picks. That's pretty big-time, and on paper, better than any game Swogger played last year, especially in completion percentage and taking care of the ball! I know, I know, UW was beat up and just terrible last year, but they actually were an above-average defense. Plus given it's a rivalry week, and the pressure really was on for WSU NOT TO LOSE TO A 1-WIN UW TEAM, that thing could have gone the other way.

Then you hear that Brink has grown an inch to be 6-3, and has put on anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds of pure muscle, well, who knows!?!?

Another case could be made that Brink has just been better this summer. He's not been a total superstar, but everything you read and hear, he's been the better player. He had a good spring, and he's played pretty well this summer. If you put 2 and 2 together, it sure feels like Brink has a better than legit shot at this. It almost feels like they are greasing the skids to make this move if you ask me. Given the other side of things, that Swogger wasn't elected team captain again, it makes you wonder what the players really think of their QB's? Just hope they don't get split down the middle, because we know for sure how ugly QB controversies can tear a team apart!

When you think of the weapons they'll have this year, Harrison a 1,000 yd back, Hill a 1,000 yd receiver, Troy B a great TE, Bumpus in the slot, Chris Jordan on the other side?? That's a lot of talent on offense. The tools are in place. If Swoggs still CAN'T get it done with this group, either in scrimmages or against Idaho, well, they MUST go to Brink if he doesn't win the job outright. If he can't get it done, say, down at Nevada? Then go to Gary Rogers or Cole Morgan or (shudder) Arkelon Hall, any other QB on the roster who can get it done! The window of opportunity is too small to screw around at QB again. Last year was our learning year, to see what Swoggs and Brink could do given the opportunity, THIS YEAR IS FOR WINNING GAMES, period, end of story. I would hate to see them blow a real chance to finish in the upper division this year by messing around at the most important position on the field. I would hate to send Will Derting out another down season for a kid that has meant so much to the program, all the way back to 2002.

Lawson says:
I like the Auburn deal...simply put, we need to have a big boy out of conference if we want to contend nationally. and losing a close one on the road early actually BOOSTS your credibility (see Ohio State Gesser's last year).Cuz without one, you face the REAL possibility of being last year's Auburn and being shut-out after an undefeated season....I mean, can you imagine? We go 11-0 this year and wind up out of the national championship game and at #2. How painful would that be???????????So, lets hope we stay healthy through September and then roll out the ball...we okay, we okay, we okay...

Sean says:
I DON'T like the Auburn deal, unless we are 100% guaranteed to get a return trip. Auburn is famous for never leaving the south, and this year they play their first FIVE GAMES at home! Meanwhile, we go down there in early September when it's 95 and 90% humidity, we'll be dead for two weeks.

Look at the Beavs last year, they lose a total heart-breaker, and then they lose to Boise State. Their minds and bodies took weeks to get over that one, and one of the big reasons Doba has always been against the idea of playing Georgia between the hedges early in the year is because he's convinced it takes two full weeks to recover from that heat. Supposedly Georgia approached us early last year and wanted us to come on down. We went and asked Georgia if they would do a home-and-home in the Georgia Dome and Qwest Field, NOT in Athens, but they said "uh, no thanks". Doba's said so many times on his radio show. When you aren't from down there and really have no clue about what a sauna it really is just standing still, let alone playing against NFL talent at every freakin' position, well, it's brutal. I could see a humiliating, punishing, physically blown-out 45-6 loss down there with 400 rushing yards allowed, I really do. $850K makes the hurt go away in the front office when you are trying to get the stadium renovation off the ground, and that's clearly the motivation combined with the gate appeal of a Cougs - Auburn Tigers game at Qwest in the future, but would it ruin our 2006 season in the proces??

I don't know man, damned if you do, damned if you don't!?!? Read more ...plus comments

MANY many updates!


Tons of stuff going on. Read below for:
1) Scrimmage stuff
2) Andy Mattingly commits
3) Taylor Mays from O'Dea to USC (sorry UW!)
4) Brink runs the first string on Sunday?!?
5) Cougs steal big-time D-end/LB hybrid from Oregon?
6) Cougs AT AUBURN IN 2006??!?!


On the scrimmage, from the Spokesman:

QB Swogger disappointed with his showing
Completes one pass while Brink enjoys better day during Cougar scrimmage

PULLMAN – His first pass of the day provided as much hope as any Cougar fan in the stands could have desired.
Josh Swogger, playing in his first significant live action since last October, dropped back and found a wide-open Troy Bienemann going across the middle of the field for a catch-and-run that totaled 64 yards.
The small group of fans gathered at Martin Stadium for Washington State's first scrimmage roared their appreciation, and it looked like Swogger was back from the injury struggles of 2004 and ready to win the starting role in this quarterback derby with Alex Brink.

But that completion was his only of the day, as the next seven passes to leave Swogger's right hand all hit the ground, some barely avoiding defenders' outstretched hands.
"These last couple of days just haven't been that good. I don't know what it is – I just haven't played that well," the dejected junior said after his 1-of-8 outing that included a botched handoff in a two-minute drill. "I've just got to go home and look at myself in the mirror, get things together, try to shake things up and start playing better. Either I'm going to get better or I'm going to get worse.
"I don't know what it is. It's just not coming to me right now. I don't know if I'm slow on my reads or what it is right now, but I'm just late in throws. I'm not making bad reads, I'm just making bad throws. It's pretty frustrating. I know I'm better than that and I think the coaches think I'm better than that and expect more than that."
Brink, the sophomore underdog in WSU's quarterbacking mix, played appreciably better although he too was quick to admit that an 8-of-15 performance for 68 yards was far from perfect.
"I was inconsistent at times, made a few mental mistakes I shouldn't make right now," he said. "But I thought I was throwing the ball well, and hit some good throws."
Swogger's struggle to move the first-team offense Saturday afternoon led head coach Bill Doba to backpedal somewhat when asked for an analysis.
"Well, let me look at the video first and see," he responded. "I saw some dropped passes, sometimes a few protection errors it looked like, possibly. But again, I need to look at the video before I can really make an evaluation.
"We're not going to pick one just yet."
Doba did suggest that Swogger may be putting undue pressure on himself, something that could affect his performance.
"He needs to just relax," Doba said. "He's trying to be completely error-free, and nobody's going to be that way." "
Neither quarterback threw for a touchdown pass as both of the day's aerial scores came from the second- and third-string offenses. As has been the Cougars' tendency in recent scrimmages, offensive and defensive first-string units played against each other sparingly and usually went up against backups. And much of the scrimmage was spent getting the newer, younger players an opportunity to take snaps.
But the focus was still on Swogger and Brink, who alternated drives with the first offense. Brink got the team down the field to two touchdowns on the ground – for whatever reason, running backs seemed to find more room with him under center.
Meanwhile, Swogger used that first pass to get the Cougars into field-goal range, but that was it for scoring from the offensive starters.
WSU has another scrimmage Tuesday night and then a third on Friday, and Swogger sounded a lone optimistic note that his first scrimmage back may have been needed to get the rust out. Still, Swogger knows what everyone in attendance also realized: Improvement is a must.
"I know it's been a long time, but I've been playing this game for a while," he said. "So I expect myself to do things the correct way, and I'm just not getting it done right now. You guys see it on the sidelines and I see it. I know I'm not playing well."

Here's some notes from the Spokesman:

Derting probably out next two weeks of practices

PULLMAN – Washington State announced that middle linebacker Will Derting will probably miss the next two weeks of practices because of a left hamstring injury suffered Wednesday.
"Hamstrings, they heal at different rates. I promise you we won't rush him," head coach Bill Doba said after Saturday's scrimmage, growing less serious. "As long as he can get back for the Washington game, I'll be happy."
Head trainer Bill Drake said X-rays on the senior captain were negative. The two-week window would extend into the practices directly leading up to the Sept. 1 season-opener against Idaho, but WSU has made no mention of Derting possibly being absent for that game.
Last season, Derting dislocated his wrist at about this time, but still managed to suit up for the opener with a cast over the injury. This is Derting's first hamstring problem, though, leading in part to the school's caution in bringing him back.
Ghostly performance
Senior running back Jerome Harrison lived up to his nickname – "Ghost" – once again on Saturday, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on just six carries.
In what became par for the course this spring, Harrison had a number of long runs including a 51-yarder late in the day.
The running back credited added strength over the off-season as a major aide this fall, though he joked that perhaps at 204 pounds he's gotten too big for his own good.
"I think I've got to miss a couple of days (of eating), you know, do some running," he said. "Because at the buffet there, they're feeding us. Man, it's ridiculous how much we eat. I've got to cut down on the Ding-Dongs and the Ho-Hos and the doughnuts."Position battles
At cornerback, senior Omowale Dada and junior Don Turner are fighting for playing time and both appeared effective in Saturday's scrimmage. Dada had the advantage coming into camp, and Doba suggested that nothing so far has changed that.
"I think Dada won the job pretty much, almost won the job in the spring," Doba said. "And it just kind of depends. Don's been hurt a lot but he's staying healthy and I think he's improved each and every day. It's good competition, and that's a spot you can roll people in and out a little bit and keep them fresh."
At kicker, Graham Siderius showed off a refined technique by drilling five kicks – one extra point and field goals from 21, 32, 36 and 49 yards. Loren Langley, who held the job as a freshman for nearly all of last season, had the same five attempts. He made all but the 49-yarder, which sailed just wide right.
The 10 kicks were all attempted with a strong breeze at their backs.Notes
After running a number of tests, WSU has diagnosed tight end Cody Boyd with three benign bone cysts in his right ankle, perhaps causing a stress reaction. The junior will miss 4-6 weeks but will not need surgery for the time being. Boyd dropped out of practice during the fall's first session when the ankle began causing significant pain. … Another tight end, Jacob McKinney, will miss three weeks because of a cartilage tear in his right knee. … Defensive end Adam West sustained a concussion Friday and will be re-evaluated today. … Freshmen running backs DeMaundray Woolridge and Dwight Tardy, both of whom could play this fall, struggled to gain yards but looked good at times in Saturday's scrimmage. Woolridge ran for 7 yards on nine carries, Tardy 12 on eight. Doba did compliment the 5-foot-8 Woolridge's running style and ability after the scrimmage. … Redshirt freshman quarterback Gary Rogers, who could see some playing time in non-conference action this season, threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Benny Ward – most of it after the catch – against the first-team defense. Rogers was 5 of 10 for 64 yards, with one interception as well.

Some stuff on the 4-star, #11 rated safety in the nation, Andy Mattingly:





http://washingtonstate.scout.com/2/423755.html

GOOD NEWS - UW lost out on the heralded Taylor Mays from O'Dea! The bad news is he committed to USC over Michigan and UW, so the fabulous athlete will stay in-conference. I talked to Mead about him and he said he's regarded as the best overall athlete in YEARS from up here, just amazing.

Sunday morning practice recap includes the news that ALEX BRINK was running the first team offense (and looked good doing it too). I'm telling you, you can FEEL it, and I'll make the prediction right now - Alex Brink will start the majority of the games in 2005, either by injury, poor performance, you name it, Alex Brink will take more snaps and start more games in 2005:


PULLMAN -- With the opener a little over two weeks away, the battle for the starting QB job is heating up. After a Saturday scrimmage marked by inconsistency, Alex Brink and Josh Swogger each ran the offense through a two-minute drill Sunday morning. The kickers, however, looked improved. A true frosh took his shot filling in at middle 'backer Sunday. Plus, the injury report has three new members -- Mullenix, Pitoitua and Bell. And the day is only half over, the Cougs practice later tonight.
Two-a-days continue Sunday, with this evening's practice slated for 7:30. In a light Sunday morning session, Alex Brink ran the first team offense against the first defense while Josh Swogger led the 2's against the second team defense.Coach Bill Doba said after practice that no decision had been reached as to who would start at quarterback against Idaho on September 1 and also said his two lead slingers would continue to split time with the first unit in practice.The bottom line is neither Brink nor Swogger has been consistent enough thus far and the naming of a starter doesn't appear immiment.Brink, however, did look sharp Sunday morning. He marched his unit down the field into a fourth down situation near midfield. The defense held, but coaches ordered the drill forward anyway.Brink then capped the drive with a 30-to-40 yard fade to Jason Hill, catching the receiver in stride in the right corner of the end zone. Brink was five of five on the drive.Swogger hit receivers in the flat on consecutive plays before throwing incomplete on third down. On fourth down, Swogger found tight end Jesse Taylor for what would have been close to first-down yardage, but Taylor dropped the pass and practice came to a close.Gary Rogers also took limited snaps with the first team offense in undefended passing drills.

AT MIDDLE LINEBACKER, Greg Trent, Chris Baltzer and Brian Hall have all taken snaps with the first team in place of Will Derting, (hamstring). Derting will be held out approximately two weeks as the coaches don't want to take any chances with the All-America candidate.Trent, a true freshman out of Keller, Texas, took snaps with the first team defense at middle 'backer during the two-minute drill Sunday morning.

THE KICKERS were a combined 6-of-7 during Saturday's scrimmage, with Graham Siderius and Loren Langley each connecting from 21, 32 and 36 yards. Both were also good on the lone point after attempts they were offered. Langley was responsible for the only miss Saturday, failing to connect on a 39-yard attempt"Not much is different," Siderius said in comparing last fall camp to this August. "We know each other better, become pretty good friends. Not much different than that. A battle's a battle."Both Siderius and Langley have made changes in their kicking styles. Known for his leg strength more than his accuracy during his first three seasons, Siderius said he is focusing on sacrificing some of the boom in an effort to connect on more field goal attempts."Just hasn't really paid off," he said of having a strong leg. "Kind of taking a page out of Drew Dunning 's book in terms of, he didn't have the greatest leg, but the guy was as accurate a kicker as you're going to get."Dunning is the all-time Cougar leader in career points. Siderius said he's already noticed improvement in accuracy and height.Langley's changes were a little more technical, saying he's worked on getting back to his high school form after picking up some pressure-induced bad habits in his first season at Washignton State."I have a year under my belt now and I'm going into camp a lot more confident just in my kicking ability itself," Langley said. "There's not much we can do besides just kick. Whoever (the coaches) like better is who they're going to put on the field."

NOTESMatt Mullenix (hip), Ropati Pitoitua (thigh bruise) and Ian Bell (ankle stiffness) joined the injury list Sunday. All three are day to day. Mullenix missed Friday's evening practice, played Saturday and then was out again Sunday. Trainer Brian Oelke said the defensive end experiences pain in the hip from time to time.Oelke said Bell rolled his previously injured ankle in the scrimmage, but didn't expect the cornerback to miss much time.Arkelon Hall is home for the funeral of Rashaad Green, brother of Cougar walk-on Roc Green, and a high school teammate and friend of Hall's. Green was killed in a car accident Sunday. Hall will return Tuesday, Doba said.

Doba said receiver Blake Ferguson informed coaches he would be going home, but Doba was unclear as to the details and said he intended to talk with Ferguson.Check back later tonight for the evening report on the 7:30 practice.

In a huge surprise, something I failed to mention before, but A DD Acholonu clone has shown up, a heralded recruit the Cougs nabbed totally under the radar from the Ducks. The player, Lance Broadus, now wears #97 for our Cougs. He was originally signed by the Ducks out of Taft high school as a first-team All-American, choosing the Quack Attack over Nebraska and USC in his final 3 schools. Broadus dominated in high school as a 6-2, 220-pound terror with 4.55 speed. His senior year at Taft, Broadus recorded 94 tackles, forced 6 fumbles with 3 INTs on the way to being named first team all-state. As a junior, he tallied an unreal 144 tackles. Only two linebackers garnered more votes (7) on the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Best in the West list. However he struggled with grades and went the grayshirt route, going to to West LA JC. Meanwhile, another West LA player, Lorenzo Bursey, was on the Cougs radar and they recruited him hard, ultimately getting him to sign and is expected to contribute immediately next year. What I heard is very much under the radar as often happens with grayshirts at JC's, the Cougs took a run at him as he just jumped off the tape at 6-2, 220, running a 4.5 and making big plays all over the place. Meanwhile Oregon stopped showing him love, for some reason, so the opening was there and we stepped right in. He earned his AA degree, and suddenly, there he was at practice in Crimson! It's a big, sneaky "get" that Walker and Pflugrad earn high marks for getting. Broadus has 3 years of eligibility and 4 years to be in the program, so keep your eye out for #97!

FINALLY, there is big buzz from over the weekend and we are very close to finalizing an agreement to play Auburn in 2006!?! I heard about this late Sunday, as Sterk told a group of fans at the scrimmage that Auburn initially offered us $500K for a game, and we said no. Then, they came back and said "How about $850K?" and Sterk asked Doba. Doba slept on it, then said "let's do it." There is, at this point, no absolute guarantee for a return engagement, and if there is one, it would be a Seattle game. The interesting thing is Auburn's message boards have been talking about playing us for a few weeks now, so the news is out that it's close. Auburn rarely plays outside the south, if ever, and will only travel across the country for bigger dates and guaranteed gates, like when they played @USC. But supposedly Sterk is holding out hope that they will come back out here. We'll see. Personally I hate the idea of going down there and getting killed in the heat. Then again, the game is for 2006, and Doba is absolutely convinced we will be REALLY GOOD next year and has told the media this for some time, and the consensus among the assistants is that the 2006 team is really going to be something. So we'll see! The announcement per our WSU source is expected at any time.

Meanwhile my co-worker lives 5 minutes from Jordan-Aire Stadium and she can hear the crowds on football Saturdays, and she has offered to host me and my friends for a game down there. Might a trip down there in '06 be in the cards??? Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Lawson response - Felix


Check out the picture, about what a "repeatable" delivery is, from the same arm slot-motion. That picture above is from the broadcast, where they super-impose the windup for both a curveball and a fastball. The first picture is both windups at their release, the second picture is the location of those pitches. One a 97MPH heater on the black, the other a curve that broke 2-feet and Mauer waved at for strike 3. ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY PERFECT! I'm telling you, unless he starts doing something to tip off what's coming, we're going to see a lot of very defensive, reactionary, stayin-alive swings against him for a LONG time!


Mikey says: I'm going to continue to be a naysayer about Felix the Earl of Over-rated just because I'm dumb.....but to be a rook and have a .69 ERA after two innings is impressive let alone after two starts......still so concerned about the injury bug, but from what I've heard and seen, he's filthier than Colon, who is another heat-maker who is sssoo nasty but always seems to get touched the third time around.....

Sean response: Ok, I admit it, you have every right to shy away from slurping up Felix. There is always a concern about a kid that young that throws that hard and throws freaky junk. There is a long line of young power pitchers that flame out at far too early an age.....but this is a different story, I'm absolutely convinced of that.

To counter the injury concerns, many scouts say that while his motion isn't perfect, it's quite smooth and really that is a huge factor in terms of arm injuries. Think about Roger Clemens for a moment. How often has he been injured in his big league career? Not too much, hardly ever for that matter, and the man is in his 40's (and has never been better). The thing with Clemens is he always threw amazingly hard as a 21-year old rookie and even in college, has always racked up the innings on a yearly basis, yet is still amazing. While they will say Roger's motion isn't perfect, it is smooth and repeatable and he uses that thick lower body to throw the ball. Of course Roger has the greatest work ethic of any pitcher since Nolan Ryan, so Felix needs to learn that part of the game. But, there was a picture I posted of Felix from his first start, a side shot with him in full extension about the release the ball, and it's just beautiful! You can see he uses everything he has on every pitch, and it's not all arm and violence like Kerry Wood, guys like that who have flamed out. (Speaking of Wood, in retrospect, the worst thing to happen to him was that 20-K game. Now he feels a pressure to repeat that every time out, and it just won't happen.)

Anyway, I think Felix really is closer to Clemens than anything else because of his style, and even moreso, his body type. He's got some weight on him, and I'm sorry but there is NO WAY he's only 170 lbs! He's more like 230 on a large 6-3 frame, but those trunks of his, man, his legs and butt are just huge. But, he wears his weight well, and doesn't look fat like a Sidney Ponson or a Bartolo Colon. He's got that classic Clemens/Freddy power pitcher body, and gets unbelievable drive from those legs.

Then when you think of that age, and to think he'd barely be the 2nd youngest on SHORT SEASON A-Everett, well, it's mind-boggling. It's ok, Michael, embrace the KING!

By the way, in the Detroit start? It was noted by someone at Baseball America that every single ball hit into play that day bounced WITHIN 3 FEET of home plate! That's dominance. Just wait until he faces Kansas City on Monday, which is really a glorified AAA team. We're probably looking at another 8 innings of "97 mph and a curveball from hell", per Ron Gardenhire.

Mikey says: Big word down here about Abduhr-Rahim coming to Sacto now that the deal has beeen nixed with the Nets...Bibby-Wells-Peja-Abduhr-Miller. It may be unpredictable and injury prone, but that is a NASTY starting five....

Sean says: I KNEW you were going to be jacked about Rahim! The first thing I thought of was "The Kings fans are going to start thinking about their excuses for calling in sick to see the championship parade ". Not so fast my friend! Washington State wins it, 2-0! (Remember that? Lee Corso talking about the WSU-Desert Swarm game of 1994? He goes "WSU's rushing defense is giving up less than 36 inches a carry to opposing offenses!" Man that was an amazing D!)

Anyway, first of all, what is Shareef? Has he won anything in 9 years with multiple teams? No. Is it simply bad luck, that he's played on lousy teams his whole career and he has nothing to do with the fact that his teams simply NEVER win? It's easy to say "Oh, yeah, he played in Vancouver, Atlanta and Portland and put up great numbers, just imagine what he'll do here!" Well, there is more to it than that. The NBA is filled with numbers-only guys who never win a damn thing, guys like Big Dog. He puts up numbers, but he's no winner. He doesn't play D, and last year were his worst numbers of his career (16 and 7). Sure, he'll probably go to the Kings and put up his numbers, but is he the answer to ANYTHING that ails them? Don't know if you remember, but the Kings defense I saw in the playoffs is pretty damn lousy. Shareef wouldn't know defense if it walked into the room and said "hello, my name is defense!" :)

Seriously, the last thing they need is another scorer! Bibby, Bonzi, and Peja will demand the ball enough as it is, but it just seems like Shareef will get in their way. Shareef is certainly not any better than Webber was in his prime, and the Kings never got out of the west with him either. At least C-Webb played a little D and was physical, while Shareef is really a 3 playing the 4.

And, please, all Kings fans, stop all the hype on Bonzi! He's a punk who was run out of town by Portland and Memphis, but now that his mailing address reads Sacramento everyone believes he'll be mr. model citizen and an all-star shooting guard? All for a guy who's best season was 17 PPG in 2001 and has been a serious A-HOLE his whole career??? I just don't see it. Meanwhile, Peja is Charmin - squeezably soft - and still can't deliver in the playoffs. Maybe I'm just playing devils advocate, but come on Mikey! That lineup is NOT nasty, in any way!

Then again, I doubted huge on the Sonics until they started 17-3 last year, so maybe they'll run out and win 55 games and get a 4-seed next year, and Bonzi will be happy, and Shareef will suddenly learn how to defend while putting up big numbers at the 4, and Peja will suddenly stop doing his Detlef FADE impression....but I wouldn't count on it!

Mikey says: I am hoping the Supes step up and do something soon...with the trades and losses of the Grizz, combined with no additions so far from the Wolves, I think we are solid in the 6-8 seed spot as of right now....but man, can we get something done?

Sean says: They got a solid AD-like player in Brunson, and he'll be a nice, servicable option off the bench. Now they'll address the Vladimir situation and move from there. Everything is revolving around that, and the longer it stalls, I have to admit, the worse it is for us. They need to fish or cut bait, though, fast, either sign him to his 6 year, $45 million, or sign-and-trade him, or get him to the 1-year tender, but MOVE already. They have a bench to still fill out and there are quality bench guys still out there, but they can't be held ransom while Vladimir trolls for a mega-offer. Then again, maybe the Joe Johnson situation is the reason, and if the Hawks do in fact blow it on that one, they might shift to Vladimir. Who knows, but I'm with you, they need to move on one way or another before the market dries up and we are stuck playing 6 or 7 guys at the most next year.

Mikey says: Still so psyched about football..can it just start tomorrow please?And ditto on Bettancourt....Long live Cubans everywhere!

Sean says: I'm excited too! Hopefully that player situation will clear up, but I haven't heard anything new. New recruiting news this AM has the stud safety from Mead, Andy Mattingly, back from his official visit to the Beavs. His quote "IT WAS AWESOME" makes me nervous. The good news is that both Mattingly and Skyler Jessen, the Mead RB, will both visit WSU this weekend. Mattingly says he wants to see it one more time before making a decision, but the thought is it's 50-50 between WSU and OSU. I have to say, getting him would be a major boost to the recruiting season. Just as the WSU assistant told me two weeks ago, OSU is whispering sweet nothings into his ear and telling him he'll play immediately wherever the hell he wants, LB, safety, wherever he wants. They REALLY want to swipe him from us. We need some good pub and having a 4-star safety commit and rave about WSU in the press would be really wonderful right about now!

AND I LOVE Yuni! He's becoming one of my favorite M's and I love what he can do with the leather. In my heart, if he can play gold-glove D and just hit .250 with minimal power, I'll take it. Mike Morse was a nice story for a little while, but he's plain NOT a good shortstop. 11 errors in 40 games? Plus several documented horrible throws that needed all of Sexson's 6-feet-8 frame? I'm sorry, but in a pitchers ballpark like the Safe, you need strong D in typical defensive postions, which would be right up the middle (speaking of which, thank you Wee Willie for throwing the game away last night! God how I hate him. I don't think I've ever heard Rick Rizz mention his name without also uttering the phrase "Port Orchard" somewhere in there!).

That's why it's great to think of Yuni and Lopez up the middle, Reed in centerfield, and strong at the corners with Sexson and Beltre. Yuni's my guy and I'll happily watch him start at short for years to come.

Finally, great Ron Fairly f-up last night. They showed Pineiro's pitch count breakdown, and it was like 50 strikes and 20 balls for a total of 70 pitches. Fairly goes "That would be 50 strikes, and 20 balls", totally reading the graphic.....there was a long pause, and he goes "for a total of 70 pitches." There was a LOOOONG pause, and then Niehaus chimes in "you figure that out on your own?" Fairly goes "No, I have help from the guys in the truck!" It was great! You see more moments like that in a lost season like this one. Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 69 strikes, 25 balls





First pitch of the night - 97 MPH fastball. Last pitch of the night? 97 MPH fastball.



UNBELIEVABLE.



His fastball was unreal, at the knees almost every time. Many scouts and coaches will say that it's very hard to throw with that velocity at that location. That's just flat-out FILTHY. His curve was mesmerizing, he threw it so well, that only a few times did it not break at or below the knees. The strikeout of Joe Mauer in the first inning, on a curve ball, was freakish. That curveball broke at least 2 feet, and from a side replay, Mauer's bat was NOWHERE NEAR hitting the ball. He missed it by the same 2 feet.

His poise is incredible. Not that there is a large body of work to compare a 19-year old starter with in the big leagues, but he's off the charts right now with his poise, especially with the ease in which he fielded his position and as Hargrove said, "[Hernandez] just got back on the mound, threw a strike and got the next guy out," Hargrove said. "That's what you like to see out of your people, whether they're 19 or 90. He didn't stew around and feel sorry for himself. He got the ground-ball out and picked [Beltre] and the rest of us up."

From his first 4 batters of the Detroit start to last night, nothing fazed him. How about his location and control? He was down, down, down, and even if/when he missed above the belt, he's throwing so hard that he can get away with it.

His endurance is amazing. 97 in the 8th inning, on his 95th pitch? What an amazing start.

Fastball: 96-98
Change: 82-84
Curve: 82-85
69 strikes
25 balls

Still no extra-base hits allowed, 10 singles in 13 IP. Many infield dribblers and a few broken bats to boot.

I heard Dave Valle say on the radio broadcast that the change, in order to be effective, needs to be at least 10 mph slower than the heater, and thrown at the same arm slot, with the same arm speed, and the best changes of all time also sink...his was 16 mph slower on average, same slot, same speed, and was moving everywhere. Actually all of his pitches were thrown from the same slot, and same arm speed. Valle also went on to say that he a HUGE difference so far that he's seen from Felix even back to spring training is that he's not trying to strike out the world! He's trying to be a great pitcher, another thing that seperates him from some of the young power guys like Kerry Wood. He said you can tell the guys that are trying to whiff everyone when they are racking up huge pitch counts, and consistently missing high with 2 strikes. That's a sign of serious overthrowing and per Valle, it appears Felix is just trying to get guys out any way possible and doesn't care about K's. That approach is going to keep him playing at a high level in this league for a LONG time!

Physically he reminds me of Freddy, only thicker in his lower body (have you seen how huge his legs are? It's no mystery where he gets that power. Jeez!).


His motion is similar to Freddy, but it's not as herky-jerky. It's a lot more smooth, and it appears it's more "repeatable", a phrase scouts say is important and one of the biggest problems Kerry Wood has in staying consistent is because his motion is so violent and all over the place that it's hard to fix him when he's off. Wood also puts unbelievable strain on his elbow and shoulder, as his injuries will attest. With Felix? It's like every time he threw the ball his motion was a replay of the last pitch. He's not as perfect in his mechanics as Mark Prior, but he's pretty spectacular.

So, the real question - can he actually get BETTER? Is this the best it will ever be? Will the league figure something out, like maybe he's tipping his pitches, something small like that? Because I'll tell you, when you can bring the noise that hard, and you can also throw strikes with a hammer cuvre and devastating change, you are talking Pedro in his prime...but with more velocity??

AND HE'S NINETEEN YEARS OLD?? TO put that in perspective, look at the Everett Aquasox short-season A ball team, and look at the ages of those kids. If Felix was on that team, he would be the SECOND YOUNGEST PLAYER, just one guy was also born in 1986!

The future is bright my friend. Oh yeah, my man Betancourt smoked a triple to win the game too. Did you see his wheels around the bases on that triple? Not only is he a vaccum, he can fly.

Here's a good read from Baseball Prospectus, witnessing first-hand Felix and his dominance:

http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4319

Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Unblockable DT!

I don't know how high we rate on this kid's radar, as he's a DT from Texas....but....you gotta check out the video. LOOK AT HOW QUICK HE IS off the snap! He doesn't look like the biggest or fastest, but man, what a player:

http://sunshinepreps.net/oldclips/Brant%20Scott.wmv Read more ...plus comments

Monday, August 08, 2005

Lawson response

First of all, it is WAY too early to see whether or not King Felix is King, or if he is, what he is KING of....I liked what I saw of the tape, but he's still so young and who the hell knows what road the injury bug is going to fly on...but certainly, the potential doesnt' lie...it just is a question of health and as important, the development of a pitcher's IQ. Hopefully, he will learn from Moyer and in that regard, I think it is nearly tragic that Borders is not on the roster...I know we need youth, but I watched him in person work with Soriano, and we saw the results when Soriano came up...Lights out...

Sean says: Due to a virus scare at home, we deleted our entire e-mail inbox clean. It's all good now, so send it again?
Dude, the King is the real deal in every way. Yes, he will struggle with his command at times. He throws hard with amazing movement, and gets ground ball after ground ball after ground ball, but he is prone to wildness, sure. USSMariner had a big write-up of how power pitchers that get lots of K's, walks and ground balls are big-time winners, and Felix is right there. Not only does Felix pass the eye test, but he also has a stack of scouting reports calling him the best prospect in 20 years. They all can't be wrong, can they? I seriously haven't seen a single report on him that isn't off the charts positive. Everything from stuff to maturity to physical stature, he's a top of the rotation thoroughbred that we are lucky as hell to have.

Of course it's early, but as Champoux says, that arm aint' gettin' any younger! The King also was leading the PCL in ERA, and that ain't no fluke. Not to suggest the PCL is the bigs, but there are some very good players down there in hitters ballparks, and to see that Felix was leading the league as the youngest player in AAA is pretty huge.

This team, though, I have to admit that I'm interested again in what they are doing. It's exciting that they are going young with prospects that you know are going to contribute in the future. That was the big difference from last year, really. Think back, and last year we saw Dobbs, Leone, Bucky, guys that were in their mid/late -20's and really fringe prospects playing out the string. The only true prospects that played last year were Reed only in September, and Lopez, who at 21 is just too overmatched at the big-league level (and showed as much this year). Meanwhile, you know that Snelling is going to be around as long as his health allows. You know guys like Betancourt, the AAA Futures game starting shortstop who is just dynamite defensively, will be the man at short for a long time (that goes into why Morse is seeing more bench time, along with Wee Willie and his only hot streak of his entire career).

I like the plan, though, it's better than last year. Cut veterans like Boone, Sele, Borders (I know, he's crash Davis, but he's also too old and no longer productive enough to take a 25-man spot), etc. Bring up your true prospects and see what you've got heading into an offseason where you'll have about $25 million of salary to throw around (sans Boone, Moyer and Cirillo's contract - FINALLY). Not only do you find out what they can do, but you can showcase their experience to the big-league clubs and see who's interested. Wouldn't you think Morse will be on the radar of some teams now after this experience this season vs. had he stayed in the minors all year had Pokey Reese been healthy? It would have been a waste of time. Now, you know what the kid is somewhat capable of, and you've shown him off to other clubs. Actually I wouldn't be surprised to see him rotate around among short, left and DH to keep getting AB's the rest of the year.

For the offseason, I don't see them landing a big free-agent pitcher, mainly because there aren't any T.O.R. starters that will be on the market this winter. There are a lot of Pavano-types, guys who have been somewhat productive but have serious questions, so I bet the M's stay away from that. What you'll probably see is at least an attempt at a big trade to get a pitcher going into the last year of his deal, something like the Cubs with Carlos Zambrano or the Giants and Schmidt. The Cubs are loaded with starting pitching but their position prospects aren't great, so you might see a package centered around Morse, Rene Rivera and another player for a guy like Zambrano. Of course, you have to have the right combinations of players and have that match with another club, or else it's all fantasy.

You look to the future, though, and it is bright. And, the King's start on Tuesday night will be something to see. I'm sure they'll get one of their best weekday attendance games in a long time!

Saw that Wilkins went to Minnesota, or so the reports say...let me give you a name: Maurice Evans...Kings back-up at 2 or 3 who came on at the end of last year...not in the Kings plans anymore because of the Wells acquisition as well as draft picks, but he would be GREAT (he's 6ft 8)! Good defender...

Sean says: I heard late yesterday and it's reported today that Wilkins has NOT been given an offer sheet, and further, sources told Locke that the Sonics told Wilkins agent they plan on matching Wilkins offer sheet, whoever it is that signs him. Plus, teams are aware of this, and they don't want to tie up their cap money for 7 days while the Sonics sit there and take their time before ultimately matching. That's probably the same reason you haven't seen Vladi, Reggie or Flip sign anywhere, either, these offer-sheet things are scary for some teams. 7 days in the "hot stove" of the NBA is an eternity, and if you have any doubts that the home team will match, you look elsewhere until said team is either capped out or you make such a great deal that it would be absolute insanity for that home team to match. Otherwise you are locking up your ability to do anything for a week, and that's too much a deterrent.

I think the Wilkins stuff is a signal that they might officially be choosing Wilkins over Flip? With the signing of Brunson (the next AD?) to back up Luke, you basically have one position for Flip to play. At least Wilkins can slide to the 2 and play it OK, not great but OK, and also the 3. I also love the idea of Maurice Evans, IF Wilkins is not brought back. I have heard that Evans is on a lot of teams radar right now, so it might be a long line to get him.

OH, and Bonzi Wells? He's a punk. If Jerry West is giving him up, well, makes you wonder what's going on. He has worn out his welcome in a huge way in the last two places he played, so to expect everything to be suddenly turn around in Sac is a stretch. A punk is a punk is a punk, and while at first everything might be fine, wait until things go south and see what he does. Meanwhile I'm sure the sports-dork radio nation down there is doing their best to spin it that Bonzi will make them a 4-seed at worst next year, but come on!

Finally, what's up with the Dawgs getting 4 top 25 votes in the coaches poll? Publish those results right now...if its anyone besides the Airforce coach, they need to be shot...and us with only 7 votes? Am I missing something with all of this?i keep telling myself that in 97 we were picked sixth or seventh..but man!

Sean says: I COULDN'T BELIEVE they got 4 votes???!?! How??!?! This is a team that was just picked TENTH in the Pac-10!?!? What a joke. That means that 4 coaches put them in their top-25?!?! Amazing. Once they lose by 21 points at "home" to Air Force, I'm sure things will come splashing down to reality. Oh yeah, they've sold about 10,000 tickets for that game. Can you believe we're going to outdraw them in their own town??? I wasn't surprised by our votes, but for them to get 4 is a joke.

Only a month left and we see what happens...one things for sure, the @CAL @SC stretch looks like the tell tale for the season with ASU and others following up...Will it be a November to remember, or will October spoil us early? It will be a very interesting ride!Also, in terms of the Dawgs recruits, remember that they were going to get their guys no matter what...also remember that ASU and UCLA get top notch recruits ALWAYS...the key is development of those recruits + character + scheme....I am SSSSSOOOO doubtful about the latter.....and even if the Dawgs rise, we'll still be good....and who'd have EVER thunk that they would be the underDAWG in comparison to us for even a few years????We okay, we okay, we okay...Also, I sent my e-mail to the reso address...didn't want to put it here...

Sean says: Completely understand, UW coming off 1-10 can still get big names. The big difference, though, is that UW had in the recent past been whiffing on the biggest in-state guys, and getting the best of the 2nd tier guys like we were. Now they are back to landing the absolute top guys. Plus, Locker is really special. Probably going MLB, but if he doesn't, they got themselves one hell of a kid and a great, talented player. Then again, there are no guarantees. Mike Lustyk was supposed to be the best player in the history of the state, while Steve Emtman was just another guy from the east side of the state that fell for Don James personal challenge, so anything can happen. As Doba says, again, "it's not about the guys you don't get, it's all about the guys you DO get."

I know the attitude is great for our Cougs right now, and rightly so, but my biggest concern?? Our DB's are really thin on game experience, so we MUST get pressure on the passer!

Too many times last year we got killed deep, but a less-than-stellar pass rush was a big part of that. Sure, the articles are glowing that Bruce and Braidwood have been great this summer and they learned how to be every-down lineman last year, and Johnson and Ropati are both gigantic and ready to knock heads, and Davis, Derting and Dildine will be flying around, etc, but they MUST get to the QB. It's the blueprint for our success on D, it all starts with forcing the action and getting pressure on the QB. It helps to have NFL DB's back there (Trufant, David, Coleman, Paymah are all in the league right now) but without pressure, I don't care how good your DB's are, coverage can only do it's job for so long. As good as that group was, without Acholonu, Isaac Brown, the DT's like Tai Tupai, Jeremy Williams, Rien Long pushing up the middle, guys like Donnie Jackson and Derting coming from the outside, it was just chaos. In contrast, look at the tape of Oregon last year, of ASU, or even UW's comeback, and not only was the pressure not there, the DB's just weren't good enough.

There is talent back there, Frampton, Abdullah, Dada are all well-regarded and all played in games last year, but we'll see what happens. Willis is a great talent, one the coaches are off the charts about in terms of the physical tools. But, losing Brackenridge will hurt us this year, I'm convinced of that, especially when guys start getting bumps and bruises. We might have to burn a redshirt or two back there before it's over, and that's not good when you are forced to play overmatched frosh in Pac-10 games. Just ask Oregon what it feels like when you have no confidence in your secondary! Lots of 41-38 scores, that's what. As much as I love what our offense can do this year, I've got a big pit of fear about the D. I'm worried we are too confident that they will be a lot better than they were last year. We shall see. Just get to 10/1 undefeated and we'll see where we are! Read more ...plus comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

The KING is here!

UNBELIEVABLE.

And, it's not just the stat line. Sure, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K in 81 pitches is impressive enough against the #3 hitting team in baseball. But, how about this - ZERO fly balls! Are you kidding me?? Even the 3 singles were ground balls that got through. 11 ground outs, zero fly outs. That's dominating. There is a big write-up out there that talks about how power pitchers that get lots of strike outs and lots of ground outs are great pitchers and become Roger Clemens!

The scary thing was how wild he was most of the game, how much he was up in the zone, yet his stuff was so good, he did something that even veterans still don't do very often - they are still great when they don't have their best arsenal.

Even more impressive?? His "makeup" has been talked about that he's very mature, and he keeps himself under control, etc. Well, first 4 batters in his ML career, the sacks were loaded, 1 run was in, nobody out and Magglio Ordonez was up. The fact that he settled down and went on retire 14 of the last 16 he faced is just flat-out awesome!

Wiki Gonzalez said he wasn't close to his normal self, yet guys like Detroit's Brandon Inge said "He had unbelievable stuff, a fastball 97 (mph) with a lot of movement, and on top of that, a good slider,'' Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. ``He kept his composure. We didn't hit him well. We were fortunate to get a couple of runs off him."

There are also quotes from Wiki that claim guys like Skinny (formerly Pudge, but have you see his non-roid body??), D-MeatHooks, etc, were all saying under their breath between pitches "this kid has got some serious stuff" or "he can sure pitch", stuff like that. There was also a story that he dropped a freaky curve ball over for a strike that was called a ball, and that it broke so much it even fooled the ump. Chris Shelton, the batter, stepped out to compose himself, glanced at the dugout for a second and smirked as he shook his head, giving a "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?!" look.

Now here's something weird though -

Felix's debut:
5 IP
3 H
1 ER
2 BB
4 K

DWIGHT GOODEN'S debut:
5 IP
3 H
1 ER
2 BB
5 K (one K was against a pitcher)

Virutally IDENTICAL lines as 19-year olds? Same sort of stuff with a nice, fluid motion? Yeah, if he's Dwight Gooden, uh, I'll TAKE IT (minus the coke and drugs 'n stuff!).

A few guys at work bought the game via MLB.com (one guy couldn't get the game, but one other guy got it to work) and he said the kid's stuff was just sick. His curve and change are really impressive. I guess he whiffed Guillen on a change that just died halfway to home plate, and he was WAY out in front. It was a sight to behold.

We FINALLY got our ace. Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ESPN Insider's Blue Ribbon Preview: 2005 Cougs

Interesting write-up on the Cougs via ESPN and their Blue Ribbon preview. Nothing earth-shattering, but still, a pretty good take.

COACH AND PROGRAM

From 2001-03 -- for the first time in 70 years -- a Pac-10 team won double-digit games in three consecutive seasons. And no, the program wasn't USC.
And while Washington State's streak was halted last season, the final epitaph of the 2004 Cougars has yet to be written.

Will they be remembered as a hard-luck bunch that lost three of their six games by a touchdown or less? Will the 2004 squad just be a minor setback en route to Washington State having established itself as a perennial Top 25 program? Or will last season be recalled as the beginning of the end of the greatest three-year run in Washington State football history?

While the answers won't be known for a while, it appears a safe bet that the truth probably lies somewhere in between. That said, however, another 10-win season certainly isn't out of the question in 2005, says third-year coach Bill Doba.

"There's not one coach in the country who doesn't think they can win the national championship during spring practice and in August," Doba said. "It's USC and everyone else right now in this conference, unless, you know, they run into some problems. The media is so heavy down there and we don't deal with that. And this spring, it had one player hitting another in the jaw and its offensive coordinator [Norm Chow] left and who knows?

"I tell you this, though. I really like this team. It has the attitude, the work ethic and the camaraderie. We're taking care of each other on the field. During spring practice, a defensive player had a chance to really knock out our running back and you know, instead, he held up. That happened more than once. And that means something."

Doba, who signed a contract extension on Feb. 1 through the 2009 campaign, isn't one for hyperbole. He's as old-school as they come, having coached more than four decades in the high school and college ranks before receiving his chance after Mike Price departed Pullman for Alabama in 2002. For certain, Doba hasn't spent much time in Coachspeak 101 and says just about whatever is on his mind. When asked about the team's place-kicking situation, Doba laughed and said, "I've seen kicks this spring that hit my center in the butt."

Jokes aside, the man can coach football. He guided the Cougars -- minus most of its previous year's coaching staff and picked for seventh in the conference -- to 10 wins and a Holiday Bowl victory over fifth-ranked Texas in 2003. And, in fairness, last season's team returned six-of-22 starters and could've easily started the Pac-10 season at 4-0 instead of 1-3. A break here, a field goal there and those 41-38 and 23-17 finals could've easily been flip-flopped. But could've, should've and would've don't win football games.

That 10-win season in Doba's first autumn and the disappointing 5-6 effort last year are in the rear view mirror. With 15 returning starters and strong depth, Washington State appears set to resume its winning ways.

QUARTERBACKS

Without debate, this is the team's No. 1 question mark entering the season. And while Doba considers junior Josh Swogger (6-5, 247) the incumbent, sophomore Alex Brink (6-2, 208) had more passing yards, attempts and completions than Swogger in 2004 and took the majority of snaps during spring practice.
However, in fairness to Swogger, his lack of playing time last season and during spring practice was because of injury. And even though he was still recovering from foot surgery this spring, Swogger was able to participate in drills.

"It's going to be a battle heading into the fall," Doba said. "As I told everyone last season, Swogger won the job but then he was injured. Brink did well enough in his place and it's going to be a challenge to each of them."

Doba, however, is not interested in a revolving quarterback process.
"I want one guy and just one guy to be this team's quarterback," Doba said. "Obviously if the starter is having a horrible game, we'll replace him, but this isn't going to be one guy playing a half and the other playing a half. We can't afford that. We need a quarterback when the season starts."

While he isn't involved in the process this season, red-shirt freshman Gary Rogers (6-6, 228) impressed the staff during the spring and could emerge as the starter in 2006.
"He reminds me of another Washington State quarterback with his height and build," Doba said. "He even looks like [Drew] Bledsoe and the kid has great potential but it takes time and he isn't going to be ready this year."

RUNNING BACKS

It's kind of unfair to describe senior tailback Jerome Harrison (5-9, 192) as a potential breakout player in the Pac-10 this season. He rushed for 900 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004 and even more impressively, averaged 5.2 yards per carry. And keep in mind that Harrison started only five games.

If the average college football fan hasn't heard of Harrison, trust us, Pac-10 defensive coordinators most definitely have. And if the spring season was any indication, a lot more people are going to be recognizing his name come autumn.

In the team's final spring scrimmage, on April 16, Harrison rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Two weeks earlier, Harrison made even his own coaches and teammates gush with 96 yards and two scores on five carries. Yes, five carries. That included a you-have-to-be-joking 70-yard scamper that had teammates referring to Harrison as "The Ghost."

"Jerome had such a great spring and he could really have monster season," Doba said. "The assistant coaches were saying that they've never seen cuts like he was making this spring. We were all looking at each other and saying, 'Wow.'

"He's just so darn elusive and we have seldom seen a good hit on him. It's just tough to find him out there."

Don't be fooled by Washington State's four- and five-receiver sets and lack of a fullback on most plays. They have, can and will run the ball and if Harrison lives up to expectations this year, he's sure to see plenty of action. A 1,500-yard campaign and All-Pac-10 honors aren't out of the question. He's capable of putting up big numbers, as his 247 yards on 42 carries at UCLA last season would attest. And Harrison is a decent receiver, too.

As far as his backup goes, that was undecided heading into fall practice.
"We need a back-up, there's no debating that," Doba said. "We honestly had no clue entering the spring and we have about that same idea now."

Among the candidates are sophomore Jed Collins (6-2, 241) and senior Brandon Asuega-Stark (5-10, 213). A freshman could grab No. 2 on the depth chart with a solid August, too.
Sophomore Kevin McCall (5-11, 209) might have been in the mix, but probably took himself out of the equation after pleading guilty on May 24 to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and being sentenced to 45 days in jail. He was arrested in March on a charge of third-degree rape from an alleged sexual assault in a campus dormitory. Doba suspended McCall immediately from the team and he didn't participate in spring practice.

The Cougars don't use a fullback in their offense and thus, have none on their roster. When Washington State goes with an I-formation, mainly in short yardage situations, a tight end will handle the lead blocking responsibilities.

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

The Cougars are simply loaded at receiver and tight end coming into fall practice.
All four starters return and at least two, if not three, should vie for All-Pac-10 honors. And each of the ten players that caught more than one pass in 2004 is back on the roster.
Beginning at split end, junior Jason Hill (6-0, 198) was Washington State's Offensive Most Valuable Player in 2004 and in the process; he became the sixth player in program history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Hill finished with 45 catches for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also led the Pac-10 with 22.4 yards per reception.
In earning second-team All-Pac-10 recognition, Hill recorded four 100-yard games, including a career-high 206 yards versus Colorado on Sept. 11.

As a true freshman in 2004, Hill didn't catch a pass but was among the team's best special teams players.

Starting in the slot will be sophomore Michael Bumpus (5-11, 174). In 2004, he started seven games and caught 35 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown. He was also among the premier punt returners in the country. His best game as a receiver came against USC on Oct. 30. Bumpus had six grabs that afternoon, including a 24-yard touchdown.
"Bumpus had a lot of reps during spring practice and we'd like to see him more involved with the offense," Doba said.

Senior Trandon Harvey (5-11, 193) and junior Chris Jordan (6-1, 204) are expected to share duties at flanker. While Jordan started last season, making 20 receptions for 356 yards and a score, the duo basically saw the same number of chances in 2004. Harvey hauled in 18 balls for 203 yards and two touchdowns in 2004. Jordan was injured during most of the spring session but was expected to be fine by August.

Depth is plentiful, beginning with junior Marty Martin (5-10, 186). He caught 15 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown last season and was mentioned along with Harvey by Doba as players that impressed this spring. Martin is likely to backup Bumpus at slot back.
Senior Greg Prator (6-0, 210) is Hill's understudy. He had 10 grabs for 118 yards and a touchdown in 2004 and is more than capable.

The tight end is senior Troy Bienemann (6-4, 245). A two-time first-team Pac-10 All-Academic selection, Bienemann is impressive on and off the field. A solid blocker, he placed third on the team in receptions with 26 last season. He also scored a pair of touchdowns and racked up 288 receiving yards.

His backups include juniors Jesse Taylor (6-3, 242) and Cody Boyd (6-8, 251). Another name to remember is redshirt freshman Jacob McKinney (6-2, 250), who is likely to serve as the fullback in short-yardage situations.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The offense lost just two starters and both came from this unit. Still, this doesn't appear to be a weakness heading into two-a-days in August. And with three easy non-conference games, by the Pac-10 opener, the unit has time to jell.

The rock of the line is senior center Nick Mihlhauser (6-3, 286). He started all 11 games last season and received honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. A three-year starter, including 2005, Mihlhauser will set the tone on and off the field for the men in the trenches.
On Mihlhauser's left side is senior guard Norvell Holmes (6-2, 310), who started seven games last season. After missing his entire sophomore season with a back injury, Holmes was reasonably healthy last year. If he can remain on the field for 12 games, the offensive line could be among the top four or five in the Pac-10.

The third returning starter on the line is towering sophomore tackle Bobby Byrd (6-7, 294). As a redshirt freshman, Byrd started nine games and at times dominated interior lineman three and four years his senior. He should be the most improved player in the group.

The right side of the line will have two first-time starters. The favorites entering August are senior guard Riley Fitt-Chappell (6-7, 316) and junior tackle Charles Harris (6-6, 312).
And after an impressive spring season, sophomore tackle Sean O'Connor (6-5, 275) could challenge Harris and at the least, see significant time as a backup.

"I was impressed with both Harris and O'Connor during out scrimmages and we feel pretty good about where our line play is entering camp," Doba said.

Others on the depth chart include red-shirt freshmen guards Andy Roof (6-3, 309) and Dan Rowlands (6-4, 284), junior tackle Spencer Hollison (6-6, 287) and redshirt freshman center Eddie Vickers (6-3, 348).

KICKERS

Doba isn't exactly thrilled with his place-kicking situation. Last year, the Cougars missed eight-of-14 field goals, including a stunning three-of-four inside of 30 yards.
That is not only frustrating, but when an offense sustains a long drive inside the defense's 10-yard line and zero points are placed on the scoreboard, it can be demoralizing, too.
"It wasn't pleasant," Doba said.

Both kickers are back for another go-around in 2005. And whether that's good news or bad depends on their improvement.

First up is diminutive sophomore Loren Langley (5-7, 146), who made five-of-11 attempts and missed two extra points in 32 chances.

"Loren is always close, so maybe that's a good sign," Doba said.
Junior Graham Siderius (6-1, 196) missed two-of-three attempts last year and didn't look much improved during spring sessions.

"I don't know what to do," Doba said. "Hopefully one will step up and the competition will bring out the best in them. They can kick; it's just a matter of dealing with the pressure."

DEFENSIVE LINE

While the offense, while lacking depth, appears a strength entering the season, most perceive the defense an unknown. However, behind a solid 4-3 aligned front seven, the defense has the potential to push the Cougars from a six- or seven-win season to something really special.
The line returns three of its four starters from 2004 and some depth. The top returnee is junior end Mkristo Bruce (6-6, 240). Last season, he made 60 tackles and led the Cougars with 6.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. He's on a short list of the best returning ends in the Pac-10 and is not only quick getting to the quarterback but also above average against the run.

Bruce should be drawing numerous double teams, which should free up other players to make tackles. And while that might hurt his statistics, it'll help the team and his stock as one of the top half dozen ends in the Pac-10.

Another returning starter, senior Adam Braidwood (6-5, 264) is expected to line up at strong side end. A special teams player his first two years, Braidwood started all 11 games in 2004 and finished with 43 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

Sophomore tackle Aaron Johnson (6-6, 303) could be the most improved player on the defense. A physical presence at the least, Johnson started seven games in 2004 as a redshirt freshman and made 17 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. He also had a sack.

The other expected starter tackle is sophomore Ropati Pitoitua (6-8, 302), who saw significant time last season as a true freshman and made 24 tackles, five sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He started four games and could rack up double-digit sacks this year. And with an added 30 pounds of mass, Pitoitua should be much improved against the run.

"The line is much improved," Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Ackey said. "Our two tackles, Johnson and Pitoitua, are big guys for sophomores and for playing for the first time in the Pac-10, really did all right. They looked much better, though, this spring, and we're expecting good things. We really like our options at tackle."

The line has some pretty solid depth as well, led by junior tackle Odell Howard (6-3, 272). In 2004, Howard has 13 tackles and an impressive 3.5 sacks. A good athlete, he'll also see time at defensive end.

Others include sophomore end Paul Stevens (6-3, 246), who had nine tackles and 1.5 sacks and could be a player to watch, and senior end Adam West (6-6, 243).

Sophomore end Reyshawn Bobo (6-2, 220) and redshirt freshmen Matt Eichelberger (6-3, 342) and Jason Roberts (6-4, 225) could also see action.

LINEBACKERS

Senior captain Will Derting (6-0, 223) is one season away from completing one of the most impressive four-year careers for a Pac-10 linebacker in recent memory. A four-year starter, Derting first earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors as a freshman in 2002 when he intercepted three passes, including a 98-yard touchdown return, against Nevada. As a sophomore, he was first-team All-Pac-10, with 86 tackles and 7.5 sacks. And last year, Derting made 93 tackles, including 11.5 for loss. His best game in 2004 came versus USC and included 14 tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Among the preseason candidates for the Butkus Award, Derting, who lines up at middle linebacker but tackles within a 20-yard radius of the snap, should earn first-team All-Pac-10 recognition for a second time this autumn.

This unit returns a second starter in junior Scott Davis (5-11, 225). Last season, Davis made 86 tackles, 8.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. He was second on the squad in tackles and was a presence on the strong side. A hard-hitter, he also had three fumble recoveries and five pass breakups.
The third starter at linebacker will likely be junior Steve Dildine (6-2, 218). He contributed 29 stops in 2004 and with teams not really interested in running plays toward Derting or even Davis; Dildine is expected to see plenty of action.

The backups are led by juniors Chris Baltzer (6-0, 225) and Brian Hall (6-2, 228). A few of the newcomers could also factor into the picture as depth could be a problem if any of the three Ds (Derting, Davis, Dildine) go down. If the trio stays healthy, they should be among the best units in not only the Pac-10 but the country.

"We think our defense gained some ground in not only the way we finished, but during the spring season, too," Ackey said. "Our linebackers could be a real strength this season and Derting should be one of the best in the Pac-10. We also feel there's some depth at linebacker and if the secondary can cover, well, we feel pretty good about this defense."

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Not even the program's head coach and defensive coordinator know what to expect from this group. The secondary lost three 2004 starters and appears to be a huge question mark entering August, but some newcomers looked decent during spring sessions and gave their coaches hope of something better this season. Considering the Cougars allowed 21 touchdown passes a year ago, any improvement could be vitally important.

Doba and Ackey are cautiously optimistic about this unit's success in 2005. Obviously, their performance is going to be aided greatly by the expected strong play of the front seven, but still, if the DBs aren't up to task, the Cougars could be looking at another disappointing campaign.
"We have a little concern with the depth in secondary," Doba said. "I'm not doing to dispute that."

The lone returning starter is senior cornerback Alex Teems (5-11, 176). He started 10-of-11 games in 2004 and finished with 47 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups. However, while an adequate Pac-10 corner, Teems doesn't seem to possess the skills needed to be the No. 1 guy in this conference. He should see plenty of help from the safeties when covering a top-flight wide out.

The other cornerback spot was still up for grabs entering August but only because senior Tyron Brackenridge (5-11, 180) was unable to corral it. A junior college transfer a year ago, he had two interceptions last season but overall was a disappointment.

That said, the starter departing spring practice was experienced senior Omowale Dada (5-10, 190), who had 26 tackles and four pass break-ups last season. Dada doesn't take a lot of chances and understands the defense better than most in the defensive backfield.

Other cornerbacks battling for playing time include junior Don Turner (6-0, 187), who could add a physical presence, and redshirt freshman Ian Bell (5-9, 185).

At safety, the spring starters were junior Eric Frampton (5-11, 195) at strong and sophomore Husain Abdullah (6-0, 188) at free.

Frampton had 24 tackles last season and is highly regarded as an elite athlete. He showed big-time promise in the spring and if his instincts begin matching his talent, Frampton would quickly remove any question marks from his starting gig.

As for Abdullah, he was solid as a redshirt freshman in 2004, making 26 tackles and an interception. He could be among the surprises of the Pac-10.

"Frampton showed quick progress this spring and I think we can cover better than we did a year ago," Ackey said. "All the signs coming into August are encouraging."

Sophomore Christian Bass (6-2, 204) and JUCO transfer DeWayne Patterson (6-1, 190) will provide depth at safety.

PUNTERS

While place-kicker remains a question mark entering August, the punting situation is the exact opposite. Senior Kyle Basler (6-3, 231) is among the best in the Pac-10, having earned conference honorable mention in each of his three seasons (2002-04). The last two years he was also a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award.

He averaged 43.1 yards per kick last season, with 19 landing inside the 20. Basler has had only two punts blocked over 205 career boots. And long after he has departed Pullman, tales will still be told about his 87-yard punt at Arizona on Sept. 25, 2004. It was the second longest in Pac-10 history.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Cougars boast a superb special teams unit -- place-kicking aside -- and if not for USC standout Reggie Bush, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2004, Bumpus would've been the best punt returner in the Pac-10.

Bumpus, who earned Freshman All-American honors from Rivals.com as a utility player, returned 34 punts for 391 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 11.5 yards per return and was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection.

His scores included 52-yard SportsCenter play of the week return versus Oregon on Oct. 9 and an electrifying 76-yard score at Arizona State on Nov. 13. The latter was the sixth longest in program history.

Harrison and senior cornerback Tyron Brackenridge (5-11, 180) share the kick return duties, although if Harrison (10 returns, 17.2 average) becomes a 20-25 carry a game back it's likely Brackenridge (14 returns, 22.2 average) will handle the majority of the work.

NOTE - BRACKENRIDGE is likely done at WSU and will not be with the team this fall. He will attend a JC to get his grades up and could re-enroll next year.

Bienermann handles long snaps, while Siderius will kick off regardless of who wins the place-kicking gig. The punt and kickoff teams were decent last year and should both be at least moderately improved this season. Read more ...plus comments