Happy NLI Day. I'm back from the casino with a couple pages of notes; $20 bucks more than I had when I left the house (I hit it big in 3-card poker); and I reek of cigarette smoke.
I moved to Spokane 2 1/2 years ago and I can vouch for the fact that there is a noticibly higher percentage of dudes with mulletts here than anywhere on "the coast" - as we Spokanites refer to Seattle - with the possible exception of Kent. There are lots of guys with mulletts here, but they're mostly run-of-the-mill. Occasionally, you might see a really long one or one with a sweet perm or something - but for the most part, you stop noticing them because you're so used to them. Well, tonight at the Casino after the recruiting dealie, I stuck around to play some cards and I saw what could only be described as the best mullett in the history of mankind. And I know mulletts...
Freshman McBoob, circa 1988
Anyway, you know how Joe Dirt's mullett is kind of a caricature of the real-life mullett? Well this guy's mullett was actually better than Joe Dirt's but it was on a real dude - and no shit - he was wearing a tavern jacket. He was actually with a fairly hot chick too, which made it even better.
So anyway, this mullett was SWEET! I actually made two attempts to capture it's soul with my cellphone camera but alas, it was too elusive. Sorry about that. But seriously, thank you WSU, for having this thing at a casino in Spokane.
This is from one of Mini McBoob's animal fact books:
"Young cougars are about two years old before they have enough hunting skills to catch their own food. Adult cougars care for them until they are able to live on their own."
Wulff and staff made it pretty clear that this class may require some patience on all of our part, before they mature and become cougars who "hunt and kill."
"Although cougar cubs are cute and cuddly-looking, they are dangerous and should never be approached in the wild. The young cubs will scratch and bite in self defense, and their mothers will attack anyone approaching their young."
The feelings of one coach were that we may have a tough year ahead - but we WILL win some games that no one expects us to. I also suspect that as hard as this staff had to work to put together a recruiting class this big in only a month and a half, they will defend it as a class that could be to the football program, what Low, Weaver and Cowgill are to the basketball program. (You never know...)
The staff is well aware of the fact that this class is comprised mostly of kids who were lightly recruited by Pac-10 schools - if at all. As Coach Wulff put it, recruiting is based on creating relationships with players, coaches and moms and dads. That process usually takes a year or more. With only a month and a half to do the job, there was little time to forge new relationships so in many cases, they went with the players with whom they were familiar from EWU. They also worked hard to find those coveted diamonds in the rough with whom we have become so familiar over the years.
Wulff said they went after kids who were versatile, big, athletic and fast. Maybe more importantly (just kidding - but it's still pretty important, right Barbara Hedges?), they were looking for high-character kids with strong academics, who would represent the university well.
I'm really bad at judging the size of a crowd, but I'd say about 300 Cougs came out to hear about the first recruiting class of the new coaching regime. It was a free event, yet there was a buffet. Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't this money have been better spent on oh, I don't know, the stadium rennovation? I fasted throughout the event, in silent protest (although I did have a cup of coffee.)
As I entered, I scanned the room for familiar faces and not seeing any friends, picked a seat along the wall, right next to Jim Moore. I'm a fan of the Go 2 Guy but I have too much pride to appear the slightest bit star-struck, so I didn't acknowledge that I knew who he was. That said, I was dying to chat him up.
Because of yet another winter storm moving through the area, there was about a half hour between the time I sat down and the time the event really got going. As we sat there, coaches started trickling in. This gave me the "ice-breaker" I was looking for with Moore. One of the last coaches to roll in was our new D Coordinator. I leaned over to Moore and said "USC has Ken Norton...and we have Jody Sears." It drew a small chuckle and opened the door to a few more smartass remarks back and forth for the rest of the night.
The only two guys in the room who did not give coach Wulff a standing 'O' were Moore and myself - two cynical bastards. I'm generally happy with Wulff as our new coach but think he might do well to receive some publicity training. He's not the most dynamic of speakers.
I once worked with a guy who had been around longer than most, had more knowledge than most and had more desire and passion than most. But he was really fat and usually appeared disheveled and dumpy (sounds like me, I know). Every time there was a promotion available, he'd get passed over because management thought he "needed more polish." Paul Wulff is not even close to Mark Mangino but he's also light years away from Steve Spurrier. He needs some more practice at the public speaking thing - I'll just leave it at that.
That said, Wulff comes across as very genuine. If he lacks charisma in front of a crowd of yokel alumni, he makes up for it in work ethic with his team. I believed him when he said that although no current members of the team have left school due to the coaching change, that very well could change after they start workouts. "We're going to work 'em" he said. "Maybe some guys will leave because they don't want to work (that hard)."
Wulff introduced his staff and I'm not sure if this is news or not, introduced Chris Ball and Jody Sears as Co-D-Coordinators. Of the coaches, Broussard got a well-deserved ovation, as did Levy. I kept my eye on him as the coaches took their seats at their tables, looking to see how he interacted with the other coaches. Wulff described Levy as "the best receivers coach in the country" and it looks like he's fitting in well with the new staff.
I mentioned above that a coach made a statement about our fortunes for next year and the fact that we'd surprise some people. Well that same coach (who I won't name) is an acquaintence of mine and he told me this in a quick, private conversation. He also told me that this staff was night and day from last year. These guys are a tight bunch, who work well together, work hard and have a ton of energy. When Chris Ball spoke he said it was "the best coaching staff in the country."
Speaking of Chris Ball, in my opinion, he stole the show. "When I left here," he said "we were Pac-10 champs. That's where we want to get back to." If Ball was apprentice to Mike Price, one of the things he learned was how to work a crowd. His story was great. After Wulff was hired, Ball received a phone call from Bill Doba. "Paul Wulff is going to be calling you", he said, and soon after, the phone indeed rang - but Ball did not answer. Knowing what his options were for this year, he had to weigh them with his family, including his wife who was not thrilled with the idea of another move. When his son, a freshman in high school, found out that Pullman was one of three options, he lit up. "There's only one place I'll go, Dad" and as you can guess, that place was Pullman. We are very fortunate to have Chris Ball on this staff and on the same day that Jim Mora Jr. was announced as the next head coach of the Seahawks, I couldn't help but wonder what the future holds for him in Pullman...
Todd Sturdy also spoke and I have to say, it was "like at first sight." He seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy and is very confident in hmself and his offense. The question was tip-toed around - but asked on two different occasions (not in so many words): Will this no-huddle, D-II offense work in the Pac-10? I got the feeling that Sturdy bit his tongue when he tactfully replied that the same plays are being run by BCS schools all over the country. The scheme works - but as always, it's up to the players to execute it. The task now at hand for the staff is to evaluate the players to determine how they will fit in the system. Sturdy assures that there will be competition at every spot - including quarterback. Though he did elude to the fact that he'd love to see Gary Rodgers - and other upperclassmen win jobs because you want to see the seniors "lead the young guys."
After listening to the coordinators, here's the Cliff's Notes for next year:
On Offense, we will feature a balanced attack. We'll be up-tempo, aggressive and smart. On Defense, we will feature an 8-man front, with speed on the edges. Everything we do will be predicated on stopping the run first. "We will be the best tackling team in the Pac-10," said Ball. We will be fundamentally sound.
When Recruiting Coordinator Rich Rasmussen spoke, he made one thing very clear. Over MLK weekend, we hosted 9 recruits and their families. The ONE thing that really turned these kids Crimson, was seeing the incredible support the crowd gave the basketball team during the Oregon game. That turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the night. This team NEEDS our support. As Coach Wulff said at the end of the night, "I've made the drive from Cheney and Spokane to Pullman at least 15 times in the last month and a half. It's not that bad. We need you guys to make that trip only 5 times this fall!"
Eventually, we got to see a little film on our recruits. It was literally only a few clips of each kid and it went by very quickly - but I did manage a few notes on most of them. Without further Madu, here are some of the newest Cougs.
Adam Coerper TE/DE 6'5"/230 Hood River, OR. Listed as a TE/DE and showed good blocking ability in clips. Lined up as an H-Back in one clip, he motioned back across the line and crushed an OLB. Projected as a DE at WSU.
Kevin Frank DB 5'10"/170 Elk Grove, CA. Related to former Coug and NFLer Ricky Reynolds, Frank may be the fastest kid in this class. With legit 4.3-4.4 speed, he's one of only a few true freshmen that may play this year. Projected as a CB.
Terrance Hayward DB 6'1"/175 Carson, CA. Hayward just turned 17 in November and according to Wulff, if given another year of High School ball he'd be the focus of a major recruiting battle. He's going to grow and will be big and physical. I suspect that may mean he projects as a Safety but it was not mentioned where he projects. Given his age, you have to wonder if he's one of the few kids the staff will ask to grayshirt.
Tim Hodgdon OL 6'3"/287 Ladera Ranch, CA. Wulff says Hodgdon is actually 6'4" and 300+ lbs. He has a nasty streak that the coach loves. "He'll knock guys down and then lay on top of 'em."
Jared Karstetter WR 6'4"/195 Spokane, WA. Hometown kid drew a good cheer from the crowd but coach didn't have a whole lot to say about him. He's still growing and has great potential. My guess is he'll either get faster and develop his route-running under Levy; or they'll start feeding him and make him a TE.
Anthony Laurenzi DT 6'3"/260 Placentia, CA. Looks like a high-motor, relentless type of player.
Mike Ledgerwood LB 6'1"/215 Finley, WA. One of several recruits who attended EWU camp. Staff is familiar with him and likes his football mentality. Has a nose for the ball but did not look horribly fast. If he succeeds at this level, will be labeled an over-achiever, a la Pat Bennett, Steve Gleason, Scott Davis, etc.
Andrei Lintz TE 6'4"/220 Bellingham, WA. The "hidden gem" of the class, according to Wulff. Whether he winds up at TE or DE, "he'll be one of the best players at his position in the Pac-10." Should be fun to watch his development.
Josh Luapo DT 6'0"/295 Torrance, CA. Lined up at DE in a couple clips, showed good quickness and strength. Will be compared to Ahmu. Lets hope he's better.
Cory Mackay WR 6'4"/215 Redmond, WA. Lined up at OLB in one clip, he crashed in and absolutely blew up a fullback. Drawing a gasp from the crowd, Wulff said, "Let's watch that again!" He re-wound the clip and said, "now imagine this guy (the fullback) wearing purple, with a gold helmet!" "You gotta love this guy!" said Wulff. "He spurned UW!" (to sign with us.)
Jay Matthews S 6'1"/200 Lake Oswego, OR. Another kid who may play this year. Looks like a hard-hitter from center field. Also offered by OSU.
Kevin Norrell WR 5'9"/180 Los Angeles, CA. Another potential hidden gem, discovered in LA by Bruiser. Did not draw a lot of attention because he played with a bad QB. Showed great hands and balance on a poorly thrown ball and can also return kicks.
Tyson Pencer DE/TE 6'6"/260 Delta, B.C. Hold-over should be ready to go this fall. Showed clips of him playing middle LB. I'm thinking with more bulk, he could be the next Rien Long.
Alex Reitnour OL 6'5"/235 LaCanada, CA. Needs to put on weight to play in the Pac-10 but he has good feet and can play all 5 spots on the line.
Jessy Sanchez DE 6'2"/265 Culver City, CA. Good combination of size and speed. Coming in as a junior, he's "ready to play in the Pac-10."
Calvin Schmidtke QB 6'0"/186 University Place, WA. We've all heard the Gesser comparisons as well as those to Todd Reesing at Kansas and Chase Daniel at Mizzou - and Wulff echoed those sentiments. Another guy who camped at EWU, so the staff is very familiar with him. He's very competitive and you can tell that the staff belives he can run their offense. Showed decent arm strength and ability to move.
Daniel Simmons CB 5'10"/178 Ontario, CA. The last fax to roll in yesterday was from Simmons so you've probably not heard much about him. All you need to know is that Wulff thinks he could play as a true frosh.
Dan Spitz TE/DE 6'5"/245 Spokane, WA. Another hometown kid who will need to find his position. Very athletic but needs more bulk. Showed nice hands.
Chantz Staden RB 5'11"/200 Campbell, CA. Physical runner but has great hands. Expect to see him lined up all over the field.
Skylar Stormo TE/DE 6'4"/227 Everett, WA. Another big, athletic kid who will need to find his position.
Tyree Toomer DB 6'0"/180 Bellflower, CA. Coach thinks he was overlooked by many because he played out of position in HS. Projects at S for the Cougs. Legit 4.4 speed and he likes to hit.
Michael Vandenkolk WR 5'10"/175 Carlsbad, CA. Son of Cougar parents. Is smart, competitive and runs well. We'll see what Levy can do with him.
Zack Williams OL 6'3"/285 Pasadena, CA. Very physical player on the OL. Has the nasty streak you look for in a dominant lineman and according to Wulff, has NFL ability. With enough depth on the line and 3 to play 2, Williams may redshirt.
Bernard Wolfgramm DE 6'3"/270 San Mateo, CA. Showed the ability to dominate in JC and will be counted on to step right in and be a star on the Cougar D. Largely considered the best "get" of the class.
In closing, Wulff announced that "Recruiting is done today; and tommorow, we go to work."
The 2008 WSU football season began with a workout at 6AM this morning. Basketball. Shmasketball.