- President Floyd made an appearance and gave a brief, yet inspiring speech about how honored he is to be the President. He talked about his commitment and dedication to the athletic programs, and of course that went over well. But he spoke with great passion about WSU and you feel like he's one of us. HE also spoke very well of Doba, and how much respect he has for him and the way the situation was handled at the end of the year (um, ok?). It was also Floyd's birthday, as he's a leap-year baby, so the whole crowd sang happy B-day to him at the end. He didn't expect that, and you could tell he was really touched by the gesture. He sat at the next table over from us and you could see in his eyes that it meant something.
- Wulff was introduced and he got things off to a great start by immediately leading the 300+ in attendance in the fight song. Great idea and it got people fired up. Just seeing him in the crimson polo shirt, leading the crowd, you really get the connection he has with the fans. I also have to say that he appeared not only happy about where he is, but he also spoke with deep passion about the program and the way we are going to do things in the future. It also struck me that he seemed quite relaxed and it wasn't what I was expecting. To be honest I've heard that he isn't the best "podium" presence, but at least on this night, he did great! He threw in a few one-liners, including one about Steve Broussard needing a stool when all the coaches were introduced one-by-one (easy on the short guys coach!). Wulff said all the right things, and preached character and commitment, over and over again. He ran through some video of the recruits and I won't really go there, as Hooty did a fabulous job of that after signing day. I like the looks of a few of these guys, especially Wolfgramm and Karstetter. The general theme is we got a lot of high-quality kids with upside, but there doesn't appear to be a ton of immediate help for next season. Wulff said several times that there were guys he really, really wants to redshirt next year, but he may not have a choice but to play them given the situation. Wulff also said we "aren't very good" on the defensive line right now, so I have a feeling basically every d-line recruit signed for this class will have a chance to play!
- Chris Ball was great. He told some funny stories, and he had the "F-UP" of the night when he said there's nothing like a football Saturday at Denny Stadium (Alabama's home field!). That drew a lot of laughs and cat-calls. But Ball also explained the nature of the business and how you are constantly on the move. What's funny is Ball and his 14-year old son are living with Doba in his house right now! And with Doba's fat settlement, they are eating extremely well. IN fact, Doba cooks for them and has dinner on the table when they get home! Ball said his son called him and said when he got home, coach Doba had lobster on the table. Pretty funny. Ball also had everyone do the "Cougar Chop" and he said he really missed that about MARTIN Stadium.
- Rooster and I actually spoke with Chris Ball for a few moments. He's really excited about coming back to Pullman. I think he's going to be a tremendous hire and will really be an upgrade to our secondary. He's been around the block and coached some of the best DB's in school history, so the guy knows how to get the best out of these kids. We talked about the blog, and while he hadn't seen it he said he would check it out. He also asked if we were advertising on the site, and I said not yet, and he said "well, you should!" He also said "when I left, we were Pac-10 champions, and now that I'm back we're going to do everything we can to get back there." He left a very strong impression on Rooster and I, no doubt.
- OC/QB coach Todd Sturdy spoke about the offense. Get ready for everything you've heard, as in the no-huddle, shotgun offense. But he also said that they will do everything they can to run the football, and in his ideal scenario we WILL be a 50/50 run to pass ratio offense. But he also said we'll do a ton of motion and shifting and really the whole approach is to attack the opposing defense. Sturdy didn't mention this, but Wulf threw in a little tidbit about trying a bunch of different things to get Brandon Gibson the ball as much as possible next year. They were showing film on one of the running back recruits who caught the ball a ton as well, and Wulff said that they will try all sorts of things with Gibson. Interesting. Maybe that's part of why Gibson is staying, if Wulff and company have promised him that they are really going to open up the offense and get him involved in ways he hasn't been before?
- The "Cowboy" of the staff, Sears, spoke about the defense. He didn't hide anything, in that we will be a 4-3 defense, but make no mistake, we WILL be an 8-man front. Our entire defensive scheme will be about stopping the run, putting teams in predictable 2nd and 3rd and long situations. He didn't talk about blitzing a whole lot, but what it probably means is we'll see a lot of 4-6 Chicago Bear defensive looks, where the strong safety is brought right up to the line of scrimmage and is really an extra linebacker, with a free safety playing center field and the corners in man coverage out on the island. I like the aggressive approach, instead of sitting back in the cover-2 playing soft and let teams run and eat us alive in the short passing game! Sears also spoke at length about turnovers, and that we will do everything possible to force takeaways. It's going to be a major, major focal point of the defense, and it reminded me a lot of our 01-03 defenses, a couple of times where we led the nation in takeaways and/or INT'S. Finally, Sears preached technique and fundamentals, over and over again. He said we will not sacrifice those things, no matter what, and we will be very sound in that part of the game. He said missed tackles and mistakes will not be for a lack of fundamentals.
- Sterk did an updated presentation on the stadium. The exciting thing is that the next phase has gone out for bid, and they are in major fund-raising mode for phase III right now. He seemed really positive about the way things were going, but no question we have a lot of ground to cover. He didn't talk about UW's desire for state money - at least nothing I'll repeat here - but things seem to be moving forward. The updated photo gallery at WSUCougars.com has everything you'd want to see, so there wasn't a whole lot new to the presentation. Stadium Way is looking really good, and it's going to be something when it's complete. The scoreboard should also be in place by the opener this fall. Sterk also talked about the sports programs in general, in that we had 20-something student athletes get 4.0's last semester. We're also sitting a cumulative 3.0 GPA across all sports programs, and I believe he said we are second only to Stanford in that category. Always important to remember they are students too!
- Gary Rogers, according to Wulff, will go into spring ball as the first guy in line for the starting QB job. But Wulff made no guarantees about anything, and they don't know how it will shake out, but Rogers gets first crack as the starter. I heard Jack Thompson talking on the radio the other night about Rogers, and he was just going on and on about what a great athlete and leader he is, how he has a great arm and surprisingly quick feet, and that he should be the guy next fall. But we'll see. You get the sense that it's wide open and the best man will win the job.
- The uniforms were a big topic, in fact I think that was the first question asked of Wulff when he was done speaking. He said we are going to become a Nike school, fully, after next season, so there will be new uniforms. He did say that he didn't know what they will look like and it sounds pretty early in the process. He asked opinions on the helmets, and for some reason the crimson helmets got a decent response compared to the others. But we'll see. I think Wulff did say that he didn't think there would be anything drastically different, but they would be new. Let's hope we don't go the way of Oregon or Oregon State's jog-bra uni's! I know marketing is important, but you can do uni's in a clean way, can't you? Knowing what we know of Wulff, I'd at least assume our look will be traditional.
- There will be a new kicker on campus next year! Wulff couldn't name him, because he's a JC that will be walking on and it would be against the rules to name him right now. But Wulff did go out of his way to say that the kid has a really strong leg, and will get kickoffs into the end zone! Hopefully the days of the 35-yard squib are gone? One other thing on special teams that I missed before, is that Broussard is going to be working with the special teams. If you remember, Broussard was a hell of a kick returner, both at WSU and in the NFL, so hopefully he's got some ideas on how to improve upon some of the worst special teams in school history.
KJR's Ian Furness was once again the perfect MC for the event. I think as long as we ever hold functions on the west side, Ian needs to be front and center. Even President Floyd went out of his way to thank him for what he does for WSU!
I think as fans, we need to be positive, but also patient. Wulff and these coaches have a vision, and they are out there doing what they can to make it happen. Wulff said they are already working hard as can be for recruiting, and even have full offers out right now, so I don't think many staffs are going to out-work us next year. But let's give this thing some time. Things aren't going to change overnight, and there are going to be some bumps in the road, but I couldn't be happier to have Paul Wulff as our coach!