Per today's TNT, that's the deal. Alfonso Jackson and Chima Nwachukwu switched positions early in camp, and things have gone so well according to coach Ball that it will stay this way into the '08 season.
At first glance, this was puzzling. Chima was picked on early and often last year, but really showed improvement as the season wore on. I remember seeing him against Idaho in the first home game, and I was really impressed by things like his footwork and instincts. He looked like a natural corner and given a few seasons to get experience and put on weight, he was going to be a good player in the system. Doba was always high on Chima. Jackson, on the other hand, struggled with injuries (concussions) and he seemed to be a little lost early on. I think part of it was the overall choice made by Doba to play SUPER SOFT cover-2, with the safeties and corners so far off the ball in pure fear of getting beat over the top, that it was designed to make anyone look bad. Remember the USC game, where all Booty would do was take the snap and throw 8-yard quick hooks or outs or whatever, and the defensive backs weren't even on the TV screen after the catch was initially made? Talk about soft. Jackson also had a really insane personal foul in the Apple Cup that COULD have blown that entire game! Ugh.
Anyway, what's interesting is how pleased Chima sounds with this move. I didn't know this, but he had 3 years of starting safety experience in high school before moving to corner as a senior:
"I like playing safety a lot. It's really different from playing cornerback. You get to play in the open field," Nwachukwu said. "My body size, I'm growing (at 5-11 and 195 pounds) and my weight has been going up. This is what spring ball is for. I can get used to the learning curve before fall camp."
What's also interesting is how Chima says he's growing. If you remember last year, he was about 175 and looked skinnier than that. He really looked like a kid right out of high school. But if he's already at 195 right now, he may end up well into the 2-bills area. Jackson doesn't sound quite as happy with it, but has eventually come around to the idea. Hey, if he wants to start, and as he said, "they've put a lot of dudes out to the next level", then sign on to the idea. He's a senior so this is his last shot to make in impact, and better yet, an impression on what he could do if the NFL takes a look. We'll see how it goes once things get real. Worst-case scenario is they could always switch them back!
Moving on, the Spokesman's Nick Eason writes about how thin the running backs are right now. How thin? Well, there's redshirt-frosh Joe Campbell......that's it. Seriously. Tardy we know is out with the knee, Ivory is out with academics, Marcus Richmond has a sore hammy, and now Logwone Mitz has come up lame with a bad toe. At this point it's probably not a bad thing that spring ball winds down this Saturday??
Eason goes on to write about the role the running backs will play next year, and how important it is for them to learn this new offense. OC Todd Sturdy has said repeatedly on the banquet scene that they are committed to running the football and will do everything they can to be a 50-50 run/pass ratio offense. But you can only do so much with the talent that's available. The good news is of course Montgomery coming in, but that's for 2009. JC transfer Chantz Staden has looked good on film, per Steve Broussard, but uh, that's just on film. Let's see how things go when he straps it on in August!
So Tony is staying. Yaaaawwwwnnnn. Actually I'm glad he finally put the rumors to rest. Why did it take so long? That's a good question and a point of a lot of speculation. Personally, I think he didn't say anything over these last two weeks because he's just so honest and a man of his word. And I think, as much as it hurts, that it was in his best interests to listen to Indiana, and also speak with LSU at the Final Four. The last thing he was going to do was sit at a press conference immediately after the season ended and say that he was happy in Pullman and going on the record as saying he was staying, but then also turn around and talk to Indiana and/or LSU. What if word got out that he spoke to these schools after he affirmed his desire to stay? His best move was to keep quiet until he was sure he was coming back. I do believe the odds were always strong that he was coming back anyway, and like you, we heard from some "sources" that said he was staying, but still, the door was open a tad.
Now we can focus on next year and, hopefully, a few years after that as well. We have our top recruiting class, maybe ever, coming in, and possibly some more surprises after the upcoming signing period (Casto??). It will be a lot of fun to watch things grow, on and off the court. The encouraging part is that the program is going to evolve along with this incoming class. Sterk said as much today, talking about the facility improvements, charter flights or some arrangement with Horizon Air, etc.
Finally, the Sonics are another step closer to the dust bowl. The city couldn't find the extra $75m in the couch cushions, and in an election year the governor or house speaker weren't about to do anything that could be a lightning rod this November. The mayor pledges to keep fighting, and Slade Gorton, never to be under-estimated, is chomping at the bit to get these A-HOLES into court this June. The last hope appears to be a combination of forcing them to honor the lease in court, and also for that 1.2 BILLION dollar facility to somehow happen with private funds (don't hold your breath). The Times has a good write-up today on the 5 stages of grief, and part 1 is Denial. I think personally I'm past denial at this point. I'm more towards the depression stage. This has been in the works for so long that denial disappeared a long time ago. It's just the point of sadness right now. At least we'll always have Youtube clips of super-freak Shawn Kemp and GP back in the glory days! And believe me, those were wonderful times to be a fan of basketball. That's life though. Things change.
ENJOY YOUR WEDNESDAY!