2005: Three tackles, one sack.
2006: Two tackles.
2007: Four tackles, one sack.
Not exactly Rien Long. But like a lot of things new for the Cougs in 2008, it's a whole new Eichelberger. Per the TNT's Todd Miles, Eichelberger got serious about his body. How serious? He dropped 30 lbs, now a biscuit under 300, giving him an extra dimension of quickness that he hasn't been able to flash in the past. And the weight loss isn't just about taking off the shirt at the beach with a newfound confidence and swagger. It's much more than that.
“First of all, he’s been a great leader by example, and he’s bought into what we’re doing,” said Malik Roberson, Eichelberger’s new position coach for the Cougars. “We asked him to lose weight, become quicker and be able to stay off the ground.”
And as Miles says, even all-league center Kenny Alfred has taken notice of the new and improved Eich. And what do you know, we're roughly one week from kickoff and Eichelberger has emerged as a starter next to Ahmu inside. Not JC transfer Bernard Wolfgramm, not Toby Turpin, not anyone else but Eichelberger.
Let's not sugar-coat things however. A strong year would be a nice jolt out of him inside, but I don't know if we're suddenly looking at a budding star. But I don't think we require him to make headlines. Simply stand your ground, eat some space, and the rest will fall into place. And as we've touched on in the past, a strong push by the defensive tackles have always been a staple of the best WSU defenses in school history. Jeremy Williams and Tai Tupai in 2003. Rien Long along with Williams and Tupai in 2002. Leon Bender in 1997. Chad Eaton and DON SASA(!) in 1994. Create havoc inside, and the trickle-down is beneficial to not only the d-ends, but the linebackers are suddenly free to do what they do best - RUN AND HIT.
Speaking of defensive tackles, now that JC transfer Josh Luapo won't enroll until January, WSU has moved to replace him on the roster. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis has been added to the roster in place of Luapo and ready to go this year. Hoffman-Ellis is a JC outside linebacker who had91 tackles and a pair of sacks in 12 games last year out of Moorpark JC. Here's some highlights:
Looks pretty good, although of course, it is a highlight tape. But he looks physical, fairly quick, doesn't give up on plays. Pretty intense too. And all those highlights were as an 18-year old freshman playing his first year of JC ball, so that's a pretty impressive first year. And you have to like the special teams coverage. He looks like he could walk right on to the field next Saturday for the opening kickoff!
ESPN's Ted Miller has given WSU his best-worst case scenario treatment. Looks like 8-5 is the best we can do, and 2-11 is the worst. Personally I think the best case can be better than 8-5, but that's if EVERYTHING falls into place. You know, we stay totally healthy, Rogers is a GOD at QB, the defense takes huge steps forward on the d-line and in the secondary, the special teams become an asset....etc. But will we really be a two-win team?? I mean even in Poop Island days of the late-90's, we at least won THREE games!
Finally, the wonderful Vince Grippi has a preview of the special teams. Steve Broussard is leading the charge, but everyone else will help out. It's not going to be easy however, and as Wulff has been saying during camp, starters are going to have to play special teams out of necessity. As our own AtlantaCoug has pointed out, from the story:
"We want to play the best players who are going to help us have success on that particular special team," he said. "If some of our backups aren't capable of helping us do well, we've got to play starters.
"Ideally and eventually, I don't know how long it's going to take, our program will be as such where our backups will be major contributors on all the special teams. Our depth does not allow that right now. It's going to be a while before we're afforded that luxury."
Sigh. Someday we will have depth, but probably not much of it this year.
One final note - please say an extra prayer for our own Hooty McBoob. We won't go into the details here, but just know that a fellow Coug is dealing with a very difficult family situation right now. Our hearts and prayers are headed Hooty's way. Hang in there brother.
Have a great Thursday. As always, GO COUGS.