I will try and be brief. This week was a little more distracting as I had one ear on the radio show, another on the last 30 minutes of the big debate. But I think I caught the most interesting aspects from Wulff, so here goes:
Bud Nameck hosted again for Bob Rob. Not sure what's up there but who knows. The show opened with the joke of the moment, the walk-on QB tryouts. Wulff noted that he's heard a lot of stuff about it, even ESPN was talking about it, so he just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said at least it's publicity. That said, Wulff was happy with the turnout and the guy they chose, Peter Roberts. Roberts had started at Woodinville the last couple of years, a 3-yr letterman who was 2nd team all league last year (you can read all about him here from Grippi). Wulff said he practiced briefly on Tuesday, but should be ready to go Wednesday for a full practice. Wulff said they like him, in that he's quick, smart and should be a good addition.
Wulff talked again about depth and what an issue that can be in trying to build a program. He made a good point that lack of depth is obviously an issue in what fans see in games, but it's even tough to have a good practice if you are missing so many players. The lack of depth can hold a team back from improving if they can't have decent practices. I guess I know I hadn't thought of it in that way, but with a program with so many new changes, even the ability to get better in practice has been an issue. But you can think back to August, when it seemed like half the team was standing on the sidelines and Wulff was beyond frustrated by their lack of conditioning and toughness.
Health came up in regards to depth. Tyrone Justin, Markes Dawes, Steven Ayers, Will Hunter and Chris Ivory were all expected to play a lot vs. UCLA, but all of them missed the game with new injuries suffered last week. It doesn't look all that great for this week either, as Ayers looks extremely questionable with a neck injury and Ivory is definitely out with a pulled hamstring.
In-state recruiting came up with a caller, and how important that really is. Wulff went on about how key it is to keep the good ones here (this is a point we've heard all season so I won't expand on it). However, one item I hadn't heard before was the actual cost of the scholarship to the school for in-state kids vs. out of state kids. Did you know that it costs $19,000 per year for an in-state player on a full ride, but it costs $29,000 per year for an out-of-state player on a full ride? That's $10,000 difference right there, per kid. Not that we are always looking to cut corners in every possible way, and the funding from scholarships comes from a variety of sources. But there is no doubt that the value is greater if you can get a good in-state player vs. having to go out and get a player out of state. Interesting.
After all, let's get real - NCAA football is a business, with budgets and everything else that comes with it. I guess it makes it even more painful when they miss on an out-of-state kid, on and off the field. If you look at some of the names of kids who haven't worked out from the Doba era, you can see that many of the names are from out of the state. Double-ouch.
A caller asked about the coordinators, and then about overall improvement. I won't go into the bio's of each guy, as you can find that anywhere on Todd Sturdy, Chris Ball and Jody Sears. But on the improvement, Wulff touched quite a bit on the offense. Here you have a team, in the span of the first four games, lose their top two QB's. And not only were all the QB's new to the system, but they also had the unenviable task of replacing a 4-year starter who threw for over 10,000 career yards. Big shoes to fill. Then you add to it the weekly shuffle of the offensive line, where they have started a new combination up front every single week, and it's a tough mix. The running backs have had some injuries, and now Ivory is battling the pulled hammy. And the WR's were not only down an NFL WR in Michael Bumpus and NFL tight end in Jed Collins, but some of the guys they had pegged to help carry the load haven't been healthy.
Jeshua Anderson is still shaking off the rust. Wulff said the last time Anderson really played was in November, and that was it. He missed the entire spring session of practices, plus the entire fall camp due to hernia surgery. He's only NOW getting into his rhythm. And Daniel Blackledge has been fighting a shoulder injury and still isn't healthy. Needless to say, when you are looking for reasons why we can't score, well, you have several options to pick from!
Wulff also talked about the defense, and said they are getting better. He really pointed out the emphasis on speed and quickness with having Myron Beck and Louis Bland now starting at linebacker. He thought they looked better vs. UCLA, tackled well, and looked faster on defense.
Quick sidebar - That's one point of emphasis that is getting more and more popular. I read a really good article in Athlon's this summer about the rage of the spread offense right now, and how defenses are trying to deal with it. One point to the article was the kind of player defenses are trying to find now to cope with this spread offense, and that is speed, speed and more speed. It's especially vital at linebacker, because you are seeing more and more situations where the linebackers are put in one-on-one situations with a WR out in space. Fight that speed with speed of your own. But as the article said, linebackers who run like safeties and still weigh 240 pounds are basically playing on Sunday, so, you are seeing a lot smaller linebackers these days, and that trend will continue. The other aspect to it is that you not only need speedy linebackers, but you have to have them in excellent physical condition. More and more teams are embracing the no-huddle as part of the spread attack, so you have to have your linebackers ready to go for several plays in a row. You simply cannot sub guys in and out effectively with a no-huddle spread offense, so you have to have the right kind of athletes on the field.
The spread right now is clearly ahead of defenses. Don't believe me? Go look at some of the numbers teams are putting up in the Big 12, where maybe no other conference in America has embraced the spread like that conference. And guess what? It works. Look at the rankings right now. Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas are all in the top 5 in the major polls. And even Texas Tech with their version of the spread is ranked seventh! Amazing.
A caller asked about scheduling. Wulff said that you get that 13th game when you play it off the mainland, which is what we'll have this year obviously at Hawaii. But Wulff doesn't like the idea of 13 games. He likes the idea of 12 games in 13 weeks, with a bye in the middle. Wulff also went on to say that he really likes the bowl system. He said coaching at EWU the last eight years and being in the playoff system was exciting, but, he prefers the bowls. Part of the problem is that the season goes on too long with the full blown playoff system. We have to remember that they are in fact student athletes, not just athletes. But Wulff said he wouldn't be opposed to a playoff system that was played after the bowls have been played. Maybe a four or six-team playoff run over a couple of weeks in January, after New Year's, but again, you can't let it drag on too long or else it runs into the next semester of school.
They finally talked Oregon State. Reser Stadium came up, and for good reason. They really did it right down in Corvallis, and not only is it a tough place to play, but it's an excellent facility. Wulff said they are a great example of how to do the whole upgrade thing, and something to look forward to for Martin Stadium and what it will eventually become. He emphasized again that stuff does matter to recruits, and it adds to the overall experience for the student athlete.
Wulff praised true frosh Jacquizz Rodgers, and how tough a player he is. He's not only strong, but has excellent quickness and vision. Currently leading the conference in rushing, he's one impressive young player. We are going to have our hands full trying to contain him this Saturday. If you aren't disciplined defensively it could be a long day trying to chase him down. He's had a streak of three straight 100+ yard games, and is on pace for a 1300-yard season.
Wulff also talked highly of QB Lyle Moevao. He has become a much better player in his second year at Oregon State, and after four INT's in the first two games, he hasn't thrown one since. He's now over 1400 yards passing with 10 TD's and the four INT's, and is completing over 60% of his passes. Wulff said he is managing the game much better, smarter than last year, and simply playing within himself and the offense. Sammie Stroughter has been a big boost to the passing game and seems to have helped loosen up the coverages a bit, as Stroughter is one of the top deep threats around. They missed that last year. But OSU is also strong and experienced on the offensive line, and a great example of depth. OSU has started the exact same starting offensive line the whole season and they are playing really well. They have allowed just eight sacks in five games this year. Strong o-line play has become a staple of the OSU program under Mike Riley.
OSU's defense is playing better as well, and while they lost some big names from their front seven last year, they still start eight seniors. They are experienced, fast, and active, so they will be tough at home. But Wulff said we have a good game plan this week and looking forward to the match-up.
To wrap it up, Kevin Lopina came up. Wulff said he's coming along, and actually threw the ball at Tuesday's practice. He should throw all week, and next week will be closer to being cleared to play. Wulff said right now it really looks like after the bye, Lopina will be ready to come back. However, Wulff did say he will "be given the opportunity to compete", not that he will be given the job back once he is on the field. So we'll see how it goes, but there are certainly no guarantees at the QB spot.
That's about it. Stay tuned tomorrow for Football Friday on Thursday. Enjoy your humpday, and GO COUGS!