Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys? Hardly.

So now that the Times has finished serving it's 4-course meal of UW thugism (plus one inspirational story of Anthony Kelley's success, despite the program) , what do we as Cougar fans think? Plenty, obviously. But I'm going to take a slightly different angle.

No jokes or barbs tonight. Why? Too easy to kick a dog while it lies in the gutter? Too easy to laugh and make fun of a program that was out of control because this level of thugism hasn't happened at my school? Nope. I'm not going there, because it doesn't feel right. At all. The jokes aren't very funny when you think of the victims in all this. Like the girl who was raped by Jerramy Stevens, only to have the case hidden away from public view and Stevens got to keep playing. Or the battered women in the lives of Pharms or Curtis Williams. Or how about the regular, non-football people that were beaten senseless in all the assault cases and fights?

More than anything, I'm just embarrassed in reading all that stuff. I'm embarrassed for the victims of these thugs. I'm embarrassed that prosecutor Norm Maleng in King County chose to look the other way in many instances, if not bury evidence that only recently came to light due to the Times reporters requesting that records become unsealed. Like Vince said earlier in the week at SR.com, I'm mad too that people that were trusted in authority acted like complete idiots when they should have done the right thing, time and time again.

I'm embarrassed that 25 players from that 2000 team were arrested at some point or another during their stay at UW. That's not boys being boys. That is much, much worse. I'm embarrassed for Rick Neuheisel. He should be, without question, absolutely ashamed of what happened on his watch. The element that was rampant during his run as head coach is pathetic and inexcusable. I seriously wonder what UCLA officials might have thought if these details came to light before they hired old Rick. He might still be a QB coach in the NFL right about now. Who knows, maybe Roger Goodell would suspend him if he were currently on an NFL staff! What a joke.

But most of all, I'm embarrassed for family and friends associated with UW in one form or another. Family and friends that adored that 2000 team, with all their Tui-led comebacks, and how tarnished that must feel now. I mean put yourself in their shoes for a moment - what if, say, the Spokesman suddenly rolled out a series of F-UPS from the 1997 WSU Rose Bowl team, or the 2002 Rose Bowl team? And what if it happened the week before letter-of-intent signing day, as well as in the drive to get the stadium renovated? I'd be bitter, angry, defensive, probably a little in denial. But most of all, EMBARRASSED AND ASHAMED THAT IT HAPPENED AT MY SCHOOL. I would only hope that we could learn from history, for those that don't are doomed to repeat it.

Some of you know I have family with very deep UW ties, family that have donated and supported the UW program since before I was even born. Without question, I'm embarrassed for them, and I hope beyond anything else that they were as unaware of these things as you and me.

Ok, down off the soapbox.

A'i Ahmu got arrested for mixing it up at Pike's, including underage drinking and busting a window. That's now two projected starters, Xavier Hicks the other, that have screwed up in the last month. As Vince says in his blog, all eyes - including the eyes of players - are on the coaching staff to see how they handle these things. Wulff said himself the day he took the job that there needed to be a culture change in the program. Not to speculate - but that's all blogs really do, speculate based on what's in the news? - but maybe there is some deeper problems with this program other than changing the culture? All I know is that in light of these recent UW stories, the media near and far is going to be on high-alert in scouting out player indiscretions. Let's hope Wulff and company do the right thing, no matter the caliber of player, if they cross the line that we all know is out there.

On a much better, happy note, I heard a great Wulff recruiting story today. Turns out that after the big recruiting weekend after the Oregon basketball game, a bunch of recruits and their families took a bus to Spokane on Monday to catch their flights home. Well, halfway to Spokane, the bus breaks down. They are in the middle of nowhere (you've made that drive a million times, so you can picture exactly where I'm talking about), and not only is the bus broken down, but there's NO HEAT on the bus. Our Pullman source says it was 29 degrees INSIDE THE BUS. So Wulff gets the call that the bus is broken down. But what does he do? Yes, he gets the wheels in motion, so to speak, to have a replacement bus sent right away. But he also hits the road and drives out to where they are and waits with the players and families the whole time until the replacement bus arrives and takes them on their way! No way was he just going to sit there in his office while his recruits and their families shivered in the cold. And how did that work out? Every player on that bus - every one - ended up committing to WSU! Well, ok, that's not 100% true. There was one player who did commit, but ended up changing his mind and is now headed for USC (you can probably figure out who). But otherwise, every other player is set to become Cougs! I couldn't help but be impressed by that story. I know it's not THAT big of a deal, but that kind of stuff goes a long way in the eyes of players and families. It shows what kind of guy Wulff is, and that uh, yeah, I think we've got ourselves one hell of a recruiter running the show! Major hat-tip to coach Wulff on that one.

I look to my left, I look to my right, I look straight ahead, and still no Erik Bedard. What a soap opera. Tonight, Geoff Baker has the audio clip of Adam Jones over the weekend telling the reporter that he had been traded in the Bedard deal and that he was headed for Baltimore the following day. Wow. What a weird story this has become. Why can't trades just get done anymore? Now many claim that Angelos is upset that Jones spilled the beans and is trying a last-ditch effort to ink Bedard to an extension. Yet the offer of 4-for-Bedard, headlined by Jones, is by far the best the O's are going to get. Especially when you look at the haul that the Mets gave the Twins for Santana, without giving up their top hitting or top pitching prospect? I guess there's a reason the O's have had 10 straight losing seasons, and really have zero hope for any success for the next several years. Angelos is borderline-insane in his mini-Steinbrenner ways, and he's on the verge of seriously blowing it! Read more ...plus comments

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Morning Information Overload


Lots of stuff buzzing so we'll get right to it:



  1. Win some/lose some department - Cougfan has been all over the Cougar recruiting news, and there was some new info trickling out yesterday. Basically we stole one from UW (Cory Mackay, 6-4 WR, officially verballed to WSU); grabbed a 4-star JC defensive lineman (Bernard Wolfgramm, a pass-rusher everyone thought was headed to K-State); and finally, lost a possible diamond in the rough in Brian Baucham to USC. Baucham, you'll remember, looked pretty good on tape last week. Only a 2-star prospect, but a kid with what looks like big-play ability. Come on Peter Perfect Carroll, you just had to steal one of ours? Didn't you do that last year? Oh well. Maybe he's mad about Bumpus refusing his grey-shirt offer in '04 and coming to WSU when they kicked him to the curb for Dwayne Jarrett?

    There is some news that Kent WR/Safety Brandon Turner returned from his trip to the Palouse, but still no commitment. Turner is a 2-star player who interests WSU, but our own "source" in Kent says he's good, yet not exactly a game-breaker. In fact, our source went on to tell me that WSU can probably go better and he's a borderline D-1 player. Hmm, 6-3, 197, runs a reported 4.46? Sounds good to me!


  2. Yes, Brinkhater, we saw a return to Bennett Ball on Saturday. 56-55 is much more like it, but my God, I was sweating the last few minutes. Yikes. I really wonder where our heads might have been today had ASU won that game. Still, 4 homes games in a row coming up and a shot at 7-2 for the first half of the season if we can sweep the Bay Area schools. 7-2 when 5 of 9 games are on the road?? HELL YES I'll take that!


  3. Speaking of the hoops team, looks like we're #9 in the latest polls. Seems about right. A 1-1 split in the desert isn't easy. And further, on the Arizona game - PLEASE STOP all the "we suck" talk. We don't suck. But Arizona is better than we think they are. They had a white-hot weekend sweeping the Washington schools, as they blew out the Dawgs on Saturday. No matter what anyone says, they are still Arizona. We'll see what happens when they cool off a bit and hit frosty Pullman next month!


  4. So, Erik Bedard - is he or isn't he a Mariner? You hear Geoff Baker of the Times talk, the deal is now done and will be announced probably tomorrow afternoon after Jones passes his physical. I heard him on KJR this AM and he says it's done. He also says that the M's will sign Brad Wilkerson to a 1-year deal as soon as the deal is done to at least platoon in right field. The other names in the deal are George Sherill, and then it gets a little cloudy. Probably a combo of Tillman and Butler, a couple of minor-league arms with upside. Some had said it'll be a 5-for-1, with another high-ceiling prospect going to Baltimore, but that isn't clear yet. We do know that Jones has been yanked for good from winter ball, and Jones said in an interview that Bavasi told him to go to Baltimore for a physical and he was the centerpiece of a trade for Bedard. Hmm. Yet Baltimore denies it right now, and the windbag Peter Angelos hasn't made up his mind yet?? He's famous for pulling the plug on deals, he's done it in the past and you know he'll do it again. We'll see, but stay tuned.

    I'll say this - I heard Mitch Levy on KJR say it this AM, and I totally agree - the hardest things to find in sports are 1) a franchise QB, 2) an all-star NBA center, and 3) a legit ACE on an MLB staff. Those things don't grow on trees. So when you find yourself at a moment that could see it happen, well, you go for it. I love what I've seen of Adam Jones, and I think he's going to be a wonderful player. Better than Mike Cameron, and probably a parallel to Torii Hunter, if not even better when it's all said and done. But Erik Bedard, my God, how do you pass on that? You know he was better than even the great Johan Santana in a lot of categories last year? And he's 28, with 2 more years at least under contract? Jayson Stark said that he's easily right there with Santana as the best lefthanded starter in BASEBALL. And he's recently said that he'll be open to talks of a contract extension? The very thought of pairing Bedard with Felix at the top of the rotation is really, really exciting. And the staff, 1-5, rounds out nicely with Bedard, Felix, Batista, Silva and Washburn. I'd put that 5 up against a lot of staffs in the AL, and it certainly matches up better with the Halos. And who knows, if these guys can get deep into games, the bullpen stays fresher, etc. It could be one interesting summer at the Safe IF this deal happens!


  5. So how about that UW story in the Times?? The story stinks so badly that they have to spread it out over FOUR DAYS of in-depth sleeze. Wow. And they want $150 million of King County tax money?? How many soccer moms in King County, who had no clue about any of this, are throwing up in their morning latte's? Rape with Jerramy Stevens, among a long list of F-UPS?? Shootings with bloody fingerprints of Pharms, yet they let him play?? What's next? It's obvious the state reps have heard from some registered voters over the last week or so, hence the about face of Dr. Evil himself, Frank Chopp. But, remember, this isn't just front-page sports page news. This is TOP FOLD, A1, front page news on the most circulated paper in the pacific NW. Hard to ignore these kinds of stories. I don't know how much of you have read it so far, but it's pretty disgusting. A fan of UW, WSU or Spokane Falls CC, the thing is an embarrassment for college sports.


  6. Have you heard the one about the most hated owner in the NW mocking a Sonics fan at the Key last night, to the extent that he did a "boo hoo" face to him and then had him ejected from the arena?? What a pile Cash-us Clay has turned out to be. No matter what happens, be it the city loses the case and they are out of here, or they are here for 2 more seasons, or he eventually sells, at least we know we won't have to look at "crap with feet" forever. I just want the damn thing to be over with.

Enjoy your week!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

The 4 B's (Bring Back Bennett Ball!)

Happy Friday, Cougar Nation. Hope you all are ready for your weekend.

As for Ole Brinkhater, I am nursing a MAJOR hangover from the loss of my perfect season. So, forgive me if it seems as if I am on the "Rome is Burning" bandwagon.

But first, let us all spend a moment taking a long, good look at our beacon of hope moving forward:


(It makes you feel better, doesn't it?_

You see, there was a reason why Dick Bennett was the perfect choice to turn our program around. And, yes, there was a reason (other than Ivory Clark) about why last year's team went 26-8 (or whatever) and made more talented teams go nuts the whole darn season long. And that reason was....

BENNETT BALL.

Yep, the drag down, drag you out, work-fest that makes only Cougar fans excited: the world of 51-49 basketball.

At its core, Bennett ball is about defense and control of tempo. On defense, the name of the game is help defense that takes at its base a systematic unwillingness to give up the middle of the floor. The idea: make other teams take contested jump shots all game long. Although there are some exceptions, the bottom line of the defensive philosophy is that a) most college teams don't have shooters that are good enough to beat you in a jump shooting contest over 40 minutes; and b) you don't have to be outrageously athletic to be good defensively if you play good position defense and get a lot of help.

On offense, the name of the game is control tempo and get easy shots. As most know who played the game of basketball, ANY TEAM can play great defense for 20-25 seconds, but it takes a special, disciplined team to complete each possession by playing defense for the FULL 35 seconds. As Pete Carrill and Bennett showed consistently, a patient offensive team gets easy buckets IF it makes the defense work long enough.

The thing that was and has been GREAT about Tony Bennett is that he has not been as rigid as his Dad when it comes to offense. For the most part, his kids have been able to keep the general Bennett philosophy without succumbing to the type of passive play that can make a conservative team downright awful. That's to his credit.

Tony Bennett has also been WONDERFUL up until recently of keeping his dad's defensive philosophy. We've been mean in the middle and have had a really nice shot-blocking presence from both the weak and strong side. UNTIL recently.

But for whatever reason, the last two games have largely represented a RADICAL departure from who we are and what made us a good to great team. Make no mistake about it Cougar Nation, if the Oregon game had been at Mac Court, we would have lost by 25 points last Saturday. Defensively, we are in shambles.

As I noted last night, the Defense that you are seeing right now is a dummy version of the defense that the Sonics used during their great years in the 1990's. Unfortunately, our Cougar team doesn't have Gary Payton or Vincent Askew to run it. Instead we have four guys who look and play like this:


Moreover, the ENTIRE reason for the Sonics trapping style was to SPEED UP TEMPO and create more possessions. IN our case, our entire system has been the exact opposite: we wish to slow down tempo and create FEWER POSSESSIONS in the game.

In my view, the result of this change in scheme could be a disaster for us and our lofty hopes. No longer are we seeing Cowgill or Baynes asserting themselves from the weakside. The reason: they are too busy running to their next rotation to be in possession to challenge turnaround jumpers from the strong-side block. No longer are we seeing Kyle Weaver tip-block opponents' three point shots or stealing entry passes into the post. The reason: he's running at three point shooters because he is too busy chasing rotations. No longer are we seeing defensive rebounds from Rochestie and Low. The reason: they are running out at three point shooters instead of sealing off the outside part of the paint and are giving up the middle of the floor because their pressure is extended out too high.

And rest assured: All of this is happening because of that damn trap that they are running with Baynes up top.

THE HIGH TRAP DOES NOT AND WILL NOT WORK WITH THIS TEAM.

Moreover, it SPEEDS UP tempo, when we need it to be slower. It makes atheleticism of premium value, when we need to make basketball intelligence and TEAM BALL the deciding factor.

And so I say, GO BACK TO BENNETT BALL Tony Bennett!!!

If teams like Oregon and Arizona are going to beat us from three, then fine. But make them do it with contested shots with a guy who is standing squarely in front of them in stead of scrambling to run AT them...If teams are going to cut through the lane, then fine, but make them shoot over a shot blocker coming from the weakside in order to earn it.

And make teams play OUR stinkin game, gosh darnit. You saw the results in the last 5 minutes of the Oregon game; a 12-1 run (or whatever). Remember, that the ONLY time we run is when we get the ball in transition following a steal. Otherwise, make teams endure the 51-49 slug fest that only we as Cougars can love and 18-22 year olds across the country can't stand to play.

ASU is our first shot of returning to who we are: A great basketball TEAM born out of a great basketball SYSTEM.

I am hoping and praying for a 49-39 victory. Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bring Em Out


Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you all are having a great week. Fortunately, for you all, I am more than swamped, so this post will be like my underwear: warm and brief.

And since I'm into FULL disclosure today, I will reveal to you all a budding concern:

I CAN'T TAKE PERFECTION MUCH LONGER!!!!!

Although I don't have all the posts to show it for this basketball season, it is true that I have yet to be wrong on prognosticating any Cougar football or basketball game this year.

Hopefully, I can rid myself of such an honor before I am wrong when it really matters--like the NCAA tournament.


With that in mind, I am going to continue to predict these games in bunches--knowing that the outcome and play of one game can have a profound effect on the next.

But this much I know: We WILL sweep the AZ schools this weekend.

On one hand, this is almost blasphemy since even with the sweep last year, I think we've beaten Arizona all of 3 times in our last 53 or 54 games. But, even outside of the X's and O's, the bottom line for tonight's game is that AZ does not match up well with us and our style. Add to that, the moxy that we got that they don't and you have a 71-57 win tonight.

ASU, on the other hand, is on their way to playing a really tough brand of basketball and they now have some pretty darn good players to boot. But, like us against UCLA where we lose on talent, ASU is just not as good as us. So, while the style is a good match-up for both teams, our wins at SC, UW, Baylor (16-2 Baylor, in case you haven't noticed), and the Zags provides the type of experience to get the job done. We'll win 59-54.

Enjoy this weekend and the subsequent return to the top 5. We are getting VERY close to that #2 seed, folks...And we're #6 in the fricking country!!! Enjoy the ride




Lets keep it up.
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Recruit Profile: Calvin Schmidtke

Ok, enough about Heath Ledger. Sorry to those of you that weren't thrilled with that yesterday. But today, we move forward with a profile of QB recruit Calvin Schmidtke.


Schmidtke is an interesting prospect for this year's class, mainly because of two huge things - 1) His success in a pass-happy offense, which fits the Wulff/Sturdy offense to a T, and 2) His lack of prototype size and recruiting attention for a player of his ilk.


In other words, Schmidtke is exactly the type of QB that WSU never would have given much consideration to in the past. If you've watched our offense since 1987, you know the type of QB that excelled in the one-back offense. The tall, strong-armed, NFL prototype passers like Rosey, Bledsoe and Leaf were the perfect fit. Not only were they big enough to see the mismatches with a spread-em-out offense under center and in the pocket, but they were also big enough to take the inevitable beatings that were frequent under a one-back offense. With zero help back there on passing downs, usually that QB was on an island and defenses brought the house. But it was all about our QB finding the mismatch and getting the ball off before the D could get to him.


Obviously there are exceptions. Gesser was 6-1 and while he didn't have the size or the arm, he had not only an understanding of the offense but an extra sense to avoid the pass rush that the great ones have, ala Brett Favre. So many times Gesser would roll away from pressure when it looked like he didn't even know it was coming from a blind spot, etc. If you are ever bored, pull up the 2002 USC game and watch how many times Gesser is rolling out or rolling away from pressure and making plays. And of course, the red-headed stepchild, Alex Brink, lacked the great size and arm strength, but he put up the best career numbers in school history in this offense. (NO, we will NOT debate Brink anymore. It's done.)


So, Schmidtke basically goes against the grain of what we normally look for and, obviously, hope for in a QB. But you have to remember the kind of new offense we will be running, and why it makes so much sense for a recruit like him to be a guy that is high on our board, while other schools might not feel so inclined.


First of all, consider the numbers: Completed an astounding 76 percent of his passes as a senior -- racking up 2,724 yards and 37 TDs with only 5 interceptions. He also rushed for 10 scores. 2007 Tacoma News-Tribune's All-Area Player of the Year, Seattle Times first team All-State. Earned Associated Press first-team Class 2B All-State honors following his junior season at Life Christian Academy when he threw for more than 3,000 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes, and posting 46 TDs vs. 15 INTs. Was an all-league choice as an LC sophomore after passing for a school record 2,379 yards with 23 TDs and 10 interceptions. Also plays safety. Grew three inches between his sophomore and junior seasons.


What does all that tell you? 76 percent of his passes in a pass-happy offense, with 37 TD's and only 5 INT's, is simply exceptional no matter how you slice it. Whether you are playing 8-man football, or even playing against air with your buddies in the street, seriously, 37 and 5?? WOW. That's throwing a ton of strikes. And that's all in an offense that is perfectly suited for him, not the traditional offense that might see him overwhelmed if he hung in the pocket every play.


Here's a scouts read on Schmidtke, from ESPN.com:


Evaluation:
Schmidtke is a productive quarterback prospect with the moxxy needed to move the chains and improvise when the original play breaks down. Lacks great size but is a crafty gunslinger who can buy extra time with his quick feet and throw on the run with above average accuracy. Ball handling skills and overall mechanics are adequate when he has time to settle his feet. Keeps the ball high upon delivery with an adequate release point. Flashes good wrist snap and rotation on intermediate-to-deep routes and shows good touch in the three-step game. However, he is not your prototypical drop back pocket passer lacking downfield arm strength and the velocity to fit the ball into tight spots in coverage. Tends to look at his intended target and flee the moment he feels pressure without going through progressions. Is a quick, decisive runner but does not warrant legit dual threat status that make him an ideal prospect in a zone read scheme at the next level. Bottom line, Schmidtke is a crafty quarterback prospect who takes command of the offense and is productive despite lack of ideal measurable; should excel in an open offense with the freedom to make plays.


Now, before you freak out over the line that says he does not warrant legit dual threat status in a zone read scheme, you should consider the numbers from Matt Nichols at EWU last year. Nichols threw from an astounding 3700+ yards, 34 TD's and only 9 INT's as a sophomore in '07. It was the first year Nichols played in Todd Sturdy's offense. But Nichols only rushed for 392 yards, so it's not like you have to have the running ability of Jake Locker or Dennis Dixon to make an offense like this work. And Nichols is 6-2, certainly not the NFL scouts dream for size, but far and away good enough to just tear it up in this offense.


Here's some footage of Schmidtke. The video is pretty grainy in spots, in fact it looks like some of it was taken with a cell phone camera(!), but you get the idea of the dual-threat he really looks like on a few of those runs. You also see him under center quite a bit, something he'll never do in Pullman, and to me that makes him that much more impressive that he can be his size, yet still drop back and get the job done, even if he isn't NFL-caliber:






Bottom line? In the new Todd Sturdy offense at WSU, Schmidtke looks like the perfect fit.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Damn

What a sad, sad story out of New York. Heath Ledger was a fine actor and I always liked what he did. He seemed to always pour himself into whatever he was doing, and Brokeback Mountain jokes aside, you couldn't help but at least respect that about him. And man, I have been excited as can be for this summer's new Batman, where the buzz on Ledger has been off-the-charts great about his performance as the Joker.

It sounds like this was kind of coming, too, if you believe the "internets and such". This article from the NY Times a few months ago had some telling quotes and back-stories about his battle with insomnia, including the drain that was the Joker role on his life:

“I stressed out a little too much,” Mr. Ledger said.

He tends to do that. He is here in London filming the latest episode of the “Batman”franchise, “The Dark Knight.” (Mr. Bale, as it happens, plays Batman; Mr. Ledger plays the Joker.) It is a physically and mentally draining role — his Joker is a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” he said cheerfully — and, as often happens when he throws himself into a part, he is not sleeping much.

“Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.” One night he took an Ambien, which failed to work. He took a second one and fell into a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing.

Even as he spoke, Mr. Ledger was hard-pressed to keep still. He got up and poured more coffee. He stepped outside into the courtyard and smoked a cigarette. He shook his hair out from under its hood, put a rubber band around it, took out the rubber band, put on a hat, took off the hat, put the hood back up. He went outside and had another cigarette. Polite and charming, he nonetheless gave off the sense that the last thing he wanted to do was delve deep into himself for public consumption. “It can be a little distressing to have to overintellectualize yourself,” is how he put it, a little apologetically.

There are also a lot of drug rumors beyond just the sleeping pills, such as the worst of all drugs, heroin. Who knows. You don't want to read TOO MUCH into someone's behavior during an interview....but....well....he looks a little "tweakish" here during this interview a few months ago, doesn't he?



But all we do know is that the kid is dead and it's a sad story. I really feel for his 2-year old daughter who will not have a father for the rest of her life. Sad, sad, sad. On a very selfish level, I wonder how they are going to handle the Dark Knight this summer. So much hype about Ledger's performance, about how dark and twisted this version of the Joker is, but now that he's gone you have to wonder what direction they'll go with all this. The show must go on and all that, but still, it's going to be weird.


Keeping up the gloom, sad to see about Rien Long. Hopefully he can pull through. As of right now it appears he's still in critical condition but nothing more is known. The latest news as of yesterday had him in bad shape after a wreck in the middle of the night on Monday. Thoughts and prayers are with him right now, for sure.


Finally, some good news. A successful weekend of recruiting saw the Cougars haul in four new prospects to add to the growing class of 2008. We're now up to 14 lads for this class as we come down the homestretch. Still not breakthrough superstar pledges at this point, and a lot of the 2-star variety. But there's still time and still a chance for a few surprises this year. The buzz is good that Wulff and company are doing as good as can be expected with so little time to put things together, and it might end up being at least a respectable class after all.

Probably the most intriguing new prospect is running back Brian Baucham. Only a 2-star prospect, and not a huge guy at 5-10, 175, but he does have a reported 4.4 time, so that's good. He looks good on tape too:


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bad Timing


Neu-weasil picked up Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator yesterday. Good timing for Rick bad timing for both Chow and the Cougs. As our source told me Chow was the Cougs second choice behind June Jones back in December. Since Chow never saw his firing coming, and it didn't happen until Jan 15th, he probably never even read the offer letter he got from us.

I haven't read a lot of quotes from Chow saying how happy he is to be at UCLA or working with RN but it does sound like he is happy that he will be able to go home after work. I doubt Chow would have taken the WSU job since he probably had an offer from UCLA at the same time he had one from us but it would have been fun to be in the running. But that is where the bad timing for Chow comes in. I'm sure, if he was going to be fired, he would have appreciated if they'd done it a month or so earlier so he could have taken the head job. I guess maybe the Cougs benefitted from Chow's bad timing as I would rather see the weasil as the head coach than Chow for our sake.

Don't get me wrong, I'm done with the "what-ifs" now. It's time to look forward to the Wulff regime.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Don't Be Fooled...

Don't be fooled by the apparent docile nature of these fine feathered friends..


And don't be fooled by the Quackers' lame duck performance against the Puppies of Washington on Thursday night (you think that the Quack was just maybe overlooking the Dawgs a tad?)

Tonight, the Quack are going to be ready to play.

With regard to the keys of the game, well, there's a pretty good post by the evil Vince Grippi over at the Spokesman. And while I think Vince has some solid points on the game to come, I offer a bit of a "counter" key:

PROTECT THE STINKING MIDDLE OF FLOOR.

Looking back on last year, a big key for us losing was not only great shooting by the Quackers but the ability of Porter and Brooks to get to the middle of the floor and kick out to Shooters who would then fake, cut, and BOMB with amazing success.

So, while Grippi is right that we need to defend the high screen tonight, what we really need to do is to keep Porter and company from breaking down the defense and therefore cause us to provide early help to the middle of the floor (which leaves the wings WIDE open for 3's and additional drives to the rack).

With that in mind, the key, in my book, is the defensive play of Rochestie on Porter. in my view, Porter can get 18-21 tonight WITHOUT A DUCK WIN if Rochestie is able to keep him on the perimeter and away from the basket...In other words, give him three's but make him and the Ducks live and die by them: Make them shoot 15-21 foot jumpers ALL NIGHT LONG.

And I think we will.

And I think they'll make some at their own peril.

This game really has the making of a nightmare if the Quack are firing on all cylinders, but I think that this is a game where the better is team is going to win. And this year, we are unquestionably a better basketball team.

Cougs break the 13 game losing streak to Oregon 65-58.

We'll be #6 heading into A HUGE weekend @ the Arizona schools

Enjoy it.. Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What About Milhouse??

So the story breaks this afternoon that UW wants $150 MILLION from King County to help pay for the $300 million total it will take for Husky Stadium. This is the same tax package that the Sonics asked for - twice - and were shot down - twice - and is why we're about to see them leave as soon as humanly possible.

I voted for the Mariners stadium, and I voted for the Seahawks stadium. Sports teams add to the quality of life, and I had no issues with either team asking for public money. The Seattle area is better off having the Mariners and Seahawks and playing in great facilities, just like I believe the Sonics would be in a great situation if they could get the Key thing done.

But that was one thing. But for a private institution, for amateur athletics, to ask for this kind of money from King County residents seems pretty nuts to me. What if UW doesn't get their way? Do they threaten to move to Spokane? How can any lawmaker approve something like this without taking into consideration that yes, there is another school in this state that is trying to finish a renovation of their own right now? Isn't this providing a huge competitive edge to a school that goes out of it's way to boast about how many millionaires they have that are season ticket holders? The big, powerful Huskies asking for tax money for their playpen? Can't they just be like everyone else and try to, oh, I don't know, get their own to pay for their luxuries?

Ok then. If you are going to open the state coffers for UW, well, the natural question is, what about Milhouse? What about the Cougs?? We'd only need about $40 million and things would be fantastic in Martin Stadium. How about making it a joint request for WSU and UW to upgrade their football stadiums and ask for a cool $200 million? Or should we send Jim Sterk to Olympia right now with a plan to say "excuse me, but I GOTTA GET MINE!"

Maybe this doesn't bother you, or maybe you just don't care, but I can't believe this is even going to be seriously considered. UW can spin this any way they want, about how this is about the safety of King County residents or whatever else they are going to have Dan Evans pitch to Christine Gregoire and the rest (Gregoire is a Husky btw). But isn't this just UW elbowing their way past the Sonics situation? There are rumors percolating that in a very short time, a new Key Arena renovation plan will be announced that will be double the square footage, and double the revenues of the old barn. Doesn't UW asking for this just muddy the water and potentially make it even that much more difficult for the Key Arena renovation that is about to come out?

So consider this - not only would UW be 1) hurting the Sonics chances of staying, 2) creating an unfair competitive advantage by getting the County to help them recruit athelets, but also, 3) what about WSU???

I also don't know if anyone was paying attention, but Gregoire told state legislators yesterday that this is going to be a tight year in Washington. That this will very much be a time of not a lot of lavish spending. I wonder if that tune will change with her beloved UW now with their hands out?

IF you live in King County, call or e-mail your reps. Tell them you are against any public funds for a college football team. Or better yet, remind them that it's an election year and you will be watching very closely what happens this session. Amazing how little can get done on anything close to a controversial issue in election years? Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is YOUR Popcorn Ready??

Hey Jerry Jones, how's that TO experiment working out in Dallas? Ohhh, too soon?? BURN.

Actually you have to admit, TO showed some moxie playing on a high ankle sprain just 3 weeks after the injury. He showed it in Philly, too, in the SB on basically a broken ankle. The guy has amazing healing ability, and he does situps in his driveway so he's pretty special. But once again, the Cowboys are out. And I think America is a much better place for it too. Just think of all the TO/Romo/Jessica Simpson/Jerry Jones BS that we would have had to stomach for the next 3+ weeks if they would have made it. Thank you NY G-men!

On to business - Our Cougs had some recruits in on visits this last weekend, and the news has been fairly positive. The Times has a quick run-down of the newest Cougar pledges, all of which are JC kids. Not sure I'm excited about a bunch of JC's at this point, but we may not have much of a choice. They are so behind the 8-ball with this recruiting class, not only with the lateness of the new hire but the lack of progress under Doba, that it's really a scramble to the finish line.

A big-time JC safety has suddenly shown interest in WSU and was on his visit. Cougfan has a free story about David Sims and his trip to Pullman and how the process is going. But is there a Terry Mixon-like story here? Should WSU just avoid the 4-star JC's due to potential baggage?

A JC running back did just commit last night to WSU. Chantz Staden, a 3-star player from Arizona, looks pretty good on tape. This is from his 2005 senior year and it's impressive. Check it out:







He's got some pretty good hands, as a lot of his highlights are catching the ball out of the backfield. With Wulff's offense, running backs probably will need to have the ability to do multiple things, so you have to like that. Good cutback ability too on a few of those runs. Not to get too pumped over a high school highlight tape! He doesn't look like he has blazing speed, but there's a few plays where he outruns everyone. Could be a nice get for this year's class.

I hate to be down on JC's. Dennis Erickson has done well going that route, especially early on the job to get some instant success. And Jerome Harrison was a JC, remember him? It's not like they never work out. I guess I'm gun-shy over the JC's that just never pan out. I would think that based on some comments Wulff has made since taking the job, that we'll likely see a heavy lean towards high school players in the future. But this year is more about just getting some talent, any way you can, and hope things will work out. More visits are set for this coming weekend, so again, we'll see how it all shakes out.

Finally, we're number EIGHT in the latest polls! Yep, we fell 4 places after the UCLA loss. No biggie. We are better in the hunter role anyway, and not the undefeated, "hunted" team with a big fat target on their backs. We all know this is going to be a grind of a season, and to steal a line from Brinkhater, quite simply we just don't match up well with UCLA. Period. Let's see, they basically play the exact same style of defense that we do, only they are bigger, faster, stronger and better. It's not a good matchup. And as Brinkhater said last night, we actually have a better shot at the Kansas and Memphis teams of the world, rather than a team like Ben Howland's Bruins.

Speaking of Ben Howland - you have to just tip your hat to what he's accomplished down there. Really, to think that he can reel in the McDonald's All-Americans, and then get them to buy into the team-first, defensive approach? It's a recipe for many Final Four's. It must be pretty hard to get kids focused in LA-LA land, with so many distractions at every turn, but he's getting it done in a huge way. They have become like USC has become in football, where you get all the stars, yet get them to buy in.

Enjoy your Tuesday. Read more ...plus comments

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Good Loss




Happy Sunday, fellow Cougies.

While things were tough yesterday, the loss could not have been better for us. We got waxed in several ways--which will allow Bennett to get this group's attention at mid-season--and we showed enough sizzle at the end to have some real confidence moving forward.

Overall, the split was EXACTLY what this group needed. EXACTLY.

What is most important is that we saw the emergence of this group as an offensive unit over this past weekend. And that bodes quite well for us moving forward.

And yes, I know that we looked bad in that first half against the Bruins. BUT, overall this weekend we saw both Low and Harmeling really find their stroke. And boy do we need them to compete at and reach elite status.

Derrick Low, in particular, showed a level of aggressiveness that we haven't seen in a while. And, after a miserable post-flu game against the Pups, Rochestie played pretty darn well in stretches and looked QUICK again.

So now, we get a little of the super hype off our backs a bit and can re-focus on IMPROVING--something that this group needs to do. And it will.

And, per my little post on Saturday, remember that UCLA is a team we didn't match up with BEFORE they added the next Karl Malone to their team (memo to Sonics: get #1 pick and draft Love, PLEASE!!!)

But lest we all write off hope for the bright lights and big city of a conference championship, here's something to remember: WSU will be RIGHT there in the hunt for the Pac-10 title at the end of the year because we are not good enough to overlook anyone. As a result, you can expect that we will be the least likely of all of the upper division teams to lose games we should win.

What we need now is to get the Oregon Monkey off of our backs and beat a really good 3 point shooting team--something that we did not do last year (see Oregon and Vandy). Do that, and we become the surefire #5-6 team that I think we are.

Its all about that #2 seed folks. Lets go get the Oregon schools this week and get back on that track. Read more ...plus comments

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Slurp!

I wonder where Madden's other hand is??

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Brett Favre. Always have, always will. He loves the game, he's a fierce competitor that has a blast playing a kids game, and oh yeah, he's really, really good. But with today's white-out of the hapless Seattle D, get ready for a whole week of the national media slurp, slurp, slurping up all-things-Favre.

Seriously, have you ever seen a game turn around so fast as this one? 14-0 just 4 minutes into the game, and next thing you know it's 35-17. Amazing. I was so damn impressed with Favre, and especially the little things, like his body language. When they got down 14-0, they showed him a lot, and you never saw him do much of anything. He didn't flinch, didn't blink, and most of all, didn't panic. You must remember that Green Bay is the youngest team IN THE NFL. Not just left in the playoffs, but the entire damn thing. If they get down like that, and their leader shows any panic? Forget it. The Hawks could have blown them out. But instead, the guy is just as cool as it gets, never wavers, and they just methodically took the Hawks apart, bone by bone-crushing bone. GB never even punted until the 4th quarter! They scored TD's on 5 straight possessions. They were, in a word, unstoppable. Right now, Favre and Ryan Grant are doing their best John Elway - Terrell Davis impression, and it's working.

One more quick thing - let's not kid ourselves. The weather did, in my opinion, have a lot to do with what happened today. Seattle's only clear advantage is their speed on defense. And it's very, very impressive. Ask the Redskins just how fast and active and physical they can be. But you take those smaller, faster guys and put them in 3 inches of snow, in sloppy conditions? Suddenly they are looking like they are on roller skates. GB wasn't fancy, and they didn't need to be. They just lined up and popped them in the mouth, and pushed them back like they were falling down the hillside. On a regular track today, MAYBE it's a much tighter game, but with that relentless snow, forget it.

On the Coug game, I was pleased to see them come back in the end. But man, what an ugly first 10-12 minutes. They looked lost and clearly not in UCLA's class. But it's early, and I have to admit, if you looked at the schedule and saw @ UW, @ USC and @UCLA? I would have HOPED for 2-1. There's much worse things than losing to UCLA. And hey, they did chop it to 4 with 20-something seconds left. Stranger things have happened. It's going to be a long, grueling season! Read more ...plus comments

BIG SATURDAY

Greetings Cougar Nation...

Welcome to what COULD be the biggest game in the history of the program. Win today and our Cougars will take--GET THIS--the inside track to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Moreover, win today, and at minimum, OUR WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS will receive first place votes in both the coaches and AP polls. Yep, some will think that we deserve to be #1 in the country.

But before we get to the briefest of brief looks at today's contest, a quick revisit of Thursday's win at Troy.

In a word: WOW.

Yours truly, in a post earlier in the week, provided nearly two points:

1) Harmeling is a major X factor for this team.

2) Our offensive set WAS a mess.

Well, Harmeling showed how he really is a main cog in any hope we have of being Elite.

And, our offensive set was BRILLIANT on Thursday.

From these eyes, the main change was that we basically reversed everything that we had done in the previous 13 contests. Where we started with 3 guys on the strong side with Baynes in the low post, on Thursday, we had 2 guys on the strong side (in a quasi isolation set) with 3 on the weak side. Baynes, who spent most of his time on the weakside low-post, was a beast both flashing for the ball across the paint and setting MASSIVE screens to the shooter on the weakside.

It is/was a wonderful set.

And we played and won like a sure fire top 10--if not top 5 team.

Now, onto today.

Robbie Cowgill summed everything up pretty well in the fishwrap today when he said, "they (UCLA) do everything that we do, but with better atheletes."

And that pretty much sums it up.

As guys like NUSS will attest, basketball is a game of match-ups, and unfortunately for us, we don't match up well with UCLA.

One of the big reasons for our problems is Collison--the only point guard that I have seen that is quick enough to split our defense right down the middle. And, those who know our defensive scheme well know that ONE of the reasons why we are so dominant defensively is that we NEVER concede the middle of floor.

But Collison tends to break that central thrust of our defense.

However, Collison is saddled with a hip bruise and how that will affect him is unclear.

This much I know: IF Collison plays and plays to his potential, we lose. IF Collison does not play well, we will have our shot.

My sense is that we will stay close because we are just far too pesky for anyone to blow us out.

The key for us will be outside shooting and Collison's effectiveness. We're going to have to fill it early and Baynes MUST stay out of foul trouble.

While I would not be surprised if we won, I just don't see it in the cards.

UCLA 71 WSU 58

We fall to #11.

Enjoy our last game in the top 5, but this season still stacks up to be special. UCLA is the only team of its type in the country, and I wholly believe we match up wonderfully with just about anyone else. Read more ...plus comments

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Legends Review






After a long absence I am finally going to start posting on here again. Although they are probably going to be far and few in between. I don’t have the time or the capability to keep up with the talents that are Hawk, BH & Hooty. I do have the time to read this blog everyday though. Turns out that is a lot easier than posting.

Anywho, after this Christmas my box set of the ‘Legends of the Palouse’ is finally complete thanks to my sister-in-law, Carol. She also got the box signed by Jack Thompson and the Part 3 DVD signed by Gesser. Apparently tallying 45 minutes of standing in line to do so. I’m sure she did it just to get a chance to talk to Gesser. I know you dig him Carol. The point being is that I’ve decided to break my blogging dry spell with a review of the ‘Legends of the Palouse’ movies.

There are 3 movies, 6 hours total running time. By the looks of it Jeff McQuarrie did most, if not all, of the directing, interviewing and editing. I have to imagine he had some kind of help though. Too bad I never watch the credits or I could probably tell you guys that. Go to http://www.legendsofthepalouse.com/ and check it out for yourself. You can buy the 3 movies separately or get the entire box set. The movies are:

Part One: The First 80 Years
The title is pretty self-explanatory but this one takes you from the very first coach in 1894 on through to 1914. It covers all the big names that you already know or buildings are named after or both. The thing for me was that I didn’t realize that I didn’t know jack about these guys until I watched this. The movie goes on to cover the greatest teams from 1915-1972. There’s a few inspirational stories. I particularly liked the story of Rob Retherford because he’s a hick like me. There is stuff about the history of the school itself. McQuarrie also put together a really great collection of old photos to make this movie complete and well worth the dough. I think they should pass this movie out to every freshman that shows up on campus and give them a test over it. I almost felt embarrassed by how much I learned from it because I probably should have known a lot of that stuff already. Now I feel more comfortable about calling myself a Coug.

Part Two – Learning to Bowl
This movie starts out talking about the Apple Cup rivalry. It goes over the Greatest Teams between 1975-1995. Yes, the ’88 Holiday Bowl team is in there as well as plenty of Bledsoe coverage. This one contains all the footage you can handle of afro’s, mustaches, those really thick face mask bars and mesh mid drift jerseys. If you’re into MTV Cribs you’ll like this one too because they have a chapter on making it in the pro’s and what some of these guys did with their fat paychecks.

Part Three – Raising the Bar
How couldn’t you love this one that covers the greatest teams from ’96 on. That’s a lot of good, winning football. They start the movie talking about the ’98 Rose Bowl and that team. Of course they went on to cover the 3 – 10 win seasons. The thing I really liked about this one is that they talked about, showed lots of footage of and interviewed quite a few of the good players from those years. There are lots of good little tidbits that get told too like Trufant used to cut everyone’s hair for $5 and Lamont Thompson could throw the ball just as far with his left hand as he could with his right. There is ample footage of Gesser, my favorite being a quick snip-it of him surrounded by trainers puking his guts out. There is a chapter on the great players through all of Cougar football history who played on average teams and never really got the glory they deserved. Then McQuarrie put together a panel of judges who ranked the greatest Cougar teams of all times. You’re going to have to buy the movie to find out how that turned out.




In case you were questioning Keith Jackson's loyalty to WSU over the last few years based on the Coug games he's covered like I have, Part 3 will ease your mind. It was good to see and I'm sorry I ever doubted you Keith. You are probably the best at doing that job in an unbiased manner. I just wish you would pitch Fouts some sh!t once in a while. Fark you Dan.






I couldn’t really tell you which movie to go out and buy first. I honestly think you should buy them all but if not I would chose Part One or Part Three depending on whether you like the history or winning football.
Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Say it ain't so, Handsome Pete!

Am I the only one outside of Compton who is absolutely horrified by the idea of Pete Carroll bolting Troy to become the latest in the long line of head coaches who have moved between the NCAA and NFL; only to fail in spectacular fashion?

This phenomenon of the coaching world, which is neither confined to the sport of football, nor limited to moving "up" from the minors to the pros, demands further investigation. Is it for the ego; or the bank account? What on God's green earth would compel a man to leave a position in which he were revered as a KING, for the unknown that awaits? Regardless of whether he wears the crown as King of LA in the media capital of the west coast; or the King of Poop Island in the home of the National Lentil Festival; I will never understand why a man would give up the keys to a new Cadillac for what's behind door #3.

I don't want to even imagine a Pac-10 without Pete Carroll at USC. When you really despise a team in college football, you despise the history more than you do the current roster. In baseball on the other hand, you hate the way the Yankees dominated the field for so long but you also grew to detest Steinbrenner, Jeter, O'Neill, Knoblauch, Brosius, and the like. You really spread the hate around. It's healthy.

You really need at least one face to hate. With the ever-shrinking tenure of the average college football player, it's practically impossible to develop a healthy hatred for one. I tried like hell to hate Reggie Bush but failed miserably. Before him, I tried hating a long line of former Trojan players but I just didn't get a chance to know them. I guess I briefly hated Todd Marinovich after the Dad's Day comeback in '89, so I suppose there are exceptions. But occasional fleeting hatred aside, we need Pete Carroll (and Ken Norton for that matter) at USC so our hatred will be complete. With USC, I suppose we'll always hate the perpetual loop of their fight song during every game and the constant "V' sign from fans and players - but we need more than that!


Pete Carroll is the face of USC football and the face we love to hate. I actually look forward to every opportunity I get to watch him. There is simply nothing better than watching him work a game. He's on the field more than USC's long-snapper, constantly working the refs - buttering them up early so they'll be in his hip pocket if the game gets close at the end. I take that back. The only thing better than that is watching his facial expressions during the ups and downs of a game. 98% of the time he just has that pompous look of arrogance that shames you into upgrading your trailer to a double-wide; but the other 2% of the time when things aren't going right for his team - is absolutely priceless. He seems to maintain the arrogance through a look of disbelief and astonishment.



This is the look that says "How the hell did these idiots manage to fuck up my flawless game plan?!" With Pete at the helm, nobody really beats USC, they just get lucky. Just ask him.
So on top of this ice-cream sundae of hate, the proverbial cherry on top is none other than Rick Neuheisel. I can honestly say that I have never hated anything about UCLA and probably won't until we face them for the first time with Slick Rick on the sideline. But if I hate Pete Carroll - I super-hate Rick Neuheisel. If Carroll were to leave USC for the Atlanta Falcons now, the inevitable speculation would be that on top of all that "nothing left to accomplish here" nonsense, would be that Pete felt at least a little threatened by the new coach at the rival school across town. I'd REALLY hate to see Slick Rick become the new King of LA by default.
I'm sure that by the time I finish breakfast in the morning Pete will come to his senses and announce that he's staying "home" at USC and for that, the entire Pac-10 says "Hate On!"
Read more ...plus comments

Roof Back in the House

For what's supposed to be the off-season already, there's a lot of news percolating. Today we find out via Cougfan that Andy Roof is back in school this semester and will re-join the football program. Roof stumbled out of school for the fall semester with some off-the-field issues, but things at least appear to be straightened out right now.

Interesting to think that the one starter they lose from the O-line next year, Bobby Byrd, is a guard. The same position that Roof would play next year. So the timing could be great here.

Roof has always been sort of an enigma. Coming in his strength was legendary (Cougfan reported the 655-lb squat in high school - WOW!) but he was regarded as one of the strongest players on the team the last few years. But even though he'll be a senior next year, he's only started 5 games in his career. He missed a lot of time with a injuries in '06, but Roof always generated some good buzz that he had the tools and the temperment to be a really good guard. This is his last shot, so let's hope he keeps things in order and we see him on the field next fall.

The O-line is going to be a clear strength on this team in '08, but adding a guy like Roof into the mix could make the unit one of the better lines in the conference. With a new starter at QB and a brand new spread offense, it feels good to know that there will be some good, seasoned players up front!

One other quickie - lost in the story about Gibson returning was coach Wulff's mention that RB Dwight Tardy was indeed eligible and will be in school this spring. I guess it was a little under the radar, but there was some mention of a rumor about a month ago that he was struggling, to say the least. I didn't want to bring it up at the time (remember the uproar over Bumpus "news"?), but now that it's out there, let me just say "phew!" Tardy and Ivory could be a really special combo next year, assuming Tardy's knee is ok that is, and I'm happy he got things in order. I know it happens at every program, that some of these recruits have a hard time staying above water, but it seems like in the last few seasons we've had some difficulty in keeping kids eligible? Some of the Texas kids come to mind, as well as Bumpus and his nearly-3 strikes and he's out. Let's hope Wulff has a good plan in place in keeping these kids eligible.
Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wulff's First Big Win

You may remember Brandon Gibson from dominating performances like, oh, I don't know, the 2007 Apple Cup? Well, Paul Wulff scored his first big win as head coach, as young Mr. Gibson is coming back to Pullman!

Well, ok, there's another side to it. Such as Gibson's potential draft grade wasn't as high as he had hoped, so he wants to come back and get better, turn in an outstanding senior year and then go to the next level. So it wasn't just Wulff's overwhelming recruiting skills that kept Gibson in the fold. But I'm sure it didn't hurt.

Personally I thought all along that Gibson would go pro, and I even told Brinkhater that last year, that a big year from him could leave things pretty bare for '08. But man oh man, do they need him next year. Losing Bumpus, Dillon and even Collins from the passing game is going to be a tough blow. But to also lose Gibson, the best WR on the team last year and the only first-team All-Pac-10 pick in Pullman, could have been almost too much to overcome.

Looking ahead, Benny Ward is slated to return, so he could potentially be the starter. Jeshua Anderson showed a ton of promise as a true frosh, but he's also a highly rated hurdler who will be competing for a Team USA track spot, and that could wipe out his 2008 season. There are others in the program that will get a shot, including:


  • TE Devin Frischknecht who had a nice Apple Cup (5 catches for 88 yds and 2 TD's).

  • Daniel Blackledge, a young talented kid from Colorado who saw a little bit of playing time as a frosh.

  • Keith Rosenberg, the slot WR from Bellevue.

  • Anthony Houston, a good sized youngster who hasn't had much of a chance yet.

  • Greg Walker, a 6-3 redshirt frosh last year who will probably be in the mix.

So all things considered, it's going to be a young group that hasn't done much on the field, but then again, hasn't really had a shot with established guys like Bumpus, Dillon, and Collins in front of them. The best news is that Wulff's offense is clearly WR-friendly! EWU's Aaron Boyce, just a sophomore last year, hauled in 85 balls for over 1300 yards and 10 TD's. As a sophomore. WOW. And that was with a sophomore QB at the helm. So if you ask me, Gibson has a chance to put up some insane numbers next year.

Other stuff:

WE WERE WRONG about McEndoo! Yeah, it happens. Our source said it was solid information, but something must have broken down along the way. The new OL coach has been hired and it's not a name anyone saw coming. Harold Etheridge comes in from Northern Illinois as a 19-year vet of coaching offensive lines, so he's been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. Check out the story, as he's been so many places that we won't even list them all out here. Still, sounds like a decent hire, but he's not a guy with WSU roots. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know, but Wulff clearly sees something here.

The coaching assignments have been finalized as well. Straight from the WSU release:

On the offensive side of the ball Todd Sturdy will serve as offensive coordinator and work with quarterbacks; Steve Broussard will be the running backs coach; Mike Levenseller will serve as wide receivers coach; and Rich Rasmussen will serve the duel role of tights ends coach/recruiting coordinator. On the defensive side, Jody Sears will be co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach; Chris Ball will be assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach; Travis Niekamp will coach linebackers and Malik Roberson will coach the defensive line.

Interesting that not only is Ball the secondary coach, but also the co-DC AND assistant head coach? Ball is a really strong hire, and now we can see he's going to wear a lot of hats. And, well, we don't know a whole lot about Sears, but I can say that I've read a few harsh comments from EWU fans in regards to the defense Sears called at EWU. Let's just say they weren't too thrilled, so the idea of having Ball and Sears co-coordinate the D might be a very good thing, at least for next season. Also of note, no Timm Rosenbach. Not a shock, but there was a bit of uncertainty around him initially. Sturdy gets the reins, not only as OC, but as QB coach. I wonder how much impact Levy will have in play-calling this year? OR do we get to fully blame Sturdy for every offensive struggle!?!? I kid.

In recruiting, things are definitely heating up. Andrei Lintz, the TE/DE prospect we wrote about a little while ago, gave Wulff a verbal commitment last night. Here's a link to his profile. Good size and athleticism, he's got that "upside" that gets everyone excited. There are more visits on the way too, including the 4-star JC defensive end, Grant Valentine, who will show up in Pullman this coming weekend. Valentine, you'll remember, had that Youtube video where he was just flying all over the field making plays. Here's a link if you want to watch it again. Also, the center who had Hawaii as his leader, Jonathan Solomon, will be in this weekend. Might the June Jones news (he's OFFICIALLY at SMU now) have an impact on his future? We'll see.



Read more ...plus comments

Sunday, January 06, 2008

WSU Hoops: The Season's Second Quarter

Greetings Cougar Nation, and a Merry New Year to you all. Hope you all have been enjoying the coverage that Sedihawk has been providing over the past few weeks. Has he been on fire, or what?


Couple of housecleaning items before I get to the (lackof) meat of my post.


First, a couple of you have had a hard time trying to figure out what to call me since my name change. So let me provide this suggestion: Just call me by the old moniker. I will forever respond wherever and whenever the name “Brinkhater” is called. “Bank on it.”

Second, I encourage all of you to check out the WSU Hoops blog that is run by Nuss who frequents this blog. Nuss has tons of real journalism experience and is a big hoops fan. We encourage you to check out his takes and compare them to mine throughout the year (hint to the Brinkhater army: Make sure that Nuss character isn’t stealing my posts and, if so, call him out on it!!!)

Third: You all can expect that I will be covering most of the WSU Hoops season, although Hootie and Sedi will provide their opinions as they see fit. Plus, with all of the recruiting stuff and spring ball gossip, you will see their posts periodically throughout the Winter and Spring.

Okay, now to my quick hit.


For me, this season is broken into quarters. The first quarter was the pre-season, non-conference schedule; the second is the first half of the conference; the third quarter is the second half of the conference; and the final period is the post season.

This post is principally about the end of the first quarter of the season which for me ended with another beat-down of the Huskies who barely qualify as a conference foe (actually, I thought they played quite well yesterday)

Strengths

There are three primary strengths to what we have seen so far this season. The first strength has been the play of the front court. Say what you want about the loss of Ivory Clark, but both Baynes and Cowgill (man, do I love R.C) have really been a force. Add to that the surprising defensive presence of Harmeling (who is MUCH bigger than last year) and you have a conference contender front line. These guys are surprisingly good.

Second: Despite some of the weaknesses I will touch on in second, the overall moxy of this bunch has really been something. As I mentioned in previous posts, a top 20 or 30 team loses one of the games against Baylor, Gonzaga, or Washington. The fact that our guys continued to execute and make BIG TIME plays down the stretch really speaks to their character. It really is amazing to see a group of kids respond so well to such high expectations. That type of moxy will help them weather what is going to be a grueling conference slate.

Third: Coaching and role awareness. The Baylor, Zag, and Husky games showed the tremendous confidence that T.B. has in this group of kids. But, to have that confidence, Bennett needs to know that his floor leaders know where the ball needs to go during critical stretches. Clearly, Rochestie understands where the ball needs to go, and the rest of the fellas know how to execute the play calls. The exception was last night but when you take away Taylor's nightmare game, our late game execution has been superb.

Now, This point may seem trivial to some, but similar to operating out of a no huddle in football, not having to call a T-O in hoops at the end of games allows other teams who are either young—or not defensively minded—to get caught in the wrong sets. In addition, coaches typically don’t like to call defensive switches mid-stream without a time-out. So, when we get the ball in transition with little time left in a game, we have a HUGE advantage over other teams.

Weaknesses:

The first weakness of this team is the lack of a Go-2-Guy. While Low has been the big gun for us, he has been too frequently absent and has shown an inconsistent ability to get himself good looks. Part of that has been our tendency to set picks too close to the basket, but the other part has been that other teams are trapping high CONSTANTLY in order to disrupt our perimeter game. Whether its Low stepping up more consistently or other guys being more assertive, our perimeter game has been a bit lacking. And, for us to go deep in the tourney, we need MUCH more consistent scoring from our guards. The defense has been solid, but the offense is still way too erratic.


The second weakness is bench scoring. And where our rotations are concerned, I am in disagreement with the great TB (you see, Bennett is 41-8 or something as coach, which means that its about high time that SOMEONE has the guts to criticize him for those 8 stinking losses!).

For me, I think that Harmeling becomes a much bigger offensive threat when he starts. When he comes off the bench, he is much less effective. Conversely, where Baynes is concerned, I don’t think that flow or rythm matters one bit to him. I think his game is EXACTLY the same whether or not he starts or not. In fact, given his emotion and volatility, letting the game start without him may spare us from a quick 2 fouls early.

The third weakness—which relates to the first—is our offensive set which has been poor generally and was visibly horrible last night. Part of our problems on offense last night was exacerbated by Taylor Rochestie’s HORRIBLE performance following a week long bout with the flu which can throw ANYONE out of sorts. But, in spite of that, we still do not have a consistent offensive set that creates good shots when we are not in transition.

In short, the double high post set doesn’t work well—especially with Baynes. Cowgill is still too erratic with his handle up top especially with the opposition’s defense always crowding high. Low still isn’t getting clean looks as teams are jumping that first screen. And Rochestie and Weaver haven’t been filling it up much either (although Weaver’s long range game is improved this year, his mid-range game not-so-much).

Personally, I’d like to see Weaver handle the point guard duties more. While I love Rochestie’s moxy down the stretch, I think he becomes better when he has his own offensive flow that he can built from when running the offense (kinda like Mike Bibby).

With Weaver up top playing as point, he can create a bit for himself, use his great passing skills, and perhaps open up the perimeter game for Low and Rochestie on the weak side. I know that might tax him a bit, but I think it would help us immeasurably on the offensive side of the ball at the same time that it prepares him for the next level. In my mind, we MUST improve offensively if we have any real hope at a second straight top 2 finish and a much needed #2 NCAA tourney seed. Kyle Weaver at point guard would be a HUGE step in that direction.

X-Factors

Our two x-factors are Rochestie and Harmeling. If one of those two guys plays well, we’ll win.

Yesterday, it was Harmeling who kept us in the game with those two threes in the last ten minutes. In the Gonzaga game it was Rochestie who hit the dagger three that turned a one-point cruncher into a four-point coffin slammer.


Bennett MUST find a way to get those guys going. When they do, everyone else comes alive and we become a team that is nearly impossible to beat as was manifest in our 11-4 close yesterday.

Second Quarter Outlook

A 6-2 start to the conference slate would be a really, really special start to a magical season. With that in mind, this weekend is going to be key. USC is going to be fighting for their lives after losing both in the Bay Area this weekend. And UCLA is going to be really something. In my book, they’re the #2 team in the country.

Look for Mayo to be really off his game on Thursday as the Cougs win a nail biter 61-56. While the Bruins ruin our perfect season in a “it wasn’t that close” 75-69.

I see us at 6-3 after the first half.

I’ll post again after we beat Troy. Have a great week.

And although it won’t happen, there IS the real possibility that our Cougars could be #1 in the country a week from Monday.

Think about that.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Ball, Schmidtke on Way to Pullman; Biggie Tonight?

He sounds like a good "get", and a good, smart QB to boot. I guess when you complete 76% of your passes in a spread offense that averaged over 500 yards per game you are doing something right. You have to like what they are saying about Calvin Schmidtke, the latest Wulff recruit and first (and only?) QB for this year's class. He sure sounds excited to become a Cougar on signing day:


"I was upstairs and my dad came up and said that (WSU coach) Paul Wulff was on the phone," Schmidtke said Friday. "Right then I knew it was just a little bit more than a weekly phone call. I went downstairs, and they told me they were offering me a scholarship. I said 'Yes, I want to be a Cougar.' Then I could hear all the coaches cheering in the background."


Also looks like the relationship Wulff has with Lakes head coach Dave Miller paid off here, for sure. If you remember, when Wulff was hired by WSU, Miller was actually quoted in the press release about what a great choice it was. That's one huge thing that I don't think we'll ever appreciate enough, and that's Wulff's strong relationships among the in-state high schools. While this year's class will be rated on a less-than-stellar view based on stars and rankings, well, you just never know what the future may bring. We may get some big surprises in the near future once Wulff and company get established.


Meanwhile, Chris Ball is back! Wulff just hired him to be the secondary coach after a stint at Alabama and Pitt. Boy what a strong background too. Remember, Ball was in Pullman under Price during the best run of secondary talent, maybe in school history, from 2000 - 2002. Lamont, Tru, David and Coleman, all guys who play on Sundays, all were there under Ball. Strong, strong addition to the defense.


Big game tonight, eh? Huge. Is this just another road game for a team that's already had 8 out of 12 away from Pullman? Is this the night that the 5-game winning streak comes to an end against an angry, fired-up UW team that is tired of losing to WSU? I guess if you looked at the schedule, you might put this one in the "logical loss" column. Hey, I'm not saying we are going to lose, I mean what the hell do I know? But on paper anyway, when you look at it, you have to wonder if we are due for a clunker of a game.


NAHHHH!


Now UW has gotten better of late, winning 5 straight after starting 4-4 and the return of Appleby at shooting guard is a big boost for them. But let's see how the Pistol-Pete-Wannabe with the six-shooter pistol salute does tonight when Weaver swarms him out on the perimeter. Weaver might be the best defensive player in the conference, and in the discussion for one of the best defensive players in America. We already saw him destroy Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin into an 0-fer night that morphed into Bouldin being so frustrated that he restored to circus-like underhanded lay-in attempts just to get a shot off! I think no matter what, Bennett at least won't let Appleby beat them tonight. If UW is going to win, they are going to have to get a big one out of Brockman, of course, but also someone like Dentmon or Pondexter or someone of that ilk is going to really have to shine.


But just remember, Coug fans. This is only 1 of 18 Pac-10 games. There's such a long road to hoe still you can't even glimpse the finish line. In other words, win or lose tonight, and there's still a TON of season left. Teams can recover from early losses, and I think the key for our lads is that they are playing well towards the end of the season. Don't drop that load too early! So while tonight is important, and it would be fun to talk about 6 in a row over them, and 9 out of the last 10 overall in terms of football and men's hoops combined, it isn't the end of the season if they lose. Big-picture rant, I know, but enjoy this ride no matter what! Read more ...plus comments