Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Morning Gloom - Okie Edition

Oh well. Week one in the books, and now we have something to go off - and look forward to improving upon - besides practices and scrimmages.

First, great job yesterday by Brinkhater and of course, the comments. I think the vast majority of you saw the situation for what it is, which is a team that has a long way to go, yet still, you saw some things get better. I want to just touch on a few things, then we'll look at some links.

What We Liked:
1) The defense is better. I don't think there is any doubt about that. I know, 39 points is rough, but really, you can't lay it all at their size 14's. One of those scores was a kickoff return for a TD, and there were several other short-field situations where the D toughened up. That final score could have been considerably worse if, by chance, we had the 2007 defense out there.

But as many mentioned yesterday, we seemed quicker to the ball and we tackled better than we have in recent memory. Early on, and even well into the third quarter, there were very few moments where Okie State got outside the defense. We did a good job of not getting beat out there, and turning the action back inside. There was more pep in their step, so to speak, and they did in fact play with a swagger. To put it in proper perspective, you have to remember who exactly they were playing. This wasn't Idaho or Grambling State. Okie State is an offensive juggernaut, and their QB was the best dual-threat QB in the nation next to Tim Tebow last year, and we held our ground. Robinson ran for almost 850 yards last year, so if you would have told me we would hold him to eight carries for a mere 11 yards?? I would take that in a heartbeat! Plus we did something that was a huge improvement compared to last year, and that was THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS! Just 4-for-13 yesterday in a category where we were one of the worst in the nation last year.

2) The running game got going. What a nice surprise there. After a putrid first half, where we never even crossed midfield on EIGHT POSSESSIONS, it was nice to see them get in an offensive rhythm. The running game really got the offense going in that first possession of the third quarter. Out of the nine offensive plays of that TD drive, seven of them were running plays. The final tally of 114 rushing yards, or 3.4 yards per carry, isn't anything to write home about, but you can see the upside there. Both Tardy and Ivory had their moments, and wasn't it great to see Ivory play after being so questionable coming in? That was a relief, to say the least, and might be a great sign going forward. As Brinkhater said last night, imagine next season when we will also add the touted Cal transfer James Montgomery into the mix with Tardy, Ivory and Staden? Could be a pretty deep, talented backfield!

3) The offensive line did a commendable job. A unit so banged up and shuffled around even before week one, yet they held together pretty well. Granted that wasn't USC's defense out there, but really, they were a pleasant surprise. Even though Rogers struggled mightily, there were several times where he had more than enough time to set up shop and do his thing in a strong pocket. Just two sacks allowed, and only a handful of QB hurries all day. And they really fired off the ball in that third quarter, establishing the ground game and getting after it.

Like many have said all along, with Wulff as our coach, the offensive line is going to be a personal position of pride for him. I think we are going to be happy with what we see up front, and so far, so good.

Now, what we didn't like:

1) "Special" teams were far from special. I think we all thought this was going to be an issue, but WOW. Over 250 yards allowed in the return game, including the 90-yard KO return and punt returns of 42 yards and 68 yards?? BRUTAL is the only way to even possibly say it. That kickoff return for a TD, that middle of the field was so wide open, as soon as the guy had the ball for the first ten yards, I glanced down the middle of the field and there was NOBODY there. You or me with a few pre-game drinks in us could have scored on that thing. The hang-time on the punts was just bad, bad, bad. Too many line drive-type punts that are a returners dream. Time to bring back the rugby punts that roll for 25 yards and pop-fly kickoffs that are fair-caught at the 35? I know we lamented all that, but after yesterday, I welcome the idea with open arms!

Of course, we're rolling with a backup punter and all, and we are so thin that many guys not normally on punt and kickoff coverage teams are being asked to go out there and bust the wedge. But that has to improve, and fast.

2) The corners, defensive tackles and pass rush. Ok, there were some bright spots early on. As we stated above, we held our ground and forced field goals with a short field to work with. But Okie State figured something out, and that is our defensive backs had trouble with the size and athleticism of their WR's. Particularly Dez Bryant.

You hate to use that old injury excuse, but, losing our top cover corner Alfonso Jackson so early in the game hurt the experience in the secondary. Tyrone Justin was forced to get extensive minutes covering Bryant, and try as he might, it was a mismatch. There were at least a few of those jump-ball style throws, where Bryant was covered, but simply elevated and went up and got it. And let's face it, he has serious ability and was one of their biggest weapons as a frosh last year. He's going to be a name to remember in the Big 12. So I don't know what you can do on those types of plays, other than say "JUMP HIGHER!" But a look around the Pac-10, and there are a lot of guys like him we'll see out there. Oregon and USC's monster WR's will be licking their chops when they see film of this one.

The tackles are thin, thin, thin. We knew that coming in, and it was proven yesterday. Ahmu did have six tackles, so he was OK yet no tackles for loss or any pressure on the QB. Eichelberger is a nice compliment, but you can't expect to get by with those two in there for 60-70 plays. Losing Roof hurts, and Adam Hineline got in there for a few stops, but man, something has to be done in there. I heard Walden on the radio say that he couldn't remember a time where we lacked so much quantity and quality at the defensive tackle position in all his years watching WSU.

Finally, even though Robinson and the rest of Okie State didn't go video-game football on us, still, we didn't get enough pressure on the QB. He had a relatively comfortable 20-for-27, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Not fantastic, but pretty much in control. The ends didn't get the kind of heat that is going to be needed going forward. Greg Trent had the only sack of the game, and Kevin Kooyman had a couple of QB hurries, but otherwise, it was a non-existent pass rush. Maybe we'll see more blitzing next week vs. Kevin Riley and Cal, but we need to get pressure one way or another.

3) The most obvious of all, the passing game. It was Rogers' first game, and no, we're not going crazy on this one. He deserves a mulligan for a game that was a huge adjustment for everyone involved. New as in new QB, new starting WR's and TE, new coaching staff with a new no-huddle offense. Yeah, that's new. Was he out of synch? Sure. Was he wild with his accuracy? On some throws he was very wild, but others he was fine. But this thing wasn't all his fault.

First, the drops. We all love Brandon Gibson, and we know he's going to have a big senior year. But two of those drops were balls that he just has to make. Yes, one of them a DB made a play on the ball, and any DB will tell you it's their ball just as much as it's the WR's. But those drops turned out to be pretty big in the grand scheme of things. You have to wonder what might have happened if he catches at least one of those. Maybe the confidence is there and they loosen up the coverage for the other WR's. Maybe the running game gets going sooner rather than later, and they keep the Okie State offense off the field for a few set of downs. Who knows. But given the long body of work with Gibson, you KNOW this won't be an ongoing issue. It will improve, and probably next week. Heck, it improved in the 2nd half, and Gibson's second half was really strong.

And the new receivers had a lot to do with it. Far too often it looked like they were hesitant, confused or even running the wrong route altogether. Maybe there are a lot of "read" routes in this offense, where the QB and WR read the defense on the route and decide to either break it off or go deep? But in focusing on how the WR's were running their routes, there seemed to be some first-game issues out there. You can tell there was more thinking going on vs. pure reactions and athleticism, but that will change as they get more experience. But health is also an issue. Daniel Blackledge wasn't even going to play, and Michael Willis looked a little slow out there. Even Frischnecht at TE wasn't himself. So it's hard to blame Rogers when his supporting cast couldn't pick him up.

So, that's about it. What will YOU take from this one? I think the biggest thing I'm going to take is big-picture, in that unlike last year, these guys didn't quit. Remember the Oregon game last year? They laid down after a rough start. Not only would those field goals have been TD's on last year's defense, but it would have been a full four quarters of pain. We cut it to 18-6, but then they stole the MO right back with the kickoff return for TD. We drive down the field and score another TD, but then they would respond after a short kickoff. But the fact that they fought back off the mat is just such a great sign for what is to come. The offense ground out two long, impressive drives in the second half to make it interesting, and most of all showed improvement as the game went on. Coach Wulff has to be happy that they responded to adversity instead of taking the afternoon off.

I won't link to a bunch of WSU stuff, as you know where it is and how to find it. However, there was this notebook from the Times in regards to the young line showing some promise. Steve Kelley had this good look at Rogers, highlighting the issues he had to deal with for his first-ever start.

Finally, around the conference. PEEEEE-UW! I can't believe UW was only down 14-10 at the half. 30 unanswered points later and it's a 44-10 wipeout that has fans going ballistic. I guess if it was year four of the Wulff regime, and we were embarrassed like that, well, it would be hard not to be pissed if you are a UW fan right about now. The fact Oregon got it done with brand new QB's after Roper went down with a concussion has to make it all the worse. But Jake Locker can only do so much, and yep, those young skill guys sure looked young. And truth be told, Locker wasn't 100%. He looked gassed at times, even tapping his helmet after a few plays to signal to the sideline to please call a regular running play. We heard a rumor that his hammy was far less than 100%, and has been an ongoing issue for him this summer, and it showed last night.

USC, jeez. Just when you think they might have some issues on offense, Mark Sanchez goes bananas in the 52-7 humiliation at Virginia. As they said on ESPN, he was making NFL-type throws and his WR's were doing their part. And that defense, forget about it. Might as well clear the calendar for a BCS bowl, yet again.

ARIZONA 70, IDAHO ZERO!?!? HOLY TOLEDO. Idaho was outgained 521-112 for the entire game? I would have thought the Vandals could keep it close, but hide the women and children.

Cal had a wild one, holding on 38-31 in a real offensive show. The QB controversy has to be officially dead though, as Kevin Riley was far superior to Nate Longshore. Cal's running game is going to be a chore next week, too, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen both going over 100 yards.

Finally, ASU sleep-walked through a 30-13 game that was far closer on the scoreboard. It was 30-3 in the third quarter. Rudy was on fire early, completing a school-record first 13 throws on the way to a big 388-yard night.

Enjoy your weekend, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Post-Game Thread

Well, one down and TWELVE BIG ONES left.

While I am sure that many of you are disappointed by the outcome of today’s tilt, I also think that there were enough good things accomplished today to see why it is that Brinkhater has been so optimistic about the upcoming season as a whole.

IF we can stay reasonably healthy, we will get better and better and better each week. And I actually still think that a bowl game is in the cards.

At the very least, I certainly think you will see a huge jump in our performance next week.
Couple of quick hits:

The defense played much better than expected. And, as forseen on this very blog, was pretty terrific before they wore down.

The highs: the discipline at tackling. The lows: the Limited Pass Rush and inability to win a “jump ball.”

The offense lacked overall tempo but had some good moments nonetheless. The obvious high: The running game. The Lows: Rogers’ consistent “lock” onto his primary receiver; Gibson's dropsies.

The biggest low of course was Special Teams, but that will improve with the return of our punter. The field goal kicking may be a real, real problem, however.

The biggest high: The tackling and the overall temperament of the coaches which I thought was first rate.

Personally, I feel much better about this week one than the opener last year.
But what really matters is what you all think.

So, what do you think? Click here for more Comments

Half-Time Thread

So, we've reached the end of first half and seen what we expected: A defense that is better than advertised (ours) and an offense that is offensive.

Meanwhile, our "sure thing" is doing his best impression of this former great a few years back:

Remember two years ago when Jason Hill got a bad case of the dropsies early in the year?

Well, our main man #4 looks like he's going through the same type of "yips" that comes with high expectations.

Nevertheless, you can see the promise that this group has. If we can get a good stop to start the 3rd, we may stay in it.

In any event, lets just stay healthy and continue to get some good reps.
Feel free to share your rants.

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Good Morning Beautiful!

And I don't mean Herbie. Good morning Crimson, yet another year on the ESPN Gameday road set. It sounds as though "Coug Will", Will Walker, has made the trek, and both flags are flying high. GREAT job! I guess you know it's football season when you flip on Gameday and see the flag. It's so ON now.

There are a few links of interest today, but I think the best thing I read was from the News Tribune. It's an article about the toughness factor, and what it really means, from Wulff to the players. It's worth a read, so, check it out here.

Did Michael Bumpus make the Seahawks?? We'll find out today. Maybe his case got stronger in the bad news department, with WR Ben Obomanu going down with a broken clavicle last night and will probably miss the entire 2008 season. And Bump played well if this was his last Seahawks performance, three catches for 53 yards. But it's all a numbers game now. If the Seahawks keep six receivers, it's going to be Nate Burleson, Jordan Kent, Bobby Engram, Deion Branch, Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne. But if they go with seven WR's, then Bumpus could make it. The hard thing is both Engram and Branch are going to miss some early games, but they have to be kept on the 53-man roster. If you put them on the "PUP" list now, they are out for at least half the season, if not the entire thing. So they have to at least hold the spots for when they can be activated. But even if it is the practice squad, my WSU heart is proud of Bump. An undrafted free agent has the longest hike of all to even get on the radar of making the team, and here he is, potentially on the bubble of making the Seattle Seahawks. GREAT JOB BUMP.

In that tone, sorry to see the Big Apple, Alex Brink, get his walking papers yesterday. Apparently the team didn't see enough out of him to keep him as the 3rd QB. Maybe a practice squad guy, either in Houston or somewhere. But we'll see. Maybe he just doesn't have that NFL skill set. Good luck to Alex.

Anyone see Jason Hill this preseason?? Four more catches for 57 yards last night, and now a team-high 11 catches for 204 yards total in the preseason. He's looking really, really good in the new San Fran Mike Martz offensive scheme, and could be a breakthrough guy this season.

Couple all that with the news that Mkristo Bruce will now likely stick with the Jags, at least on the practice squad, even though Derrick Harvey ended his holdout, and the news isn't all bad for recent NFL'ers with WSU ties.

I think it also makes you realize how much talent was really on that 2006 WSU team. Eric Frampton and Jason Hill were both in the NFL last year, and now Bumpus, Brink and Bruce were all at least to the final cuts. That might always be the what-could-have-been team.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. We've written enough about this upcoming season, and about this game. Previews are everywhere, everyone has weighed in on their pick, you know the drill. One thing is crystal clear - the deck is stacked against us today. But that's why they play the games, and it's why we watch. We just don't know what will happen. And that is part of the pure excitement many of us will feel today.

I hope to run into a few of you down at Qwest. Brinkhater will likely stop by today for a game post, so, if you can't get to the game and want to vent, check it out. Otherwise, enjoy today for what it is - the new era of WSU Football. GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ready For Lift-Off

One more day and it's all for real. 2008 hits the runway. Are we ready? Will we have game-one yips in Qwest? Will we really be as bad as the pundits have said? Here's some quick hitting questions, plus some links and such.

1) Is Gary Rogers up to the task? I know the focus tomorrow is all on the Okie State offense, and for good reason. We are all anticipating that they will move the ball, and we are going to be in for a major track meet. We worry about our defense, and the less-than-impressive performances from last year vs. high-octane spread offenses with mobile QB's (Oregon? Even UW?). But what about Gary Rogers? Will he be up to the task?

The thing is, we really don't know, do we? The book on Rogers, at least in-game action, is pretty flimsy. Sure we can go back to the Auburn clips from two years ago and wax poetic about the throws he made.....but, uh, that was just ONE drive. Yes it shows upside, but is that something to take to the bank? He had a strong drive vs. Baylor as well in '06, throwing a laser-like TD pass in Qwest Field, no less. But what about all the other drives where he's taken the field?

There are so many extenuating circumstances when you try to evaluate a QB in limited playing time. What was the situation? Was it a blow-out, and the defense had their backups in and basically "called off the dogs"? Yes, Rogers looked brilliant leading the lads down the field vs. a lightning fast SEC defense in Auburn, but it was 26-7 in the third quarter at that point. Not exactly crunch time if you follow me. Auburn blitzed the bejeezus out of Brink early and often in that game, but if you watch the highlights, they are basically sitting back in a soft cover-2 for that entire Gary Rogers drive. And on the long TD pass to Cody Boyd over the middle, yes, a great throw and a good read to find him, but, uh, where's the defender on that play? Someone forgot to cover Cody, all 6-8 of him, right down the middle of the field.

I don't mean to poke holes in Rogers. But we're talking about a QB who has thrown for 244 yards, TOTAL, in his three seasons of limited playing time. How could we possibly know what we are going to see when it's his show for four quarters every Saturday?

I think that's what makes this season so damn compelling. It's a new team, hell, it's a new PROGRAM, in every way, shape and form, and that includes the trigger man calling the shots. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can happen. I am with all of you though, I cannot wait to see how it looks in real-time tomorrow.

2) Will the D be overwhelmed? One thing about the defense that seems to at least slightly overlooked is all the talk about how young they are. But did you know that of the starting front-7 for tomorrow, there's only one non-senior starting, in Kevin Kooyman at defensive end? All the rest, from the tackles to the other d-end to the starting linebackers, all seniors. And that, my friend, can only bode well for what we're about to go through.

Not only is everything new, but, that experience and leadership is going to go a long way towards a respectable 2008 season. Last year was about new faces and learning how to play. But enough of wading in the kiddie pool. Time to go to the deep end. Time to stop sitting back and being afraid to make mistakes. It's time to attack.

The buzz has been exceptional on what Greg Trent has done this offseason. It seems the new coaching staff has given him the green light to just go off as the vocal and emotional leader of the defense, and it's something that has been lacking for the last few seasons. We haven't had a chip on our shoulder, defensively, since the days of Will Derting.

Speaking of Derting....remember the swagger of Will? I sure do. I think Carlyle Holiday of Notre Dame does too. Boom goes the dynamite:


I would sure love to see a defense play like that again, wouldn't you? Let's hope we see them come out with some swagger and dictate things from kickoff to kneel-down, and the physical, emotional leader in the middle can set the tone. What the heck. What do we have to lose??

3) What about Coach Wulff? It's important to realize what we have here. We love the change in the culture, and from day one it's been a whole new program. Things are moving forward in every way, from team discipline, academics, and even recruiting is off to maybe the best start many of us can ever remember who's followed this type of thing. Cougfan had a story not too long ago that read something like this is the first time ever that out of the first five commits, each player was rated in the top-100 in the nation at their respective position, and each player was of the three-star variety. You never want to get too carried away with recruiting rankings, but still, we're talking uncharted territory here. But what about the end-result? What will we see on the field?

When you go back and look at his resume, it's impressive the more you look at it. The parallels between EWU and WSU are uncanny. Small stadium, small budget, small donor base, small media market. Yet this is a guy who went 53-40 at maybe the toughest school to win at in the Big Sky, winning coach of the year honors three different times out of eight seasons. In those losses, however, at least one game each year was regarded as the "paycheck" game, where they were lambs led to the slaughter in playing BCS teams around the country. So the record on equal terms is even more impressive. He took EWU to the Football Sub-Division playoffs in three of the last four seasons, when they had only reached the playoffs once in the prior 11 years.

But maybe the most important thing? He led EWU to a winning record in seven out of eight seasons. That is a complete turnover of the program, twice, and only one losing season? That is a consistent winner. That is how you build a program. And that is what we want here. Yet he continued to overcome the odds, and play the strongest hand he could with what he was dealt. It's the story of his life, overcoming adversity at every step. Why should it be any different now? Give it some time, Cougar Nation, but once things fall into place, we are going to have a program that you will all be proud of. And one that opposing teams will know that no matter the situation, they are going to have their hands full. Once this culture flips, and Wulff has the time to build it into his vision, look out!

Some other quick links of interest.

The Beavers gave us their annual early-season road loss. This time Stanford got them, as the Beavs' mistakes late did them in. When OSU turns it over, they lose, pure and simple, and they lost in the turnover ratio at a minus-3.

OSU did have some bright spots, as Lyle Moevao looks worlds better than last year, throwing for over 400 yards against an experienced Stanford defense. And a huge part of those numbers was the return of Sammie Stroughter, who reminded everyone about the kind of playmaker he can be with 12 balls for 157 and two scores. But despite outgaining Stanford 490-301, OSU is 0-1. But the best thing of all from last night? NO MORE JOG BRA JERSEYS!

Nice job Nike. Maybe there is hope for our look next year? Fingers crossed.

A team we'll see in a few weeks, Baylor got blown out at home to maybe 30,000 fans in Waco. Did anyone catch their game last night? Someone commented that they looked bad, and from what little I saw of it, they looked pretty flat. It looked like a pre-season game or something, not a home opener against a ranked team? Baylor was sloppy with five turnovers and just 250 total yards of offense. I know it's early, and they will improve, but Baylor looks like they have a long way to go.

Coach Price, what happened?? 42-17 loss to Buffalo, and we're not talking the Buffalo BILLS?? The word has been Price might be on the hot-seat, and you can't help but wonder what's up down there after that embarrassment. Turner Gill is a hot coaching prospect and was rumored to be on our short list of candidates, but WOW, what a rough start to '08!

In local news, sorry to see Keith Parr Jr (formerly Rosenberg) transfer. He was a touted slot WR/running back combo coming out of Bellevue High School a few years ago, and seemed like he could be a good fit in the WSU offense. But for whatever reason, injury and otherwise, it didn't work out. Sorry to see that he pulled the trigger now on leaving WSU, after that long hot summer of practices. But admirable that he stuck it out, and obviously he is making the decision that it is best to move on down the road. Good luck Keith.

What's with those touted Bellevue players? JR Hasty has left UW, this time for good. LB EJ Savannah was the leading tackler on UW last year, but has an academic issue (but rumored to be close to returning?). Parr (Rosenberg) has now left WSU. Eric Block is still in Pullman, but hasn't really had a shot yet. I like Block, and have heard some excellent things about him from people who know him. Hopefully he can make an impact this year at safety. Steve Schilling is doing well at Michigan as a starting guard, but otherwise, the Bellevue D-1 guys haven't made the impact that many thought they would make. It's still an outstanding high school program, and they will produce many D-1 prospects, but it just goes to show you how hard it is to project success at the next level.

That's about it for today. We'll be back tomorrow for some pre-and-post game reactions to the new Wulff era. So enjoy your Friday, and as always, GO COUGS!
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Football Friday Week One...Only on Thursday

Welcome to Football Friday, Cougar Nation. And Week One Style to Boot!

For future reference, you can EXPECT to see the WSU Football Blog version of Football Friday appear on this here blog every Thursday (it may appear as a Wednesday post because of Blogger). But look for Football Friday....only on Thursday....every week.

As you know, we always strive to bring stuff to you first at this lil’ ole site. ..

I mean, anyone else in the blogosphere notice that the "Evil" Vince Grippi started posting before 8:00am this fall for the first time after Sedihawk started our morning link series at about 5:45am everyday this past spring? Good morning Vince....

For the past couple of years, we’ve each given our takes on the upcoming tilt of games on separate posts. For us, that has enabled us Blogfathers to essentially fill the blog out with posts each day during game week. But, that approach has also given our readership a piecemeal and often fragmented view of WSU Football and our prospects each week.

So, we’re going to give you our collective Blogfather takes in one fell swoop this year.

Needless to say, we hope you enjoy it, win money from it, and COMMENT on it. And please, feel free to add your picks as well. We can keep a tally of them during the season and see how you stack up.

So, without further ado, here are our takes:

As for Brinkhater, after finishing last year 12-0 as a master soothsayer and winning my own coveted National Championship, I bat lead-off—at least for game one. So, here we go.

First, Cougar Nation, I beg you all to KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE throughout this season and especially this first game.

And, in case you've forgotten, the prize is this:


As I suggested in the season preview, that means beating Baylor and Portland State. Do that, and our season can be a major success. Exceed that and our season could be really, really special.
But first, let’s focus on Saturday’s game against CBSU.

Now, I don’t want to curb anyone’s enthusiasm, but you all can really put this one in stone:


For a long time, I imagined a scenario where we got up 14-0 on OK State and made those less-than-road-warriors play an unsuccessful game of catch-up the rest of the way.

But alas, Anderson got hurt, and even worse, our once solid O-Line is now in total shambles. So, with that in mind, I also see no reasonable way that we can play ball control and “hang in there” as I’ve wanted to believe all summer long.

Mind you, Brinkhater thinks that our much maligned D is going to be much better than advertised (even without Roof), but my sense is that our offense is going to be just downright awful. And when I say awful, I mean A-W-F-U-L.

As a result of our pending ineptitude, after Rogers throws his 3rd pick of the first half (he’ll have 4 in this game, but what can you reasonably expect??? Has any WSU QB done well in his first real start?), I think that I will find myself clinging to the gilded memories of Alex DOMINATING the field between the 20’s, and will thus embrace the memories of #10 in same way that McCain has been captured loving HIS former nemesis, the other “Dubya”:

In spite of how awful we’ll be on O in Game One, I urge you all to both enjoy and watch the 4th quarter of this game VERY closely. What we’re looking for in this game is PROGRESS that we can use against CAL. And, because the Cowboys’ defense is so suspect, I do think that we can establish something late that we can use next week in Martin Stadium.

Remember, as Doba pointed out, the greatest progress in a season is between Week One and Week Two. With this young team, a strong finish for this game will set the table for a more competitive performance against CAL, which MUST further set the stage for a must-win victory over Baylor in two weeks. Again, the ONE game we must have is Baylor.

So, with that in mind, think about the next two weeks as a pre-season to prepare specifically for THAT game.

Final Answer for Brinkhater on the Cougs' fortunes in Week One?:

Cougs go 0-1 as Brinkhater goes 1-0 and thus extends his hapless WSU Football prediction win streak at 13..

Clay Bennett State University 38 Cougs 17 (35-3 Entering the 4th). And, yes, we know Clay Bennett wears Sooner pajamas to bed every night. But hey, Oklahoma is Oklahoma to us.

Other Games:

Oregon 31 Washington 14. Can Locker leave the stadium walking? We’ll see.

Trees 20 Beavs 13. No offense, but totally offensive. Don’t watch this one.

USC 41 UVA 6. Don’t watch this one either.

CAL 24 MSU 17. Maybe consider going camping this weekend after our game?

And the National Game of the Week?

Mizzou 41 Illinois 24. Mizzou takes first step toward a possible National Title Run. Big Ten shows it still sucks.

Enjoy the games and go Cougs!!!

Sedihawk says:

Good work Brinkhater. My, I didn't expect 38-17 out of you. But how can I argue against your spotless 2007 season? It's true, folks, hate Brinkhater all you want, but he did win the mythical national title of picking games last year. And not just in football either. I believe he missed just one or maybe two hoops games, total, last year. And we have the archives to prove it.

But it's a new season, and time for the rest of us to weigh in.

First of all, I think X-man can sum up my feelings towards all things Oklahoma.


I know, this is supposed to be a WSU football blog....but verrrrrry bitter about the theft that took place of a 41-year Seattle institution. And really, for no other reason than David Stern was in bed with a fat, rich ego maniac who became even fatter and richer by getting to watch ball in YEE HAW OKC!

Enough of that. Moving on, this week's game. Well, I'm going to have to slide towards Brinkhater's side of the fence on this one. Okie State scares the bejeezus out of me when they have the football, and for good reason. Actually, several good reasons:

1) Zac Robinson is the real deal at QB folks. As a true sophomore, and first shot at starting last year, he completed over 60% of his passes, approached 3,000 yards, had a fantastic 23-9 TD/INT ratio, and led his team to a winning record and a big bowl victory. He is a wonderful fit in the read-option offense, running for 847 yards and nine more TD's. And oh yeah, he set a school record for total offense with 3671 yards. All as a sophomore?? To put it in perspective, Tim Tebow was the only other QB in the nation to throw for at least 2800 yards and run for 800. Not Dennis Dixon, not Jake Locker, not any of the other read-option QB's. It's a little scary to think how good he could be this year.

2) Their offense, overall, was outstanding. The only team in the nation to average at least 240 yards per game running AND throwing the ball, they were a dual-threat offensive machine. And while they've lost leading receiver Adarius Bowman and leading rusher Dantrell Savage, they still have some talented kids back in the skill positions, including Dez Bryant, monster TE Brandon Pettigrew, and running backs Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston and a new face in Beau Johnson, who ran for over 1700 yards in the JC ranks last year. Simply put, these guys will move the ball.

3) The biggest concern is the O-line against our defense. They are rated highly as a group, giving up only 11 sacks ALL OF 2007. I think Oregon State sacked us 11 times alone last year?? Anyway, they have nine of their top 10 linemen back from 2007, and 89 career starts combined among them. Scary.

The good news from a WSU perspective? The skill position guys might be touted, but, they are also young. Pettigrew is a senior and an all-everything candidate at tight end, but, WR Dez Bryant and starting RB Kendall Hunter are just sophomores.

And with youth comes inconsistency, so, you never know what you might get on a week-to-week basis.

Their defense has been bad, bad, and bad. While they might rack up yards and points on offense, well, they give 'em up too. 112th in the nation in passing defense, 101st in the nation overall giving up 443 yards per game! That's only three yards less than UW gave up last year, their worst defense in school history and a game in which we were able to score 42 points. I know, new season, new coaches, new QB and all that, but still, there is hope. However, the Okie State D appears to be improved, at least if you believe the hype from the spring and fall practices anyway. They are certainly expecting a big improvement across the board.

Okie State did have a winning record last year, sure. But once again, they struggled away from home, going just 2-4 on the road. Even more, they went 2-4 on the road in 2006, and just 1-4 in 2005. Add it all up, and that's a 5-12 record away from Boone Pickens Stadium in the last three seasons. They were humiliated in a few roadies last year as well - 35-14 at Georgia, sure, that wasn't unexpected. But a 41-23 loss at TROY, a game in which they were a 10-point favorite?? They also laid down at Oklahoma, getting run off the field 49-17. So we'll see.

But in the end, I agree with Brinkhater. Unfortunately I don't think we will be able to keep up with them offensively. I think we might be better than people think defensively, but, I wonder about how we are going to go about scoring points. Losing Jeshua Anderson as the wide receiver HR threat really could be a major trickle-down to the rest of the offense, allowing Okie State to focus on Brandon Gibson. And as much as I like the future of Jared Karstetter, well, he's a few months removed from a 4-A state hoops title. To think he's going to smoothly make the transition right away to starting WR on a BCS team just seems too far-fetched. I sure as hell will be rooting for him, but having to start a true frosh at WR isn't a comforting thought.

But the biggest thing on the offense is the O-line. Losing Lesuma and then Rowlands hurts, and the shuffle up front continues. We are now starting four underclassmen among our starting line, with only junior Kenny Alfred the lone upper class guy. I like the future of the line, and I think they could be a very special group in a year or so, but, this could be a real learning experience in '08, especially this first month of the season.

I'm going to go Okie State 33, WSU 24. I think it will be a tighter game than Brinkhater believes, and I think we will hang in there. But we just don't have the horses to run with these guys. And speaking of horses, I think Okie State is a real dark horse in the Big 12, and after this game they have a run of four straight home games. It's very possible they will go into their 10/11 game at Missouri undefeated and a team that many people will be talking about.

Remember, this year is about taking positive steps forward. Like coach Wulff himself said earlier in the week, we're looking for improvement. But that might not always translate on the scoreboard. We have to be patient, but just know that the program is in the right hands, and most of all, headed in the right direction!

Other games:

Oregon 28, UW 20. I think much closer than the 14-point spread or whatever. Oregon is going to be pretty good, but the first-game yips will be evident with Roper at QB. Locker is special, but he can't do it alone. UW starts TEN freshmen or sophomores in this one, possibly the youngest starting lineup ever in Willingham's entire coaching career. To break in all that youth, on the road, at Autzen!?!? Yikes.

Oregon State 23, Stanford 17. This will be more about Stanford being better than the Beavs being worse. Harbaugh is changing things up down there, and they will be a tougher, grittier team than last year. But Oregon State still has them beat in the talent department. Look for Sammie Stroughter to make a big play or two in special teams, always an early-season concern for every team in the nation the first few weeks.

CAL 35, MSU 21 - The Berkeley Bears come storming out of the gate. Kevin Riley lights it up and any QB controversy talk is quickly put to bed. Cal will have a major chip on their shoulder in this one and quickly erase the bad taste of 2007's fade.

USC 27, Virginia 9 - I think the Trojan offense sputters a bit with the QB situation and all, but the D is just beyond bad-ass. USC offense better get into a groove by the time the Ohio State University shows up in LA in two weeks!

Arizona 50, Idaho 12 - The Willie Tuitama show begins! Yards and points galore in this one. Have fun Coach Akey.

ASU 49, Northern AZ 18 - Rudy goes bananas early and it's 42-3 before you know it. And best of all, NO SACKS ALLOWED!

Tennessee 30, UCLA 13 - The Bruin offense is in ruins right now, and that won't change after this one. UCLA keeps it tight early, but all the 3-and-outs will wear down their own defense in the 2nd half, and the Vols will salt it away.

National Game:
MIZZOU 37, Illinois 30 - Wild shootout on the St. Louis turf, but Mizzou should prevail. They are a likely pick to win the Big 12 North this year, and for good reason.


Longball says...

Duck and Cover!

Cougar nation, I hate to bring more doom and gloom to our season opener prognostications, but we are going to get rolled on Saturday. By the time the dust settles in the 4th quarter I don't expect us to be within two touchdowns. The problem I see on the horizon is an offense with a new scheme that frequently goes 3 and out leaving our defense to wither on the field against a juggernaut of an offense from the Pokes. I fully expect there to be a point in the game when we "figure it out" against their not-so-great defense, but by then we will be playing catch up with an exhausted and demoralized defense of our own. Not gonna happen.

However, this is what these guys have to go through to find out what its gonna take to compete, and Okie State ain't no scrimmage. This will be a great test and there will be lots for us to learn from going into conference play next week when we SHOCK CAL AT HOME!!!

Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyway, like my colleagues stated above, don't get too down if what you see Saturday from these Cougs is somewhat less than a masterpiece. We will have plenty to cheer about down the road and growing pains like we're likely to have Saturday will make it all possible.

Pokes 42
Cougs 24

Now onto this weeks other marquee match-ups, and a warning to anyone placing a wager... I'm totally wingin' it on these predictions...

Oregon State 20, Stanford 10 - Honestly, Harbaugh will be the best QB on the field in this game.

CAL 24, MSU 21 - This is just a homer Pac-10 pick but Cal has some things to figure out still.

USC 35, Virginia 14 - The ghost of Thomas Jefferson intervenes late to get the Cavs two scores, but until then its all Rey Maualuga and company.

Arizona 50, Idaho 12 - Akey won't have too many chances to show off his vertical leap in this one. Tuitama and crew get an easy warm up against the Vandals.

ASU 42, Northern AZ 24 - Erickson calls off the dogs letting NAU make some late scores, but this will not even be a contest.

UCLA 28, Tennessee 24 - There goes Longball again, makin' crazy, half-brained predictions! Slick Rick gets his new team so fired up they shock the world and the overconfident Volunteers. I don't know how, so don't ask.

National Game:
Illinois 35, Mizzou 31 - Lee Corso's pick to make it to the BCS title game goes down in flames early! Actually I am picking this one because I want Mizzou to break through this year and I never get what I want, so this is what will happen. Sorry Tiger fans, I'll root for Nebraska next year.

That's all folks, see you Saturday and GO COUGS!!! Click here for more Comments

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday Ramblings

When is it NOT good to lose 300 pounds? Well, yesterday for one, as the d-line has shed some weight in the form of Andy Roof. Coach Wulff wasn't thrilled with the decision, and per Vince at, one can understand why.

"From where he was a year ago, he has changed his life around 180 degrees," Wulff said in the statement, "and as a coaching staff we have seen the positive impact he made on this program."

When asked to elaborate, Wulff didn't hesitate.

"For any ... person on our team, we're always looking for people to better themselves," Wulff said during the conference. "To continue to make smarter and more wiser decisions. When people are doing that, and are clearly showing those signs, we want to continue to reward those people in our program.

"That's what we're here to do. They're going to make mistakes, we're here to help them along the way."

There are some decent arguments on both sides of the fence on this one. Do you abandon a troubled kid who has suddenly turned things around? Wulff is right, kids are going to make mistakes and they want to have the support system in place. But he's also right, in that good behavior needs to be rewarded, but bad behavior? Not so much.

The timing, for one, stinks. As "Kaddy" pointed out in comments yesterday, we're less than a week from school starting. Roof was on campus, not only practicing with the team but also enrolled in school and had an apartment. Now that Roof has been expelled, well, who buys out his lease? Should the student conduct board pass the hat to buy it out?

Then again, as "Michelle" pointed out, let's get real. It's not like this was a one-time offense. Roof was on his fourth strike, and normally it's a three-and-you-are-out system. He has to be held to the same standards as the other students on campus, and if he's given a free pass, well, isn't he just being enabled? Behavior like his cannot simply go unpunished. Regardless of how well he had been doing in the most recent of times, he had his chances, and the entire body of work is taken into account.

It's a shame though, any way you slice it. And we certainly don't know all the details of the latest offense, as there is a lot of talk out there as to what happened. But in the end, everyone loses - Roof, the coaches, the fans. The trickle-down to what it could mean to the defense is a big concern. On the surface, one might shrug at the thought of a backup tackle leaving the program. But this team? Where the tackles were thin to begin with? The young, thin defensive interior just got younger and thinner. And in this case, young and thin isn't what you want on the inside....

Moving on, lost in the shuffle was Dan Rowlands stepping away from football while he still can. Bum shoulders have ruined his last season of football, so the o-line will continue it's shuffle. Micah Hannam will now slide outside to replace Rowlands, and young sophomore guard Brian Danaher gets his chance. Danaher, well, we don't know a whole lot. He did play in one game as a backup last year. I guess we'll all find out on Saturday.

Next, is time running out for Mkristo Bruce and Michael Bumpus? Mkristo got off to a hot start for the Jacksonville Jags, recording 2.5 sacks in the first pre-season game. But then he had a couple of tackles the second week, and now after the third game, he didn't record a single tackle. Meanwhile, the only first-round holdout still left in the NFL, Jacksonville DE Derrick Harvey, finally agreed to a contract last night after missing the first 33 days of camp. Hopefully old MKB can stick with the team, but, well, you can more or less read the writing on the wall.

Bumpus was making waves early on in Seahawks camp, routinely singled out by WR coach Keith Gilbertson and even the big show himself, Mike Holmgren. But after three catches in week one, then two catches in week two, Bump didn't get a ball on Monday night in San Diego. Now Seattle did make a few roster cuts last night, including WR Joel Filani, so it still isn't over for Michael. But Bump didn't get much PT on Monday, and with just one game left on Friday night, this is it. Bump has been a long shot, at best, to make the final 53, but let's hope he made enough of an impression to be on the practice squad. That's not exactly the end of the world, and hey, Jordan Kent from Oregon was on the practice squad last year, and now clearly will not only make the club this year, but could even start in the 3-WR sets. Hang in there Bump!

Have you seen the new Martin Stadium sign?

It's, well, it's "alright" from the pics at the official site, which you can see here. A little different than I think we thought it was going to be, at least from the artist renditions.

It's not the super-terrific Taj Mahal grand entrance that folks were dreaming of, but it is certainly better than what we used to have, which was, uh, nothing. Remember??


Finally, we thought it would be a good idea to see what the Okie State blogs had to say about grand old WSU. I couldn't find a whole lot, but there is some stuff floating around.

That's about it for a busy Wednesday. Look for our first official "Football Friday...Only on Thursday" tomorrow. Enjoy your day, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap - Week One

Another year, another season of radio shows with Paul Wulff! We'll recap it each and every week for the rest of the season with a quick-hit approach. Note - Wulff talks FAST on the air, faster than Doba did and there are a lot of things to absorb. So give me a break if I miss a few things! Plus I missed the opening salvo, so I have no idea what was said about Andy Roof. Sorry. But Wulff's statement right now speaks for itself.

With that, here we go:

Wulff had some decent things to say. Gary Rogers has had a solid camp but Kevin Lopina will have a chance to play. Rogers was sharp today. RB Chris Ivory is hurt right now, so Dwight Tardy will get the bulk of the carries out of the gate. Tardy is still coming off knee injury but hoping he will keep improving. Logwone Mitz and Chantz Staden backing up Tardy for now.

WR's are young outside of Brandon Gibson but they are hopeful for Daniel Blackledge to come back soon from hamstring, and then Jeshua Anderson later (end of the month?). Jared Karstetter had a strong camp and deserves the chance to play, if not start.

O-line is beat up right now. Dan Rowlands is done with football due to shoulder problems (!). Lesuma has a sore back. Losing their experience hurts right now but it is a chance for others to step up.

Wulff has a special feeling at WSU, and it's very hard to describe. So few people have been able to do what he's doing. Blessed and humbled being at WSU. He has felt pain when WSU hasn't had success in recent times, and he's been a fan of WSU the last 15 years before he was even head coach.

Other teams going to no-huddle as well as WSU. More teams are doing it, spread offense out of no-huddle. You will NOT see us out of the shotgun exclusvely, we will again be a multiple look offense with some basic packages. Wulff feels that will give us an advantage not being the shotgun no-huddle, harder to prepare for the more things you can do.

Wulff doesn't often script first 10-15 plays but they will for sure with Todd Sturdy to start the year. They want Rogers to get off to a strong start and be as comfortable as possible with the plays and build confidence early in the game.

Majority of the coaching staff will be on sidelines. Rich Rasmussen will be up top in the box with grad assistant. On defense, Jody Sears will be upstairs with Ryan Smaha and Jake Young. Rest of coaches will be on sidelines, including Todd Sturdy and Chris Ball. He wants them to engage, teach and keep the players composure on sidelines. The more coaches eyes the better on the sidelines with the kids the next couple of years at least, to help build them into what they expect on game day.

Bob-Rob asked if the no huddle made it harder on physical condition of team on offense? Wulff said it was harder on them then they expected. But hopefully being harder on them in camp will mean it's harder on other teams once season begins, especially later on in games. They want to wear the opposition out. Even today, prepping for Okie St, they are still working really hard on conditioning. But Wulff said our issue right now is that we have to grow up and still execute when we are extremely tired! Part of our growth and maturity is being able to do good things when you are exhausted, but we aren't there right now.

They want to stop run, and that is the number one commitment (this is something we've heard from day one). But within reason. Wulff doesn't want to completely compromise the secondary, and obviously doesn't want to give up easy scores. But they will line up to stop the run.
Wulff also stressed the importance of playing good situational defense, and to prepare accordingly to handle each situation. But he's also willing to adjust to personnel and their strong points. He felt we have good flexibility to do different things this year, and ultimately they want to make the opposing offense as predictible as possible.

Matt Mullennix getting another year has given them a huge lift so far. Kevin Kooyman stepped up and improved this fall. Andy Mattingly as well and combined the three of them will get a lot of playing time. Mike Graise is out for at least this week but could be back soon.

Inside, Ahmu must play well. Wulff feels he can be better than he's been. Matt Eichelberger is also working harder than ever, and had a great camp. He could be very valuable inside. Toby Turpin and Adam Hineline will be in the mix as backups.

LB's are the strength of defense. They are experienced, have played a lot, and bring a ton of passion, leadership and intensity. The defense keys off these guys and their passion lends to other players on defense. Greg Trent is physical and emotional leader. Corey Evans and Kendrick Dunn are strong on the outside and improving.

The position switches look good in the secondary. Alfonso Jackson is a better cover corner than Chima was, and that is a good fit. And Chima has better safety ability than Jackson. But Xavier Hicks, while out the first three games, has just been really strong at practice this fall and runs the secondary in a leadership role. Wulff feels he clearly has learned his lesson and is excited to get him back after the suspension. Plus Myron Beck has 3 more years of eligibility, and had a very good fall camp. He looks ready to go.

Finally, young corners in Tyrone Justin and Romeo Pellum both have improved and look good right now. Markes Dawes played well too, he's banged up right now, but will help when he gets back.

Wulff talked about the coaching staff on defense. Jody Sears as coordinator for 5 years at EWU, a Pullman native who's dream is to be at WSU. Travis Niekamp at EWU and had top 10 defenses 3 of last 4 years, really an excellent coach. Malik Roberson at d-line brings a lot of things on and off field to the position, and really connects with the players. Wulff said some players talked to him after spring ball about how much better and how much they have learned under Malik. Chris Ball is familiar with Wulff, as he was a grad assistant when Wulff was a player. Ball has experience all over the place, has coached some very good defenses and it was an easy decision to make him co-coordinator. Ball also gets along really well with Sears. There is EXCELLENT chemistry on this coaching staff! They are all positive and they are buying in to the direction of the program. Wulff made it clear to have everyone's ego left at the door and everyone working hard, together there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Kicking game/special teams:

Kicker still hasn't separated himself from the others. All are competing. May not have answer until games begin. Penner, Grasu and Rooney have all battled. Kicking off will be Rooney and at times Grasu. Punting game - Reid Forrest is still hurt, but could be back by Cal game next week. Meanwhile Dan Wagner, converted QB, goes this week. Hopefully he will be consistent??

With the lack of depth, more starters will be on special teams than we would like. Wulff wants special teams to be as sound and consistent as possible. As the season moves along, young kids might be in the mix for more special teams. Wulff stressed how very important it is to be in good shape as a team right now! But starters will be asked to play multiple special teams early on, and it will be an adjustment.

Other Stuff:

A caller, Paul from Tacoma, asked about clock rule changes this year. Play clock at 40 seconds this year instead of 25, and the clock will run even if out of bounds, unless it's within 2 minutes of the end of each half. Then it's the old rules of stopping the clock if someone gets out of bounds. Basically the exact timing rules as the NFL, trying to get the games down to 3 hours. Wulff said he heard a lot of it has to do with trying to shorten games to exactly 3 hours, something the NFL has mastered and TV sponsors want to do the same with the NCAA.

Bob-Rob asked about how the coaches got familiar with the players they inherited. Did they watch a lot of film? Wulff said the coaching staff studied some film, but not a lot on their own players. He didn't want to get too concerned with the past, and the staff wanted to build their own opinion in practices and what they did out on the field. The coaches watched during winter conditioning and got some feel as to who they are as people and their commitment as student athletes. But it is still a learning and "feeling out" process. They have a pretty good idea on some guys, but others still have to prove themselves. He has leaned on Levy and Broussard for how some of the kids handle themselves on game day, but it will be a new experience for everyone this Saturday.

Bob-Rob asked about academics and what Wulff did there. Wulff joked "some strong arm tactics" but then said they held players accountable to all of their responsibilities. Going to class, studying, follow through on what they are supposed to do. He also said they made it very clear to the players that there are people here to help them with school and it is ok to trust them. It turned out well with a strong spring and then the best gpa ever in summer school. The goal is to break the all-time team GPA record this fall. But it is a team effort and all are accountable. They are pushing the kids to go to class, and even at class, to be alert, be engaged and also to help each other out as students. And even have fun with it. There were a couple of players who were against the wall this summer but had great summer sessions in the classroom. He was proud with how well they responded. Wulff said it's a great feeling to see kids come in and question whether they can make it, and then to watch the kids grow with their confidence as they get through the first year to year and a half. Generally they will be successful if they can make it through those first three semesters and to see them grow up is exciting to him.

Bob-Rob asked about the differences with EWU to WSU in terms of talent. Wulff said there is a difference in overall size and speed of players. But he was quick to say that several EWU players could play in the Pac-10, right now, and that EWU could contend for a I-AA title this year. I-AA has closed the gap and can compete at high level on given day, see App-State/Michigan last year. But top to bottom WSU is bigger and stronger but EWU has capable talent.

BOTTOM LINE - Players are sick-n-tired of hitting each other. They are ready to go hit someone else. Wulff is looking forward to get started on the year and then just build from there. While the players have a lot to learn, Wulff said he himself has a lot to learn about his players, and evaluate how we respond on game day. He said they challenged them in camp but now we're in true competition he is interested to see who responds. Click here for more Comments

Andy Roof Out at WSU

So much for the 2-deep, and maybe so much for Bernard Wolfgramm's redshirt. Breaking via Vince this afternoon, Andy Roof has been expelled from WSU. Here's the quote from Wulff:

"I was very disappointed when I heard the decision. Since I arrived on campus
Andy has been a great leader for this program, on the field, in the locker room,
in the classroom, and done everything we've asked, that we ask of all
student-athletes. From where he was a year ago he has changed his life around
180 degrees and as a coaching staff we have seen the positive impact he made on
this program."
Dang. Too bad for the kid, as it sounds like he was back on the right path. And too bad for the d-tackles, who suddenly lost 300 lbs of anger inside. Might not have any choice now but to let Wolfgramm play, because the tackles are thin, thin, thin.

Click here for more Comments

Tuesday Video Goodness, Plus Other Stuff

First off, the home uni poll is closed, and we have a winner. Yep, the current look has won out, as styled above by Mr. Kenny Alfred. But it was close, believe it or not, with the Gesser - Kegel - Derting versions coming in a strong number two. Here's how it went down:

Current look: 54 votes
Gesser - Kegel - Derting era: 48 votes
Bledsoe - Leaf - Palouse Posse: 38 votes
2006 Alternates: 16 votes
Walden Era: 7 votes
Erickson Era: 6 votes

I guess I was surprised that the Gesser - Kegel - Derting era's did so well? Maybe it has something to do with the players inside the uni's rather than the aesthetic appeal?? After all it was the most successful time in the program's modern history, so, there is some appeal.

There is a new poll now up. It's a simple, quick, what-is-your-expectation-for-2008 deal. I know we are all previewed-out this time of year, but, feel free to vote and chime in with comments. We'll go over the best comments of the week every Friday this season, so have at it.

Moving on, sir Grippi has a story on the confusion facing Okie State, particularly what video to watch. Do you focus on EWU's offense from prior years? Do you want tape on Brandon Gibson, Dwight Tardy, Devin Frischnecht? As Mike Gundy said:
"We don’t have any idea what they’re going to do," said Gundy during Monday's Big 12 coaches' conference call.
That has to be a good thing....isn't it?? Maybe a chance to jump on them early, get the crowd overflowing Qwest Field with Wulff Excitement?? We have an advantage here, in terms of prepping for the opponent anyway. There is plenty of OSU tape to watch, as there is quite a body of work to look at from 2007. We won't full-blown preview OSU until later this week, but from our spring "fish wrap" look at them, we know they bring a lot to the table offensively.

Meanwhile, Howie Stalwick has a reaction to the first-ever game week depth chart released yesterday. But this little nugget surfaced on Andy Roof:
Whitman County prosecutor Denis Cook now says he expects to announce late next week whether he will prosecute WSU senior Andy Roof, a reserve defensive tackle. Two weeks ago, Cook said the announcement would be made last Monday. Roof claimed self-defense after being arrested by Pullman police for his role in an on-campus brawl last spring.
So Roof WILL be on the field this Saturday, at least in a backup role, that much we do know. It is too bad it has taken this long to get to this point on whether or not Roof will be prosecuted, but let's hope for the best, no matter what the outcome.

There is some player news out of Stillwater. Projected starting slot WR Damian Davis, a 6-5 true sophomore expected to be a possible break-out player in the receiving corps, has been suspended. Davis will miss just one game, but it will be this Saturday. He was arrested for being underage in a bar, possessing a fake ID.....and trying to pass said fake ID to a cop! Ouch. With Davis not making the trip, OSU will look to redshirt frosh Josh Cooper and JC transfer Bo Bowling.

Finally, some videos to tide you over. First, some Old School Coug video for your enjoyment, featuring Tim Stallworth. Someone named "Oremor08" on Youtube has dug out some classic WSU clips. Here's just a few, but there are more if you look to the Coug Video section to the right. Good stuff.

Youtube Coug video maker "KapoleiCoug" has come up with another 2007 highlight video. Good work, as usual:

And to give him his due, something to "look forward to" this Saturday. OSU phenom QB Zac Robinson. I don't want to hype him up too much, but, you have to look at reality. How many first-time starters can come in the second game of the season and rack up so many yards of total offense!?!? 2800+ yards passing, nearly 850 yards rushing. Of course, it IS a highlight tape, and you only see his best plays. Nobody is perfect. But there might not be a better dual threat we'll see this season, and yes, I'm including Jake Locker in the conversation.

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Monday, August 25, 2008

Can't Tell the Players Without a Program....

That's what the vendors always say when they are trying to move product (programs, get your programs here). And this year? It's kinda-sorta true. For WSU has released the first official game week program, and, what do you know, there are some new faces and surprises at that. Check it out here.

1) Andy Mattingly, SECOND string? That's what 91 tackles and 8 sacks as a sophomore gets you into your Junior year? Either he's being punished for the frying pan incident, or he hasn't taken to the position change yet, or even Matt Mullennix has just looked too good for his last year. But this was a real head-scratcher on a guy who could be our most legit NFL prospect on defense. Who knows, maybe being the starter vs. the backup won't matter. They will probably rotate guys in and out a ton anyway, but still, you would have thought #45 would be out there from the beginning.

2) The WR's are beat up, but frosh Jared Karstetter, starting as the "X" receiver? This is the WR on the other side of the field from Brandon Gibson btw. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE Karstetter and I can't wait to see what he's going to do. The TNT had a big write-up on him today, and the buzz has been non-stop on him from the first day of camp. He's big, athletic as we know from his championship hoops career, and has some good, soft hands. But to go from the 4A state hoops title team in the spring to starting at WR at a BCS school in a matter of months?? WOW. Obviously injuries tell some of the story here, and this was Jeshua Anderson's spot coming in, then to Daniel Blackledge. But with Anderson on the shelf until the end of September and Blackledge still battling a nagging hammy, well, Karstetter was up to the challenge, and this is where we are.

Maybe Karstetter will put on some weight, change his number to 83, grow a mullet and transform into the next Jeff Smardzjilla from Notre Dame?? Hey, it could happen.

3) The O-line shuffle continues. Vaughn Lesuma (back) at left tackle and Dan Rowlands (shoulder) at right guard, both listed at second string, both battling various ailments. Although Rowlands gets the "OR" next to his name, so, that could be a game-day decision. It's also of note at how young the line is coming into 2008. If Lesuma is out of action, there isn't a senior starter among the five up front. Might be scary this year, but could be real exciting going forward?

4) Xavier Hicks is nowhere to be found, and that was expected due to the suspension. Sure enough, sophomore Myron Beck will start at free safety. Meanwhile Chima slides out from corner to strong safety, and Alfonso Jackson completes the swap with Jackson taking the right corner spot. One surprise had sophomore Romeo Pellum winning the heated left-corner job, ahead of Markus Dawes and Devin Giles.

5) Andy Roof IS on the depth chart, at second string at DT behind Eichelberger. Vince at the Spokesman keeps checking on the news with Roof, but so far he's still in a holding pattern. Wulff has been confident on this situation all off-season, and maybe he will turn out to be right on this. Also of note, no mention of Bernard Wolfgramm, the 4-star JC tackle? Hmmm.

6) I guess rugby-style punting has gone the way of the Doba, at least for now. Special teams saw Dan Wagner win the punting job, over Patrick Rooney and Reid Forrest. Forrest you'll remember was OK in '07, averaging 40.5 on 46 punts. But he suffered a cracked ankle in July and had been on crutches. When camp opened, there was hope that he could be ready for the opener, but it wasn't to be. Wade Penner won the job for field goals, while Patrick Rooney will kick off. Nico Grasu, the JC kickoff specialist, will be a backup for now. note - thanks to Logan and Selahcoug for the tip in comments that Forrest is still injured!

So there you have it. The beginning of the new era will have a lot of young faces. And tenure be damned, it seems. If you produce, you will play, if not start. Click here for more Comments

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ch ch ch ch Changes... Two Generations of Longballs Check Out the New CUB

As I am sure you are all aware, Cougar football Saturdays will be getting a face lift over the coming seasons and while we usually focus on the stadium renovations I took some time today, along with my dear old dad, Papa Longball, to check out the new and improved CUB. Here's what we saw:

Being snuggled up so close to Martin Stadium, as a gathering place for the Crimson faithful, the CUB has always had great potential that is finally being realized. Here we see the cleaned up CUB exterior.

A lot of work has been done in the Glen Terrel Mall area, but most of it will still be recognizable. It is when you enter the CUB that you may not recognize where you are. Here you can see the main floor complete with video game consuls where students can get their Wii on.

Pretty cool, and looks to me like it's already a hit with the student body. Also on the main floor you'll find a food court...

Still waiting for most of the vendors to set up shop, but once they're all in, the new CUB will be full of dining options including this place...

... which has a tragic name, but promises beer so who am I to complain? Dupus Boomer's (ugh), along with a couple other eateries will be on the lower level of the CUB which looks like this...

The window to left with the frosted Coug logo is the new Bookie which has entrances on the main floor and the lower level. I was bummed that they hadn't been able to duplicate that good 'ol Bookie smell. Ya know what I'm talkin about? Oh well. One of my favorite things about the new Bookie... you never had a view like this from the old one...

After seeing the new construction on the back side of the CUB from the new Bookie windows, Papa Longball and I decided it was time to take a closer look. From the main floor food court you can exit the back of the CUB on a couple different stairways, either to the stadium, or to the CUB ballroom balcony.

Lets hope we get our cannon back on that balcony soon!

The stairway tower over the SW corner of the stadium is one of the most interesting parts of the renovation and provides direct access from the main level of the CUB to the walkway behind the west end zone stands. It also provides an awesome view of the stadium which begs the question, will there be restricted access to this during games, or can I just watch from here for free?

Looks like one of the best seats in the house isn't even in the house.

For those who are too chicken to take the millions of stairs in the tower, there is an elevator, but today it was out of order. Under a blistering sun and 200 degree heat, Papa Longball and I had no choice but to hike up and down that tower the old fashioned way. While this is an easy feat for a young, fit specimen such as myself, it took its toll on Papa Longball who is 150 years old, has 2 peg legs and only one good eye. But in Cougar land no sacrifice is without its reward and for being such a trooper the old man was rewarded with what must be the seasons first photo-op with Butch T Cougar!

To show he is still in good spirits and no worse for the wear, Papa Longball flashes that universal symbol for overcoming adversity, the Mike Utley Thumbs-up. What a trooper!

All in all we came away quite impressed with the new CUB. It will definately be a popular spot for the Crimson faithful to gather on Cougar Football Saturdays for years to come. I'll meet you all at Dupus Boomer's on September 6 for pre-game pitchers!

Until then,


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Wrap, Plus Your Comments Reviewed

Just eight days until kickoff?? Please tell me, where did this summer go? Unbelievable.

Some quick links to get your day started, and then it's your turn. We'll go over some of the top comments of the week.

Brandon Gibson is staring at his last season, and Howie Stalwick has a good, quick write-up of the senior star. I know it isn't touched on a whole lot in this article, but there have been some loud-and-clear hints that this year, watch out for Gibson. Look for a lot of motion, look for him to get the ball on end-around handoffs, the whole deal. They are going to feature him in creative ways that we haven't seen before, so, Gibson is a player to watch in the entire conference. I can't wait until next to see what's in store for 2008.

Maybe the top breakthrough performer for the 2008 defense? How about Kevin Kooyman? There's been buzz about him that hasn't let up, and now some reporters are starting to take notice. Our own Rooster had a personal encounter with him this spring and came away beyond impressed with the young guy. Ted Miller mentioned Kooyman a week or so ago on his blog, in that he's a player he's hearing a lot about when you hear about WSU, and now, the Bellingham Herald has a story about Kooyman. Brandon Gibson is on board that Kooyman is set to be that breakthrough guy at defensive end. While he hasn't done a huge amount of stat-mongering yet, he did have 3.5 sacks last year in only two starts before injuries slowed him down. It sure would be nice to get some strong play on the other side of the line opposite Andy Mattingly. And if Mattingly does as well as many think he will, we could have one hell of a strong set of defensive ends! And I don't just mean the starters either. Having Matt Mullennix back, as well as Mike Graise, with their experience, well, the ends could be the deepest unit on the defense this year.

Another day, more fantastic coverage out of Vince Grippi. This time he profiles the starting linebackers, and gives a thorough recap of Thursday's action. Sounds like a pretty sloppy practice/scrimmage, and that we are looking like a M*A*S*H unit right now. Everyone is beat up in one for or another. I don't want to have flashbacks to Bear Bryant's hell-on-earth "Junction Boys" training camp where he damn near killed kids in an attempt to whip them in to shape, but it sounds like it has been a long, hot, tough month of August out on the Palouse.

Finally, time to look back at some of your comments of the week. Excellent feedback as usual, from all of you, but some warranted some extra-special attention.

First, the Uni Watch, Home Version, got a lot of excellent feedback.
anthony mcclanahan said...
Love the "Apple Cup" look too. That is the way to go forward PERIOD. The Crimson helmet has to looks great sitting on the shelf but on the field with crimson pants we simply look like Arkansas...I seriously think that everytime I see us on the road.

Secondly and this goes to all uniforms for all team home and road. For god's sake can we as a school define what color "Cougar Crimson" is going to be and stick to it. I would go so far as to have Sterk hire a "Quality Crimson Control" specialist who demands that all suppliers and licensees conform to one uniform color of Cougar Crimson.

Anyway...I say Cougar script helmets for all games (thankfully the grey logo helmets are retired...the logo just never "popped" on the silver helmets and it was a terrible look) Clean white jerseys with silver pants looks great on the road.

For the home look we COULD have the sweetest look ever. We have to go to a solid 2-color crimson/silver look. (Think Detroit Lions throwbacks with Crimson where the blue is)

1-Silver Cougar-script helmet
2-Crimson jersey with Silver, NOT WHITE numbers and maybe a small silver "Wazzu" or logo at the neck.
3-Solid Silver pants (crison logo okay)
4-Solid Crimson socks (all worn tucked into the pants
5-Black Shoes
6-NO WHITE Lettering or stripes anywhere on the uniform***
7-Only exception would be for an Crimson pants "All Crimson look" for MAXIMUM one game per year.

To picture this think almost of our practice uniforms...clean sharp.

All the best uniforms are TWO color designs that are clean and classy.
For Example
Michigan Home
Texas Road
Alabama Home
Penn State Home/Road
USC Home

We could look awesome at home and on the road and put the memories of the embarrassing/hideous 2-helmet Gesser-era bad stripey uniforms to bed forever. And by the way those "cougars" jerseys vs USC were the most Gawd-Awful ridiculous things I have ever seen. We should act lack a BCS team.
Michelle stopped by and "classed it up" around here, as usual.
My guess is when Nike "swooshes" (had to, sorry) in and designs our new unis, they will look nothing like we hope...

The Crimson helmets just don't seem to go well with any color combo.

Millcreek, I agree. I love our cougarhead and I think we should wear that at home. I like the Jerome Harrison/Alex Brink look...but something about Gesser and Derting in all crimson gives me chills...Maybe it was how good we did those seasons.

And those special jerseys we brought out at the USC game were sick, like I wanted to vomit when I saw them. The only thing decent on them was the use of COUGARS.

Have a great Cougar day everyone
Woody weighed in on his take. Woody also has some sports apparel industry insight so his views are highly regarded.
As in previous posts here are my votes:

First Off Branding:
Uniforms and Logos should be about one thing and that is branding. They should be used to brand your program(s),school, even your "spirit/school pride" It is not just about money either. A singular/popular/recognizable brand identifies your program to Fans, Alums, Recruits, competitors, etc.
To have a dual look and change every year or so completely defeats that purpose. Your program is not then identifiable.
We already have one of the most recognizable logos in the country, we should be using that!

1. Helmets (home and away):
Silver with Cougar Logo.
I can live with the script, but the logo is what we should be using.

It really is no joke to say that the Cougar Logo is one of the most popular and recognizable college logos out there. (not just Cougs say that either) It is the one symbol that across the country people will and do look at and say that is the WSU Cougars.
To not use that logo with our main athletic program in my opinion would be crazy and not utilizing a huge moniker and already established asset.

2. Pants (home and away): The majority of the time silver! If you want to throw in a crimson pant here and there that is fine. But I would like to see the day when people are flipping the channel and see the silver pants and the silver helmet they know they are watching WSU.

3. Jerseys:
A. Home Crimson
B. White
Not much to add there.

4. Accents, Numbers and Lettering (oh my):
I am a traditionalists and would like to see as clean and concise as possible. But the fonts, and stripes and lettering on jerseys etc. changes with the trends. So, for a couple of years the stripes on the pants will be popular, and then maybe a cougar head on the pants will be cool after that.
As long as you have the foundation of the silver pants and helmets you can alter the accents with the times.

I am sure as time goes on we will have uber posts on the whole Nike situation, so I will hold off until then.

Go Cougs!

On the Gary Rogers - Alex Brink story that probably will always live in "what could have been" land...

'03 Couve Coug said:
It’s hard not to sit here and curse the former staff for not giving Rogers more time, especially if he struggles out of the gate. Rather than gnash my teeth over it, I’ll choose to chalk up any early season woes to trying to learn a new system. I’ll actually feel worse if Rogers comes out and sets the world on fire, because we will all have to wonder if Rogers could have helped things turn out differently the last couple of seasons. Then again, Brink put up huge numbers and was widely recognized as a team leader that had the respect of all of his teammates. Offense was rarely the problem the last couple of seasons compared to the lousy defenses and downright gawd-awful special teams, which Brink or Rogers could have done nothing about.

I guess that we can look back and be frustrated, or we can just be happy that we now have a coaching staff in place that doesn’t seem to feel the need to play favorites or continue starting a player because “he’s a senior, he’s put in the time.” I’m very happy to hear that Wulff and staff all say that the best players are going to play, regardless of age, experience, whatever. I’ll drink a frosty Busch Light to that! Here’s to better times ahead.

Finally, for a short trip down memory lane, "anonymous" chimed in for a reference towards Don SASSSAAA....
Palouse Posse:
DE: Dwayne Patterson
DT: Don Sasa
DT: Chad Eaton
DE: Dwayne Sanders
LB: Ron Childs
LB: Mark Fields
LB: Chris Hayes
CB: Torey Hunter
S: Jon Rushing
S: Singor Mobley
CB: Greg Burns
NB: Brian Walker

After UW's lone touchdown drive during the 94 AC Sasa moved to DE (as one of the dwayne's was out) with freshman Leon Bender at Tackle. The Huskies didn't score again.
What a defense. As someone pointed out, reserve d-end Todd Shaw started that 94 Apple Cup as a senior, and on the first drive UW strolled right down the field. After that, Bender was inserted, and as the Times headline would say the following day, "COLD COUGAR REALITY CHILLS UW".

There are other comments this week that were very good, but we can't list them all. Excellent feedback, as usual. Without your comments, this blog would die a slow, painful death. And it seems the moron "troll" took the week off...but we know he's out there flexing his internet muscles.

HAPPY FRIDAY, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eichelberger Key to '08 D?

While we mostly lament the defensive tackle situation as the likely "soft spot" on the defense, and the praise mainly goes to A'i Ahmu, well, what about Eich? After all, big 77 does have some good girth inside (6-4, 325 last year) and experience the last three seasons. But he's been mostly overlooked, and it's not hard to figure out why. He hasn't lit it up when he's gotten his chance.

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.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Ramblings - What Could Have Been

It's easy to do, pondering what could have been. We do it all the time, in every walk of life. You often don't realize the most significant decisions in your life at the time you make them. Like the line in Field Of Dreams, you realize them later on in life. You think "ah, there'll be other days" but what if that was the only day?

So when you think about Gary Rogers and Alex Brink, it's easy to think "what if". What if Rogers would have been given more chances against Auburn in that 2006 opener? We remember that great drive that seemed to lift the entire team. Here's your obligatory YouTube of that glimpse at the upside of Gary Rogers.

So young back then, a mere sophomore with so much playing time ahead of him. Anyway, Jim Moore asks the question in a very good article today, and it does make you wonder. Jack Thompson didn't exactly hold back in his assessment of the, uh, situation:

"That could go down as the most mysterious choice ever made," said Jack Thompson, a WSU quarterbacking great who has mentored Rogers. "God forbid if he'd stayed in and led us to a couple more scores and we had a full-blown quarterback controversy."

Good point Jack. But not just saying the decision was a mystery. But through the throwin-Samoan's sarcasm, you get an idea of what he's saying in the "God forbid" part of the answer. And therein lies the problem.

I remember listening to Doba's weekly radio show during the 2006 season, and so many times the QB question would arise, one way or another. Is Gary going to play? Why or why not? And much to the chagrin of the old man, he would quickly dismiss the idea, saying "Alex is our QB" and gives us a better chance to win, etc. Fair enough. But he would also go out of his way, several times, to point out that he really hated the idea of a QB controversy. He didn't want to rock the boat, didn't want to see the team divided, didn't want to deal with it.

Why? Why should the QB position be exempt from a younger challenger who shows more upside? What if a wide receiver or an offensive tackle was doing on OK job, but another younger prospect had a much bigger upside and seemed to elevate his play and provide a major spark when he got into games? Why shy away from controversy, in lieu of taking a chance on making the team better at the end of the day?

Who knows why it turned out like it did. There's plenty of blame to go around. Some tagged Rosey as a "Brink Lover" and point out the whole Brink-Swogger controversy as proof. And the same controversy was probably on Doba's mind when the whole Rogers question came up. How could he, in his mind, abandon Brink when they chased Swogger off the team to begin with in favor of Brink? Doba's of the generation where you don't flip-flop, so to speak. You make a decision and you take it with you, you see it through all the way. Even if those around you can see the faults, you are dug in on your own belief that you are doing the right thing. And you can't blame Alex for all those yards, TD's, and of course, losses that kept us out of the post-season. It wasn't his decision to make. He just did his job, the best that he could, and that was it.

One more element to the story, and then we'll move on. Remember the Cal game in 2006? It was a warm afternoon in Pullman, and the 10th ranked Berkeley Bears were in control in the first half. We couldn't do anything right offensively, and it looked like we might get run out of the building. But in the second half, on comes none other than Gary Rogers. Of course, a few series in, he dislocates his left shoulder and he's done. Brink is put back into the game and we go on to lose 21-3.

But what happened after the game is the most interesting part of the story. When asked why they went with Rogers, Rosey was very coy in his response. It wasn't the usual "we just were looking for a spark" but there was more to it, more like "we were looking to make a change and give Gary his chance". In this story from Glenn Kasses in 2006, it's clear that there was something else going on.

"He wasn't playing poorly at all. But we had three points," quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach said. "So the bottom line is, we've got to get in the end zone."

Rogers didn't do much in his two possessions and threw an interception on the second. But, in a dramatic shift from past instances in which Rogers has played briefly this season in a planned midgame switch, this time Rosenbach indicated that Rogers might have had a chance to stay on the field longer.

The sophomore backup had on his helmet on the sidelines after the interception while Brink remained in a baseball cap, usually a sign that Rogers would be going back in.

But, on Rogers' third-to-last play, he separated his non-throwing shoulder and after warming up with Brink on the sidelines, the two suddenly switched headgear and Brink returned for the rest of the game.

Rosenbach said no decision was made, but talked about the possibility of giving the younger quarterback another chance.

"It never got to that point," Rosenbach said. "We can be full of speculation and look at it every different way. Maybe we would have let him try to fight his way out of it a little bit."

In other words, this wasn't just a one-or-two series deal, ala Auburn. Rogers was most likely going to be given a true shot at this thing. It gets lost in the shuffle now, of course, as Rogers going down with the shoulder injury makes it a moot point. Besides, Brink responded with two of his best performances ever the following two games, dominating Oregon and UCLA that seemingly had us back in a bowl game, and the controversy was avoided. What could have been...

Moving on, we are officially in the "dog days" of practice. Guys are tired, beat up, worn down. The energy and newness of the situation has worn off a little bit, and practicing in 90+ degrees can sap the strength of anyone. This isn't just a WSU-exclusive type thing. Mike Holmgren talks about it all the time with the Hawks, where tempers start to flare and things get a little chippy about halfway into camp. It's like being at the 3-mile mark of a 6-mile run. You feel good about the first 3 miles, but you are starting to feel at least a little fatigued. And you know you still have several miles to go before you reach your goal (in this case, the Okie State game roughly two weeks away). But even coach Wulff sounds a little miffed at where things are, with the injuries in particular. Wulff's quotes came after the second practice on Sunday, and he was probably feeling a little frustrated by seeing so many guys on the sidelines. Sometimes you need to get away from things for a day, and then come back recharged and ready to roll.
Hopefully things look better after the team had Monday off.

That said, one thing we can take from the first few weeks of the official fall practices in the Wulff era? This is a WHOLE NEW DEAL. Gone are the days of "Club Doba". Heck, with the heat and the injury situation, Dobes might have given the kids a day off from a regularly scheduled practice, or sent the kids to the Snake for some R & R. But not this coach, not this year. These guys are learning now what it takes to get to another level. It's a whole different approach to the commitment required to try and inch up the ladder. This is big boy football now, not a glorified high school or a JC extension program. Get on board, or they'll find someone who will take your place.

Finally, recruiting took another step forward by landing a commit from WR Gino Simone of Skyline. Decent size at 6-0, 175, and a Largent-like 4.6 40-time. But the kid makes a ton of plays, soft hands, and gets open. Physical, can break tackles in the secondary and makes people miss. You can't argue with the numbers either, per

Gino Simone led the Spartans to a perfect 14-0 record and the state 3A championship. He finished the year with 70 receptions for 1,420 yards and 20 touchdowns and was named to the Seattle Times All-Area First Team as a junior in 2007; he benches 225-pounds and squats 345.

Check out the highlights and see for yourself:

Looks good to me. And Simone's commitment caused a bit of a stir when two other recruits, WR Kirby Moore of Prosser and safety Jamal Atofau of Bellevue visiting for the weekend, were mentioned in a premium story that they were about to commit as well.....however it appears Scout might have jumped the gun on that one. Still no official word that they have cast their lot with Wulff. But Simone is an excellent addition to the class, a top-10 in-state talent and in the top-59 WR's in the country.

And, uh, not to take anything away from Simone, but checking out the highlights.....look at some of those throws! Not only was Simone open, but some of those balls were just right in the bread basket. QB Jake Heaps was only a sophomore last year but holy cow, what a prospect. Those are some big-time throws. You can understand the hype on that kid. And maybe you can understand why UW hired away his head coach from Skyline, Steve Gervais? Hmm. For what it's worth, no, Heaps doesn't have WSU listed in his favorites, listing seven other schools who all, by the way, have offered already. Oh well.

Happy Tuesday, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Home Uni Watch - WSU Football Blog Style

First off, a quick recap - the fans have spoken from the first uni watch, of the road uni variety. While you can never read too much into polls, well, this one was somewhat decisive. The current Apple Cup look was the winner, by a pretty decent margin. Here's the final results:

Current AC Look: 110
The New Millennium (Gesser style): 79
Bledsoe - Palouse Posse - Leaf: 37
Walden Era - 81 Holiday: 18
Erickson Era - 88 Aloha Bowl: 13

So this is what we hope to see for the road look:
But even if it isn't what we will see this year, still, hopeful for something similar in the future?

Moving on, time to flip things to the home uni's. We'll do the same as before, starting with the Walden era (and even slightly before) and move it right through to today. The poll is up to the right, plus comments are always appreciated.

1) Walden Era Home Uni's

Actually a couple of versions to this one. First here's a look at the all-Crimson uni's, with white stripes, white lettering, Cougars script on the helmet with a white face mask:

Then another version, this one with gray pants:

Like the road versions, seen here, very basic, very clean. This crimson top with gray pants look actually came about from this one, here seen by none other than Dr. Dan Doornink from the late 70's:

2) Erickson Era of the late 80's

There isn't a lot out there in full-blown color from this era in terms of home uni's. Here's a black-n-white shot from the '88 Apple Cup that shows the biggest change, which has the same gray pants seen here in the road version.

The jerseys are virtually identical to the road one, except for the main color of course, crimson jerseys. Here's another shot of just the jersey alone:
3) Bledsoe - Palouse Posse - Leaf years of early/late 90's:

Same jersey as the Erickson change, basically, but this time we came out with the crimson pants to match.

There were some variations, including the 1994 Alamo Bowl, which saw these pants worn as a one-time only deal.

There were some other looks in the late 90's, including a change in the numerals but kept with the crimson pants.
And then these uni's from 1999, which saw yet another change to the numerals, the WSU sometimes on the helmet and sometimes the Cougars script, and even gray pants at home.

Phew. Got all that?

4) The Gesser - Kegel - Derting years

A new look for the new millennium. The program went the direction of the Denver Broncos style ushered in the late 90's, which the vertical stripes. An extra layer of dimension to the numerals as well. Generally a busy look. Later we would add on to this uni with an extra stripe on the shoulders, and continue the main vertical stripe all the way up to the neck line. First seen here at the 2003 Rose Bowl.

We would continue this double-shoulder stripe look for the next couple of seasons.

Then, we would clean it all up in 2005, which brings us to today.

5) The Current Versions - Mkristo Bruce - Jerome Harrison - Jason Hill - Alex Brink years.

A pretty clean look, mixing past and present. Gray pants with a crimson-white-crimson stripe, no hip logo. WSU logo on the helmet, and block white numerals and lettering. Small "Washington State" across the chest. Black shoes. A clean, sharp look all the way around.

Of course, we have had a few different looks mixed in. Once we rolled out a whole new deal with Russell for a USC home game in 2006, fresh for the TBS national TV coverage.

This look featured crimson helmets and a completely new lettering, design, the whole thing.

Gone was the "Washington State" lettering, replaced by just Cougars in a totally different, white font. Crimson as the main color but gray featured prominently along the shoulders and down to the sleeve, with crimson numbers on the sleeve. Gray pants accented by some small crimson stripes around the keee. Black shoes, and, for the first time in a while, crimson helmets at home. A look we haven't seen again, by the way.

I always was interested in what people thought of this alternate version. I did remember hearing very mixed opinions, some from it's FREAKIN' SWEET and others who just hated it. When I first saw them I was like "WTF?" but then as the game went on I got used to them, to the point that I think I actually liked them. Maybe we'll see them again, someday?

And finally, for Apple Cup home games, we went with the Cougars script helmets as well as the "throwback" solid gray pants.
This look will be similar to what we'll see in 2008, although we'll roll with the standard home pants with the crimson-white-crimson pants. Per the official WSU blog:

For home games, the Cougars will wear silver helmets with the script Cougar lettering. The jerseys are crimson, and the pants are silver with a three inch stripes down the side rotating crimson, white, crimson.

For away games, the Cougars will wear crimson helmets with the white Cougar head logo. The jerseys are white, and the pants are crimson with a three inch stripe rotating crimson, white, crimson.

That's not to say it won't be something different for the Seattle game...

Hmm, something different for the Seattle game? We'll have to work our back channels to see if we can get a tip on what to expect in what, now less than TWO WEEKS until kickoff?? Unbelievable.

So there you have it. Vote early/often, post your thoughts on what you like and what you don't. Let's hear it.

Enjoy your Sunday, and most of all, GO COUGS!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Running Backs Starting to Stagger

You really do want to stay positive. I mean it is just mid-August, and this is the time when you like to be optimistic about the upcoming 13-game gauntlet (Speaking of gauntlet, we've updated the 2008 schedule to the right with the newest version of Schmap, as they just rolled out their NCAA football schedules. I like it.....except they have no aerial shot of our own stadium! Whatever. We can remove it if you guys hate it, but I like the interactive-ness of it vs. pure text).

Anyway, we're in the "dog days" of fall camp. They've been going at it, hard, for a couple of weeks, and it's only natural to be a little less juiced about practicing in 90+ degrees. But as the injuries start to mount, it's hard not to pout a little bit. First the wide-outs had some well-publicized setbacks, which stinks. But then RB Chris Ivory came up lame with a sore hammy, and now, Dwight Tardy's troublesome knee developed a bruise that will likely keep him off the field for today's scrimmage. Wonderful.

Hopefully both guys are just injured of the "nagging" variety and can get back quickly. And honestly, they better. A quick check of the calendar and oh, man, suddenly we're just two weeks from kickoff vs. the hated Okies??!?? WOW.

Injuries are part of the deal, always have been, always will be. And for a program like ours, where depth hasn't been our friend, we know what happens when we suffer a rash of injuries. It's not always a pretty sight. And hard work and trying to impress a new coaching staff can in fact be a double-edged sword, I guess. On the one hand, you love to hear how hard everyone is working, how intense the coaches and players have been, how different it is with the new regime. But then you have these things pop up. I mean you want to see them practice hard and improve, but at the same time, you also want them to live in a bubble until things get real. Maybe even get some red-shirts or walk-ons to physically carry the starters around the hill? JUST STAY HEALTHY BABY! There should be quite a few backups out there, so, hopefully some of them impress. Cougfan had a premium story about Kevin Norrell doing well at practice yesterday, so that's good. You never know who will shine when given the opportunity.

So the scrimmage is at 2:30 PM today. Won't be hot or anything, right? Let's see, per, it should be a comfortable 95 degrees by then. But it will "only" feel like 90, since the humidity will hover at 15%. It's a dry heat! But 95 will feel cool and comfortable compared to tomorrow's predicted 101. Maybe we could move things inside the bubble and crank the AC??

That's about it for today. There should be plenty of news out there after the scrimmage, so we'll touch on anything notable. Also, look for a WSU Home Uni Watch for tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Fodder

Top o' the morning to you. First of all, we should apologize for the delay on new content. It's been a weird week for the WSU football bloggers, from vacations to other commitments of the personal and professional variety. But we've come back out of hiding. One way or another, things will be fresh from here on out. And a huge hat tip and welcome to Longball for his excellent first-person coverage of practice. He's a good addition to the family here and we welcome him with open arms.

Just some Friday stuff to wind down the week today:

Does Michael Bumpus have a shot to make the Seahawks? I know when he first signed with them we thought hey, that could be an excellent fit, he could learn from Bobby Engram on how to be a pro, etc. But it sounds like things are going pretty well thus far. Three catches in the exhibition opener was cool, but Keith Gilbertson and Mike Holmgren have gone out of their way to talk about him, about how he's impressing and is right in that mix of the young WR's. With Engram's injury and Deion Branch likely out the first 5-6 games, the wideouts are thin. I would be happy if they just practice squad the kid this year, and then who knows, maybe next year he could find a spot on the active roster. While not blessed with blazing speed and not exactly built like T.O., still, there is a place in the league for guys like Bumpus. Good hands, well coached in college, knows how to get open and most of all, doesn't shy away from going over the middle. Keep it up Bump!

Speaking of injured WR's....what's up with our injuries right now? Losing Jeshua Anderson is a blow, not just from what he could provide in his production, but, most of all, a major legit deep threat is now out until October. Just the idea that he can run by almost every corner he would line up against this fall is an exciting proposition, but, not having him on the field means the defense has one less thing to worry about. And of course, it also means that Brandon Gibson will likely get extra attention. Not that he wasn't going to see double coverage this year anyway, but remove the home run threat from the other side? Not a good thing. But add in the hamstring strain to Daniel Blackledge, another promising talent who had an impressive spring session, and an already-inexperienced group takes a step back.

I do love the buzz on Michael Willis, and everyone who has seen him since spring ball claim he's the real deal. But will he get "white line fever" as Bill Bavasi put it when he was fired? As in, once he steps between the lines and the lights go on, will he be able to do it like he has done in practices and scrimmages? We hope so, but, it's hard to say now because we haven't seen it yet. And Benny Ward is big (6-3) and is a senior, but he hasn't done much yet either. Then again, he really hasn't had a shot with the WR's we've had on the field the last few seasons, so, who knows. He'll certainly get the opportunity now! A real wild card in this receiving mix could be Devin Frischknecht, who had a good article this week in the Times. Even coach Wulff has said that he looks like he could play on Sundays with his hands and athleticism, so, he could be a real big surprise this season. Also nice to hear Jared Karstetter showing some ability. Sure would be nice to see him redshirt and put on about 10-15 lbs of muscle, as he does look to be on the skinny side. But good hands, athletic, tall, he could be something special down the line.

QB Jeff Tuel committed to WSU last week, now up to five commits. Tuel is a 6-3 QB from Fresno who plays in a no-huddle spread offense, so, he could be a good fit. He sounds like a legit two-way threat with good good quickness, clocked at a 4.6 40 and a fast 4.13 shuttle time. He has a ways to go with his strength, benching 225 while squatting 305, but that isn't bad for a high school senior-to-be. That weight room stuff will come down the line. He's smart to boot with a 3.42 GPA / 1360 SAT. We'll see. One thing I believe Cougfan pointed out is that all five commits are of the three-star rating, some sort of first. Something like we've never had the first five commits all at least three stars? Whatever. You never want to get caught up in star-gazing or anything, and recruiting is just such a crapshoot. But all I know is that we're off to a good start to building Wulff's first full, complete class from beginning to end.

Off-topic, but Lee Pelekoudes, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?? Jarrod Washburn was claimed on waivers, and you hold out for a starting pitcher from Minnesota on their 40-man roster as well as demanding the small-market Twins pick up Washburn's $13 MILLION owed for next year? REALLY?? Wow. A chance to shed an albatross of a contract from Bavasi, the mistake that keeps on giving, and instead you take a knee? Just think how many GM's out there would do the happy dance if they could jettison $13 million from the payroll on a 34-year old pitcher who is 5-12, an ERA near 5, and the league hitting nearly .290 against. Do they really think Washburn is the answer to anything, next year or beyond?? Do they not understand how $13 million in salary can go a long way towards the rebuilding job next year, spent on a much-needed bat or two? Good job Lee, you just completely handcuffed the "real" GM who will take your spot after the season. But don't take my word for it. Check out what Dave Cameron at USS Mariner had to say:

In case you weren’t sure, today was a great reminder that we’re all rooting for the worst run organization in baseball. There’s not another franchise with worse leadership or more incompetence in positions of power. From the CEO on down, these people don’t know baseball. They don’t know how to run a baseball team, build a roster, or win baseball games.

This organization is a massive collection of failures. They pile ridiculous decisions on top of each other, only outdoing their stupidity with an arrogance that refuses to learn from their mistakes. They are the of MLB, only they refuse to go out of business.

I’m far too attached to the childhood memories I have to ever root for another team, but if the M’s screw up this offseason and don’t completely overhaul the baseball operations department, hiring somebody who actually understands baseball, I’ll spend the next few years rooting for these people to fail miserably and be embarrassed publicly.

These people don’t deserve success. They deserve to be looking for new jobs.

Fire them all.

Finally, to wrap it all up, Bud Withers column from last Sunday on the summer in Pullman? WOW. Words can't fully do it justice, but it should be required reading for WSU fans far and wide. The whole thing of wearing the purple jersey if you "dawg it" during practice is funny and all, and it's great to hear how hard everyone is working. But the biggest thing that caught my eye was the account of how the team pledged to go dry this summer, yet someone violated the agreement, and what happened afterwards. The players meeting at 6 AM to go over the whole thing, the heart-to-heart talks that led Greg Trent to tears? That is the kind of stuff that is what changing the culture of a program is all about. It isn't putting on a hat and standing at a podium and giving sound bytes to the media. It's everything ELSE that you don't see, the deep commitment to getting better on and off the field, that's what it is all about. How can you not like the new message? It will take some time, but be patient, because these growing pains will pay off.

Happy Friday, and as always, GO COUGS!
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Eyewitness Report: Longball Observes a Sudden Outbreak of Violence on the Palouse!

Autumn is my favorite season on the Palouse and no matter what the calendar says I can tell you it has officially arrived. I know this because today, over the chirping of the birds and the gentle rustling of the breeze blowing through the leaves I heard that telltale sound that heralds the arrival of Fall...


That's right Crimson Nation, Cougar football is BACK. This morning the boys put on full pads for the first time this season and got after it. Having learned from my mistakes I made sure I had plenty of juice for my camera and came away with some good images of the morning's action on Rogers Field. There was a lot to see, so today I promise less jibber-jabber from yours truly, and more pictures of your 2008 Washington State Cougars in action.

I witnessed two spirited scrimmages today with skelly and other drills in between. You may have heard that there were some scuffles in the last few practices and today was no different. Below you see a couple of the guys continuing to tangle well after the whistle had blown...

Now some of you may find this worrisome, but I assure you this is a good thing. Football is a violent sport and between the snap and the whistle these guys are mortal enemies. That kind of intense aggression can't always be switched off with the sound of a whistle so it inevitably spills over into shoving matches like this. Of course we don't want this kind of stuff costing us yards and downs in a real game, but the coaches have plenty of time to instill that game day discipline in these guys. In the meantime it just shows that the passion and competitiveness we need are there, and those things are much harder to coach.

I was pleased that the scrimmage seemed pretty balanced, with both the Defense and Offense making their fair share of plays. to illustrate this, here are a few images from the intense battle between our receivers and defensive backs...

Above you see Brandon Gibson, 4, running after the catch and just look at that separation from the defender. Not too long after that he hauls in a score...

That's just Brandon being Brandon. But he's not QB Gary Roger's only weapon by any stretch. Here is the resurgent and potentially electrifying Michael Willis, 3, also getting great seperation...

...and moments later, hauling in a score of his own.

But don't worry, while it may look our defensive backfield is getting beat like a drum, they weren't hanging their heads at all. Rather, they just tightened their chin straps and made a few plays of their own. Here is Devin Giles, 32, about to step in front of a diving Anthony Houston, 88, to make a difficult pick on this ball...

The offense responded, showing off another one of its many promising weapons as tight end Devin Frischknecht, 80, breaks into the open...

But it wasn't all wide open spaces for the big tight end. Here you see him sloooooooowly picking himself off the turf after getting leveled by Myron Beck, 13.

Hits like that are exactly what I like to see from our DBs and Myron Beck looks to me like a bona fide assassin in our secondary. To Frischknecht's credit, he did hang onto the ball and after regaining his breath let out a Braveheart yell, got back on his feet and ran off the field. Just great stuff all around.

We also run the ball sometimes, and as you can see below running back Dwight Tardy, 31, is wearing no protection on his surgically repaired knee.

Tardy ran hard today and continues to look good. That's newcomer Chantz Staden, 22, behind him who with his helmet off looks like a mini-Steven Jackson. Promising young running back Marcus Richmond, 20, showed off his speed, finding his way round the end of the 2nd string Defense for a TD.

Not to be outdone, below, backup QB Kevin Lopina, 19, finds running room up the middle on a designed QB sneak.

But the defense came to play too. Below they celebrate after recovering a Greg Trent forced fumble...

Gotta love the defensive coaches getting into the celebration. Is that coach Akey circa 2003?

Now as Coug fans we are all programmed to worry about our offense's effectiveness in short yardage situations, especially on the goal line. Here we see the 1st team Offense punching the ball into the end zone from just a yard out.

Of course it remains to be seen if we can pull this off in a real game.

Another area of concern for most Coug fans is what is usually called the "kicking game", but for us recently has been more of a "shanking game". Aww the life of a kicker...

This is where they hang out for most of the practice, shootin the breeze, stayin loose until suddenly, after HOURS of not really pedaling at all on those bikes, they are called to action! This year, the brave souls that will face off against those pesky uprights are incumbent Wade Penner, 35, and new comer Nico Grasu, 29.

And here is Penner...

...shanking one to the right. And for good measure, here is Grasu...

...shanking one to the left.

Hey, I can't bring you only good news. Heck, if there was only good news we wouldn't be the Cougs, would we? On a brighter note, on the very last play of the practice Penner booted a beautiful kick through the uprights from pretty far out (I have no depth perception, but I think it was 40+ yards at least).

Now for the impact rookie watch... you may have heard some buzz about freshman wideout, Jared Karstetter, 84. Here he is running down a ball that is just out of his reach...

He had a case of the dropsies in drills today, but overall it is apparent what the buzz is about. He has great size and athleticism, and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

Now I would be remiss (and a disgrace to my Alma mater) if I didn't highlight another exciting rookie, freshman QB and Pullman High's own JT Levenseller, 5 (yes, coach Levenseller's son). Here JT stands and delivers...

JT may not have the size to be a full time QB, but he is a great athlete and tenacious competitor. I would not be surprised at all to see him on the field some day, perhaps as a slot receiver, or even a defensive back. Meanwhile, in spite of any doubts I might have, he is working hard to be our QB of the future and Pullman Greyhounds everywhere are cheering him on. Go Get 'Em JT!!

Now some of you may be asking, "Where's the beef, Longball?" I hear you loud and clear. Stay tuned for more pictures of the BIG boys on the line going head to head in a clash of titans this morning. So check in later for that and, as always...

Go Cougs!
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Eye Witness Report: Longball Goes Star Gazing at Afternoon Practice

Well, you can never have enough AA batteries. I braved the 98 degree heat to watch the A squad in their afternoon practice yesterday, only to have my camera die on me before I could get any really good pics. Cougar Nation, I have let you down. It was a rookie mistake I wont make again, you can count on it!

While the images aren't what I hoped for, I still have plenty to report. For instance, did I mention it was hot? Some of us observers were better prepared than others, as you can see Orville has switched to the cowboy hat since the morning session...

Good thinkin, Orville.

So without my own defense against the merciless sun I made my way round the field and got a few shots off before the camera went kaput. I am sure we are all concerned about Dwight Tardy's progress on his surgically repaired knee and I headed straight for the running backs. Coach Broussard was putting them through the paces, yelling, "Trust your feet, eyes up! Don't look at your feet! Why are you looking at your *&^%$ing feet?! Eyes up!" and so on. Sounds good to me. As they lined up for drills you can see Tardy, 31, in the back with his neoprene knee brace pulled down.

I took this as a good sign that he felt confident without it. He seemed to pay a lot of attention to how the knee felt after each burst of activity, but I never saw him labor, or limp at all and he looked just as sharp and confident as the other backs in their drills. Oh yeah, and he was the only one keeping his "&*^%$ing eyes up", as coach Broussard was imploring them to do.

With a healthy Tardy and an elligible Ivory, I am really excited about this unit as a whole. Seeing these guys up close and personal did nothing to change that. The helmets-only look is not very flattering, they look like a bunch of bobble heads. But regardless these guys still passed the eye test, or the airport test, as it is commonly called these days.

I am sure many of you are also anxious to hear how Mr. Speedypants, Jeshua Anderson looks. Well, talk about passing the airport test, yowzah!

As you can see in the photo above captured with a special high speed lense, he wears number 85, but you usually just see a white streak. Anderson's athleticism is in the realm of freakish and I got to see him pull off one particularly great grab, leaping over a defender for a Rogers thrown ball that looked like it was going to sail through one of the CUB windows. More than once I saw defenders simply pull him to the ground as he made his first move on them and it was obvious they were about to get clowned. I would like to see him continue to get stronger, and fight through a lot of that grabbing and holding like Brandon Gibson does, but he is definately bulked up from last year. He was a little gimpy after contact and while I never want to call a player's toughness into question based on skelly drills, I do worry if he is a bit fragile. As Coug fans we are used to being one injury away from disaster, so its always on my mind.

The receivers are another unit where I honestly believe, crimson tinted shades aside, we are just loaded. We all know what Brandon Gibson does to defenses and the reemergence of Michael Willis so far as been a sight to behold. Two other guys that really stand out when you watch practice are Benny Ward, 15 and Anthony Houton, 88. They both have great size and athleticism and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or both of them really emerge as a weapon this year.

As for the rest of the offense, I didn't get any really good captures, but below you can see Rogers lining up behind center for some skelly against the starting backers and DBs.

Both Rogers, 17 and Lopina, 9 look the part, but it is clear they bring different things to the table and the coaches are going to play to their strengths. You see Lopina run a lot more designed QB runs and option plays, but he still throws a nice ball. It looks like shotgun is going to be our bread and butter this year and the drills include practicing hand-offs in shotgun with the coaches throwing intentionally bad snaps. I didn't get to see too much of the offensive line, so I will watch more closely in the coming days.

Now some of you (Ptown) have reminded us in the comments that we don't play in the WAC and defense matters too. Well I agree, and I was very curious to see one defensive unit in particular, our defensive line.

That my friends is a buffet's worst nightmare. As you can see, big number 74, Andy Roof is practicing and no indication yet that he wont play. To his right are Eichelberger, 77 and Ahmu, 92, two seniors we are counting on to have solid and healthy campaigns in '08. Clearly neither of them spent the offseason competing to be America's Biggest Loser. Look at Andy Mattingly, 45. I cannot believe that guy was a linebacker! He looks D-end all the way to me. Just coming into the picture on the left is Kevin Kooyman, 93 who, together with man-child Mattingly off the other end, could be a huge problem for opposing QBs this year. Don't fret (yet) folks. This unit has some promise. In no-pads action it's hard to get a good read on them, but they'll be strapping on the armor soon and we'll get a better idea how they'll be. With Mattingly, Kooyman, Mullinex, and Graise as our D-ends, I think its safe to say our concerns are at the tackle position. Sounds like a job for my main man, Toby Turpin!

I wasn't able to give our backers and DBs the attention they deserve, so I'll try to get a read on them in future practices and scrimmages. One guy that did stand out to me was Devin Giles. He has good size and I was surprised he wasn't on the depth chart. They are going hard all day, every day against the likes of Brandon Gibson and Jeshua Anderson, so I am confident they are learning fast and will be ready.

That's all for now folks! I wont be able to make it to the helmets and pads practice today, but I plan on being there tomorrow and this weekend so I can bring you more reports from the ground. Until then...

Go Cougs!
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Eye Witness Report: Longball Visits Fall Camp

Greetings Cougar Nation!

Since I live in Pullman, the center of the WSU Football universe, the good folks here at the WSU Football Blog have asked me to provide some eye-witness reports of the action taking place as the Cougs kick off Fall camp. I'll be their boots on the ground, as it were, and I'll do my best to make sure that Coug fans in Yakima, Bozeman, San Antonio, Baghdad and anywhere else the Crimson faithful have settled get the up close and personal Coug news they crave. I'm glad to be of service and as my first order of business I trekked up to campus with my coffee and camera for the morning practice. Here's what I saw...

I am sure most of you have been following the stadium construction here, but I thought I'd share what I saw today as I made my way to the practice field. First of all...

Huh? Who hired these guys? Maybe the Vandals pay their rent for using our stadium in cement. After the whole Big Papi jerseygate in the new Yankee Stadium, I think someone should check this pour for shenanigans.

Moving on, I am sure you are all excited about our giant new video screen, and while I promise you that pictures do it no justice, its the best I can do...

The entire red area is the screen, but you won't understand how big and beautiful it really is until you see it in person. As you can see to the left the Cougs were assembling for their morning drills so I made my way down to the field to see who was knockin' heads this morning.

Above you see CPW and Coach Sturdy guiding the QBs and RBs through some drills.

I was disappointed to see that Rogers and Lopina weren't out for the morning practice. It was definitely not the A squad, but a few notables were there. Number 8 is Lobbestael (not 12 as some rosters have him) and also of note in this picture is 22, Chantz Staden. He is the smaller, quicker, scat type back as advertised, but he is solidly built and looks to be strong for a smaller back, much like J-Smooth and Jerome Harrison were. As you can see they're not in pads, so I didn't get to observe him in a full contact situation. However, they did line up for some run plays against the D and he showed he can beat our backers to the outside. My first impression of Mr. Staden was a good one and I'll keep my eye on him throughout camp.

Above is a nice moment for the Cougar family scrap book. The gentleman in the foreground is Orville Sears who made the short trip from the family ranch on the Johnson Road to watch his son, co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears (background) leading the DBs through their drills. Jody and his older brother Cotton are both Pullman High grads, local rodeo legends and former Cougar wide receivers. No doubt Orville is proud of his boy and as Coug fans we all hope he can help turn our defense into the bloodthirsty wrecking crew we used to be so proud of.

For Mr. McBoob, the fat guys...

Much to my delight they got together for some light scrimmaging so I could observe some matchups. In the middle is my main man, Toby Turpin, 90. More on him in a moment.

One guy I was on the lookout for was Bernard Wolfgramm, 99. You can easily spot him above sporting the Don Sasa/King Kongaika hairstyle. He faced double teams most of the time and was able to hold his ground, not getting pushed off the line. He did a workmanlike job of keeping the middle clogged. He held his own in there, but didn't show me a whole lot, though I do dig the hair. As a contrast, when my main man Toby Turpin was in, he was splitting the double teams, getting his big old paws into the offensive backfield and generally raising hell. Just to the right of Wolfgramm above you see Staden, 22, who is about to bust one around the edge.

A closer look at Mr. Wolfgramm...

Of course any time you are watching your own defense and offense against each other every positive play for one side bodes poorly for the other. So while you are thrilled to see a D-tackle wreak havoc in the offensive back field, or a RB break off a big run, you worry that what you are really seeing is a vulnerability in your offensive line, or a weakness in your rush defense. What I did observe that looked good for both sides was energy and an emphasis on hustle and effort that the players have been alluding to. There was constant yelling from the coaching staff, imploring the guys to go 100% all the time. Like I said, this was not the A squad, but they still looked good. I'll hope to catch this afternoon's practice as well and bring you some images of some of our big guns.

Until then, Go Cougs!
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Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

The first day of practices are in the books, so we'll get right to it with some linkage:

First of all, tempo. It's a common theme this year, something that we've been hearing time and again in describing the differences with the new regime. But what does it mean? Basically, we are going to play FAST on offense this year. Not out of control fast, ala Loyala-Marymount of the '90's, chucking up shots 5 seconds into the shot clock every possession. But we will be quicker on offense. The no-huddle speaks to that. And so far, the players are already feeling it just one day into the new era. As Howie Stalwick reported yesterday, things are different according to Dwight Tardy, Brandon Gibson and Devin Giles:

"I think they are more intense, more strict," junior running back Dwight Tardy said. "They expect more from us.

"It seems like they expect us to be more like men. Like, 'Grow up already.' I think last year, (the old coaching staff) just kind of let us slide with a lot of stuff."

Senior wide receiver Brandon Gibson said differences in the two coaching staffs have "definitely" caught the attention of players.

"I'm not saying last year (the coaches) weren't upbeat, but these guys, they're anxious," Gibson said. "They're anxious to get everything going.

"They want to prove that we're ready and that they're worthy."

"I like (the new coaching staff) better," junior cornerback Devin Giles said. "They teach us a lot of things. It's very intense; no walking around, no nothing."

So make no mistake about it - this is a new deal all the way around. And the message is being sent loud and clear from day one, in that either you get on board and understand what it is going to take to get things turned around, or we will move on without you.

One common theme you hear from the Mike-Holmgren Seahawks is tempo, tempo, tempo. The Hawks west-coast offense is at it's best when they are simply moving quicker. Quicker to the huddle, quicker to the line of scrimmage, quicker off the ball. It's getting in that rhythm, and an attack, attack, attack mentality instead of slowly lumbering around and reacting to what you see and hoping it works out. It's getting AFTER it, instead of being passive. How can you not like that?? But you can't just wake up on Saturday morning, gameday, and say "Ok, we're going to be faster today". If you want to play that way on gameday, you have to practice that way during the week. And that's exactly what we are seeing now.

There was some not-so-good news on the player front. Some guys are recovering from injuries, including starting punter Reid Forrest, coming off ankle surgery. Forrest cracked a bone in his ankle in July and that led to the surgery (there's your "mystery" ankle injury that we heard about). Forrest was on crutches and in a walking boot at practice. Wulff told the Seattle Times that there was a chance Forrest could be ready for the start of the season, so we'll see. Markes Dawes is trying to come back for one more year, but is still recovering from shoulder surgery and isn't quite ready for action. On the academic front, apparently there are a couple of casualties after all. DE Jesse Feagin is going to redshirt due to academics, and unfortunately, D-tackle Josh Luapo couldn't enroll and will likely not show up in Pullman until January. With the d-tackle depth thin as it is, not having Luapo in the mix could hurt down the line, but we'll see how things develop there.

Good write-up by Todd Miles of the TNT on Dwight Tardy's recovery from knee surgery. It sounds as though the progress has been pretty remarkable for a guy who just had surgery just about 10 months ago. How good is his progress? So good that he wasn't even wearing a knee brace at practice(!), something that surprised Steve Broussard. , but so far, so good:
“First day was great. It was like being a kid again,” he said boastfully, with a smile to back it up. “No aches and pains. After practice, it was a little sore, but nothing ice can’t handle.”
A cool thing to come of this is that Tardy used the new underwater treadmills that were purchased a few years ago for the athletic department, and that sounds like it really helped his recovery. They don't give that type of equipment away on the corner with a FREE sign, so nice to see the money for that stuff was well spent. But Tardy isn't all the way back, according to Bruiser:
“We did a couple of drills today, and he was dragging (the knee),” Broussard said. “As we move forward with it, we’ll see how he does with certain movements, and how he becomes comfortable with it.”
Tardy's knee and how he responds to the daily pounding of practice is certainly going to be a big thing to watch the rest of the month.

Finally, some really great video over at the Spokesman, recapping day one. Good highlights and comments from players and Wulff. It's a must-see for what turned out to be a nice start to the new era.

Enjoy your Wednesday, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's Time

Welcome to a new era of WSU Football! Paul Wulff's lads hit it hard today, with morning and afternoon sessions, and the official "flipping of the program" begins. We'll stay on top of things for the first stages of the new era, as things will get pretty interesting beginning today. As Wulff talked about at media day, the days of two-a-day practices are gone, but the WSU coaches will be doing double-shifts early to get the new system in place. The morning practice will be for the top of the depth chart, then the rest will practice in the afternoon. As Wulff has said repeatedly, everything is new and the more reps every player on the roster can get, the better. August 30th is going to be here before you know it, so every productive minute in practice, the better!

The fall release is here, including updated depth charts for fall camp. Not some huge surprises, but there are a few worthy of attention:
  • Jeshua Anderson is listed as a starter. OK, not that big of a surprise, but given his off-season track commitments, you have to wonder if he'll be behind early on. As a true sophomore with just 12 catches last year, Anderson is still ahead of senior Benny Ward.
  • Daniel Blackledge, another true sophomore, is also a starter at flanker. Blackledge had a grand total of 24 yards last year. Here is where you see some depth issues, as Michael Willis is the backup, and Keith Rosenberg 3rd string. Neither guy played a snap last year.
  • As our own Hooty reported here, the offensive line looks not only stacked for today, but for tomorrow as well. Just two starters are seniors, yet there is a lot of experience back in guys like Kenny Alfred and Andrew Roxas. Just looking at the o-line depth chart, you can see why people are excited about how we will look up front for the next several years.
  • Tardy is the starter at running back, ahead of Chris Ivory as the primary backup. You know those two will share the load, so being listed as the starter might not really mean a whole lot. Still, Tardy is just what, 10 months removed from a serious knee injury, so we'll see how things look now that practice is finally here. No mention of JC transfer Chance Staden on the depth chart. Staden was highly regarded coming in last year, but while he is on the official roster, he's not on the depth chart among the running backs.
  • There are co-starters listed at kicker, with Wade Penner OR Nico Grasu, the JC transfer with serious leg strength and especially good on kickoffs. That will be a battle to watch and I bet we don't know who wins the job until the last week of camp.
  • On defense, an area of concern we touched on last week are the d-tackles. A'i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger are the starters. Toby Turpin is one backup, but Andy Roof is listed as the other.
  • Nowhere to be found on the depth chart for the defensive line? JC tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo. Merely an oversight, or something more?? Wolfgramm and Luapo are both on the official roster, but surprisingly are not on the depth chart. Some publications have projected Wolfgramm as not only a regular, but even possibly a starter by the opener. We'll see how that goes.
  • The secondary looks about how we thought it would. The position changes are official between Chima Nwachukwu and Alfonso Jackson. Chima is now the starter at strong safety, Jackson the starter at the right corner spot. Xavier Hicks is listed as the starter at free safety, which we know will be a problem for the first few games of the year due to suspension. JC transfer Easton Johnson is listed as his backup and will likely elevate to starter by the opener.
  • Redshirt frosh Tyrone Justin and sophomore Daniel Blackledge are listed as punt-returners. I know there was at least some thought that maybe Gibson would get a look back there, but given his likely heavy workload this year, it probably isn't a good idea after all. However, Gibson and Chris Ivory are listed as kickoff returners. Interesting.

So there you have it, the beginning of a new era. It's going to be a fun ride, and I can't wait to see how things shake out this month. How will Rogers look running the new offense? Will Kevin Lopina push him, as has been hinted by Wulff that Rogers is the starter but Lopina could play? Will the young wideouts opposite Gibson be ready for prime time? Can they help carry the load and pick up the slack after losing Michael Bumpus, Jed Collins and Charles Dillon? How will the new faces on defense factor in? Will the JC guys be ready to help immediately? How will Mattingly take to the new position at defensive end? The buzz is that he could just explode out on the edge, but will he take to the new spot right away or will it take a month of game action to figure it out? How will the secondary do with the position changes, plus the suspension of Hicks? Stay tuned! Click here for more Comments

Monday, August 04, 2008

Road UNI Watch - WSU Football Blog Style

With practice sessions about to begin, we will step outside the box a bit today. All the buzz has been about the new uniforms that will grace our Cougars next year once the Nike deal takes hold in January, and obviously some concerns arose with the news. Would they create something hideous as we've seen from our NW brethren in Oregon? Or the "Jog-Bra" look at Oregon State? Maybe they'll stay conservative, ala UW which aside from changing some of the font on the numbers, well, they still "look" like UW, you know what I mean?

Anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to look back at some past WSU combo's in the modern era, and see if we might come to a consensus of which uni's worked the best over the years, and which ones didn't. Today we'll roll out the road combo's. Check out the poll question to the right, and feel free to leave comments on which style you prefer. Here goes:

1) 1981 Holiday Bowl Road Uni's

Crimson pants with white stripes down the side. Solid block crimson numerals with double-crimson stripe on the sleeves. Gray helmets with Cougars script, and a center stripe on the helmet. White face masks, white shoes.

Mainly rolled with this style in the Walden era with very little change. Basic, but clean.

2) 1988 Aloha Bowl Road Uni's

Here we see the change that Erickson wanted when he showed up. Gray pants without any piping or stripes, and a WSU cougar head logo on the hip. White jerseys with basic lettering, and the big change having the Washington State school name across the chest. WSU Cougar head logo on the sleeves. White shoes. Gray helmets with Cougars script and crimson face masks.

Erickson was quoted at the time he took the WSU job that if we were going to play in the Pac-10, we were going to look like we belonged in the Pac-10, so some tweaks were made. I like this look to an extent, but I could do without the Washington State name across the chest.

3) The Bledsoe/Palouse Posse/Ryan Leaf years of the early-late 90's

Same jersey as we had when Erickson did the tweaking. Cougar head logo on the sleeves, school name across the chest, basic crimson lettering. But the big change? solid colors that many schools went with in the 90's for their road pants. Still a solid look, and a nice contrast of colors with the crimson pants and gray helmets. Although some would complain on the overall color of the crimson, as they just didn't look deep enough. In the lighting conditions on the road or on TV, a lot of times we looked too "fire engine red", and it's hard to argue with that when you view some of the pics. Later you'll see we attempted to correct that, but as you can see here, it is more of a red vs. a crimson.
There were a few variations in this era. Occasionally we would roll out the gray pants on the road, but it was very rare. The "Bledsoe's" wore that look for a road game at Oregon in 1991, and Leaf and company wore it at Stanford in the mid-90's and maybe the biggest win ever, the 1997 Apple Cup. But it was pretty rare. The 1997 Rose Bowl saw the gray script helmets with the rose as part of the script (just beautiful!), with white tops and crimson pants.

One variation of this era was at times we would have the Cougars script helmet, and others where we would wear the Cougar head logo on the helmets. Here's a shot of the variation in a 1995 game at Cal, complete with a solid crimson stripe down the center:

4) The Gesser - Kegel - Derting years - stripes and stuff.

A big departure from the past, WSU joined many others in going with the Russell Athletics look of the side, "modern" stripes which went down the side of the torso up through the top, under the shoulders and finishing at the neck. The school name still appeared across the chest, but it was considerably smaller, and a small WSU logo was at the center of the neck line.

WSU also became one of the only schools in America with more than one helmet, rolling out the crimson shells for road games, with white face masks. White shoes and white pants with crimson stripes down the side to complete the vertical look. The numbers got some block in gray coloring to give them an extra dimension. We even modified things a bit to these jerseys, going with an extra stripe along the shoulders for a different look.

I liked these uni's initially, but ultimately I longed for the more conservative, old-school look without the busy stripes on the jerseys. Which takes us to today.

5) The Current Versions - Mkristo Bruce - Jerome Harrison - Jason Hill - Alex Brink years.
And here we are today. Crimson pants the majority of the time, with three versions - one we rarely see, the extra bolded crimson stripe that Mkristo is modeling above. One with a double-white stripe down the side, and a pants scheme that looks a little too much like Stanford if you want to know the truth. And another, a solid crimson look that even looks like a deeper crimson color (although I think lighting has a lot to do with this):

Crimson helmets with Cougar head logo and white face masks, and the school name remains small across the chest. Black shoes complete the look, and it's sharp. The stripes on the jerseys and wavy stripes to the pants are gone, and the lettering is much more of a block-style with an extra crimson outline.

Finally, the look that we have seen in the last two Apple Cups. It's also a look that has done us well over the years (1988 Aloha Bowl, 1997 Apple Cup, 2005 and 2007 Apple Cups). Yes, I'm talking about the gray helmets with the Cougars script, same simple, clean jerseys, solid gray pants with the WSU hip logo, and black shoes. I have to admit.....I FREAKIN' LOVE IT!

So there you have it. Feel free to chime in via comments or vote in the poll for your favorite combo. Click here for more Comments

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Seattle Times - HOME RUN

(Sappy sap sap alert - You have been warned...)

I have to admit I was taken by surprise by today's full-blown feature regarding our own Coach Paul Wulff. I grabbed the Sunday Times off the rack at Starbucks, and much to my amazement, there it was, top-fold action on the front page. At first I thought "cool". Then I thought "haven't we been down this road already? Don't we know all there is to know here?" But then, like you, I read the story. And what a fantastic job by Bud Withers in regards to the depth, the detail, the emotion of the Wulff experience that I sure haven't seen yet.

I'm an emotional guy and I love our Cougs. I have been moved by Wulff's story, every time I've written about it or read it. Every time, as it is told and retold. But each time I read it or hear about it, it gives me a whole level of appreciation for what we have here.

The example coach Wulff is laying out for his coaches and players is on another level with what is expected when you are part of the program. The results are already showing in a wide-array of changes, which we've detailed along the way. The strong academic performance of the football team, the 3.13 team GPA with everyone apparently eligible for the first time in what seems like forever, the team unity council, the overwhelmingly positive tone among the coaching staff and the early gains in recruiting. All perfect examples of what has already changed since Wulff took the podium last December. And even the Andy Roof situation, where so many others would have bailed out and people would have understood why? Not coach Wulff. His has been the lone voice in telling everyone else to calm down and let's get all the facts before we cast Roof off the ledge. Yet here we are, August third, and Andy Roof still hasn't been formally charged from the ugly incident a few months ago. Wulff was the calm in the storm, and that loyalty and commitment will hopefully pay off for ALL involved.

Most of all, Wulff's life story is an example of how to handle the darkest of times. Do you sit in the corner and cry yourself to sleep? Or do you get up, dust yourself off, and respond to the adversity? It's obvious what coach Wulff has chosen to do with his life, and it is worthy of double fist-pump, right over the heart.

As the first line of the article said, Paul Wulff didn't cry. After reading that story today? Well coach.....that makes one of us. I am PROUD to write about Washington State football, and PROUD to say that Paul Wulff is our coach. Go get 'em coach!

HAPPY SUNDAY TO Y'ALL, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Friday, August 01, 2008

Fat Guys Rule!

With Hawk covering off on his thoughts on the D Tackles the other day, I thought it would be a good idea to turn our attention to the other side of the line and examine what I believe to be the strongest overall unit on the 2008 Cougar football team.

Several weeks ago, we were approached by a writer from a SoCal sports blog who was looking for some insight into WSU’s 2008 football season. He asked us to contribute our thoughts on a handful of questions and we were happy to oblige. As a former “steakeater” myself (OK, my glory days ended after high school, so I was more of a “chilidogeater”) I jumped on the question about the O Line.

Here’s the question as asked:
Freshman lineman Andrew Roxas was one bright spot for the Cougars last year as he played center for the first time against UCLA and performed quite well. How is the left side of the line coming along with the return of Roxas and Vaughn Lesuma?

Like I said, this guy writes for a SoCal sports blog so I assume that’s why he has such an interest in Roxas (pronounced Ro-Hoss), who hails from LaCanada, CA. He was indeed a pleasant surprise as a true freshman. He performed admirably and got some valuable game experience but is still flying under the radar a bit in 2008. The 2007 team lacked depth on the offensive front and the emergence of Roxas was a very pleasant surprise. In my opinion, the O Line was the best-performing unit on last year’s squad and they are poised to keep that title in 2008. In fact, I think they’ll be much better this year and we look to be in great shape BEYOND 2008.

The only loss on the line from last year is the very consistent, if unspectacular Bobby Byrd. He had prototypical size for a left tackle but was actually moved to guard due to the emergence of Micah Hannam.

Frankly, we won’t miss Bobby Byrd - but there is one other departure that will be missed – Offensive Line Coach George Yarno. He was not retained by new head-man Paul Wulff, in what was largely considered a disappointing move. George is an old pro and always got every ounce of effort out of his pupils. There’s no such thing as “un-tapped potential” if you knocked heads for Coach Yarno – he got every ounce of potential out of his players and then some. Considered a strong candidate to replace Wulff at EWU, the Spokane native proved to be too big of a fish for the pond in Cheney and has landed on John Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay. We were lucky to have him and it’s a damn shame that he’s gone.

After strong rumblings that Yarno would be replaced with former Coug and current Montana State O Line Coach Jason McEndoo, Wulff chose the largely unknown (in these parts, anyway) Harold Etheridge. The last three entries on Etheridge’s coaching resume are Army, North Texas and Northern Illinois. With a collegiate coaching career that has spanned 19 years, Etheridge has a few feathers in his cap but it would seem that if were a truly great coach, he’d have had an opportunity at a BCS school before now. My sources within the program are about as reliable as the 7-day weather forecast in Seattle, but I’m told that Etheridge is having trouble fitting in with the staff.

The good news is that this O Line unit has the ability to rise above any coaching shortcomings due to the strong leadership of junior center Kenny Alfred. Alfred is a very solid, student of the game. He’s unheralded but does an incredible job of making the right calls at the line and playing his position. Only injury will keep him from post-season conference accolades.

With the new coaching staff in place and a slew of young up-and-comers fighting for spots on the depth chart, it’s probably too early to say on which side of the line they'll line up, but the starters should be Alfred at center; Dan Rowlands and Roxas at guard; and the massive Vaughn Lesuma and Hannam at tackle.

Lesuma was the best of all the newcomers to the program in 2007. He was a steady performer all year and will likely be looked upon to anchor this year’s squad. As big as he is, he could anchor the Queen Mary. If he can improve his footwork and play quicker than his 6’5”, 329 lb frame would otherwise suggest, he has a great shot to play on Sundays in 2009. Coach Wullf seems to think so too.

Fighting for playing time and providing some much needed depth are four highly-touted redshirt freshmen: Kevin Freitag, Steven Ayers, Will Hunter and BJ Guerra (a converted D-tackle.) Sophomore Joe Eppelle and junior Reed Lesuma (Vaughn’s “little” brother), will also be pushing the incumbents. The recent announcement that new recruit Tim Hodgdon will grayshirt this year provides further proof that this unit is well-stocked in 2008. With so much youth and experience along the offensive front, this position appears to be in great shape for the foreseeable future.

The questions along the O line heading into 2007 were all about experience and depth. With those questions now answered, the biggest question heading into 2008 has to be about conditioning. The game of football is generally played with short bursts of energy followed by a “rest” in the huddle. The big guys on the line usually need that rest more than their playmaking teammates. With the new no-huddle offense, the breaks in action will be few and far between and it stands to reason that the offensive linemen will be the ones who have the hardest time adjusting to this perpetual motion. Hopefully a long summer under the watchful eye of conditioning coach Rob Oviatt has done the trick.

We’ll find out soon enough. The season kicks off in four short weeks.

Here’s to the fat guys!

Go Cougs!
Click here for more Comments

The 2K Decade - How the Pac-10 Has Fared

There were some interesting comments to come out of our own Rooster's picks from Monday. Misguided as some of them were, as the muscle-bound anonymous was out to hate on us, well, someone brought up a good point in taking a look at how the NW schools have done since Y2K. I took a look at the conference beginning with the 2000 season, and thought the numbers were not only interesting, but deserving of it's own post. So here goes:

Here's all 10 teams in the conference starting from Y2K (neutral site records includes bowl games and non-traditional home sites for either team):

1) USC: 81-21 overall - 41-8 at home, 33-11 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites. No surprise here. An amazing string of at least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. What was interesting was that they started out 5-7 and 6-6 for the first two years, yet have lost just eight games over the last six seasons. The perception has been that it's USC and then everyone else fighting for second place. Hard to argue against that in any way, shape or form when you look at the numbers!

2) Oregon: 67-32 overall - 39-12 at home, 25-16 away, 3-4 in neutral sites. A rough 2004 season where they went 5-6 is the only non-winning season in the decade. An impressive 25-8 non-conference record, and not just against Cupcake State either, as the Quack Attack hasn't shied away from scheduling an "A" game. And the Autzen Stadium home-field advantage is strong as advertised. 39-12 is nothing to sneeze at. I was impressed with their road record, and their conference record was strong at 42-24, including three seasons of 7-1 (2000, 2001 and 2005).

3) Oregon State: 63-36 overall - 38-11 at home, 20-24 on the road, 5-1 in neutral sites. The surprise obviously is how good they have been the last eight seasons. You can also see how strong the Reser Stadium advantage really is. Remember, prior to the 1999 season, Oregon State had a 28-year streak of LOSING seasons. While Dennis Erickson gets a lot of credit for turning things around, you cannot help but be impressed by the work of Mike Riley. Erickson initially won with many of the players Riley recruited, and since Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in '05). A huge tip of the cap toward the plucky Beavs. They should be proud of the program they have become.

4) UCLA: 56-43 - 35-14 at home, 19-24 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites. While people love to rip on the Bruins and their fall from the elite, well, it's not THAT bad. Just two losing seasons, and both were 6-7 affairs (2007 and 2003). Still, aside from their 2005 10-2 breakthrough, they've hovered just above the .500 mark. The home record is pretty impressive, and even though they've gone just 13-13 the last two seasons, they have gone 10-3 at home. Only one losing season at home, 2-4 in 2002, they've won 16 of their last 19 games in the Rose Bowl.

5) ASU: 56-43 - 37-16 at home, 17-23 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites. I guess the big surprise to me was the road record. I knew they were good at home, and if you've been to a game in Tempe before you know that they do have a strong home-field advantage. But I didn't realize they were six games under .500 on the road the last eight seasons. Similar to UCLA, they have at least had two big breakthrough seasons, 9-3 in 2004 and 10-3 in 2007. Only two losing seasons, 5-7 in '03 and 4-7 in '01, but otherwise they've hung in at the .500 mark. Interesting flip in their conference record, where they are just 31-35, yet out of conference, 25-8.

6) WSU: 54-41 - 24-20 at home, 23-19 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites (including 5-1 in Seattle). We know all too well the story here. An unprecedented three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from 2001 through 2003, but it's been a bowl-less drought ever since. 2006 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart due to injuries and finished with bitter 6-6 pill that really began the Doba Must Go talk. I thought the road record was interesting, a better mark that Oregon State, ASU, UCLA and Cal. But just 24-20 at home kind of sucks doesn't it? The trip to Pullman is a bitch, and the small stadium can be as loud as any other Pac-10 venue when it's packed due to how close the fans are to the action, but to be just 4 above .500 isn't good enough. Maybe that will change with Wulff.

7) CAL: 54-44 - 30-18 at home, 20-24 on the road, 4-2 in neutral sites. Cal has recovered nicely from a disaster to start the decade, where they went 3-8 in 2000 and a brutal 1-10 in 2001 (where have you gone, Tom Holmoe??). Last year's fade is on everyone's brain, but Cal has still won at least seven games since 2002. Interesting was their conference record, just 32-34, but an impressive 22-10 OOC.

8) UW: 44-52 - 29-22 at home, 14-27 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites. This is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams, with UW at 10 fewer wins than WSU and Cal. Even eight games under .500, they are still seven games over .500 at home. But the home field clearly isn't what it used to be. And the road record is rough. The thing is, UW started out hot this decade, rolling to 11-1 in 2000 and then it was 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and 6-6 in 2003. The bottom fell out in 2004, a 1-10 campaign considered by many the worst UW team in school history. The 2004 season was the first non-winning season in 27 years, but it's been tough to climb out of the hole, now four straight losing seasons.

9) Stanford: 34-57 - 19-29 at home, 15-27 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford with 10 fewer wins than 8th place UW. Just one winning season, a 9-3 campaign in 2001, Ty Willie's last in Palo Alto. The worst was 2006, a 1-11 season considered not only the worst Stanford team in school history, but many rate it as one of the worst Pac-10 teams ever. And talk about no home-field advantage - they are just 3-16 in their last 19 home games. WOW that's bad.

10) Arizona: 33-59 - 20-32 at home, 13-27 on the road (no neutral site games). I was surprised they were behind Stanford, but, when you consider AZ has been bowl-less since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, well, I guess it makes sense. Included in their record is an abysmal 19-47 record against the conference (WOW), but 14-12 outside the PAC. Their worst showing was 2003, where they finished 2-10, nearly had a player revolt against John Mackovic, and were actually outgained in conference play by 144 yards per game. AZ actually went 4-2 at home last year, the first time this decade they've had a winning home slate.

So there you have it, the conference since the new millennium. While the top three should hold firm in USC, Oregon and probably Oregon State, there could be a lot of movement from the rest of the teams as we play out the decade. And aside from USC's domination in every way, shape and form, what do you think have been the biggest storylines so far? I would put Oregon State's arrival as a legit bowl team as a big story. And sorry UW fans, but your fall from grace this decade has to be acknowledged. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Don't forget the Paul Wulff chat today at 11 AM.

And what do you know, today is 8/1. Are we really starting the season at the end of THIS month? Back-to-school ads already appearing in newspapers and TV? Where did the summer go??

AND AS ALWAYS, HAPPY FRIDAY TO Y'ALL, AND GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments