Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Forward

So here we are, the end of the year. As the Onion reported, Baby New Year 2008 has been abandoned in the street. It's over. And, as is customary, this is the time where you see all sorts of year-end wrap-ups in every corner of the country, for pretty much everything. But we thought why look back right now? We've already wrapped up the 2008 season, which was as tough a year to watch as many of us can ever remember. So why dwell on the past? Don't ignore history, as if you do you are doomed to repeat it....but certainly don't dwell on it. It distracts from the present, or more importantly, keeps your focus away from what is coming.

So instead of putting a bow on '08, today we'll look forward to '09 in the WSU football universe. We'll give you a few things to look forward to, at least in our eyes, and we will also weigh in on a few predictions on what we think will happen. We'd love to hear your thoughts on what YOU are looking forward to/predictions for the new year. Sound good?

Here's my three things I'm looking forward to, as well as some predictions:

1) The Quarterback Situation.

Hang on......the quarterback?!? After 2008, a season so bad they dumbed down the playbook? So bad that the QB who started the vast majority of the season didn't have a SINGLE TD PASS? Well, yes, the QB situation. Specifically the young QB's who have a real shot to make waves. Right now, you have to believe there is a strong opportunity for either JT Levy or Marshall Lobbestael to reach out and grab that job.

Of course, Ocho Rojo's knee has to hold up, and he probably won't get his chance until fall camp. But from what the coaches have said since the beginning, and even in his limited time in games, you can see there is a chance Lobbestael can be something special. And even though JT didn't get many chances to show what he can do in game situations, the buzz is strong enough there as well. Whoever wins the job, we are certainly going to see more of the "real" Todd Sturdy offense.

It's going to be fascinating to see how it all plays out.

PREDICTION: Lobbestael's knee holds up through fall camp, and he grabs the job over a hard-charging JT Levy. But both of those young QB's will play a lot in the first month of the season. In the end, Lobbestael wins the job and is the starter for the vast majority of 2009. He will throw for 2500 yards, 17 TD's and 10 INT's, with about 100 net rushing yards mixed in.

2) The Offensive Line.

As we will clearly remember, most of 2008 was an avert-your-eyes situation on offense. But look at the walking wounded at the QB spot to realize how overwhelmed some of these guys were, at least early on. And the running game was a true adventure for much of the season. But you know, inexperience and injuries are an ugly combination, and we had both in bunches last year.

There were only two occasions where the same starting five actually were together in consecutive games (Lesuma, Roxas, Alfred, Danaher and Hannam started vs. Oregon and UCLA; Lesuma, Ayers, Alfred, Guerra and Hannam started against ASU and UW). But they did show some life late in the year, once things settled down a bit, and they responded with a couple of plus-100 yard rushing games vs. UW and Hawai'i.

The thing I'm looking forward to here, however, is what is to come in '09. '08 was learning on the job with not-ready-for-prime-time players. It's been well-publicized, but 11 of the 12 linemen on the depth chart will return next season. Big Vaughn Lesuma moves on, but everyone else is back. And you can also add redshirt junior Zack Williams to the mix. Williams has been getting positive buzz, to the point that some claim he's the most talented tackle on the roster. But there is a lot coming back here, young talent who all got a chance to play. With another off-season of hitting the weights and practice, this group could be a real strength next year.

PREDICTION: This group will elevate their game and be a force to be reckoned with. The rushing yards will improve tremendously, and the QB's will do more than just survive next year. And with some very good PAC-10 centers graduating (Alex Mack of Cal, Max Unger of Oregon, Alex Fletcher of Stanford, Juan Garcia of UW), Kenny Alfred is the best center in the conference in 2009.

3) Andy Mattingly.

While many of us are eager to flip the calendar over to 2009, there might not be another player on the WSU roster who is ready to move on more than Andy Mattingly. Coming off an eye-opening 2007 season where he logged over 90 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a part-time starter at linebacker, everyone thought he would have a huge '08 season. It wasn't to be. Mattingly appeared lost as a defensive end, and the change just never clicked. But at the very end of the year, Mattingly was moved back to linebacker vs. UW and Hawai'i, and in turn, WSU played two of their best games on defense for the entire season. Part of it was the switch to the 3-4 (3-3-5?) defense, as well as the emergence of Toby Turpin up front. But having Mattingly go back to linebacker was like watching him go home again. It's where he belongs on the football field.

Now which linebacker spot he plays next year is still open for debate. Will he start at outside linebacker? What about middle linebacker, where Greg Trent has moved on? If they go with a three-man defensive line, would Mattingly be one of the interior linebackers? Remains to be seen, but it's clear that he will be behind the line next year, and not part of it.

PREDICTION: Mattingly has a huge senior year at inside linebacker, racking up over 100 tackles and wrecking havoc all over the field. The defense gets some of it's swagger back, and Mattingly leads the charge. Mattingly grabs at least 2nd-team All-Conference honors.

Starting 2009 With A Thud: Brinkhater's Predictions:

1) Goodbye Possession Passing, Hello Smashmouth.

First down, Montgomery to the left side. Second down, Montgomery to the right. Third down, Mitz up the middle. First down, Montgomery to the Left. Second down, Tardy to the right. Third down, Tardy to the right.

Get used to it. Run, run, run, then hit the play action down the middle of the field.

Prediction: Montomery 850 yards, Tardy 512 yards, Mitz 250 Yards. Nice rushing attack.

2) Hello 3-3-5.

Okay, maybe we don't go that far, but I am looking forward to a full year of NO 4-3 until we can get more horses in the stable. As Sedi noted, the return of Mattingly to the LB corps coupled with more depth at D-Line and a returning secondary gives hope and prayer for a mid-tier defense.

Prediction: Passing D 4th, Rushing D 7th (6th Overall in Conference)

3) Relevance.

Making a return to a bowl for the first time in 1,000 years will be too much of a task for this group--especially given that our conference schedule is 4-5 (home-away) next year. But this group should win a few more games, be more competitive, and will get a signature upset victory along the way. These boys will hit next year, folks. It will be fun.

Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Simone Edges Markle for "Must Have" of 2008

The poll closed several days ago, but we thought it would be a good idea to acknowledge it - Gino Simone has won out in the "must have" category for this year's class. Simone received 66 votes, compared to 64 for Darren Markle. Good timing too, with Simone's re-affirming his pledge to go Crimson over the weekend. But Markle, the top-25 middle linebacker/strongman from Idaho, made it pretty close.

Speaking of recruiting, I thought it was interesting to see how ranks some of the WSU commits for this upcoming class:

2009 Player Commitments
Sebastian Valenzuela OG CA 76 Verbal
Darren Markle ILB ID 76 Verbal
Nolan Washington ATH WA 76 Verbal
William Prescott OT CA 75 Verbal
Anthony Carpenter ATH CA 75 Verbal
Chris Mastin DE WA 75 Verbal
Gino Simone WR WA 74 Verbal
Jeff Tuel QB CA 72 Verbal
Arthur Burns RB CA 72 Verbal
Casey Locker S WA 72 Verbal
Andre Barrington OLB WA 68 Verbal
Jamal Atofau S WA 40 Verbal
Quayshawn Buckley DT CA 40 Verbal
Justin Clayton DE CA 40 Verbal
Travis Long DE WA 40 Verbal
Jordan Pu'u-Robinson DE HI 40 Verbal

(note that a grade of 40 for ESPN's ratings basically means that they haven't been fully evaluated yet). But what I thought was interesting is that labels Simone the top player in the state of Washington this year, yet only earns a 74 in the ESPN scale, actually lower compared to other Washington preps like Nolan Washington and Chris Mastin.

But whatever. I know it's splitting hairs at this point, and really, what are these so-called grades all about? We all know the road is littered with players who were highly rated coming in, yet never panned out. In fact, Athlon's goes out of their way every year in their preview issue to point out who matched the hype, and who missed the mark by a wide margin. It's a real eye-opener.

In 2003, here's the top 10 recruits for the entire country:

1) Kyle Wright - QB - Miami
2) Ernie Sims - LB - Florida State
3) Reggie Bush - RB - USC
4) Tony Hills JR - TE - Texas
5) JaMarcus Russell - QB - LSU
6) Whitney Lewis - WR - USC
7) Prescott Burgess - DB - Michigan
8) Nate Robinson - DL - Miami
9) Lamarr Woodley - LB - Michigan
10) Antonio Cromartie - DB - Florida State

Hit and miss, to say the least. Half the list has panned out and made it to the NFL (Bush, Sims, Russell and Cromartie were all first-round picks, while Woodley was a second-rounder). But that is only half of the top ten. What about the others?

#1 QB Kyle Wright was OK. He went 18-11 as a starter, but just 4-4 his senior year as the 'Canes missed a bowl with a 5-7 record in 2007. He finished #7 on Miami's all-time passing yardage list. But he only earned all-ACC honors once, and that was just honorable mention as a sophomore in 2005. Not bad overall. But clearly everyone expected more from the NUMBER ONE player in the country??

#4 Tony Hills Jr was derailed by a knee injury his senior year in high school that zapped him of his explosiveness. He was switched to the offensive line but didn't start until his junior year. He did pan out there, getting first-team All Big 12 his senior year, but to be the #4 player in the country coming in, he has to rank as mildly disappointing.

#6 Whitney Lewis has to be one of the most disappointing of the list, if not the entire 2003 class. The number six player in the country, and the number one WR in the country, he NEVER CAUGHT A PASS in two years at USC.

He did letter in his true frosh year of 2003, but then had grade issues and missed 2004. He was a deep reserve in 2005 and then transferred to Northern Iowa, where he had 578 yards of total offense in two seasons.

Finally, Robinson never enrolled at Miami, instead heading to Rutgers after failing to meet entrance requirements. He had a rocky time there, kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. He landed at Akron and finished as a part-time starter, recording just two sacks his senior year. Burgess had a solid career at Michigan, but never earned first or second team All-Big 10 honors. He was moved to linebacker and started for his last two years, racking up 171 career tackles. But as a top-10 player, you would have liked to see a lot more than that.

Our own WSU class from that same 2003 is littered with lower-rated players having an impact, while higher-rated players never panning out.

For example, Jason Hill, arguably the greatest WR in school history and one of the top TD catchers in PAC-10 history was just a two-star safety prospect out of the bay area in 2003. And Alex Brink, the guy who threw for over 10K and owns several WSU passing records? He was a two-star QB coming out, just the #74-rated QB in the country. The same Alex Brink who beat UW three times in his career, the only WSU QB to do so.

Bobby Byrd started on the offensive line for 40+ games in his career, playing every position but center. But in that 2003 class, he was a virtual unknown, a 2-star special who didn't even get a true evaluation.

In that same 2003 class, the top-rated WSU commits were RB Chris Bruhn, OL Patrick Afif and OL Keola Loo. All three guys JC transfers of the 4-star variety, yet what can be said about any of them? Bruhn was a serviceable backup running back, but never made the impact you would expect from a rating like that. Afif played in 17 games as a JC transfer and was pretty decent, but not an impact player in any way. And Loo never panned out, leaving the team after one season in 2004.

So while it's exciting and newsworthy in the off-season, well, you just never know how a kid is going to pan out.

That's it for today. ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and as always, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wulff Throwing Strikes with Recruiting Pitch?

First off, happy holidays to y'all. Hope you are safe and warm, and were able to spend some quality time with the loved ones. We're finally getting some melting snow around here, and the roads are getting better by the day. Snow is nice to look at, but I think I speak for all western Washingtonians when I say ENOUGH ALREADY.

On to the football front. Another couple of days, some more good news from the recruiting trail.

A quick rundown: Earlier in the week, G-Prep's Travis Long committed to the Cougs. Long was rumored to be a strong Crimson "lean" for several months, and he finally pulled the trigger on X-mas day. Long fits the mold of the kids Paul Wulff and company are currently seeking in their linemen-types. You know, the lean, 6-5, 250-lb kids who have the right kind of body type and athleticism? Big, wide frames where they can add the "right" kind of weight over time? Long projects to be a defensive end, but already at 6-5, 244, who knows where he'll end up. Maybe even a play-making defensive tackle, ala another LONG who came before him??

OK, that's a HUGE stretch at this point. Rien Long won the Outland trophy for gawdsakes. But what the heck, this is the season for stuff like this.

Oh, and there's some tape on Long at ESPN, which you can check out here.

Then we had Gino Simone re-upping his commitment to the Cougs yesterday. While the article is premium at Cougfan, there was this piece by Howie Stalwick of the Kitsap Sun. Simone is now firmly in the "commit" category, upgraded from his "soft verbal" earlier this year. Simone is on the record as saying WSU "felt like home", so you have to like the odds of seeing his name on a letter of intent in early February?

But it's not over yet with Simone. Kim Grinolds of is still holding out hope of some kind that Simone will become a Husky, saying that if Simone takes a trip to UW in January, anything can happen. However, consider the source. Last spring Mr. Grinolds predicted Tony Bennett would take the Indiana job, then when that failed to materialize, he virtually guaranteed he would take the LSU job. So there. Besides, if/when Simone actually comes to WSU, they'll be quick to point out that Simone wasn't big enough or fast enough, and they didn't want him anyway, and OH yes, it's a "down" year in Washington anyway......Again, consider the source.

Back to this football deal for a moment. The thing to take from the article from Howie Stalwick isn't just that Simone has re-committed to WSU. But the quotes from the story aren't from Simone or his family. They are from Skyline QB Jake Heaps and his mother, Patty:

When Wulff was hired last December, the Cougars had three verbal commitments. Scouting services generally rank WSU recruiting classes quite low, but currently ranks WSU 41st in the nation and fifth in the Pac-10.

"Some people don't know why some of these kids are going to WSU," said Patty Heaps, Jake's mother. "I think they're developing a culture that is incredibly personable."

Mrs. Heaps said she has been particularly impressed with the fact that WSU coaches send hand-written notes to recruits.

"He (Jake) gets several a week," Mrs. Heaps said.

Further down in the story, Heaps himself said he is "definitely" considering scholarship offers from WSU and Washington, though he calls himself a "Husky fan." He also expressed concern about the recent struggles of the Huskies and Cougars.

Now, let's not get carried away here. Jake Heaps has 18 scholarship offers RIGHT NOW, ranging from Tennessee to LSU to Notre Dame to BYU, and of course, UW and WSU. But I think it is safe to assume that Jake Heaps is NOT going to come to WSU. I think we know that. But what is impressive to me are the quotes from the Heaps family about Wulff, and how they go about this whole recruiting thing.

Hand-written notes on a weekly basis? Developing an incredibly personable culture? All from a guy in Paul Wulff who has walked the walk? A guy who has fought adversity in his personal and professional life, and has persevered along the way? A coach and leader who will see to it that these kids will get an education, stay out of trouble and play at a BCS school? That pitch sure sounds good to me. And it's sounding good in the most important area of all - in living rooms and the ears of recruits, all across the state.

So far, this recruiting class is nothing short of impressive. When you consider that WSU classes are generally rated pretty far down the list, to be in the middle of the road in the PAC-10 rankings right now, coming off a season that was 2008? What MORE can you ask for as a Coug fan than what they are doing right now?

It's true what Wulff said from earlier in the year, on his weekly radio shows and in print. NOBODY is going to outwork these guys in recruiting. And that hard work is paying off. They know they have to keep their energy levels up and have to outwork the next guy for talent. And that, Cougar Nation, bodes well for getting this thing back on track. The work ethic, the energy, the desire to turn over rocks and find those sleepers or diamonds-in-the-rough types, that kind of thing is what made WSU a strong program at the start of the decade. The road is a long one to get back to respectability, but you have to like where this thing is headed.


Click here for more Comments

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bring Out The Guns

Hello Cougar Nation and Merry New Year to All.

So, today we play the Trent Johnsons--Bayou style.

The key for this game as well as all of the others is really simple:


LSU is long and athletic, so we will need to both shoot over them as well as stop and pop.

In that way, I think that the mid-range game is really the key for us today. And so, today's X factor is none other than Forrest.

In the end, I don't like our chances in this game: X country trip, morning game, and playing against a coach that knows the system and personnel well. At home or at a neutral site, we win this game. Unfortunately, playing in LA is pretty much a straight L.

LSU 63 WSU 57

I'll be back in a few with a game time thread.

15:00 1st Half. WSU 2 LSU 0. Nice start. Baynes and Forrest have two fouls in the first five minutes. Thompson still running to wide on the ball screens. I am hoping that we come out of the break with CAPERS and CASTO. The PAC D looks to be a bit confusing to the Tigres.

11:50 1st Half. Good guys 4, their guys 3. To say that this game is offensive would be an insult the word "offense." LSU is simply lost against us, and we are showing EXACTLY why we could be anywhere from 3-8 in the PAC. Our D is fine, but we simply CAN NOT score. Hopefully, CAPERS will get some time to see if that opens up Klay and Taylor a bit more. CASTO's energy has been nothing short of terrific.

7:44 1st Half. US 9, Them 8. CAPERS comes in as 2 guard, puts up 2 bad shots, has 2 turnovers, and is slow getting back on D. Ah, Freshmen. Taylor has played every minute of the game which doesn't bode well down the stretch. BUT, he had a nice step back three a few minutes ago which might portend that he's heating up.

BUT WHERE'S THE MID-RANGE GAME??? Notice that we are taking NO shots 5-12 feet from the basket. But man those shots are there.

3:36. Them 19 US 15. The theme of the game now is pretty well established. They're daring us to pull up from mid-range and we're not. We've now passed up 4 eight footers in a row in favor of dumping the ball off in traffic. That has lead to turn-overs and transition opportunities for them. Forrest, in particular, has passed up all of his looks. He needs to shoot that 8 footer.

0:56 Them 23 US 21. Harmeling is back in. Has he taken ONE shot all stinking game??? Should we start calling him Casper?

HALFTIME. Them 25 US 23.

Overall, great performance defensively. And its pretty amazing that we're only down by a couple given Baynes' absence for the entire half. The key for the second half will be that stinking midrange game as well as post play (LSU defends the drive but NOT the post). IF we start shooting it, we will start making shots AND reducing their opportunities in transition. This is the type of game where Cowgill made such a difference, but Harmeling has to step up. Its unacceptable for a senior leader to be so passive offensively.

15:51 2nd. LSU 33-30. We are hanging in there--BARELY. They are doing a really nice job of kicking the ball out weakside off the double team and have gotten WIDE OPEN threes as a result. Meanwhile, Nick just hit a three off of a Baynes kick-out: THE first touch for Baynes in the half. Why he doesn't get the ball everytime down is just beyond me. We have TWO ASSISTS so far in the entire game.

12:00 38-35 COUGARS. Klay Thompson has started to shoot well. His tear drop jumper really makes me want to cry. Meanwhile, Forrest has proven to be the X factor with 10 points and a ton of energy. Harmeling is on the bench.

The only concern I have right now is that we're starting to extend a bit on the perimeter defensively. If we sit back a bit, it will minimize our need to help underneath--which will reduce the kick-out. The use of the mid-range game has shut down their transition. How our bench plays in the next five minutes will be the key of the game.

TWO SECONDS LATER (SAME SCORE). Baynes just got his third on the biggest ticky-tack block of all time. Watch Thompson's play on the defensive end. He's got the PAC defense down pat right now. Really exciting to see. Really exciting.

10:00 45-38 Cougs. We're on an 18-5 run right now thanks to Taylor and Klay getting off. If we stay back just a bit defensively, we'll end this game. Our commitment to the midrange game has limited their opportunities in transition.

7:46 47-42 Cougs. Critical time in the game. Capers in for Thompson who is getting a blow. LSU is making a bit of a run. The key for us will be patience offensively and not extending so high defensively. They only shoot well from long range when they're open. Give them space on don't give up the paint. Critical possessions ahead.

6:00 49-47 Cougs. LSU just hit a deep three to bring this game within one bucket. As soon as Thompson left the game, we got tight. CAPERS, meanwhile, has not gotten it done. He's a better natural defender than KLAY but doesn't know the system.

5:30 50-49 LSU. This will be a great test for us. The Mo is completely in their court. Nick needs to get out of the game and Baynes needs to get into it. Taylor is doing WAY too much dribbling right now. It needs to be the KLAY-BAYNES show down the stretch.

3:54 51-50 LSU. Nick still in the game, got beat defensively, then fouled his guy--although he missed the J and there was a no call. Then, Taylor rushed a three at the offensive end. We need to get a two man game with Baynes and Thompson. NO THREES.

2:08. 53-52 LSU. Baynes just got his fourth on a bad call resulting from an equally bad entry pass from Nick. Taylor and Nick have been HORRIBLE down the stretch. Just horrible. Meanwhile, CASTO has not played since the first half--which is dissapointing since he played great. This game has gone from one that it felt like we were going to walk away with to one that we can't win.

IF Taylor makes better decisions with the basketball, this will be a last possession game. Otherwise, I think that LSU will make this a two possession game in the next minute. We have only one TO left.

1:32 LSU 59-52. We just lost. Tough break with Baynes bobbling a missed free throw, followed by a deep three by NICK's man, followed by a turnover by NICK, followed by a foul by NICK on a converted three point play. Get the point?

Final LSU 64 WSU 52.

This was a great learning experience for a team that is sssooo close to being really good as we've seen in spurts--including in this game.

But right now, we're a lower division PAC-10 team in my book.

We must beat Washington, otherwise, this season might slip away before it gets a chance to start. Click here for more Comments

Friday, December 26, 2008

About That Commitment....

So UW has been trying to play catch-up in the recruiting world. Obviously Sarkisian (pictured above) has a lot of ground to make up in a very short time. He's pretty much in the two-minute drill for trying to cobble together a class for the 2008 season. I'm sure Paul Wulff could relate, given that Wulff had to do the same thing when took the job a year ago!

But while Sarkisian was hoping to make a huge initial splash with some big-name verbals, well, it hasn't exactly happened yet. Granted it is a quiet period right now, and things will heat up in January. Sarkisian is busy prepping his current team for the Rose Bowl. But they will fill their class, and they might even steal a few commits from Wulff. Remember, WSU took a UW commit last year in Cory Mackay. That's just the way it goes. We as Coug fans know this is likely, so we'll see what happens.

But UW made a few headlines this week in regards to the ever-confusing verbal commitment department. Basically a recruit who committed to UW post-Ty Willie but pre-Sarkisian, Grant Cisneros of Sumner, has been told to "explore other options". In other words, he might have committed to UW, but UW is no longer committed to him. As Jim Michalczik said, they are starting over from the ground up in their recruiting efforts, and it appears Cisneros isn't part of the equation.

Is this all that unusual? Not exactly. First of all, kids commit and de-commit all the time. We know that. It's the thing Doba hated most about recruiting, and it goes on at every major program in America. And, unfortunately it's a two-way street in this non-binding verbal world we live in. Schools can in fact change their minds too.

Remember the Michael Bumpus deal? USC had Dwayne Jarrett fall from the sky, backing out on a commitment to Ohio State in favor of the Trojans the last week of recruiting. However, USC was basically full at the time, and needed to find a spot in the class for Jarrett. They took a look at their WR situation, and decided at the last moment to pull the immediate offer to Bumpus and asked him to instead greyshirt, which means enrolling the following January and count against the next year's class. We know how that worked out.

Image and video hosting by <span class=


Anyway, this sort of thing has happened before at other schools, and it will happen again. It is always tricky with coaching changes, and while one staff might see the kid as a perfect fit? The new staff might not. Sometimes it's scheme-oriented, like trying to get a read-option QB to fit into a USC-style, west-coast offense. Or maybe it is an offensive line scheme, where one staff believes in huge, 350-lb uglies up front, where another staff likes the lean, athletic, 300-lb types who are in great shape and have some mobility.

Now we can be all high-n-mighty and say "Wulff NEVER did that to his recruits!"....until you consider that Wulff only had three commits to begin with when he took the job last year (Jared Karstetter, Tim Hodgdon, and Dan Spitz). What if he had a greater number, like eight or nine? What if there were some serious character risks in those commitments? Remember Calvin Schmidtke? What if there was a real square peg-round hole situation? Would Wulff had said "pass"?

I think the thing that could sting UW a little in all this is the manner in how this is going down. In the case of Grant Cisneros, he was told via a letter from none other than Scott Woodward himself that his commitment WOULD BE HONORED. Check it out:

Cisneros committed in mid-November during the time after former coach Tyrone Willingham had announced he wouldn't be returning and before Sarkisian was hired.

Cisneros said he was motivated to do so after receiving a letter from UW athletic director Scott Woodward that all offers would be honored.

Ouch. A letter from the AD saying that the offer would be honored, but now that they have Sarkisian in the fold, uh, never mind?? That, my friends, SUCKS. The article states that he's just hoping for a scholarship now, whether it's Portland State, Idaho, wherever. Good luck to Cisneros, wherever he ends up.

Enough of the UW talk. WSU is filling up, now with 16 known commits after three new verbals came in from JC tight end Peter Tuitupou, guard Sebastian Valenzuela, and Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, a tight-end/defensive end hybrid from Hawaii (thanks to Cougfan for the links). All the talk before is that we would likely see around 18 with this class, so things are tightening up. It should be an interesting sprint to the finish!

Click here for more Comments

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Cougar Nation

Merry Christmas Cougar Nation from the WSU Football Blogfathers to you and your family.

Hope you and your loved ones are feeling on top-of-the-world.

We will be back later in the week to provide a pick for the LSU game as well as some other tasty tid-bits for the upcoming year of Cougar sports.

In the meantime, enjoy this Christmas memory from 20 YEARS AGO.

And enjoy the Yuletide Merriment of once again being the Kings of the State of Washington. Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cougars in 3rd Straight NCAA Tourney

At least that's the scoop from Joey L at ESPN.

In the current bracket, we are a 10 seed matched up against Tennessee on Duke's side of the Bracket. Meanwhile, the Defeateds are among the first four out. So sad.

Obviously, we're light years away from March, but it's neat to see that our non-conference slate as well as our past success has left us squarely on the map.

In the meantime, if we wish to see our third straight dance, the next games are beyond critical:

LSU is going to be tough, but this is a very winnable game. And for us, we need another non-conference W BIG TIME--and to have it come against an undefeated team from the SEC on their home court would be REALLY huge.

Then, the Defeateds game is going to be season breaker-maker game if there is such a thing in January. Both Washington schools figure to be fighting it out for the 4-6 spots in the conference. As a result, we simply MUST protect home court. And from what I've seen, the Defeateds offer the type of length and athleticism that could offer some big problems for us.

So, give us your thoughts about those upcoming games.

Are they must-wins as I think that they are? Do you think we will win one, both, or none? What will it take for us to pull off a sweep?

Share your thoughts with us and have a very happy and safe Holiday Season. Click here for more Comments

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Does Past EWU Struggle Offer Hope for WSU?

This just in - it's snowing. Seriously. We're in the Mill Creek area and we must have close to a foot of snow on the ground. I know that's about HALF of what in the Inland Empire residents are dealing with. Heck, a foot of snow is an afternoon in Spokane these days. So wherever you are, keep warm, drive safely, happy holidays, blah blah blah.

I'm happy to report that I made it home on Friday after a week-long business trip down south. Had I tried to fly yesterday? Forget it. At least 50 flights were canceled in and out of Sea-Tac by Alaska Airlines alone, and several reports now say that passengers scheduled to leave Saturday won't be able to leave until Monday at the earliest. Ever try to sleep in an airport? Brutal.

Anywho, since the football news has slowed to a mere trickle - at best - these days, the posting around here has lightened up. No bowl game to hype or over-analyze, so this is a "dead" period of football news. Knowing all that, we'll step outside the box from time to time, just to keep things interesting (or even relevant?). But with the year winding down and recruiting nearing the home stretch, what better time to start thinking about 2009?

Now, sorry, but this isn't any type of full blown 2009 preview. It's simply too early to do something like that, and the reasons are many. We don't know what the recruiting class will officially be until February, and which, if any, new recruits will see the field next year. Maybe there will be some JC guys that Wulff will have designs on redshirting, but will have such an impact in practices that they will force their way into the action? I know it's doubtful, and the strategy of not playing the kids early is what builds depth over the long haul. But will there be newfound pressure to start winning games? Will the pressure cause Wulff to burn a redshirt or two earlier than anticipated?

If you know me from this blog, you know I've been stumping for patience. We all believe there is a real plan in place to turn this sucker around, and they gave us a blip of hope at the end of 2008. But ask yourself this......what if 2009 starts out like most of 2008? What if the improvement shown towards the end of '08 was simply a mirage and things bottom out again early in 2009? Wulff could plan for the future, but he might not be around to enjoy the fruit harvested from the blood, sweat and tears he is pouring into this thing NOW. There will be at least some pressure to start getting positive results on the field, not just what happens off it.

Meanwhile, who among us can honestly say who is going to be the QB next season? Spring ball is going to be very important in trying to figure it all out. And that most important position will likely linger deep into fall camp, given the Lobbestael knee injury and how things progress there. Will young Levenseller tear it up in the spring and cement his spot as the guy? Will Lopina take some big strides? Will Lobbestael make the most of his opportunity in August, coming off the knee injury?

Finally, at last check we don't even have a 2009 SCHEDULE yet! At least it hasn't been finalized, although we hear that is coming soon.

So it's too early to go all crystal ball on things. The race to be first in this information age is filled with inaccuracies and wild predictions, so why not wait to see how things settle before throwing things against the wall? It would all be guesses, at best, right now.

So instead of looking at depth charts from the last month of the season and trying to figure out what we'll look like next September, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at coach Wulff's record at EWU, and see if there is anything we can glob onto in regards to what we might look like next year. I'm not exactly talking about personnel, but what types of trends did Wulff have in his full eight seasons at EWU? When you think about it, that's a good chunk of time at any stop in a coaching career. What can we take from his experiences and try to apply to our Cougs in '09?

We all know his record - 54-40, including a 54-30 record against "like" competition (I-AA FCS teams, not FBS - BCS teams). Big Sky coach of the year in 2001, 2004 and 2005. A few league titles, some playoff berths, etc. But we know all that already. What I was looking for was something relevant to what we JUST WENT THROUGH in 2008. Did this same kind of thing happen to Wulff at EWU, where an entire season just went to hell in a handbasket? And if so, how did it happen? And most importantly, what happened the following season?

Guess what? I found something. And that something is 2006, and subsequently what happened in 2007. You know what else? It's pretty promising when you look at the big picture.

First, 2006. EWU was coming off a strong 2005 season, where they tied for the league title at 5-2 in the Big Sky. The offense in 2005 was excellent, averaging 478 yards and 35 points per game, including an amazing 342 yards per game through the air. In fact, the pass in 2005 was so successful that they threw the ball 63.5% of the time, on their way to their second consecutive playoff berth. QB Erik Meyer was fantastic as a senior, winning the Walter Payton Award at QB, otherwise known as the I-AA version of the Heisman Trophy.

Meyer would throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 td's that final year. Yes, things were good in 2005.

But 2006 was another story. Just six offensive starters back on offense, and no experience at QB. The job was given to frosh QB Matt Nichols, who struggled mightily to grasp the new offense. Nichols would complete just 55% of his passes, not too terrible, but with an awful 8 TD/17 INT ratio. The offense overall sputtered to the tune of 310 yards per game, down from the high of 478 the year before, and just 19.5 points per game, down from the 35 points per game in 2005. EWU was throwing it well over 60% of the time for several seasons, but the passing game was so bad that they "dumbed down" the playbook to where they had a 53-47 run/pass ratio. They reeled in the offense behind a young QB trying to figure it out, and they paid the price. Likewise, the team struggled to a 3-8 record, Wulff's first (and only) losing season at EWU. It was a HUGE fall from grace.

Now look at WSU in 2008, and how that team compared to the 2007 version. It's not pretty. You've been warned....

In 2008, the WSU offense returned - you guessed it - six starters. They started over with an almost entirely new coaching staff, but the QB situation was literally ground zero. Gary Rogers was the only QB with any semblance of PT, and he had only attempted 52 passes in his first three seasons.

And here are the numbers. They certainly don't lie, do they?

Points per game: 12.7 in 2008, compared to 25.7 in 2007.
Passing yards per game: 146 yards per game in 2008, compared to (gulp) 319 ypg in 2007!
Rushing yards per game: 95.1 yards per game in 2008, compared to 115.7 ypg in 2007.
Total offense: 241.1 yards per game in 2008, compared to 435.3 ypg in 2007!

Talk about a drop-off. This is like going from Mt. Everest to sea level....or better yet, Husky Stadium.

We don't need to fully rehash 2008, you all lived through it and know what happened. But the fall from offensive excellence was startling...and I didn't even mention the minus-25 turnover ratio, worst in the country. But do you see where I'm going with this?

Now let's look at what happened with EWU in 2007.

First of all, the record. They improved from a 3-8 season in 2006 to 9-4 in 2007. They made it to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, losing on the road to Appalachian State 38-35, a team that would go on to win the whole thing. Just a huge uptick in overall performance.

But the real story is the improvement on offense. In the second year in the system for QB Matt Nichols, the Eagles returned eight starters on O. They improved by over 14 points per game (19.5 to 33.6) and 150 total yards per game (310 to 462), leading the Big Sky in scoring AND total offense! Nichols was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, throwing for an impressive 3700+ yards and a spectacular 34-9 TD/INT ratio. He completed 63.6% of his pass attempts, and hey, he was even the number-two rusher on the team with 392 net yards.

Along with the improved QB play out of Nichols came a much better turnover ratio as well. They were a +2 in their losing season of 2006, but improved to a +12 in 2007. A lot of that improvement can be laid right at the feet of Nichols, who became an outstanding, efficient, effective QB in the Todd Sturdy offense.

So there you have it. Wulff and staff have been through this before. Young QB with very little returning talent after losing an all-time senior QB, dumbing down the playbook, and basically taking major lumps. EWU '06 sounds a heck of a lot like WSU '08. But the best news of all is that it turned around quickly the following season, and in a pretty big way as well.

Wulff has said all along that they believe they will be a much better team in 2009. Key redshirts whom they refused to play in a transition year will now see the field in important areas next year. James Montgomery and Brandon Jones, the transfers from Cal, will see the field and should be a big part of the running game and secondary respectively. The system will have been in place for a complete season, so there shouldn't be nearly the bumps in the road for these guys to figure out what is expected of them under the new regime. They will (hopefully) open up that playbook to the full Todd Sturdy offense, something we are all still dying to see for a full season. The QB's, whoever it turns out to be, will have a base of experience to build from the 2008 season, no matter how limited that time might have been. And most of all, the players will now know what it will take to succeed in the program under Wulff's system. From spring practices to fall camp, to the weight room, training table and classroom, there are no more uncertainties or unknowns. Everyone is accountable, and they know what is expected by their coaches.

So what do YOU think about all this? Will we see a strong turnaround in year two? There is at least something to look back at in regards to Wulff, and how his team has responded to a terrible, lesson-learning season. Will we see the improvement we are hoping for? Was the end of 2008 something to believe in?

That's about it for today. ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR WEEKEND, and most of all, GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Friday, December 19, 2008

How Does it Feel to be an All-American?

That was the question asked to Forrest Gump by none other than JFK when Gump was tearing it up at Alabama. Gump of course answered "I have to go pee!" after drinking about a dozen Dr. Peppers. And somehow they used film tricks to make it look like JFK turned and laughed, saying "I believe he said he has to go pee!" Great line.

But that question now has to be asked of this undersized true frosh linebacker who left everything he had on the field of play, week after week after week:

That's right, Louis Bland is an ALL-AMERICAN. Freakin' SWEET.

OK, so he's not an AP All-American. It's an all-frosh team. And OK, it's not the Sporting News, it's Phil Steele (who cranks out the best preview magazines, ever). And he's not on the first team.....he's third team. BUT STILL, in this season of craptacular performances, it's something! Something good to warm you up, wherever you may be right now.

And how can anyone not appreciate the job Bland did this year? He was big when we needed him, especially in that Apple Cup. Per the press release:

Bland's best game of the season may have been in WSU's 16-13, double-overtime win over Washington in the Apple Cup. He collected seven tackles, five solo, three tackles-for-loss and a pass breakup. Saving the best for overtime, Bland stopped both Husky drives with a two-yard tackle for loss in the first OT then recorded another two-yard TFL in the second OT, which forced a 37-yard FG that was missed.

Big-time players make big-time plays in key situations. To do what he did as an undersized true frosh on a lousy defense, well, Louis Bland has that "look", doesn't he? The kid is going to be really special before it's all said and done. Nice job Louis.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who is Your "Must Have" For This Year's Class?

So there has been a lot of recruiting news of late ('tis the season). Of course they are only verbal commitments until they sign on the dotted line, but it is hard not to curb a little enthusiasm? The latest news has coach Wulff landing a commit from a big-play safety in CA of the 3-star variety, who sounds like a solid kid all the way around (check Cougfan for more).

I heard from a source who follows high school football closely in the state, and he was very impressed with what our coaches have done thus far. This source is big into UW, but he has an open mind when evaluating prospects. He had very good things to say about our top commits and still can't believe it as to how Wulff is doing it coming off a 2-win season.

I think the reality is they are doing a strong job in the living room and with the state's high school coaches, an underrated aspect of recruiting. They are selling a unified message of a strong, structured system, a good education, a chance to play early at a BCS school and most of all, to be a part of the foundation of the turnaround of the program.

And you can't forget the journey of Paul Wulff. He has been through some incredibly tough, character-building experiences in his life. Nothing was ever just given to him, and he has had to go out and get everything he has achieved. He is the genuine article, and what you see is what you get. No phony BS or empty promises here. How can a parent or coach not respect the path he has traveled and at least listen to what he has to say?

It's not a typo or misprint. This class is shaping up to be one of the highest rated in school history.

THAT said, looking at the current commits (and you can see the link on the right to the current commits) plus some other rumored commits on the way (Travis Long of G-Prep?), who do YOU consider your "must have" of this year's class?
Click here for more Comments

Monday, December 15, 2008

What's With the Benedict Arnold Stuff?

First we had Marvelous Marv Harshman, the long-time hoops coach. Harshman coached WSU from 1958-1971, and then went to UW from 1971-1985. Harshman always gets talked about as a UW coaching legend, but you don't ever hear a whole lot about his time at WSU. He did his best work at UW and really put their program on the map, so it's somewhat understandable. I think they were still working on this whole "electricity" thing when Marv was on the WSU sideline, playing games with peach baskets, a stuffed leather ball and under the soft flicker of candlelight.

Then it was "Benedict" Dick Baird, the former WSU team captain who went on to coach for many years at UW. Baird was a pretty good player in his day, an all-coast linebacker his senior year and he blocked a punt in a 9-7 Apple Cup win....when he was eligible. Few know that Baird missed the Apple Cup his junior year due to "too many trips to Idaho" when the drinking age was 18. Baird has fallen so far into the abyss that he sheds tears about the UW football team on the KJR airwaves and gets into spirited arguments with Hugh Millen. Yes, actual tears. But Baird did put in a ton of time at UW as a coach and recruiting coordinator, and WSU is clearly in his rearview mirror. Can't fault a guy for making a living, can you?

Then we had Bob Condotta of the Times, the former Coug who writes/blogs daily about the UW football and hoops teams for the Seattle Times. We called out Bob earlier this year and he had to address the UW masses on his blog for being a Coug. Oh well. Again, just a guy trying to follow his passion and get paid doing it. Maybe he'll unseat the Northwest CHAMPION, Vince Grippi, someday??

But now, news breaks that Jim Michalczik and Johnny Nansen will coach at UW? The hits just continue.

Nansen played a little bit for WSU, and has bounced around the coaching ranks since the late-90's. He's still a young guy climbing the coaching ladder. I remember him as a hard-hitting linebacker/safety type who was a pretty good player.

But the big name here is Michalczik. This is the same Jim Michalczik who teamed up Paul Wulff, Mike Utley and Chris Dyko on that 1988 Aloha Bowl team, one of the best offensive lines in school history. Jim Michalczik is going to be the new offensive coordinator AT UW!?!?

Michalczik told the Contra Costa Times Sunday night that "professionally, it was an offer I couldn't turn down."
I wonder what coach Wulff is thinking right about now? What will Utley think about this?? One can't imagine they are real happy about this. Here's a guy they went to battle with up front every week, and now he's going to wear the purple-n-gold sweatsuit, recruiting against Wulff and WSU. It's got to hurt a little bit.

That said, Michalczik could make a pretty big impact at UW. Even though Michalczik will be the offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian will still call the plays. But Michalczik is regarded as a very good offensive coach in this league. Not so much for his offensive coordinator chops, but as an offensive line coach, Cal has churned out some very good linemen in his tenure. Cal has had six first-team offensive linemen the last six seasons, all under Michalczik. One of the staples of what Cal does is produce outstanding offensive lines, particularly in the running game. Week in and week out they are known for having a strong, tough, physical offensive line. Anyone remember what Cal did to the WSU defense in week two? Yikes.

So, Coug fans, does it bother you to see former Cougs go to UW for employment?

Moving on, there was another "turncoat" this weekend, but of the different variety. Casey Locker, cousin of UW's Jake Locker, pledged to WSU. Locker is a 5-10, 175 lb safety from Ferndale who was player of the year in their conference. He's regarded as a two-star recruit who chose WSU over UW and Boise State. Here's a good link to ESPN, including some video on the kid making some plays. Probably not a top-shelf player, but might be a decent contributor in the secondary and on special teams down the line? Hard to say what he'll do, but he looks like he could make some sort of an impact.

Big recruiting weekend for the Cougs, but we haven't seen anything break - yet. Hopefully the frigid temps didn't scare anyone away, but I guess we'll see how things shake out over the next few days.

ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO COUGS! Click here for more Comments

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hello Kitty

Happy weekend to you, Cougar Nation.

Well, tonight we play the kitties

Montana State style.

And what a laugher it should be at the Key.

I'm looking for T-Bone and company to come out tonight and really establish Mr. Klay Thompson and Aron Baynes from the onset. I'm also looking for Mr. Casto and Mr. Capers to log some heavy minutes.

Anyway you cut it, we will walk away with a nice 71-47 victory.

I'll be back at Game Time to provide another irrelevant thread in real time.

Join me then, won't you?

(The world misses the first five minutes due to the Beavs' thrilling one point victory over Nebraska)

10:00 16-11 WSU. Harmeling has his J, Taylor looks better, Casto looks great. But where is Baynes???? Congrats to the dude who proposed to his girlfriend at Center court. I almost forgot about the Cougar Gold Cheese Factor.

6:50 20-11 Big Cats. T-Bone has put in my near dream lineup of Baynes, Harmeling, Thompson, Taylor, and Capers. Not surprisingly, Taylor looks 100% better when not manning the point. If you add Casto to that group less Harmeling, that's our ticket.

5:00 24-15 Big Cats. Watch Thompson come off his screens. He NEVER RUBS SHOULDERS with our post players. May be one of the big reasons why he is always catching the ball in traffic. That is something he needs to work on!

1:39 28-18 WSU Harmeling is aggressive and looks really, really good. Harthun meanwhile looks lost defensively. But that jumper is nice: elbow in, follows through high. They should run the picket fence for him.

Half 30-18. Thompson's jumper is so pretty it makes me want to cry. Too bad he can't get enough separation due to his poor habits of running too wide off of his screens. Once that improves, he's gonna average 17+ ppg. Seriously.

15:00 41-31. Well, they've struggled a bit defensively, but the line-up of Taylor, Klay, Capers, Harmeling, and Baynes is by far our best offensive look. I am particularly impressed with Capers' length and how quickly Baynes passes out of the double team. They just lead to learn the Pac defense.

11:00 48-34. Baynes is so improved. Nick has shown that he is a really nice distributor from the wing. But, his defense has been a bit suspect. I really like him better off the bench. Tony, are you listening????

7:00 60-38. We're now running away with this game thanks to exceptional passing by Nick. The guy can really, really distribute. Meanwhile both Taylor and Capers look great.

Final Score: 70-51. Can I call em or what?

Overall, a really nice performance. We saw the seniors bounce back with a bunch of confidence and aggressiveness. We also saw the virtues of the kids who will be really good.

Bottom line: Capers, Rochestie, Thompson, Harmeling, and Baynes are our best line-up with Casto mixed in there as well.

The more they play together the better.

Our pack defense needs A LOT of work. Click here for more Comments

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One and Seventy Three - Gonzaga Wrap-up

Good evening Cougar Nation. Hope you all are gearing up for tonight's game against this guy and the rest of the Zags.

In praising our prospects for this season earlier in the year, I told you all that I tought we'd make the tourney based on our leadership at point guard and our solid retruning post players.

So imagine how much I like the Zags given that they have all the same components in place, plus more athleticism and depth. This really may be the best Zag team ever.

Therefore, as mentionned earlier in the week, I really hate our chances in tonight's game. I mean, it may be hard to believe, but in addition to Gonzaga's virtues, we are something like 1-72 all time against top 5 teams.

Well, make that 1-73 after tonight.

So, here's the quick breakdown:

1) When you're playing great offensive teams like the Zags, you keep them (and the score) down by making shots. Unfortunately, the Zags currently rank fifth nationally in opponent's field goal percentage and we have struggled to make big shots.

2) We must get GREAT performances tonight from Thompson, Rochestie, and Baynes. Add to that, Harmeling also needs to play great. Tall order all around methinks.

3) That said, we get 34 points combined out of the backcourt and I think we steal it, because that type of production will either get Baynes off or it indicates that Baynes has gotten off.

4) There's about a 1.2% chance of that happening.

All in all, I think we continue to struggle to make shots and their depth and experience turns a relatively close (7 point) game into a laugher.

Zags win this one handily 69-49.

I'll be back throughout the game on this post to give you my mindless thoughts...

Until the 15 minute mark of the 1st half...

1st Time Out: 7-3 Gonzaga. We're not scared, Harmeling's aggressive, they're pretty darn good. How fun is it to be relevant in a major sport?

8:54 WSU 17-15. We're the aggressors. Great Ehlo Quote: "Great patience and poise, you can't teach that." Really? I thought that's why we've built a program.

4:50 WSU 22-19. Put Mark Few in the Peter Gammons teeth category. They've been in the penalty for an hour and we've given Baynes the ball once. POUND THE BALL INSIDE!!

23.5 Zags 32-27. Pace has picked up too much for us. Zags are controlling tempo and showing tremendous range offensively. We abosluted wasted that penalty. Wasted it.

Half: 32-29. We're hanging tough, but the mo isn't in our favor. I love Harmeling's aggressiveness and I love Casto's energy. We need Thompson to step up, but scorers like him are used to a lot of touches. His development will depend on his ability to score timely baskets without putting the ball up 15-20 times a game.

The second half should be fun. The crowd is great.

Final Score. Zags 114-Cougars 14. Don't know how they scored that many points in the second half while we somehow lost 15.

Seriously, the Zags showed that they are a real National Contender. At the same time, we showed that we have ZERO identity offensively.

The remedy is to give Casto and Capers MUCH more time. CASTO, in particular, needs to start. And we need to ride Clay Thompson until he learns to deliver.

This team is actually really close to being good. But we can't be until Thompson becomes the man. Tonight, our failure to ride him AND get Baynes the ball at the end of the first half were the difference between an informative loss and a blow out.

Lets go get Montana State. Click here for more Comments

Wednesday Ramblings

Good morning Coug Nation. Time to catch up on a few things.

First things first, in the bad news department. Late last night, Cougfan broke the news that top WSU commit Geoff Meinken had made it official. He is no longer going to be a Cougar, and has officially switched to Stanford.

Disappointing? Absolutely. Meinken, after all, was the first WSU commit for this year's class, giving coach Wulff his pledge back in May, and he was considered an excellent "get" by the staff. Big and strong at 6-4, 250, and a fine all-around athlete who was just as strong in the classroom, the sky was the limit for this kid at WSU. There was also a story that UW came hard at him last summer, but Meinken held firm on his WSU commitment.

But Jim Harbaugh came hard after Meinken this fall, offering him a scholarship and even promising him he can play anywhere he wants. Harbaugh is a lot of things, but he is showing in very limited time at Stanford that the guy can flat-out recruit. Don't believe it? Check out their commitment list for this year. They have TEN four-star recruits already pledging to Stanford. And right now, they are second only to USC in the Pac-10 in recruiting rankings, and on target for a top-15 class. Impressive to say the least. I know I said it in the spring when we did the fishwrap series, but Stanford's stay at the bottom didn't appear like it would last very long. To go from where they were two years ago to where they are now, just one win from a bowl game, shows you they are on the right track.

Is this surprising? Hardly. First off you can't blame a kid for changing his mind. It happens all the time, to programs all over the country. And he is going to try and get his degree at Stanford. Not a bad way to go about higher education if you can get it. So yes, we're disappointed, but this isn't a shock.

The next bit of recruiting news is dealing with Skyline WR Gino Simone. Last month Simone announced that while he was still committed to WSU, well, he sat down with his family and decided to take some recruiting trips, just to be sure. Simone is taking his official visit to WSU this weekend, and the following week he will visit Oregon State (12/19). He is also on record as saying he will take a trip to Boise State, but the date hasn't been announced.

Meanwhile, Steve Sarkisian is already out there recruiting for UW, visiting Skyline high school and Bellevue high school yesterday. Both Simone and Skyline QB Jake Heaps gave some good praise to UW for hiring Sarkisian, and Simone himself was quoted as saying "If he wants to talk to me, I'll be glad to sit down and have a talk with him."

Obviously this doesn't mean Simone is going to UW, or that there is now automatically going to be a pipeline from Skyline to UW. After all, UW did just fire former Skyline head coach Steve Gervais yesterday, long thought of as a guy they brought on board to help recruit the Skyline talent! Sarkisian still has to sell them on an 0-12 rebuilding job. And while he had a "solid" reputation as a recruiter in the LA area, well, that was while he was dressed in USC colors from head to toe, and had Petey Carroll to close the deal. Let's see how he's received when he walks into a living room with a UW visor on his melon. He might find it just a little bit of a tougher sell?? So assume nothing.

Most of all, this whole recruiting thing is just another example of don't count those chicks before they sign on the dotted line. Anything/everything can happen. And you get this kind of thing more and more when you get the early verbal commitments. That was one thing we know Bill Doba despised, to say the least. He HATED the early commit, felt that it was too "en vogue" to de-commit, and that type of thing went against every moral fiber in his body. But when in Rome? All the other schools are doing it, and if you don't as well, you are at risk at being left in the stone age. You HAVE to do the early commits, or else you are left to trying to steal kids from other programs or take kids that are a step or two below the ones you really should have targeted from the beginning!

Don't panic. Let's hope Wulff can hold this class together. It's still an excellent class right now, smack dab in the middle of the conference, just behind Cal in the Pac-10 rankings. And that is without Geoff Meinken. And the idea that we can even have a decent class, in this worst-ever season? Just imagine what it could look like once we start, oh, I don't know, WINNING games!?!?

Finally, the stadium. I hate to say it, but we heard rumblings during Apple Cup week that the next phase was in serious jeopardy. Now we hear that it is official and the start of the next phase of the expansion will be delayed for another year. They cannot break ground next month due to the lack of cash ($5 million?). The unfortunate part is that not only does it delay the biggest part of the overall expansion, this delay will likely add to the overall cost of the project. So we might need even MORE money over the next year.

Look, we're not stupid. We read the news and watch CNN. We know what is going on in this country right now. 534,000 jobs were cut in America in NOVEMBER alone. It's hard to get money from donors, but even just as tough is going to the financial institutions who are cutting jobs left and right. Even selling the naming rights to different organizations wasn't enough of an incentive to get the cash needed. Meanwhile UW continues to pursue their cash grab, somehow determining that the public should give them $150 million toward their $300 million dollar palace by the lake.

Whatever happens with Olympia and UW, you better believe that if they get as much as a nickel from the state, a WSU contingent with torches and pitchforks will storm the Governor's mansion. It could get REALLY UGLY down there.

Isn't there a basketball game tonight??

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Uncle Hooty's Holiday Grab Bag

Greetings Cougies,

Is it me, or are there more pumpkins on front porches than Christmas lights? It sure doesn't seem like Christmastime to me but I hope everyone's enjoying the season. Which reminds me, here's a bunch of random thoughts from a guy who knows nothing about anything...

You wanna know what I think about steve sarkisian's hiring over at uw? Really? Well...he's got a very unique and somewhat controversial method for getting the best effort from his players...but otherwise...


Thanks to my friend, the mayor of Leavenworth, I spent Saturday night one row behind the scorer's table on one side of the halfcourt stripe and mi amigo Damone sat on the other for the Baylor game. What a great perspective. I'm a casual basketball fan at best but sitting that close to the action really gave me a new appreciation for the way the game is played. I'm a long way from being so in love with the game that I'd drive to Pullman on a Sunday night to watch the women play but after seeing June Daugherty talk today, I'm a fan. What?

I finally decided to attend one of the Spokane Cougar Club Coaches Luncheons today and it was pretty cool. Well, it was at least pretty cool to be one of the youngest guys in a room full of people. Pushing 40, that doesn't happen to me much anymore, but I looked like a ripe grape in a bowl full of raisins today.

One of those raisins was none other than Cougar and Detroit Lion legend Gail Cogdill, whom I had never seen before. He's a big man and looks like he could still kick my ass.

My attendance today was rewarded by the pleasant surprise of hearing Big June speak. I tell you what, as lucky as we feel to have coach Bennett in the fold, true fans of the women's game will probably tell you that we should feel the exact same way about JD. She's been winning some incredible recruiting battles which includes this year's #16-ranked class in the nation and nationally-ranked, '09 recruit Ki-Shawna (Ki-Ki) Moore, whom Daugherty says will make fans of all of us; and oh yeah, she has already guided the Lady Cougs to 5 victories in 7 tries this year - or the exact same number of games they won all last year (her transition year.) Coach Daugherty is very convincing when she says she expects very special things from her girls the next few years.

OK, enough about that but with all sincerity, I'm officially a big fan of Big June. If you get a chance to see her talk, do it. She's awesome.

Unfortunately, no football coaches attended, so I have nothing to share in regard to that particular sport of interest but suddenly I am the resident expert on the women's basketball program. Any questions?

Actually, Men's Assistant Coach Matt Woodley also spoke but he had the misfortune of following Coach Daugherty so I already forgot what he said. Actually, I thought it was pretty neat that he still stays in regular contact with Derrick Low who has been playing professionally in Australia and is currently the number 11 scorer in the NBL. Unfortunately, his team just (Low called Woodley and told him this at 3AM) went bankrupt and his agent is currently fielding requsts for his services. Looks like he'll be off to Europe soon. Good luck, D-Low.

If you're in the Spokane/Cd'A area and haven't heard about it, you should consider RSVPing for the 2008 Cougar Holiday Lights Cruise on Lake Cd'A on Wednesday. Bring the kids for pictures with Santa Butch!

I just saw a commercial for the Heisman show. How great is this year's race? Good enough to make Iowa RB Shonn Greene and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree effectively irrelevant. It's a shootout among 4 QBs this year: Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow. ESPN experts seem to think Bradford will just edge out McCoy, followed by Tebow and Harrell.

Professor McBoob begs to differ. According to my highly scientific formula of ranking the players based on 5 statistical categories and assigning 1-5 place values, it should be Bradford by a longshot and a three-way tie for second place. Of course my formula includes each player's team BCS ranking so that all but confirms the pointlessness of how I just spent the last 15 minutes of my life. But since I went through all that trouble, here's what it looks like:

Speaking of Michael Crabtree, I just saw ESPN's first 2009 draft projection and it has the Seahawks taking him at #3. That would be sweet but I'm starting to wonder if QB isn't a more glaring need. I just hope they don't screw up their draft standing by winning any more games.

So I was obviously watching a little ESPN tonight and one more thing I saw was a little soundbite from Peter Gammons. This guy has to make some pretty decent coin, no? That being the case, why not invest in some dental work, Pete? With Pac-10 football still top-of-mind, all I could think of when he flashed a grin at the end of the interview was that his chompers are the exact same color of ASU's helmets - and that's just gross.

Yes, Cougar fans, welcome to football's off-season. Only 8 more months of stories about women's basketball and Peter Gammons' teeth.


Click here for more Comments

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Now and Forever

You are now and forever the Defeateds.

Congrats on your 0-12 season...

LOSERS!! Click here for more Comments

Bring It On

Happy Saturday, Cougar Nation.

Well, as mentioned earlier in the week, tonight marks our best chance to get a marquee win against a solid, solid non-conference foe.

You can read about the run-and-gun style about Baylor elsewhere, but in case you haven't seen the greatness, here's a picture of star guard Curtis Jerrells in action:

What a pansy.

So, nation, when you're playing a really, really, REALLY solid run-and-gun outfit like Baylor there is ONE basic recipe for success:


And here's what T-Bone has been preaching to our boys all week:

1) Don't turn the ball over.

2) Make shots (especially from long range--see next point)

3) Contest their defensive boards (and that means minimizing long rebounds which always lead to breaks and easy baskets)

4) Make them play man to man defense by making perimeter shots (both of which minimizes breaks) and then POUND them inside.

Last year, Baylor blitzed us early--getting up as much as 16-18 points until we started to take the ball strong to the rack. Then, after we did that (and Cowgill was GREAT that game in case you don't remember), then Taylor hit a bunch of big shots from 3 to seal the comeback and then it.

This year, Taylor is going to have to reverse his fortunes from the Legends classic and play much like he did last year against Baylor and the Zags (e.g. MONEY), Thompson is going to have to be efficient, and Baynes, Harmeling, and Casto MUST contest our offensive glass to slow them down.

All in all, this is a game that has the feel for me as one that could really get out of hand if we fail in any of those areas. But, the comfort of home tends to play well with youth. I also think that the seniors understanding of these guys coupled with a loud crowd is worth about 8 points in our favor.

So, given the fact that I am predicting us to get blown out on Tuesday, I am going with the HUGE homer pick here and giving us the nod we so dearly need to put us in position to make the Dance later on.

Cougs 61 Baylor 57

Make it loud in the house tonight, will you? Click here for more Comments

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sark's in the Water

Tonight the Defeateds hired USC Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian as their new head football coach.

Comment away on what is an interesting hire for the winless mutts.

Don't know about you all, but seeing that mugshot sure makes you want to punch him in the face already, doesn't it?

Good night. Click here for more Comments

Everyone's Doing It....

So we will too. You know, put a wrap on 2008? Their own spin, so to speak, on the worst-ever season? The season that was, well, you know.....

But instead of harping on the crappiness of it all, we thought that it would be a good idea to each take something we were happy about, and write about it. Sure, we'll list something we were disappointed with, and write about that too. But might as well start of with something good from 2008.

So now, here's the WSU Football Blog takes on the 2008 season.

Sedihawk says:

Happy about: There wasn't a whole lot to pick from in this down year, but I'm going with the improvement of the defense down the stretch, when they easily could have quit. How much better did they get? Consider:

Through the first seven PAC-10 games, the Cougs were atrocious. Check it out.

CAL: 66 points, 505 yards of offense.
Oregon: 63 points, 507 yards of offense.
UCLA: 28 points, 325 yards of offense.
Oregon State: 66 points, 548 yards of offense.
USC: 69 points, 625 yards of offense (yeesh).
Stanford: 58 points, 456 yards of offense.
Arizona: 59 points, 531 yards of offense.

Look at those numbers - Six Pac-10 teams scored at LEAST 58 points. UCLA must have felt left out? Five other teams had at least 505 yards of total offense. Four of those teams scored at least 63 points. Just unreal.

We could go on and on...and on...about the defensive woes of '08. Even one of our readers, Matt Wessel, alerted us to the fact that the WSU football team is giving up roughly the same amount of points per game as the WSU hoops team. Even Ted Miller globbed onto this. So how could one be possibly HAPPY about the defense??

Even after giving up 59 to Arizona in early November, the season could have been mailed in the rest of the way. But it wasn't. Check out the last three games.

ASU: 31 points, 398 yards of total offense (24 points allowed by the D as one TD by ASU's D).
UW: 13 points, 323 yards of total offense.
Hawai'i: 24 points, 378 yards of total offense.

This isn't just a one-game fluke. OK, so ASU wasn't playing well when we got them. UW was, well, UW, making their way through their worst-ever season with a backup frosh QB. And Hawai'i wasn't the same Hawai'i of 2007. But still, you can't deny there was some real improvement.

As many of you already know, by the Stanford game the defense had made a few changes. Toby Turpin came back off the thumb injury and gave the defense a spark at defensive tackle. But the biggest change was getting to a three-man defensive line, with four linebackers. Or sometimes even a three-three-five look, where they would go with three linebackers and have five DB's on the field. The change was a good decision, as it allowed an extremely thin position, defensive tackle, to have at least a hint of depth by only having to play one tackle at a time. Having Turpin return was the big boost, but changing the scheme at the same time was a huge moment for the coaching staff. The move also allowed A'i Ahmu to slide outside, helping out the defensive end situation, as Kevin Kooyman was banged up there for a few weeks.

The strength of the team was at linebacker, with the emergence of Louis Bland on the outside, the reliable Greg Trent inside, plus guys like Cory Evans, Kendrick Dunn, and eventually Andy Mattingly all contributing down the stretch. Might as well have as many fast, aggressive players on the field as possible, players who can fly to the ball but also drop back into coverage when necessary?

And with the switch to the three down linemen, believe it or not the pass-rush became a much better deal. Three sacks vs. ASU, but also several QB pressures where Rudy Carpenter had to make throws on the move. Just one sack vs. UW, but they did record eight tackles for loss, and UW only attempted 16 passes. Finally, Hawai'i - SEVEN sacks, a season high, from seven different players. So it wasn't like an Mkristo-Bruce-sackfest where one guy went off. They came in waves vs. Hawai'i.

Most of all, above the schemes and the opponents and all that, the best thing to me was the IMPROVED EFFORT on defense. Even though they just allowed one of the worst-ever in terms of points by an FBS team (570 points), they just wouldn't give in, even with an offense that was flat-out hapless for most of the season. Hard as it is to fathom, it could have been much, MUCH WORSE.

When your team is last in the nation in turnover ratio, and you haven't had a TD pass from your starting QB since September? Your defense is going to be in bad situation after bad situation. While unable to stop anyone with a pulse early in the year, they could have packed it in. But they didn't. They showed some real fight until the end. That, my friends, is a sign that some of the younger players are starting to buy in. That, my friends, is something to be happy about for 2008!


My happy awards go three ways. The first goes to Mr. Tardy who really played great the last two games of the year. Against the Huskies and the Bows, he ran like a fricking freight train while at the same time being quick around the edge. He not only asserted himself as a leader in my book, he also showed that he is now 100% back from last year's knee injury.

My second happy award goes to Steve Bruiser Cruiser. When you think about the special teams play in week one and then factor in the improvement on special teams as well as the resurgence of Tardy and the improvement of Mitz and you have a great stinking year by a full-blooded Coug.

My third happy goes to Bland and Mattingly. Bland was the reason why we won the Apple Cup in my book. Meanwhile, Mattingly's near pick in the 2nd OT against the pups and his pick in the end zone last week in the 4th against Hawaii is evidence that we may have a MLB next year who can defend the pass over the middle. That makes me quite happy indeed.


Yeah... Something I'm happy about... Hmmmmmmm...

Obviously a brutal year. We started off with an encouraging performance against OK ST and we were sorta duped into thinking we only had a few minor problems to clean up. As the injuries mounted, we got worse - WAY worse - and it seemed as if the coaching staff had lost the team. It took a while, but we DID finally see some improvement at the end of the year.

I'm actually VERY encouraged by the improvement and I LOVE the way Coach Wulff is handling the situation. Whenever there's a coaching change, some of the kids will buy-in and some won't. A year like this makes the situation even more polarizing. The athletes who are buying in, will train harder than they've had to in the past, those that are still on the fence...well, Coach Wulff said it himself..." If we have players that can't embrace that, they have to go someplace that will allow them not to develop."

As a father, this is the kind of guy I want my son playing for. (If you're listening Coach, Mini McBoob - class of 2019. Look at the form on this tackle!)

Oh yeah, the Apple Cup was pretty cool, too!

Disappointed with:


There are, as you know, so many areas to choose from. But I'll go with the most important position on the field - QB. The offense overall was pretty poor, from the banged-up O-line to all the different running backs, to the young and battered WR's. But the group of QB's takes the proverbial cake. Let us count the ways:

Last in the PAC-10 in points per game (12.7), total offense (241 yards per game), passing offense (146 yards per game), passing TD's (6), and passing efficiency rating (90.9). They were last in third-down conversions (26.8%), and had the fewest first downs of any team in the PAC-10 (14.2 per game). Oh yeah, they also "led" the conference with 43 sacks allowed, for 334 negative yards!

I know, there were many extenuating circumstances that led to poor QB play. The whole offense was a mess from week one, and when they started losing QB's to injuries, it was a slow spiral down the drain. But the worst of all was that dreaded turnover margin. MINUS-25, worst in the nation and by far the worst in the conference (UW was 9th, and they were "only" minus-13). WSU had a league-high 38 turnovers, including 17 fumbles and 21 INT's, both marks the worst in the conference.

"Mr. Blutar....MR. BLUTARSKI. Zero.....Point.....Zero."

So there you have it. My happy/disappointment of 2008.


I agree completely with Sedi about the QBs. Within that horrible dissapointment, my biggest was the decision to bench Rogers after the first 6 quarters of the season. Of course, the reason given for Rogers' benching was that "game performance" meant more than what happened in practice. Then later in the year, Lopina got the nod because of his performance over Levy in "practice." That circular reasoning is the most disappointing aspect of the 2008 campaign.


What am I disappointed with? Eeesh... To point out one disappointing thing in a season like this is sort of like complaining about your skinned knee after you've fallen off a three-story building and broken every bone in your body. What's the point? Click here for more Comments

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Looking for a Split

Hello Cougar Nation.

First and foremost, to all of you who come here to read exclusively about WSU Football, please know that we have some football wrap-up stuff planned over the coming days.

So, if your wondering, the Brinkhater basketball ambush (cough! cough!) has not started. At least not yet..

But, in response to a comment by our friend, Michele, I thought I'd give you all a quick take on our boys since tonight's thrashing of Idaho State was the first time I got to see our boys play.

So, here goes:

1) Baynes looks like a different guy all around than last year and I liked him last year. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the importance of him responding quicker to the double team. Tonight, I saw him kick the ball out to the top and to the wing without hesitation. I also saw him take the ball to the rack--without dropping his feet to the baseline--when the double team was slow. Granted, ISU ain't a Pac-10 frontline, but the reaction time was quite evident and encouraging. And you've gotta love that touch he has from the line. But our boys are going to have to shoot well early to give him space since Baylor and Gonzaga are going to focus on crowding him and Thompson.

2) Harmeling still looks like he doesn't want to shoot. I know that T-Bone railed on Taylor for not taking enough initiative offensively earlier in this early part of the season. Well, perhaps he should tell Harmeling to not come back ever if he doesn't take 12 shots in the next game. If we're going to be good, he's going to have to fill it. But you really can't fill it if you don't put the rock in the air. Without another consistent bomber from the perimeter, this team is going to have a hard time scoring on a lot of nights because they're depending too much right now on Thompson.

3) Thompson looks even better in college than in High School and I saw him score 37 in that State Championship game. Boy is Klay good. Of course the question is, "Is he good enough to lead an NCAA tournament team at this stage in his development?" As tonight showed, this team is going to go as far as Thompson can take them. And he may take them pretty far with his height and the high release point on that J. Granted, I love the kid and think he will leave as the best player to have put on a WSU uniform. But it sure seems like he's carrying too much of a burden offensively right now. And that doesn't portend well for the next two games against great athletes who are going to throw the kitchen sink at him.

4) Casto IS the real deal. He is a real centerpiece for us on defense already. It really reminds you of what last year would have looked like if Clark hadn't graduated. In any case, if we're going to steal one of the next two, it will be because of the presence that Casto gives us in the lane and on the glass. He's going to have to play lights out on D and keep his hands up when around the lane on O. Tonight, I noticed that he tends to drop his arms a bit to get position--that has to change.

5) Capers, Capers, Capers. I love his bounce and defense, I really do. But the kid looks like his shot is a LONG way off--elbow flaring out, feet not set. I am hoping that he stays the hell away from that baseline and establishes more of his game from up-top over the coming weeks even if he's quick enough to get around the basket from the wing. That said, I really wouldn't mind seeing him play more minutes earlier at the point with Taylor at the 2 (who I love on the wing), Thompson at the 3 (how about his mid-range game?), Casto at 4, and Baynes at 5. Look for that combo against Baylor and Gonzaga in the next couple of games. I think it would work well against both teams in stretches.

6) Nick. One word: Bench. Love him, I really do. But he looks to be better suited as an energy guy and slasher. We need more production out of that spot and I'm not sure he can bring it against better competition. Like I said, I love him, but I think he brings us much more as a reserve.


IF the NCAA is the goal, then you really need a great non-conference win and a couple of good ones. We whiffed on Pitt and we're gonna whiff on Gonzaga (and ya, there is NO crime in losing to top 5 teams). So, with Mississippi State in the bag, we really need to beat LSU later in the month. And we really, really, really, need to find a way to beat Baylor.

That said, Baylor is really athletic, experienced, and they can shoot the ball over the top. For us to eek one out against those boys, the kids are going to have to play great! Thompson is going to have to get 15 or more (tough, since they're going to send the house at him), Baynes is going to have to get 15, Taylor is going to have to get 10, and someone else (HARMELING!!!!) needs to score in double digits.

I don't like our chances in that match-up, quite frankly. BUT, win on Saturday night and you have a nice fat red ribbon for an NCAA tournament package in three months, you really do.

Barring injury, this team will be really good by then.

Enjoy your week. And GO COUGS!!! Click here for more Comments

Can 2009 Hurry Up and Get Here?

Some good season wrap-up articles floating around today so we'll jump right in. NOTE that we'll have our own takes later this week, but for now, the mainstream media is doing their jobs. So just some links for today.

Howie Stalwick has a good read in the P-I. Among the items out there are that there will be a couple of four-year transfers enrolling in January. Might there be a surprise or two coming from another program?

Grippi weighs in with his wrap-up. Some good nuggets here as well, especially in regards to the QB competition next year. Wulff also laid out the expectation regarding strength and the weight room.

Wulff said the Cougars are going to be stronger next year through a more intense weight-lifting program featuring more accountability.

"They have to embrace it," Wulff said. "They don't have a choice. ... If we have players that can't embrace that, they have to go some place that will allow them not to develop.

"As coaches we have to make sure they make a lot of improvement in the weight room. ... For us to take a huge step as a program, every single individual has to take ownership of that. And they way to do it is to get yourself bigger and stronger as a player."

But Wulff tried to temper expectations about a huge strength improvement in one year.

"I think you see some change," he said of next year, "but I've been around long enough to know, when you have a good weight program, you don't reap the true fruits of its labor for 3 to 4 years."

I know I have been holding on to hope that we would see a big change next year, as some of these kids will have been in the new system for a year+ in the weight room. But as Wulff said, it might take a few years to really see the change in strength.

Bud Withers has this article from the same press conference. A lot of the same stuff is hashed here, but Withers does touch on what Wulff said about Chris Ivory.

Asked about running back Chris Ivory, Wulff noted his persistent hamstring injury and some academic issues and said, "There's a lot of things we have to clean up with Chris."
Hmmm. Might we have seen the last of Ivory? Given the projected depth at running back next year, adding James Montgomery to the mix of Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz, and probably a healthy return for Chantz Staden, maybe that will be it for Ivory. He's the last link to that Texas class with Greg Trent and Jason Stripling.

Cougfan had a few stories yesterday. One from the press conference, here, and it's free for all to read. The others are premium, which includes another verbal commit to this year's recruiting class. Arthur Burns is a 3-star running back from Corona, CA, who has a reported 4.46 40-time at 5-11, 212 lbs.

Burns has had a big senior year, rushing for over 1500 yards and 23 TD's, averaging 6.87 yards per carry. Here's an ESPN scouting report on Burns:


Burns is a hard in-line runner with good body composition when projecting for the next level. Built low to the ground and his thick, compact frame is very strong and durable. Hits the hole hard and fast; is most productive as a one-cut and go downhill runner. Runs behind his pads with good body tilt. Very difficult to arm-tackle and get a clean shot on. Shows adequate burst out of his cuts and consistently bounces off initial contact. Determined back who looks to finish runs. While he shows deceptive speed in the second level and a sneaky extra gear, he is not going to pull away from many D-I corners at the college level. Lacks great elusiveness in space and between the tackles trying to make the first defender miss. Looks to bounce outside at times but lacks great lateral quicks and perimeter speed. May be limited to downhill power-running schemes in college; we did not see great pick and dart zone running skills. That said Burns could grow into a good change of pace power-back and has the strong downhill running style to potentially wear down a defense.

Sounds like a nice addition! That's now 11 commits to the 2008 class, but that number includes Gino Simone and Geoff Meinken, two kids we know are out there "exploring their options". We'll see if they can hold onto these guys all the way into February.

That's it for today. ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS!

Click here for more Comments