Tuesday, March 24, 2009
So spring ball is set to begin Thursday, and everyone appears excited to wash the feeling of '08 right off their dirty, smelly bodies. And for good reason. But it's a new season, with new faces, and the hope of all hopes that the ugliness of last year is just that - left to linger where it belongs.
But ask yourself this....have you prepared yourself for the idea that what happened last year just MIGHT carry over into 2009? What if we see this team talk of change and overall improvement all spring and throughout fall camp, then gets drilled by the usual round of injuries, a few suspensions, and they still haven't figured out how to win? What if they get blown out to open the season vs. Stanford? Even though last season was a three-month extended scene of crawling through a tunnel of sewage, what if THEY NEVER GOT OUTTA SHAWSHANK??
Look, last year was tough on everyone - fans, alums, bloggers, your general ticket-buying public. I don't need to tell you that. It is hard to imagine a worse season, in terms of blowouts, poor health, and just some lousy football that is so painful to relive that we won't even bother....unless of course you are Ty Willingham.....but I digress. But seriously, how accepting will you be if you have to witness frustrating losses, week after week, in 2009? Are you "out" as a Coug fan, ready to start up firewulff.com, tear up your season tickets and rail against it all on this here site? Or will you ride out the storm, hoping coach Wulff can navigate this thing home and turn the program into another Oregon State?
Not to get all GLOOM here. I mean hey, it's SPRING! The thaw is officially upon us. It's light until after 7 PM. MLB's opening day is just a few weeks away. And every college football program in America is undefeated right now. There IS always hope!
So to get us started for spring, here's three new faces to be excited about for 2009, WSU Football Blog style...OK, actually four new faces to get excited about, two of which are playing the same position....but you get the idea. And we'll look at other things this week, but this is a good place to start.
EXCITED ABOUT NEW FACES
It was said repeatedly for much of 2008 - especially towards the end of the year - and that is there is talent here that isn't even playing, and according to coach Wulff, "We will be instantly be a better football team the moment the 2008 season ends." But is he right?
Well, yes, probably. There are some big-time new faces who will be on the field this year, faces we have only heard about. But keep your eyes open and ears perked this spring for running back James Montgomery, offensive tackle Zach Williams, and D-linemen Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo.
1) First of all, Montgomery. A fabulously talented young back with moves and speed, Montgomery is a big-time talent. With injuries and other issues haunting Chris Ivory, and Dwight Tardy a solid-if-unspectacular ball carrier lacking that extra burst of speed, Montgomery's skills should be a delightful fit into OC Todd Sturdy's offense.
Montgomery, you may remember, was once the subject of a heated recruiting battle between UW and Cal, where the kid ultimately chose Berkeley. But there were rumors back in the day that Montgomery actually liked WSU quite a bit.
Montgomery played in every one of Cal's games as a frosh in 2007, and even in limited time, still averaged almost five yards per carry (4.8). The future looked bright, but also crowded in Cal's talented backfield. Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen ring a bell? Those two form the young two-headed running back monster for Cal and they aren't leaving anytime soon. Combined with some personal issues, Montgomery made the move to Pullman. After practicing and sitting out all of last year, he's finally ready to make his mark. Don't be surprised if he works his way to the top of the depth chart by the end of spring or at the latest, the conclusion of fall camp.
2) Zack Williams (or "Zach", or even Zachary) has been impressing folks since his first practice in Pullman. While not a prototype NFL-type tackle, he does have decent size at 6-4, 300. Regarded by many who've spied him as the most talented lineman in the program, he was often mentioned as also being the best one on the team...and that was LAST YEAR, just as a scout team guy during his redshirt season.
Given the upcoming full spring and fall practice sessions where he will now "run with the ones", he should slide right into the vacated left tackle spot from the departed big fella/quote machine, Vaughn Lesuma. A redshirt junior, Williams will start and should be a fixture on the line for his few seasons of eligibility.
3) Finally, Wolfgramm and Luapo might be the two biggest keys to any hope of an '09 turnaround. Recall a season ago - if you dare - and what do you remember from the Cougar D? Not good, is it? Obviously the conference-worst turnover margin had smething to do with the weekly thrashings. However, I don't know about you, but the ease in which opposing offenses waltzed up and down the field on a weekly basis was alarming at best, absolutely BRUTAL at worst. The Cal game or Oregon game, I mean turnovers or not, either team could have skipped the whole huddle thing and simply yelled "OK, WE ARE RUNNING IT AGAIN!" And there was absolutely nothing the defense could do about it.
Now things did get a little better later in the season, once the switch to the 3-4 defense was complete, combined with a return to health from Toby Turpin, a welcome playmaker at nose tackle. But I even go back to the Okie State game and watching big Matt Eichelberger getting his 320 lbs driven 5 yards off the ball repeatedly, and you knew that was going to be a long, long season!
Adding Bernard Wolfgamm and Josh Luapo, both JC transfers who have some girth and ability behind them, will go a long way to shoring up the defensive front. Wolfgamm is the smaller of the two, coming in at 6-3, 275, but he's regarded as a real playmaker up front. Look for him to slide between tackle and end, depending on the scheme or situation. But Wolfgramm will be on the field as much as possible.
Meanwhile Luapo is more of your traditional tackle in the run-stuffing mode, at 6-0, close to 300. He just enrolled in January, so he has a lot of road to cover in a short period of time. But one could expect he will either start at one tackle in the 4-3, or be a huge part of the rotation in the 3-4 to keep the bodies fresh up front.
Keep your eyes and ears open for how these guys do this spring. Their performances could be the difference between a huge step towards respectability....or a huge step towards the hot seat for coach Wulff.
Oh yeah, and thanks for the Facebook friend stuff. Some of you have become friends, and that's cool. You are welcome to sign on, as we will keep the Facebook site updated every time a post hits here on the blog. Plus some other stuff as the season approaches. Check out the Facebook "badge" on the right sidebar for a link to our page.
Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!