Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reason For Hope?

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.


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!


TiltingRight said...

Nice write-up. While I look forward to watching Montgomery tear things up, he won't get far without a line, and neither will the defense. I'm nervous about depth, but am confident that the team will start to "get it" when it comes to scheming, etc. And with Luapo being new, a one-gap system like a 4-3 should help him out.

I hope they're healthy, and stay that way. Should go a long way to putting a competitive product on the field in 09.

Fingers crossed.

Sedihawk said...

Thanks Tilting. And for what it's worth, I think the O-line is going to be much improved, if not the strength of the offense. Almost the entire two-deep is back from last year, and Williams slides into Lesuma's spot. But I hear ya! Last year was such a disaster. I guess my hope is that they'll improve, just on the idea that it can't possibly get any WORSE....can it?? :)

Atlantacoug said...

I don't think it is possible to be worse this year. However, I think we should brace ourselves that we might improve our play but not our record significantly. Changing those 66-7 losses into 35-19 losses would be progress but still a challenge to get excited about. Still way too early to start bringbackdoba.biz and Hope does Spring eternal but I am hunkering down for a long rebuild.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure WSU football will be a lot better than '08. All year every anouncer worth anything would comment that you have to start up front when rebuilding. Last year the O-Line looked solid... until a week before the season started and 2 of the starters were out and 1 quit football all together. This year they should be able to put together the starting line up and should be able to work with them and get them ready unlike last years "we don't know who's starting" debacle that ultimately IMHO caused the whackness they called blocking. And the D-Line will obviously be better for the simple reason of a ROTATION! OMG! I have never seen a Dfense play so many downs with a DLine who couldn't rotate ANYONE out! Have you ever tried to play DLine against a 300/600/900lbs moving wall... for a whole game? That was nuts! You can't do it! So yeah with that said I think the WSU 2009 football season is going to be much improved and you'll be starting up mywulfwillbeatupyoursark.org site before it's all said and done.

Anonymous said...



LouisianaCoug said...

Great write up. I agree that this team may have a similar record to 2008. Surely, I think Wulff gets a pass one more year due to lack of depth, etc, but God help him if he is losing by 60 points every week in 2010!

I just want to see the offense look competent. I don't care if we give up 50 points a game as long as we score 30+. After all, isn't why we hired the guy in the first place for his "amazing" offensive scheme?

kaddy said...

No doubt in my mind that we will be improved, but I'm thinking 4 wins at best. I just hope that the Cougar faithful will remember to be patient. I don't think we'll see significant changes in the W-L column until 2010.

Chris '04 said...

Where is this "Spring" that you speak of???

Soze said...

2008 wasn't _THAT_ much of a disaster... I mean, it could have been worse! (looks over to Montlake)

sedihawk said...

Coachsark.com? First twitter now this? He is so trying to be like Pete Carroll.

ATL - Mmmmm, 35-19 losses (drool). :)

Great takes today. I am not ready for predictions, as we just have too many unanswered questions. And we haven't even brought up the fact that our projected starting QB is coming off major knee surgery. Who knows what happens there?? Will he be able to move? How will his confidence be? Has he lost a couple of steps? And if he can't go, will it be the JT show? GULP.

But I am on the side of hope, at least right now. I think we will see a team that is a little bigger, a little deeper, a little better this year. But baby steps are more than likely. We've been trumpeting 2010 around here, and I think if they are ever going to turn a corner, it will be that year. But I WANT TO BELIEVE!

Anonymous said...

Anyone know the 2009 WSU football schedule yet or has that not been published?.....hard to predict wins when we don't know we are playing? ;) If Portland St and Idaho, well I would surely jump on the 3+ win bandwagon ;)

Go Cougs!!
Reno, NV

kaddy said...

Notre Dame in San Antonio, SMU in Pullman, and Hawaii in Seattle

sedihawk said...

Billy, the schedule has been out for a couple of months. We need to add it to our site, so thanks for the reminder!

9/5 - Stanford
9/12 - Hawaii @ Qwest Field
9/19 - SMU
9/26 - @USC
10/3 - @Oregon
10/10- ASU
10/17- bye
10/24 - @Cal
10/31- Notre Dame @ San Antonio
11/7 - @Arizona
11/14 - UCLA
11/21 - Oregon State
11/28 - @UW

'03CouveCoug said...

Personally, I’m with Kaddy, I see a MAXIMUM of 4 wins on that schedule (Hawaii, SMU, UCLA and @UW), and that is probably generous. It is very possible that we could only win 2 games again next season. As mentioned, and as is the case with every team every year, it will come down to depth. I have no doubt that we improved as soon as the 2008 season ended by getting healthy, adding redshirts and adding transfers to the roster as Coach Wulff alluded to last fall. However, if we can’t send out waives of fresh, talented bodies every Saturday, we’ll continue to have little hope of winning. All we can do is hope that the 1st team talent is improved over last season’s, and the depth behind it is VASTLY improved over last season’s through solid coaching, strength training, proper diet and film study.

The nice thing is that I really don’t see us getting crushed every week like last season. Sure, USC, UO, Cal and maybe even ND will most likely take us behind the woodshed…but hopefully to the tune of 42-14, not 69-0. I think that we’ll be in every other game with the possibility to win, with any luck late into the second half of those games. I’m just hopeful that when we do lose close games, it will be lack of experience that nips us, not lack of talent and effort. Like Sedi and Bill Murray said, “Baby steps…”

Cheers to a much improved 2009 Cougar Football Team.

'03CouveCoug said...

Why do my comments always kill the conversation?

sedihawk said...

It's all good Couve! Your comments are usually so spot-on nailed that you smack us all upside the head with your knowledge. Sometimes there just isn't anything left to add. But you don't kill conversations around here, so keep it going! Your comments are always welcome, as well as the rest of you.

I feel like the freakishly scary psychic from Poltergeist:

Sure is nice to be talking football again.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, that is a tough out of conference schedule - no cupcakes!! I think we may pull an upset somewhere in the season but yeah, under over on 3wins seems like a bet I would not want to make ;) Man, if only we were at 2010 form - that trip to San Antonio would sure be a lot of fun if you ever have been down there??....and man, we sure owe the Irish some payback but probably won't be in 2009 :(
I agree with your analysis Vancouver Coug (I mean Couve ;) - maybe we can morph into a power running team (run/run/pass/run/run/pass) - I sure like our depth at RB now and OL...if we can run and ball control, we could be better than we think we are?? ;)
Here's to being optimistic - that Wulf does his thing and we catch some breaks and shock a few people/teams along the way!! At this point, I like being the underdog (I mean undercat ;)

Reno, NV

TiltingRight said...

Injuries have been brought up several times, and it seems like there aren't any lingering ones that should devastate us or anything, but did anyone see the writeup by Grippi in the SR? IIRC 24 (TWENTY FOUR!!) surgeries in the offseason. That means a lot of time getting back to neutral ground, rather than moving ahead (as far as the weight room goes).

Yeesh. I guess we'll have a better sense how things are looking in a few weeks.

'03CouveCoug said...

Thanks Sedi...the last couple of times I've posted my diatribes, they've ended the conversation, so I was beginning to wonder!

Billy...I agree that our OOC isn't cupcake, but SMU was really, REALLY bad last year and Hawaii lost a lot of seniors from last season's Hawaii Bowl squad. So, there is hope. And you may be right about the focus of our offense...we have a lot of depth at RB and it's a helluva lot easier for our OL to run-block than pass-block. Not to mention the question mark at QB...should be interesting.

I think we'll really improve in conference in terms of not getting blown out week after week, but the only game that we can chalk up to a likely win at this point is the ewe, because they are just a mess. With luck, UCLA will still be too young, and ASU will be rebuilding post-Carpenter. I really don’t think we have a whole lot of hope to win the others, barring a minor miracle, of course.

SOOOOOO GREAT to be talking football!

Stiffmiester said...

OCHO ROJO! Or maybe we should call him Ronald McDonald....JK. The RB position really excites me. Montgomery making the moves that we used to a Wazzu back makning, Tardy and Ivory as solid backups and don't forget Logowne Mitz as our short yardage smash mouth runner. The D has some promising young leaders and we Mattingly back to LB.

Stefen said...

in response to the part about if things go bad "are you out as a coug fan, throwing away your season tickets" etc...if things go bad and some "fans" bail, good riddance, who needs em. we're cougs, not fuskies. fusky fans ride the wave when things are good and run for cover when times are bad. there is no bandwagon in pullman, you're either in or you out.

Justin Kaiser said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Soze said...

Amen Stefan... AMEN. There is nothing more disappointing as a proud alum than coming to games and seeing half Martin Stadium/Beasley Colosseum empty at football/basketball games. Makes me honestly want to vomit, and its not due to anything involving my pre-game ritual.

Sedihawk said...

Ditto Stefan. And please, I hope you don't think I/we are suggesting that we are ready to bail on ANYTHING. We just survived a miserable season, yet here we are. We can survive 2008, we can survive anything!

BMels said...

When considering the future of our Cougs, I must think back to the ways of the Bennett crew taking charge at Beasley. First years were atrocious, awful, ugly, painful, disgusting...you get the idea. And for the most part, that continued even when Tony took over and "the big three" (Weaver, Low, Cowgill) were frosh. Their sophomore year, they continued to lose but all games were close, often coming down to the last couple minutes or plays. And the next year, well, I don't need to tell anybody about our first trip to the Dance in recent memory. I honestly foresee the football team following suit and taking steps in the right direction.

No predictions but i see more competitive losses next year where we actually look like a football team with football players making football plays. We continue to grow and build, guys get bigger/faster/stronger, and team character builds. I think 2010 shows serious progress reflected in wins and losses but 2011 is the year where this year's incoming freshman have the chance to make some noise.

And there is no way Wulff has anything to worry about even potentially until after 2010 at the earliest. He's gonna get more than a fair chance to right the ship.

Stefen said...

Sedihawk-didn't think that at all, you guys that run this are some of the most passionate coug fans around. 2008 was brutal and i have to admit(almost shamefully) that i didn't know if Wulff was the right man at times. but we're cougs through thick or thin and if people want to bail when it's thin, then i won't be welcoming them back when it's thick again(something like that).

keep up the good work guys, love reading your stuff.