Saturday, April 04, 2009

Physical Scrimmage a Promising Sign?

GRIPPI UPDATE - 6:00 PM Saturday - "Jim Sterk, John Johnson and Anne McCoy are on their way back from Detroit having finished their interviews there, according to a source. We are sure they interviewed UAB’s Mike Davis along with at least two others, Portland State’s Ken Bone and, according to the Birmingham paper, former Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter, though when and where is still unclear."

Grippi also mentions another candidate could have been in the mix for an interview, but hasn't been named nor confirmed. Meanwhile a
site at has been monitoring the situation from a UAB perspective. They claim that no job offer has been made, but one "could come as soon as today" according to a source. Stay tuned.

I know some people out there aren't thrilled with spring football. I mean really, how much can be gleaned out of March and April workouts, when it's not even close to a full roster? Some believe it doesn't really mean much, or that it's just another chance for an injury (like Andy Mattingly's injured pectoral?). Or maybe some players not even enrolled right now will be there in August, ready to make an impact, such as a JC transfer or high school frosh. Or, some just generally think it's a big waste of time. Even Bill Doba was heard celebrating a few years ago when they decided they wouldn't practice on weekends in the spring!

But what's not to like about the latest from Vince Grippi on today's scrimmage?

One observation: It’s tough to tell whether the Cougars are going to be improved – I’ll leave that to smarter people than I – but it is obvious they are more physical. The hitting today was at a level I don’t believe I saw in any practice last season. These guys like to pound each other.

Me? I like that. And I love spring football. That's right, I said it. But not just because it's the spring...I love it because you start to see some things take shape, things only subject to speculation and internet blabber for several months at a time. You know, such as the ongoing QB competition that has Marshall Lobbestael, JT Levenseller and Kevin Lopina each getting a shot to run the offense, even if Lobbestael is limited right now. Watching those QB's compete in the midst of snow on Wednesday was pretty cool. Not just to watch them go through the drills, but you could see in their body language that no matter what the calendar says, no matter how hard it was snowing in April, they are competing for a job that is wide open. You might not care about what happens right now, but they clearly do. Even in those lousy conditions, they were in there working hard to get better.

I love it because it gives coaches an opportunity to work on some of the finer details, such as Wulff's emphasis on special teams in an article from the other day. Quick, anyone recall how amazingly awful the special teams were towards the end of the Doba regime? Remember all the times you saw the offense go for it on fourth down from, say, the 25 or 30-yard line of the opponent, simply because of the lack of confidence in the kicker? Remember the squib kickoffs, driven by pure fear for the inability to actually cover a routine kickoff? Remember the 2006 Apple Cup, with the blocked punt for a TD by UW which amounted to the winning points in that game? Fake punts anyone?!?? Special teams can elevate or torpedo an entire season (and take a coaching staff down right along with it).

But most of all, I love the spring for the opportunities that present themselves for a young player to get on the field and learn. Learn from coaches getting paid a lot of money to teach them the fine art of playing football at a competitive level. A chance to learn from reps, time and again, which is the only real way a player can ever hope to improve. You can only watch film and study the playbook for so long before you have to go out there and see it for real, over and over and over again.

Let's face it, practice and reps are at a premium these days, with so many limitations via the NCAA on the amount or prep time players get with their coaches. While the full roster isn't even on the field, and most minds are on March Madness, basketball coaching changes or MLB opening day, these spring drills are awfully important for a very young football team. A young football team still trying to learn, grow, and mature. And it's important for THIS football team, right now. Why?

Because THIS football team hasn't been to the postseason since 2003.

You know why that is important? Because when you go to a bowl game, you get extra practices, sometimes 15 practices or more, leading up to said bowl game. That's almost the equivalent of an entire extra spring session, where young players can go through the reps again and again. Think of the advantages of, say, an Oregon State has over Washington State in the last five years. Oregon State, with bowl games in four of their last five years, has had at LEAST 60 MORE PRACTICES than WSU. That's about four extra spring sessions to learn from their coaches and work on their game. WSU is now in the bottom-third in the conference in overall record since the turn of the century. Meanwhile Oregon State is right there competing for 2nd-best in the conference since the year 2000.

OK, all that out of the way, the first scrimmage is now in the books. Grippi has a good read today from the scrimmage, as well as Marshall Lobbestael's recovery from his knee injury.

First, Lobbestael - the kid is working his butt off, and coming along nicely. But you know what else? It's FLIPPIN' GREAT to hear about the new hydrotheraphy facility!

Through all the stages, Lobbestael has spent time lounging in a pool, though lounging might be the wrong word, considering the pool is in WSU’s recently opened Cougar Mania Hydrotherapy Facility with its underwater treadmill that can reach 8.5 miles per hour.

Each of Lobbestael’s – or any recovering athlete’s – water workouts can be taped from different angles thanks to a series of cameras and a computer monitor.

“In rehab, I was walking on the underwater treadmill almost right away after,” Lobbestael said. “I started out really slow in there and just worked my way up.”

I remember at the last Bill Doba football dinner in the spring of 2007, coach Doba was talking it up about how much that hydro technology "thingy" will help players recover faster and more efficiently from injuries. Back then it was just a dream, but now, reality. Lobbestael is exhibit A, that this is a great investment in the athletic department.

The other thing to take is the mention of Grippi that this was one physical scrimmage. Think about it. How many times do you hear a losing team, in the post-game comments, say "the other team was just MORE PHYSICAL than we were today". You hear it in basketball, but especially football, and you hear it all the time. The more physical team that sets a tone is generally more successful than the finesse team that backs down when things get rough. Was this a physical team last year? They were a lot of things, but physical isn't a term I, you or anyone else would use describing the 2008 WSU football team. But I can't help but like the sound of these guys popping the pads and getting after each other. We know the talk of the players being bigger and stronger, but we've heard that before. But this year, to hear that it is actually starting to translate on the field, even if it is just practice? How can you NOT LOVE THAT!?!

Nothing new at this moment anyway on the coaching situation. Interesting from Withers about the wide net being cast at the Final Four (also known as Coaches Job Fair 2009). While losing Tony sucked, and the timing is never great....well, having a PAC-10 opening going into the Final Four, when you've proven you can 1) win in Pullman, and 2) get paid $1 million per year in Pullman is a good thing to have in your back pocket. Could be some interesting rumors over the next few days, but we can all be assured that Sterk and President Floyd are doing their best to deliver the right fit for our hoops team.

That's it for a Saturday. ENJOY THE WEEKEND (is that the SUN??) and GO COUGS!


Stiffmiester said...

Nice write up Sedi,
You have nailed it on the head in the fact that being aggressive/physical is the key. I never played football but I can attest to the fact that getting after it can make all the difference in the world. For 234 years my Marine Corps has used this tenant to become the most feared force in the world. This is not because every young man coming in is the toughest. It is the repetition and forced physicality that makes us tough. CPW has look of a good Drill Instructor. Just the right amount of toughness and encouragement. If our team can keep this up I foresee a 5 out of six Applecup record in our future. This team doesn't Twitter.

Anonymous said...

Take it for what it's worth, but I was at the WSU/UCLA Baseball game on Sat, and JT walked in on crutches.

Anonymous said...

I have also seen JT on crutches in the last few days and heard it may be more than a bruised knee... possibly an ACL injury.

Sedihawk said...

Hey all, I believe Grippi reported on Thursday that he "knocked knees" with a defensive lineman, therefore he was going to be off the knee for a few days? Let's HOPE that all it is!

Here it was from Thursday:

"Quarterback J.T. Levenseller was on crutches Thursday after bang knees with a defensive lineman Wednesday. Levenseller said he would be off the leg for no more than a few days. …"

Anonymous said...

They're talking smack about Pullman - in Alabama!!

Sedihawk said...

Nice link Anonymous. As to what a columnist thinks of Pullman, that's their deal. They've likely never been there, so like many others, they look at the remote location and small town and join in the chorus of "who the hell would ever go there?" But even the hardest UW fan can sometimes admit, under their breath of course, that Pullman is a pretty decent college town. It isn't for everyone but it has it's charm.

The thing is, this is a "BCS" job, at a school that has shown you can win in Pullman, and has been willing to pay $1 mil a year for the right guy. Would you rather toil for a C-USA team in Alabama, or would you at least listen to what WSU is all about? I think Sterk and Floyd have good reputations in the business, so if people like that are there, it can't be THAT bad, can it?

TReynolds said...

Rumor time, get ready for BONE. Morrill has pulled out and rumor in pdx has Bone saying his goodbyes this am. Announcement this afternoon, press conference tomorrow.

Sedihawk said...

Maybe you are right TReynolds. Not sure about Bone but Morrill pulls out:

Stiffmiester said...

Per Grippi...

KEN BONE HAS THE OFFER! Just waiting on response.

Sedihawk said...

Good stuff Stiff. I just read that. We've got to get the answer today!

Jimmy Mac said...

Great. Here's comes an era of Cougar basketball in which Ken Bone tries to have our guys out run the likes of Arizona and UCLA. Like that's EVER going to work.

Anonymous said...

Boo Ken Bone... another Big Sky coach? Some day good 'ole Wazzu will try to hire a big name coach to pull us into the big time programs in the Pac 10.

Soze said...

I'm in agreement with Jimmy Mac. Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be Paul Graham 2.0 which is completely what I'm expecting. I just don't see the "athletic, Pac-10 caliber" kids coming to Pullman over UW, UCLA, USC, and Arizona. I'm hopeful, but expecting the worst.

Longball said...

The athletic kids you speak of, Soze, are already here and more are on the way if Bone can hit the phones and keep them on board with their LOIs. Klay, Casto, Capers, Watson, Brown, Thames - thats a lot of athleticism.

Remember, under Sampson we had guys like Neil Derrick, Tavaris Mack, Fred Ferguson, Ike Fontaine, etc... The athletes will come if we are winning and playing a style that suits them. In the short term this was probably the best way to keep the momentum we had from Bennet-ball, but if it works out Bone will move on pretty quick.

Soze said...

Longball, I was talking more long-term. I know we've got some athletic players right now (although I wouldn't put Klay in that category) but I'm worried about the Cougs landing future recruits. Coach Bone -- I do love the name -- has had success at lower levels, and I'm hopeful that he can continue it at a higher level (its going to be much harder recruiting against UW, UCLA, USC, etc. vs. the Big Sky) but I don't have high hopes. Hopefully I'm wrong because I'll be at every game, live and in-person.

Jimmy Mac said...

Agreed. He's not going to be able to recruit the talent he needs for his system to work in the Pac-10. In addition there's no way he's going to be able to get Thames to stay. Thames leaving will be the first sign of his inability to recuit at the Pac-10 level.

ptowncoug said...

I can understand the love for spring ball, but how about posting last spring's posts for us all to read again.
As a Coug I think we are born a half-empty type crew or the "world's against", but man I remember people just pumped about PW's 1st season after the wrap up of spring ball and I was just shaking my head.
I don't mean to be a negative nancy, I just generally don't get my hopes up unless we have Gesser returning for Sr year, etc.

Sedihawk said...

It's all in the archives P-Town from March/April of last year. The archives on the site are found on the bottom-right of the main page.

I'm sure we said some good things, but you didn't see a ton of raves out of any of us regarding spring. Rogers or any of the other QB's didn't really light it up. And they were so thin they were down to one running back for a like a week, remember Joe Campbell? But nobody thought they looked great. And for what it's worth, in our own little predictions, again, none of us saw a bowl game or anything like that. I know I picked us to finish 9th. But I don't think we were pumped as in thinking we "were going to be fantastic" pumped.

I do admit I was certainly excited to see this so-called no huddle, spread offense (or whatever it was supposed to be) with Gary Rogers, Brandon Gibson, Jeshua Anderson, etc. What's wrong with that? Is there something wrong with trying to find something good? Why not try and embrace something for what it is instead of lament it for what it isn't?