And in the usual fashion, back from vacation and some big news breaks. You probably heard already, but WSU's budget information is making the rounds as of yesterday afternoon, and guess what? Per Sir Grippi, it ain't bad. The gist: No sports have been cut, as all 17 men's and women's programs will continue to soldier on. But still, when you are dealing with nearly a million in revenue shortfall, you aren't going to get off totally unscathed:
The athletic department, according to Sterk, had already instituted cost-cutting measures – “We’ve got a hit list about a page long of things we’ve done,” he said – and those will continue. They include leaving open positions unfilled, cutting back on travel for international recruiting and professional development, using ground transportation to competitions within 400 miles of Pullman (including Seattle football games), limiting the number of athletic publications and possibly cutting travel-squad sizes.
All sound, responsible decisions in these tough times. But you know what? Even in tough times like these, it's those who have been fiscally responsible all along who will survive. And WSU is no stranger to being responsible, per the article from the AP in late June. We are used to doing more with less, so this shouldn't be THAT big of a deal??
Moving on, we continue to look at the state of our Cougs on a position-by-position basis. Earlier in the week it was the QB's. Today, it's running back. Who's going to carry the mail in '09? Will someone emerge from what looks like it could be a crowded backfield? Or will it be a by-committee approach, where everyone will get a chance to do some heavy lifting? Let's take a look-see....
First of all, we would be remiss if we didn't look back at the running game from last year. And in 2008, it wasn't pretty. As in 95.1 yards per game, good for a measly 110th in the country in rushing yards. And in those 95.1 yards per game, they averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.
Not good is it? Generally you want at least three yards per carry (three yards and a cloud of dust?), but something closer to four would be nice.
That said, in a weird way 2008 wasn't all that bad in that there was some depth that emerged at the position. Dwight Tardy led the team in carries (133) and yards (481), but still averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. But the numbers overall for Tardy were down across the board compared to his pre-knee injury days in '07. In that year, Tardy had 676 yards and 6 TD's, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, before going down in the 8th game vs. UCLA. That 3.6 yards per carry is over a full yard less per touch compared to '07. And looking back to '06, Tardy logged 667 yards and four TD's on 4.6 yards per carry.
So '08 was definitely a down year across the board for Dwight.
So, was his downturn in performance related to the knee injury? It's hard to say. I think it's reasonable to look at his performance at times last year and wonder if he had lost some of his explosiveness. But at the same time, there were moments where he ran extremely hard. He had 75 tough yards vs. UW, and the following week vs. Hawaii averaged 4.1 yards per carry, scoring the only TD of the game for the Cougs. But it also must be said that the offensive line woes contributed mightily to the situation. The O-line was a jumbled mess through the first several games of '08, where the same lineup didn't start consecutive games until well into the latter part of the schedule. Such a lack of continuity made the running game suffer, heck, the entire offense suffered last year and a lot of the blame can be placed on the "fluid" situation up front. But that's a post for another day....
The bright spot? Logwone Mitz. The kid is one physical dude, a bruising package at 6-1, 225. And who can forget his huge 57-yard TD run vs. UW in the third quarter of the Apple Cup, a play that seemed to lift the entire team in the second half?
While Mitz was second to Tardy in carries (90) and yards (441), he did tie for the team lead in TD's with three. But the most impressive thing about Mitz? His yards-per-carry came in at nearly FIVE per touch (4.9). So even just sharing the load, in his physical style of play, he still was effective in moving the pile. Impressive stuff from a redshirt frosh, and a necessary ingredient for a balanced, effective running game. Flash-n-dash is nice, but man, you gotta convert those short yardage situations. Mitz is the lunchpail and hardhat type, unafraid to get a little dirt under his nails during a hard day's work. Yes, WE LIKE MITZ around here!
The wild-card, without a doubt, is James Montgomery. The heralded transfer from Cal, Montgomery was a Parade All-American in high school, where he ran for over 4900 yards and 82 td's. Rivals.com had him as the 14th-best running back coming out in '06, and after a redshirt year, he played in every game for Cal in '07.
Now after sitting out '08 due to transfer rules, the junior-to-be is ready for action. More of a home-run big-play type compared to Mitz and Tardy, Monty will be right in line for plenty of carries this fall.
Yes, there are others in the mix, like Chris Ivory and Chantz Staden. But right now, it's clear that the position is all about Tardy, Mitz and Montgomery. Per the spring depth chart, Tardy was listed as the starter, while Mitz and Montgomery were backups. But I think we can all agree that those three guys bring something a little different to the table. And, no matter who prevails as the starter vs. Stanford 9/5, you can bet that all three are going to get significant opportunities for touches.
So what do YOU think? Does Tardy get the starting nod, based on his experience as the senior returner? Should Mitz get more looks as the feature guy, and not so much the short-yardage type? Or, is it time to hand the keys to arguably the most talented offensive skill position player on the roster in James Montgomery and see what happens? Let's get your takes on what could be the deepest, most productive position on the '09 Cougar offense!
That's it for a Friday. Enjoy it, and as always, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FOR WASHINGTON STATE!