Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fall Scrimmage #1

Howdy Cougar Nation,

As you may have heard the quarterback battle really heated up Saturday as the Cougs had their first scrimmage of Fall camp. Amieable and I were there to take it all in and this is what we saw.

The past and the future...

What a great moment. Here we see Jeff Tuel getting some pointers from none other than the Throwin' Samoan, Jack Thompson. Tuel has looked great all through camp and Saturday was no exception. He did it with his arm and his feet, just like we all saw in his highlight film. Some of you may have noticed that behind them are Jim "The Go-To Guy" Moore and Tony Thompson.

Let's get to the action! By now everyone has heard that Saturday's scrimmage was the Kevin Lopina show. The Senior took control of the quarterback battle by being perfect on all his passes including the day's only touchdown through the air. I wanted to share some pictures with you all, but my shots always look like they were taken from a moving train by a three-year old on crack. Fortunately I had Amieable with me who is quite the action photographer. Thanks to her steady hand I can share these images of the Lopina touchdown drive.

Here we see tight end Skylar Stormo (40) hauling in a Kevin Lopina pass for a big gainer to set up the touchdown play.

And here you see tight end Zach Tatman making the only touchdown grab of the session....

He was initially ruled down on the 1 foot line, but before they could lineup for a goal line punch-in, somebody overruled the call and it was put in the books as a TD.

Lopina looked really good on all his throws today. I think about 90% of us are ready for the Marshall Lobbestael era to begin, but the senior Lopina is doing everything you could ask of him to win that starting job. We'll see how Ocho Rojo responds in the coming weeks.

Some of you may be interested to know that Keith Gilbertson's son David is a freshman walk on QB. With JT Levenseller out sick, he saw some action today with the #3 offense. Here you see Gilbert (13) throwing a nice sideline completion to fellow walk on wide receiver, Esa Johnwell (28).

Johnwell is the step brother of former Cougar and now NFL defensive backs, Hamza and Hussein Abdullah and has been one of the many pleasant surprises of Fall Camp. If you've been following the news, he's been singled out for praise almost daily by the coaching staff and my money says if he keeps it up there may be a scholarship just round the corner for this young man. Esa hauled in 3 balls today running with the #3 offense.

One thing that stood out to me today was just how good the new guys look. Here are a few that made an impression:

Jamal Atofau (25) - The freshman safety from Bellevue had the hit of the day and just plays with a ton of energy. From the looks of it, this young man was a serious "get" for Paul Wulff in this recruiting class.

Gino Simone (1) - The four-star recruit from Skyline is already running with the first-teamers and today he showed why. He held onto one ball over the middle after being absolutely blasted by Chima Nwachuku.

Casey Hamlett (96) - Western's loss is our gain. The transfer from the bygone Western Washington football program looks just fine on a Division 1 football field. He has good size, mobility and is a consistently disruptive force in the offensive backfield.

Sekope Kaufusi (59) - The kid does not look like a freshman. At 6'4" and over 230 lbs he is imposing in the middle linebacker spot to say the least. With his size he could easily move up to D-end in his career if needed, but if he has the speed to even line up at middle linebacker with that size... yikes. He also delivered one of the biggest hits of the day.

Travis Long (83) - The freshman defensive end from Gonzaga Prep will probably start making an impact this year. He was causing problems for the 1st and 2nd team offenses today and has been a lot to handle all through camp. And to think, he is only going to get bigger and stronger...

Jeff Tuel (10) - Yeah I know, you've already heard... he's awesome. Honestly, he looks so good that if Lopina leads this team all year, we may never see much of Ocho Rojo ever again. Tuel may be ready for prime time... now.

Other notes from the scrimmage:

The Offense - No matter who was quarterbacking, the offense had a good rhythm today. The no-huddle was fluid and managed to really put the defense on its heels at times. Jeshua Anderson was held out today for a sore hammy and in his place junior Randy Johnson saw some action with the #1 offense. I was excited to see this and if you saw Mr. Johnson in person, you would be excited too. At 6'4" 222 lbs he is a whole lot of wide receiver and could be a huge matchup problem for opposing teams if he's any good. Also, Joe Eppele got the start at right tackle and Logwone Mitz actually got the start at RB. Not sure if that means anything and Tardy, Montgomery and Richmond all had a lot of carries, but feel free to speculate. I know I will. For what its worth I thought all the running backs ran well, but the defense did a pretty good job bottling up the run today.

The Defense - They were definitely ball hawks today, causing a couple fumbles. Turnovers were not forthcoming for this unit last year and I'm sure they've heard about it a lot, so it was nice to see them really going for it today. If you're worried about the offense fumbling, just be glad that they have a defense to practice against who knows how to make them pay for not securing the ball. You don't want to learn those lessons after September 5th.

This unit seems to have significantly stiffened in the middle. The tackle position was simply dreadful for this team last year and it was good to see Turpin and Wolfgramm hold up the center of this defense allowing the ends and 'backers to make plays. Perhaps most importantly, as a unit they are really starting to establish some esprit de corps, if you will. Having some pride as a unit is crucial and it is clear these guys play with a chip on their shoulder. James from the comments mentioned the spontaneous celebration that took place on the sideline and it showed how much enthusiasm and camaraderie they have as a unit.

Special Teams - With the exception of Reed Forest's one good punt that ended the scrimmage, I thought special teams were a little rough today. Grasu looked ok, but kinda shaky and as Amieable declared, looks like we may be holding our breath on every long snap this year. Lets hope things tighten up a bit before September 5th!

I want to highlight another newcomer who won't ever see the field, but is making a huge difference for this team every day... Darin Lovat. There is a corner of the practice field where you'll find weights, heavy bags, medicine balls and chin-up bars. This is Mr. Lovat's neighborhood and for one unit after each practice it is a torture chamber. Today, it was the defensive backs and receivers who ended their day in Mr. Lovat's chamber of horrors, seen here...

Coach Lovat is on the right in the black shorts. I think those blue bags are filled with depleted uranium, or something. Anyway, they look heavy. On the far right is wide receiver Randy Johnson who I mentioned earlier. See what I mean?

Well, that's it for now. Thank you to loyal reader James for sharing your highlights with us, and if you see me at practice in the future, be sure to say hi. Its a great way to get your picture in the WSU Football Blog! Also, special thanks to Amieable for assuming photo duties after I failed so miserably. Until next time...



Sean Hawkins said...

Great work Shane! And a huge thanks to Amieable for the pics. Great work there as well.

Love the recap, but most of all it sounds like overall the offense AND defense had their moments. It wasn't purely a one-sided show. That's encouraging if you ask me.

The pic of Tuel and Thompson is very cool indeed. Tuel looks big enough for a true frosh, at least if you can read anything into that photo. A little lanky, but you can see he's going to fill out pretty well. Also like seeing the Go-2-Guy's notepad actually filled with writing. He's actually WORKING!?! :)

Seth said...

Great report Shane. You are living the dream.

Seth R (Sunnyside Hill/Sunnyside Elem 8 Foot Hoops)

CougStan said...

Hey Gang,

A "first time caller" here--class of '84. Be gentle.

I've only known of this site for the last month or so, but I've been making up for lost time by devouring every article as it hits. Between running back-and-forth between this site, CougFan and the Spokesman Review, I am truly working up a froth for the coming season. I really appreciate the well written and in-depth articles from all the contributors here. You are to be congratulated for making my at-home work schedule (freelance writer) very difficult to adhere to...

From what I read, there is real reason for optimism with this year's team. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people, and I hope it starts with a smack-down of the trees. We have a lot of pay-back coming to those who harried us so last year.

I wanted to ask the Board's input about the newest receiver recruit added yesterday--the speedy Blair Bomber. I watched his tape and WOW. He really is fast and looks to be a gamer. But even he had reservations about his relatively small stature(5' 9") that he addressed with Wulff, and I have to say I'm a bit concerned as well. I mean, for the WAC or MW conferences he would be a king. I just want to hear from others much more in the "know" what their take is. I mean, would a USC or Cal or even Oregon take a kid of this size? Are we trying too hard to beat the bushes to find our talent? Is there really that much of a shortage of quality receivers with his speed and 3 to 5 inches of extra height that would help against the league's solid (and often tall) DBs?

Having raised this question, I can already hear a counter argument based on the diminutive Rodgers brothers at OSU. I think they do so well (in part) because of their size and ability to hide behind blocking. But not sure I'm seeing this same advantage for a receiver. Thoughts?

Counting the days until the 5th. Thanks again for a great site.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff. You guys are making me too optimistic.

CS, remember James Jett? 5'10", 165 lbs. 256 receptions for 4,417 yards and 30 touchdowns, a 17.3 yard per reception average, in the NFL. A small, fast receiver can do just fine.

The Coug-A-Sutra said...

Longball, great job again...and Aims--fantastic work.

Re: Bomber.

Guys who are small and fast (with that low center of gravity) can sometimes have an easier time getting off the line than larger receivers. Moreover, in a system like ours in which the quarterback moves around, a small receiver can still be seen when running routes in the middle of field. So, in that respect, his size is no problem.

Where little guys CAN have problems is, though, is in the run blocking department. So, the big question is not so much his size, but his strength and toughness.

Gotta think, though, that if this group made him an offer, they think he's plenty tough.

As for us, we're always gentle,, keep the comments a comin'

Longball said...

Seth! Welcome to the WSU Football blog, brotha. I hope to see you in San Antonio this year. Are you wearing your "I Want to Be Like Ike" t-shirt right now?

Stan, thanks for giving us a read. I'm glad we can help you kill time and stay caught-up on the cougs. As far as Bomber goes, soemtimes you have to sign a kid just for the name alone. Remember when we had a walk on receiver named Kyle Stiffarm? I'm not making that up. I wouldn't worry about size too much. I think guys like Mike Haas for OSU, or Aaron Pflugrad for UO/ASU. As a receiver, if you can get open, size doesn't matter as much, perhaps less than at RB. Once your defender is eating your dust it doesn't really matter how many inches he has on you. Big targets are great, and I think a mix of both in your receiving corps is nice, but if this kid gets seperation, I am fine with him being a munchkin. Crazy think is, he's still bigger than me.

One thing i didn't get into this article is that the comradaderie you see on this team isn't just on the defense. I have been really struck by what I've seen from all the units. The other day the squad was split into offense and defense each getting a speach from their respective coordinators. They then broke and joined up to all run sprints together. As the defense broke and came running over to join the offense, both Lopina and Lobestael stepped out in front of the D and started delivering hits (ntohing dangerous, just clowning). It was like saying, "you've been hitting us all day, now its our turn". It was everything you want to see, fun, but also competative and some good intersquad chemistry. Yesterday, when the receivers and DBs were going thru their after practice session with coach Lovat, they huddled afterword for the customary, "1-2-3 TEAM!" kind of break you see a lot. One of the receivers was calling it out and yelled "1-2-3, RECEIVERS!". It earned a pretty good ribbing from the DBs in the huddle. These are guys that were going all out to decleat each other just moments earlier. James alluded to the Mariners this year and it is a perfect analogy. There is just a really great chemistry wround this team that was NOT there last year. I thyink there are still a lot of growing pains ahead for this team, but I am more confident then ever that they can work through it and really make some waves int he coming years.

ptowncoug said...

Longball, you should get a raise!!
Maybe negotiate a free burger a week from Cougar Country.
You've Tuel in person, is the guy capable of playing now?
Gec gets all crazy when people talk about playing true frosh. He thinks they should all RS.
Obviously if Lopina is talented enough to win us some ball games great, but if he makes a huge leap in game performance count me as truly surprised.

Sellas said...

Great job as usual. Just wanted to comment on one guy..

Sekope Kaufusi, lightly regarded, but I was always intrigued by his highlight tape. Guy loves to run and hit. Interesting to see his already having a good showing. May have found something there

Sellas said...

Another thing. Is that Micah Hannam in the first pic in the background. I remember him looking kinda lanky. He looks pretty huge now.

Longball said...

Yesiree Sellas,

That is Micah Hannam. He is a load, as you can see. Behind him in the upper left is former WSU QB/tight end Sean Deeds who is still the biggest guy around. I think he is director of football operations now.

P-town! we need to get a pitcher (or 3) and talk some coug football, there is a lot going on! To answer your question, yeah... Tuel looks like he may be ready, but he is running against the #3 D. Lopina was our best QB on Saturday, and it wasn't even very close. I for one, was very suprised at how good Lopina looked. He was in command and made great throws. Marshall, on the other hand, had a receiver wide open in the end zone about 10 yards out and put the ball at his feet. If Lopina wins this QB battle, you can bet its because he's the best we've got for now. As for burning red shirts, hopefully we dont have the bonfire we did last year. I think Gecas can rest easy for now, but... did you ever think we'd see Levy play last year? Our O line shouldn't be the sieve it was last year so that should help. I think its all Lopina and Lobs this year, whoever works out best once the bullets start flying on Sept. 5.

Longball said...

By the way folks, Levy has asked for a transfer.

kaddy said...

Sorry to see Levy leaving...can't blame him for wanting to play, although it worries me a bit should something happen to Lopina and Lobbestael.

James said...

Tuel got to work with the (mainly) first team Offense today against the (mainly) first team defense and here's what Grippi had to say:

"The most impressive play of the morning came during the seven-on-seven passing drill. Running back James Montgomery ran a wheel route, got behind the defender and freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel hit him with about a 40-yard laser for a score. It’s the type of throw only a few young quarterbacks can make..."

Amazed said...

Question..where does a person go to get an estimate of the number of football scholarships taken vs. available. I don't know anything about this. Is is a fluid thing? When a player is dismissed or leaves when does their scholarship become available?

I am also looking forward to the Halloween game in San Antonio. My son (in a ND PhD program) and I as well as two other Texas Cougar friends are going together.