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...