Friday, August 21, 2009

New Blog Network, Same Blog Stuff

Hello. You are in the wrong place. This site has officially moved. Please update your bookmarks, favorites, news feeds or links to the new site:

Thanks, and GO COUGS!

Good day Coug Nation. Hope you all are having a wonderful week, and here we are, just barely two weeks away from the start of the '09 season! And with that timing aspect, as we all prepare for another year of Cougar Football, we also have something to announce on a personal level. So, here goes.

We are moving. Yep, we are saying goodbye to the old-school format, and sliding over to a start-up blog network called First, some background. About two months ago, approached us with an offer to pack up shop and come join their network. is a start-up sports network that launched last fall, and they have added over 50 blogs along the way, with many more like ours in their pipeline. Some of you who follow the Seahawks may or may not be familiar with Seahawk Addicts? They are now in the network, and they are one hell of a Seahawks site. Anyway, that's the network we are joining.

Why are we doing this? Well, we've been out here in independent-land for close to five years now, and if we were ever going to make a move to something else, this was probably the right time to do it. offered a brand new site design, plus the benefits of being tied into a network vs. floating around all alone. That said, this wasn't an easy decision, believe me. There is something to be said about the familiarity and control you have when you are with blogger, compared to something else like signing on to a network. And we didn't want to make a big change that would alienate our friends (you), something we have spent years building up and are quite proud of where we are today.

But the good news is that we do get a ton of control where we are headed, from the appearance of the site, to what we post. So after some back-and-forth, we're now ready to make the jump. It's a cleaner, professional looking site, and the move makes a lot of sense for all of us.

What does the move entail?

1) The site name is the same. We're still the wildly creative "WSU Football Blog", even though we write about pretty much whatever, you know? That pic above is our header on the new site, so the name stays the same.

2) No new name also means that we're keeping our existing web address, So how you've been finding us before, will be the same way you will find us after the move. One moment you'll hit our URL, and suddenly you're at the new site. No need to update any links, favorites, bookmarks or blog rolls.

3) All of our archives have been moved over as well, all the way back to our very first post in 2004. Want to know how SURE we were that Josh Swogger was the next great thing back in '04? Yep, it's there in the 2004 archives. We've also got a new photo gallery. Remember all those photos you sent in for the photo contest? All the best ones are there. And your photos are, of course, always welcome, so keep them coming.

4) You'll still be able to leave comments, of course, and we wouldn't have that any other way. The "anonymous" button is gone from the new site, so we won't see those kinds of comments anymore. You have to use a name now. But you do not have to actually register with the network to leave a comment. All you have to do is enter a unique name of some kind, plus any e-mail address, and you can comment away. The catch is that the name and e-mail address you enter has to be something that doesn't already exist in their network of user names. So, say Longball wants to comment. He would enter Longball as the username, and whatever e-mail he chooses, and viola, the comment is there as long as there isn't already another Longball in the universe. But if you plan on commenting a lot (and you know who you are), go ahead and register. It's quick and painless, and never anything to worry about going forward. Or not. Whatever you choose is fine. The comments have been flowing lately, and we will still want to hear from you over there.

5) Finally, we're going to keep doing what we've been doing all along, and that's having fun with something we all find dear to our hearts - writing about the Cougs. The content and such, that will not change. It will just look a little different. We'll do the usual stuff, plus step out there on occasion, just like we always have.

The nuts-n-bolts of the move is that we will initiate the transfer sometime on Friday. It may take a few minutes, maybe a few hours, maybe even a day or so, but eventually when you go to, you'll land at the new site.

We'd love to hear your opinions once you make it over there, so feel free to share either via comments or email, whatever you want to do is fine.

That's all for now. Enjoy your Friday, and as always, GO COUGS!

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Thursday Practice Report: Hotter than Disco...

On Thursday afternoon I trekked up to practice with my trusty sidekick/photographer, Amieable and we have something to report...

It was hot. Too damned hot. Too hot for coach Wulff who ran off to a sports banquet in Spokane. Too hot for the usually unflappable Vince Grippi who had this to say -

"The hottest day of the year and he’s (Coach Wulff) not here, which is why I didn’t feel bad standing in the shade of the library."

Vince needs to get a "Grippi" on his facts. He was actually sitting in the shade of library and Amieable has the proof...

BUSTED! He stole a chair from somewhere and took a seat next to the tackling dummies. Ok, we can't blame him. In fact we escaped to the shade too and a vantage point just above the west side of the practice field. It was a great perch to observe from and was a crisp cool 195 degrees instead of the sweltering four million degrees out on the practice pitch. Here's what we saw...

Kevin Lopina. Am I starting to sound like a broken record? The senior was at it again today, making the reads, the throws and moving the chains, while Marshall Lobbestael really struggled. Ocho Rojo put a number of balls in the turf in front of open receivers, but did manage to find a couple wide open DBs. Daniel Simmons, the emerging freshman cornerback, took his pick to the house, and safety Tyree Toomer was so surprised to be drilled between the numbers that he couldn't corral the interception. At one point Amieable turned to me and asked, "Has he completed a single pass today?" Right now it is Lopina's job to lose and his stiffest challenge is coming from the freshman, Tuel.

Tuel looked good again today. He moves really well in the pocket and had the throw of the day when he sent an absolute bullet through the defense to a diving Nick Proen, the sophomore wideout. He does have a ways to go with running the offense, however. On one play the defense brought a blitzing linebacker up near the right end and with no protection on that side Tuel failed to check to a different play or formation. The ball was snapped and the linebacker came untouched off the end forcing Tuel to tuck and run up the middle and into the open arms of the D tackles. Definitely a good example of the kinds of trouble a defense can cause a young QB by mixing up the looks they give him.

It has been widely noted that a few freshman have already shown they will be impact players this year. Three of them, Gino Simone at receiver, Daniel Simmons at corner and Travis Long at defensive end, are holding down starting spots. Gino made a couple of really nice grabs today and Long is a disruptive force coming off the right end. We already mentioned that Simmons had the big pick today, pouncing on a telegraphed Marshall Lobbestael pass and taking it to the house. Also seeing time with the #1 defense was Darren Markle, the freshman linebacker who more than held his own. This will probably be Alex Hoffman-Ellis' spot, but he was out today and Markle got the nod ahead of Mike Ledgerwood. Everywhere you look on this team it appears that Coach Wulff and his staff have done a helluva job on the recruiting front. Help isn't on the way, it is already here.

As has been widely reported, James Montgomery, the explosive running back transfer from Cal, was on the receiving end of a nasty hit today that put him on ice for the rest of practice. It was so hot today, I couldn't blame him for coming up with any reason to get to that ice bath, but after the hit he took it may not have been worth it. The #1 offense was doing a red zone drill against the #1 defense and Lopina made probably his poorest decision of the day, trying to zip a laser pass to Montgomery in the middle of the end zone. The ball arrived with Montgomery surrounded by at least 3 defenders closing fast. He took one of those dreaded shots where someone hits ya hard up top going one way and someone else gets you down low going the other. It activated the cringe reflex in both Amieable and I. Initially I was worried his head had snapped back awkwardly, but it turned out to be his knee that got tweaked. So far, it appears he is fine, but everyone was holding their breath.

Keep going for the rest of the story, plus several pictures of the action....

This wasn't the only hard hit of the day. In fact this defense seems considerably more nasty than the paddy-cake princess tea party we saw last year. Its encouraging to hear the gunshot crack of the pads ring off the library walls again, something that we just haven't heard enough of lately.

As I said, I brought Amieable along so we could show you what it all looked like out there today, so lets get to the pics -

I said the defense has been hitting hard, and here you see Jason Stripling (51) breaking up a pass to Tony Thompson (14).

What do you get when you take near 100 degree temperatures and hard hits? Tempers flare and Amieable is ready to capture the action...

This scuffle was pretty short, and I couldn't even tell who started it, but this is the kind of stuff that becomes more common as camp wears on.

Here you see Marshall Lobbestael (8) tucking and running for his life; Kevin Kooyman (93) and Jesse Sanchez (99) are in pursuit...

Here you see freshman running back Carl Winston (32), taking the hand off with big #76 Micah Hannam leading the way down field. This turned into a big gainer down the sideline for Winston who looks like another great pick up for Coach Wulff and his staff.

Here we see sophomore receiver Nick Proen (25) hauling in a pass as safety LeAndre Daniels (15) closes in for the hit...

Here a Marshall Lobbestael pass sails just over the reach of Gino Simone (1) who had a step on Daniels (15)...

You may have heard that Chad Eaton has been a regular feature at practices this year. Since Eaton was a starting NFL defensive tackle all those years, I like to use him as a physical measuring stick of how our guys are looking. Eaton is in the white shirt and red shorts, without a helmet of course. Great to have a strong part of our past checking out practices!

Finally, looks like Mr. Grippi wasn't sitting down on the job after all...

My apologies to Vince!

Well Coug fans, that's all I have for now. Sounds like Hooty and Kaddy are coming to town. Between that and the National Lentil Festival, I better get my drinking pants on. I hope to bring you more news and images from Fall Camp soon. Until then...


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dog Days a Drag

Happy Thursday Coug Nation. I guess it's true, as someone commented yesterday, that we are entering the dreaded "dog days" of fall camp. The weather is hot, the players are roughly halfway through camp, feeling fatigued/beat up, and they know that they still have a ways to go before camp winds down. It's a mental challenge, and only natural that the players might appear a little ragged right about now. Per Grippi, the most players to miss a practice thus far - ten - occurred yesterday, and the intensity took a drop. It was mentioned from the Seattle Times that UW's recent practice had a ragged, fatigued look to it, so probably a lot of programs right now are dealing with a juice-drop. Wulff concurs:

“Early in practice we got them woke up and they did some good things,” Wulff said. “But we kind of fizzled. Our intensity level dropped. And so a lot of things, we weren’t real crisp in what we were doing on both sides of the ball.

“We had a good tough day (Tuesday) but we need to respond off of that. We didn’t. … They realized it, but we have to grow. If we learn from this, it’s a good learning lesson. If we don’t learn from it, obviously it wasn’t.”

What can you do, but press on? Kind of like running up a huge hill, and you are struggling about halfway through it. Do you look at the finish line and feel a little overwhelmed by what's in front of you? Or should you just put your head down and focus on the next step? The answer is obvious, but it's easier said (or written on a blog) than done!

Moving on....

I know this was from Tuesday, and it yet AGAIN touches on the QB situation (I know, I know), but it's a pretty good read in case you missed it. Kevin Lopina at least has a swagger/chip on his shoulder about what happened last year and the villagers who are massing at the gates, pitchforks in hand. But about last season....

“It happened,” Lopina said. “It’s not like I didn’t complete any passes (87 of 153 for 57 percent). I completed a lot of passes, we just couldn’t get it in the end zone. Even in the run game, we struggled.”

You know what? He's right. The running game was a struggle last year, from beginning to end. The offensive line was patchwork, from week one until the latter part of the year. The QB's were battered beyond anything we've seen in Pullman. It was a DISASTER.

Knowing all that we know about last year, all the on-the-field/off-the-field issues that crippled this team from the day Wulff took the job, how can we REALLY forecast what is going to happen this year? How do we really know what he is capable of? Do you know how many passes Lopina threw last year in game situations before he was knocked out vs. Portland State? 50. 50 passes as a healthy QB before the injury took so much out of the tank. Those 50 passes were his first-ever NCAA passes as well. Is it really fair to judge a QB off his first 50 passes as a healthy QB, in a brand new system with so many new skill-position players in every direction, even if he is an upper-classman?

Look, Lopina by all accounts is a great guy. I talked with someone over the weekend who met him when he played at De La Salle, and was extremely impressed by the young man. The quote was that he "talked like he was an attorney" as a high school senior, and was a real leader of that team. And we all remember last year, when he chose to step forward from the ranks after the 58-0 Stanford wipe-out and call out the quitters. And hell, the guy overcame fractures in his vertebrae to give everything he had down the stretch in a lost cause of a season. Wouldn't it have been easier for him to just say "you know, I'll just take the rest of the year off, let the injuries heal, and we'll go get 'em next year!" Instead he gets out there as soon as he possibly can, probably too early according to a lot of people, and guts it out.

I know the whole QB situation is causing some angst right now, but I'm coming around on Lopina. He is out there in camp earning this job, and that much cannot be denied. I want to see what a healthy Lopina can do, with a year's experience under his belt, along with a bigger, stronger O-line, a deeper core of running backs, and a bunch of young receivers who at least now have the first-year yips out of their system. If he emerges from camp as the starter, so be it. Let's rally around him and hope he proves the coaches right with an on-the-field performance that returns this team to the victory column. Sound good?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perfect 10th

Hello Followers. Hope you are having a great week.

Well, with training camp now almost half-way in the books, I thought it high time to remind you what a perfect 10 looks like:

Oops~ What I meant to write was "I thought it high time to remind you what a Perfect 10th looks like."

Much better, right?

Of course, being the bright Cougar fans that you all are, you all know what happened to those Crimson Hoopsters of the 2005-2006 season: A young group of freshmen and sophomores finished DEAD STINKIN' LAST in the Pac-10.

But along the way, those merry young lads also managed to have a few nice W's over the Puppies of then Sweet 16 fame; and the tough learning and development they encountered that year set the stage for two MAGICAL runs into national prominence in the two years that followed.

And now, after being the laughingstock of the Pac-10 conference for nearly a decade, we have a SOLID basketball program.

So, today we stand at the cusp of what could be either a very interesting rebuilding campaign; OR we could be about ready to embark on what could be an apathy building, disgust and disdain filled losing season.

And so, in view of those two possibilities, I bequeath upon you all, the faithful, to allow me the following MEGA RANT:

Followers: Last year, when describing the nuances of our total stink fest of a season, our very own Hooty McBoob situated the campaigns of this year and the year past as follows. He said: "Next year (2009-2010) will be a rebuilding year for our program. This year (08-09) is a transition year."

For the past nine months, I have wholeheartedly believed that Hooty was right. And I took a great deal of solace in his (however temporary) infinite wisdom. But alas, there are troubling signs that another year of transition may nonetheless be on the way for the Crimson Company...

For example, there is a very troubling sentiment out there that Coach Paul has to win this year--e.g. sniff bowl eligibility--to keep his job. And, as I have noted here before, the ONLY way that Coach Paul loses his job after this year is if we LOSE, LOSE BADLY, AND SET OURSELVES UP TO LOSE AGAIN NEXT YEAR in the process. So, when you read what notables like Longball are saying about the strength of our young talent, it sure seems like Coach Paul and company will have to do A LOT wrong to put Coach Paul in any hot water this year.

At the same time, there are also troubling signs that Wulff and company might be prepared to find ways to have it all unravel by trying to "go for it" this year. And, while there is at least some evidence to suggest that we can be a non disaster this year, there are also some grave and lingering fallacies (however implicit) that need to be addressed by the Blogfathers. Here's the first:

"Kevin Lopina is as good as Alex Brink"

Okay, so maybe no one is saying that directly. Hell, maybe no one is even actually thinking that. But, when I continue to read that Kevin Lopina is slated as our #1 guy, I feel as if that is stated implicitly. And when I start thinking that other people are thinking along those lines, well, I return to the Todd Sturdy and Paul Wulff sponsored fallacy from last year:

"Kevin Lopina is as good as Gary Rogers"

That all said, for the sake of argument, let's say that Lopina IS as good as Little Alex was his senior year at WSU.

So, with that assumption in hand, let's ask ourselves the following questions:

1) Are our WRs as good as what Alex had in 2007? Nope.
2) Are our TEs as good as what Alex had in 2008? Nope.
3) Is our offensive line as good as what Alex had in 2007? Maybe.
4) Are our running backs as good as what Alex had in 2007? Could be.
5) And, is our defense as "good" as the group in 2007? Maybe.

So, in view of these questions, I think it is fair to say that we MIGHT have some aspects of our team that MIGHT be as good as 2007. And, of course, all of that ASSUMES that Lopina is AS GOOD as Alex Brink. Now, lets take a good look at what that 2007 team did that season:


In other words, even if we seriously believe that we are as talented as that group, we STILL would have a hard time coming up with a convincing rationale about how we could possibly have a winning season--especially since the league slate top-to-bottom this year is better than in 2007.

So, if you feel what the Sutra is cooking, then you'll know what I've been getting at for 10,000 words now: WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE A WINNING SEASON THIS YEAR. So, if we're not going to win, then what are we trying to accomplish this year by playing dudes who can't build the future of the program?

Consequently, I implore you all to join me in sending the following questions out to the Cougar Cosmos:

1) Are we trying to take our lumps this year and set ourselves up to be bowl eligible next year as Howie Stalwick suggests?

2) Or, are we trying to implement our "system" this year with the hope of winning so we can later see how Wulff's "real guys" mesh NEXT year?

For me, taking lumps now means "rebuilding" now. Conversely, implementing our system now, feels like an inevitable path to transitioning AGAIN, which pushes rebuilding off for yet another painful year.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the possibility of a perfect 10th THIS season (and who knows, maybe even a perfect 7th!)--a dream I am clinging to that has at its center a VISION of watching Jeff Tuel develop THIS season along with a cast of characters that could be good next year AND really good the year after that.

So, to make sure we're all clear, if Ocho Rojo can never become a Coug legend like Osho Rojo, then so be it.

But please, spare us all from the "we can win this year" mirage and lets start building toward next year RIGHT NOW.

Start Jeff Tuel on September 5th. We'll all be glad we did.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Put Us on the TV!

So the Cougs aren't exactly a primetime TV grab for the upcoming fall season. As in, well, let's see, the Apple Cup is going to be on TV....and the Notre Dame game....and that's pretty much it. But hey, what do you know but FSN, our new buddies with the Cougars All Access show, has come through after all!

That's right, as Cougfan is reporting, FSN Northwest has picked up the Stanford-WSU clash for the season opener. In HD even! Kickoff is now 3 PM, so set those DVR's. Niiiice.

Meanwhile Grippi has some of the usual practice recaps from today's double-dip. The morning saw an emphasis in the running game, while the afternoon was a little sluggish until the end. That's about it.


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Monday, August 17, 2009

"Like we don't even exist..."

Being a fan of WSU Football is really about coping with being kicked when you're down. It appears the venerable Ted Miller of ESPN's Pac-10 blog is making the journey to the great Northwest to check in on Fall camp at UW, Oregon and Oregon State. That's right...he is skipping the Palouse.

These are hard times, indeed. I guess there is just nothing going on way up here in the hinterlands of Eastern Washington that is worth reporting on. Except, wait... there is LOTS to report on! How about an emerging QB battle that was thought to be a forgone conclusion coming out of spring, but now has a much maligned senior in the lead, a veteran transferring and a true freshman now part of the discussion? How about two talented transfers from Cal who are looking to make a big impact on the Palouse this year? How about a rebuilding defensive line that will feature a glut of new talent with the letters DNP next to their names on the depth chart. Is Mr. Miller really not interested in seeing, in person, if any of these guys look like up and comers?

As Hawk would say, "it is what it is". Nobody cares a lick whats happening on the Palouse right now. It's sad, because there is a real story going on up here. Looks like we're going to need to make people start paying attention, beginning September 5.

All for now. GO COUGS! Read more comments

Little Levy to Transfer

There's been a lot of news lately about the QB battle raging in Fall camp between Lobbestael, Lopina and Tuel and it looks like the odd man out, JT Levenseller, has opted to try his luck at getting some playing time somewhere else.

Initial reaction - Understandable, if you ask me. He's a great athlete and a capable QB who in the right situation, perhaps at a lower tier school, could really have a great career. JT was a sentimental favorite of mine, being a Pullman Greyhound and all. But even with his outstanding athleticism and above-average arm, in the end, there really was very little chance of him winning the starting job at Wazzu. It's an awfully crowded group all of a sudden, with Lobbestael, Lopina and Tuel likely ahead of him on the depth chart, and Conner Halliday coming in next year. I speculated last year that he may be better used as a slot receiver, or defensive back where his athleticism could be put to good use, but this decision indicates to me that QB is where he wants to play. Good Luck JT, I'll be rooting for you wherever you land.

That's it for now. As always, GO COUGS! Read more comments

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...

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lopina Ahead After First Scrimmage?

Well, the first week, culminating with the first full scrimmage, is now in the books for our Cougs.

Per Vince, Lopina was a perfect six-for-six for 94 yards and the only TD pass of the day, a 22-yarder to TE Zach Tatman. That's it. Meanwhile, Ocho Rojo was a pedestrian four-for-seven for 32 yards (although as Vince mentioned, there was a drop in there), while young Jeff Tuel went five-for-six for 75 yards (running 3rd string vs. 3rd string by the way).

Here's the take from James, straight outta comments, who took in today's scrimmage:

I went to the scrimmage today and I will say that Lopina looked a lot better than Lobbestael. However my favorite QB of the day was easily Tuel. He made all of the right reads, hitting different receivers on each pass, and knew when he had to scramble or tuck it in. On one occasion he broke out for a 15yd gain--the guy is fast. It's not like the 3rd team defense was horrible either. Sekope made great tackles (and a particularly loud one at that). I'm not saying we shouldn't redshirt Tuel...I'm just saying that I really like him haha.

However, the one thing that I noticed was that the running game wasn't as big as I thought it would be. I mean they made some nice gains, but I never a saw a large play from any of them. I guess I was just waiting for some 40yd rush or something lol. In the end, it's probably a good thing because that means our defense is stopping it. Our defense (specifically the D-line) made a lot of nice plays. They were really pumped up and at one point a large group of them started jumping around, squirting water at each other and just making a lot of noise on the sidelines. They were having fun and it was hilarious watching their antics-- it kind of reminds me of the Mariners this year since Griffey has been back.

The last play of scrimmage ended up being a 60 to 70yd punt that even the small crowd appreciated. Overall, I was pleased with what I saw. There were some things that need work but there weren't any major flaws that I saw last year. The one thing that would make me feel better is just getting enough reps with the plays so that come game time, they will have some more chemistry. But hey, that's why they will be doing two-a-days until the season starts.

Good work James, thanks for that. The best news of all might be the praise Lopina had for the offensive line, giving the QB's some decent time to do what they do best.

Anyway, week in, plus a scrimmage....and what's the early word? The QB competition is heated, and per another Grippi masterpiece, while they aren't coming out and saying it today, Kevin Lopina just might be winning this QB job after all.

Maybe this is due for another post as we get deeper into camp, and it is still pretty early. But there are a couple of things that are starting to become awfully clear. 1) Kevin Lopina is healthy, and after a full year in the system, has improved. And 2) the buzz, or lack thereof, surrounding Marshall Lobbestael right now.

Now obviously Marshall deserves a break, I mean the kid is in there competing just what, 10 or so months after major knee surgery? The spring practice I saw had Marshall in there in skeleton drills, doing his best with the knee brace, all in lousy conditions no less. But even without a pass rush in his face or having to avoid the oncoming blitz from different directions, he didn't exactly tear the defense to shreds either.

But still, after eight practices and a scrimmage now in the books, the "boy Marshall Lobbestael looks good" buzz has been noticeably absent from camp reports. At least I haven't heard it, have you? We'll try and get more analysis from our own Longball in the near future as to what exactly he's seen from the QB's, but anyone else noticing that?

Speaking of competition at QB, Cougfan's got a freebie up on Lopina and his showdown with Lobbestael. It's a good read (we wouldn't send you there if it sucked, would we?). And hey, no matter what happens between Lopina and Ocho Rojo and how this all plays out, we have been fans of Lopina's character. He's a stand-up guy and wasn't shy about ripping it last fall when the quitters were circling the locker room late in the season.

Finally, great write-up in the Seattle Times on someone who is getting a lot of ink these days as Mr. Important, Darin Lovat.

The strength and conditioning coach has been getting some well-deserved back slaps of late for the job he's done sculpting and lifting these young Cougs into PAC-10 shape. Hard to argue with the so-called eye test, as Grippi, Longball, Cougfan, etc have all been quick to mention that these guys look bigger and stronger than last year's version.

Can't wait to see these new physique's in action. Wow, just three weeks from right about NOW, and the season will be upon us! Come on September 5...come on.

Enjoy your evening, and GO COUGS!
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Longball's Afternoon Practice Report

Hello again everyone. I'm a little late getting you my notes from afternoon practice so I apologize. I did see some interesting stuff and snapped a few pictures to share, so better late than never, here we go...

Under gray skies and occasional light showers the veterans had a spirited practice Thursday afternoon. I got to the practice field as the guys were just starting to trickle out of the locker room for stretches. I was anxious to see all this new beef I'd been hearing about. Honestly, we still look a little bit small for a PAC-10 team, but if you look closely there is a difference from last season and even the Spring. Notably Kevin Kooyman stood out immediately. He's always been a bit of a string bean, but no more. By far the biggest difference between the team I saw today and the team I saw last summer was way, WAY fewer guys sitting out practice. Last year it seemed there were more guys loafing around in those walking boots then actually practicing. Today I only saw one...

That is wide receiver Johnny Forzani. He is an intriguing prospect coming out of the Calgary Stampeders youth organization (Canadian teams have those I guess?) and is supposed to be quite the speedster. As you can see he wasn't moving too fast today. Apparently this is nothing major, just soreness in a surgically repaired foot. They were also being cautious and resting a couple other guys who had off season surgeries including Bernard Wolfgramm and Myron Beck, but for the most part everyone was participating. What a difference a year makes.

Read on for more....

As you may have heard, two true freshman have been participating in afternoon practice with the veterans. Gino Simone, the all world receiver from Skyline and Travis Long, the man-child defensive end from Gonzaga Prep were both on hand. Here is Gino (1) stretching before practice with NCAA 400 meter hurdle national champ, Jeshua Anderson (85).

One player who returned to practice today after sitting out yesterday with a hip pointer was Apple cup hero Jared Karstetter (84), seen here with Kevin Lopina (9).

I'm not sure if it was a last minute decision, but when he ran onto the field the receivers and QB's got excited, welcoming him back with a burst of applause.

It was clear watching the offense go through their plays that they have a much better grasp of things than they did at this time last year. Last summer the coaches spent a lot of time shoving guys into the right places, basically directing traffic, but this year, with the notable exception of Simone who is still learning the formations, everything was much more fluid. Most of what I saw from the coaches was fine tuning and pushing the tempo. If you're like me, you were probably frustrated by the pedestrian pace of our no-huddle offense last year (the few games we actually ran it). But I'm hopeful from what I saw Thursday afternoon that we'll be able to step up the pace a bit more.

You may have gotten the idea from some of my posts and comments that I am a big fan of Joe Eppele. When you see this team in person, he is without a doubt the biggest, strongest looking guy we have and I was excited to see him in the mix for a starting spot this year. Here is big #67, who doesn't look to carry an ounce of body fat on his over 300 lb frame.

I took this picture to show how much he stood out amongst the other hosses on the team, but depth perception and my photography skills being what they are, you may be asking... who is #75? He looks like a behemuth! Well he is. That is redshirt frosh Tyson Pencer, who like Eppele, hails from British Columbia and is one of the growing number of guys who make us look like a PAC-10 football team.

In the picture above you see the coaches have laid foam pads about 3 yards apart on the turf. This set up was for a drill that was my favorite part of the day. As Vince highlighted in his report, this is a drill borrowed from Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma. An offensive lineman and defender faced each other between the pads with a QB and/or running back behind the O lineman. The idea was for the O lineman to open a hole for the running back to get around the defender within the tight confines between the pads. Basically, it was demolition derby.

There were some big collisions, the most notable I saw was when Joe Eppele lined up against Andy Mattingly. It was a pretty one sided affair as Eppele completely bulldozed Mattingly to an explosion of cheers from his cohorts on the offense. Also of note was true frosh Travis Long completely blowing up the O linemen he was up against and the running back in a single big hit. It is easy to see why this young man may see the field right away!

The other big moment of the afternoon was a long touchdown run in scrimmage from Logwone Mitz. He made a great cut when a hole opened off tackle left and was through it like a laser and out in the open where no one would catch him. As Grippi noted he got some nice blocks from his receivers, but from my vantage point all I could see was pure explosiveness. He looked like Shaumbe in the snow. Know what I mean, Coug fans?

Well that is all I have for now. I have a lot more I want to see and share with you in the coming days so stay tuned to this station and I'll be back with more. Until then...

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rookie Watch - Checking in on Morning Practice

Hello Cougar Nation,

Longball here to give you an update on what I saw at today's AM practice. As you may know coach Wulff has split the squads into two sessions each day, rookies in the morning and veterans in the afternoon. It's all about reps, according to coach Wulff, and it's a good chance to get as much work as possible for everyone. This morning I got a good glimpse of the future and my first impression...two words:

Jeff Tuel

If anyone watched Tuel's highlight reel you know the kid shows a great arm to go with some live feet. Check it out here, by the way...

The highlights pretty much alternate between 60 yard TD runs and 60 yard TD passes. I can tell you that in person, he looks great, comfortable and in command leading the rookie offense up and down the field against the rookie D. He showed an easy throwing motion, strong arm and good accuracy, but also a great instinct for when to tuck and go. I was really excited by what I saw. He still looks very young and has a lot of filling out to do on his 6'3" frame, so lets drop any talk of him playing this year right now. But the future looks very bright for this young man.

On defense I was really excited to see Darren Markle, the highly touted middle linebacker and serious power-lifter(400 bench, 600+ squat!?!), but it was another linebacker who really stood out to me.

Sekope Kaufusi

Good luck pronouncing his name. But however you choose to say it, Sekope stands out on the field not only because of the rock star mane of hair flowing out the back of his helmet, but also because of his size. He lines up at middle linebacker, but has defensive end size. This kid looks like he could be a lot to handle in years to come.

For the most part the O line seemed to have the upper hand, giving Tuel decent time and opening nice holes for the running backs, but whenever a running back found a nice seam up the middle they were met with a pretty loud pop in the defensive backfield followed a lot of cries of "Nice hit Jamal!" That Jamal I speak of? Safety Jamal Atofau, already making a name for himself out there.

Add Jamal to the list of young Cougs you can be very excited about for the future.

Other notes - It was interesting to see former wideout Anthony Houston running with the defense this morning as a cornerback, albeit a very large cornerback. It will be interesting to see if he can develop into a serviceable corner. With his size it would definitely help the defense match up against big receivers. Anyone who was at the Okie State game last year knows what I'm talking about?!

I had a brief chat with Co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears this morning and he succinctly reiterated what we've been hearing a lot about this team... bigger, faster, stronger and tougher. Sure sounds good!

That's it for this morning folks. I will be at the afternoon session too get my first impressions of the guys we will be counting on to make a return to being competitive year. Check in later to see if there is any truth to this talk about gettin' tough. Until then...

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Louis Bland - A New Hope?

First of all, outstanding post-practice reports from Sir Vincent Grippi. Get 'em here, here and here. Cougfan as well is spreading the info, with a free article to boot (!) in their chat with coach Wulff, as well as quotes from Louis Bland and Andy Mattingly.

Sounds like a busy day, splitting the practices between the rookies in the AM and mostly vets in the PM. And there's good tidbits to devour throughout all the coverage. But the best news, at least from where I sit? LOUIS BLAND, per the Cougfan story:

“We’re more united as a defense,” outside linebacker Louis Bland said. “Last year, it seemed when times got hard, we laid down a little bit.

“Right now, we’re not backing down from anything.”

Bland has been slowed by a left knee sprain suffered during spring practice, but he saw his most extensive action of camp on Wednesday. He joined the starters in a practice that involved only the No. 1 and 2 offenses and defenses.

I think I’ll be ready for the first game,” Bland said.

The part about Bland saying he thinks he'll be ready for the first game, yeah, I gave it some bold text. Now, Grippi doused the excitement a bit, with a quote from Wulff saying how Bland isn't quite 100% and still speculated that he may not be ready for the opener. But you can't help but love to hear some good injury news on such a vital part of the defense!

We can't say enough about Bland, after a breakthrough frosh season last year, playing his heart out as a 205-lb outside linebacker in his first NCAA action. That picture above, Bland hitting Toby Gerhart with basically his face, just speaks volumes about the kid. But to see that he's up over 220 lbs now, and running with the one's during some hard-hitting practice this afternoon? Very, very good news for a defense trying to rebuild it's image.

Also some good stuff on the rookies who stood out, including QB Jeff Tuel, WR Gino Simone and DE Travis Long. Simone and Long participated in the veterans practice, while Grippi reported that Tuel had thrown pretty well, even in the rain, and there were some drops due to his "fastball".

Anyway, I know I/we have been cool to the idea of Tuel actually playing this year...but...well, have you seen what's going on at USC? With Aaron Corp suffering an injury that is going to keep him down for a few weeks, true frosh Matt Barkley is taking the reins, at least for now. That's right, a true frosh QB. Clearly Barkley is on another level, I mean we're talking about the TOP GUN coming into NCAA football this year. He's ultra-elite, and was projected to at least battle Corp for the job anyway. Tuel, I think everyone agreed, should be redshirting....but....IF he shows a lot, should, never mind. Redshirt the kid, let him get his feet on the ground, and we'll see what happens next year.

Look for a Longball recap of practice in the coming days. As always, GO COUGS!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Conference of... Running Backs?

Lets face it, it's a down year in the Conference of Quarterbacks. There is talent, for sure, but up and down the conference there will be a conspicuous lack of experience lining up under center. However, the Pac-10 may just make up for it by temporarily becoming the Conference of Running Backs. In fact the conference is so stacked at this position that even the lowly Cougs have more talent in their backfield then they can really use, and our rivals across the state are going to line up their best running back at QB!

This year two of the very best running backs the conference (of running backs) has to offer will serve as bookends to our home campaign. On September 5th Stanford's Toby Gerhart will provide a stiff early challenge for our rebuilding defense, and on November 21st, Jacquizz ("Quizz") Rodgers will try to make a new highlight reel out of WSU's Senior Day.

Quizz checks in at around 5'7", 190 lbs, and while Gerhart is a more hearty 6'1" 230, they will provide completely different challenges to our defense. But at the same time, they may provide an interesting measuring stick about how far our team has progressed, or lack thereof, as the season wears on.

It's a little early to hit the panic button just yet, but It looks like Gerhart is going to face a Coug D that does not include Louis Bland. And by November 21st, who knows what other casualties will occur by the time Mr. Rodgers makes it to the Palouse. Either way, I look forward to seeing them both live and hope our guys can hold their own.

So where do the Cougs stand in this new-fangled "Conference of Running Backs"? Frankly, from a WSU perspective, it is the only position I feel downright giddy about going into the season. Having a talent like James Montgomery fall into our lap is enough to be excited about, but even without him the stable is plenty full. He joins a group that includes two other Cougs in particular that I'll be rooting extra hard for this Fall.

Logwone Mitz

Arguably one of the great Cougar names of all time. I guarantee if all the potential this kid has comes to the surface over the course of his career, you will hear that name a lot more around Pullman. People will name their pets, boats, guns and first born sons Logwone. I have some first-hand knowledge that Logwone is a class act off the field, a consciensous student, nice guy and one of the many players we can be proud to have on our roster. Players like Mitz don't seem to get enough attention these days. His Apple Cup run has already won him a small place in Cougar lore, but I look for him to give us many more memorable runs over the next couple years. Just stay healthy big fella!

Dwight Tardy

Tardy gets my vote for our current spiritual leader of this team. The senior has been through all the upheaval around the program and has been a steady performer and leader through it all. He is another kid we can be proud to have wearing Crimson. He has never been overly spectacular nor a particularly flashy player. I always considered him "serviceable" while we waited for younger talents like Chris Ivory or DeMaundray Woolridge to develop, if not take over the position entirely. But, alas, many of the challengers are gone, and it is Tardy who is still standing. It looks to be a showdown between Tardy and James Montgomery for the honor of handling that first hand-off on Sept. 5th. I'll be watching this battle closely during Fall camp, but I have to admit, Dwight Tardy is my sentimental favorite to win the job.

So tell me, Cougar Nation... who are your sentimental favorites this fall? If there are any position battles you are especially interested in let me know in the comments. In the coming days ahead I will be taking in fall practices, and I'll report back on how I see things shaking out. And on that note? It's a shame I wasn't able to make it to camp today. Apparently I missed seeing a few spirited altercations (FIVE fights!?! Really???) that make the first days of contact so exciting.

On a side note, has anyone else noted a bit of a change in Sir Vincent Grippi this year? He seems to be shedding his impenetrable veneer of objectivity and becoming a bit of a, dare I say... "fan" of whats happening with this team? Or maybe its just me?

Hang in there everyone, it's almost Cougar Football Saturday! Remember, I'll be checking out some practices in the next few days, so tip me off in comments if there is anyone or anything in particular to watch out for.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vote Butch

OR else you'll get some of this.

Yep, Butch is back in the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hooray Butch! I love the scouting report from the website - 6'3", stacked and packed? Really? I've seen a lot of Butch's in my day, as I'm sure you have too. But I've never seen one 6-3 and full of muscle!

Butch is a former Capital One champion as well, winning in '06. He's definitely got a shot this year. We'll do our part. And at least he can rock the evil of the Thriller:

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Meanwhile Grippi had a mega post today, doing his best Ted Miller impression by linking to all the other PAC-10 news and stuff. Good work Vince. In the post, he again mentions Chris Ivory's departure, but still no official word on the reason for the dismissal. We'll have to wait and see what turns up. But whatever the reason, it was time for him to move on.

In the same post is a link to coach Wulff's talk with the media, as reported by Teddy Miller. The overall tone?

"We don't spend a lot of time addressing what other people think because it just doesn't allow us to keep moving forward. They're road blocks. It doesn't matter. If you look at years past, the Cougs have been picked in the lower half and have done extremely well. I've coached teams that weren't predicted to do well and have done well. The thing about it is they are predictions. So many things can happen, from teams improving and staying healthy to good teams that get too many key injuries that [once] were good teams but by the end of the year they're not a very good football team. Those things no one can predict -- coaches can't, media can't -- we can only control what we can control. If we spend a lot of time worrying about anything other than that then we are just slowing ourselves down. It's about us and the work we have to do to take care of every single day and each week. That will remain our focus."

Sounds like major circle-the-wagons time right now. And there is very little motivating tactics out there that are better by telling elite athletes that nobody thinks they are any good. Just keep building up the chip on the shoulder, and eventually you become a nightmare to play on a weekly basis!

Cougfan has a charting of the weight gains for the Cougs. It's a premium article (but they are running a 2-for-1 right now, 2 months for 9.95. Not bad). While we don't have any details beyond what is already out there, Joe Eppele is mentioned as having put on 15 lbs of grade-a beef. Nice.

ESPN's Bottom Ten has rolled out with a new edition (and with a Michael Jackson theme to boot, ala WHO'S BAD!). Yes, UW is on the list. No, WSU is not. But alas, WSU is on the so-called "waiting list", as in stink it up early, and they'll be happy to seat you in the bottom-ten. Great. Also worth mentioning that UW's week-two opponent, the scrappy Vandals of Idaho, are #3 on the list.

Stay tuned for something out of our own Longball with an eye-witness report of fall camp. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

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Monday, August 10, 2009

New PAC-10 Helmet Schedule Available; Ivory Out

Just a quick post on a couple of things tonight. First, the new helmet schedule is making the rounds for '09. However it's in spreadsheet format, and not everyone can see it like that. So, we found the creator of the project - SimonOnSports - and discovered he had actual pictures of each conference's schedule. So we went with the PAC-10 version. Here it is, in full RETRO glory.

Click on it, and do the old right click/save as, and you have your own copy in JPG format. Note - SimonOnSports originally did not have the SMU game available on his PAC-10 graphic, so we added it in for WSU's schedule. Anyway, enjoy.

Also note that on the sidebar, there is now a link directly to this PAC-10 helmet schedule.

One more quick thing. Earlier today there was a rumor going around that running back Chris Ivory has left the football team. Grippi's post-practice recap today specified that Ivory was notably absent, but couldn't get confirmation at the time of what was going on. Now, we know. Both Grippi and Cougfan are reporting that Ivory has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Grippi confirming the news with SID Bill Stevens of WSU.

It's pretty disappointing, but I guess it's not a huge surprise that he is no longer in the mix. With or without Ivory, the running back group was pretty crowded, so this will thin things out a bit. Likely we'll see a combo of Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery and Logwone Mitz, with perhaps Marcus Richmond or Chantz Staden. That is, if Staden doesn't redshirt, something alluded to from Grippi's practice report.

But it's disappointing in the whole Texas-Doba-Leon Burtnett recruiting thing that had people so excited several years ago. Now Ivory wasn't part of the first Texas recruiting breakthrough in 2005, of Demaundray Woolridge, Greg Trent, Jason Stripling and James Bradley. Ivory actually was part of the class of '06, but still in that Texas pipeline that we thought so much of back in the day. Now we did see Chima Nwachukwu show up in '07, and he's been starting since day one. But after all the hubbub, now it appears that only Trent will have made the biggest "dent" in all this. Stripling is still around, trying to overcome a bad shoulder one more time, but Woolridge, Bradley and now Ivory are gone.

Oh well. It is what That's it for tonight. GO COUGS!

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Cougars All-Access?

Lost in the shuffle of the opening of fall ball is one nugget of info - WSU announced that they have re-upped with FSN, into 2016-17. Big deal, right?

Well, it is a big deal for one very cool thing - COUGARS ALL ACCESS!

In addition to the network's commitment to deliver live events for WSU football and basketball programs as well as Olympic sports, FSN will produce a 30-minute weekly show focusing on Cougar Athletics beginning this season. Cougars All-Access will provide fans a unique look at campus life for WSU's student athletes, delivering more in-depth, personal, innovative and exciting coverage of the Cougars than ever before.

Cool! You know what the All-Access shows are, right? They are the weekly puff pieces that FSN does right now with Oregon State and that other BCS school in Washington, with behind-the-scenes stuff galore. Love it, love it, LOVE IT.

So, now the natural question is, who will host the show? Will it be:
1) Angie Mentink?

A former UW softball player in the Husky Hall-of-Fame....we can just stop right there. I'm thinking Angie won't be roaming the Palouse anytime soon, nor would her heart really be into a weekly Coug show? I mean she's professional and all, but there's that whole UW thing.

How about:
2) Jen Mueller

I would bet the odds are pretty good here. But wait, after checking out her bio, she's an SMU grad. SMU is a week-three opponent of our Cougs, so, that might be uncomfortable for all involved. Better move on to number three on the list....

3) Brad Adam?

Brad's pretty good. Handsome, but not too slick-ass salesman handsome either. He does a decent job in his M's hosting job, but, his baseball obligations to the M's will take him all the way through September. So it may not work out.

Which brings us guessed it:
4) Nicole Zaloumis

Not to go all "creepy Erin Andrews" here, but this might be the choice. Zaloumis is the newest face on FSN, after Cara Capuano moved down to SEC country to cover college football. So, low man on the totem pole might have to take on the new job, maybe one that the others wouldn't necessarily want?

We'll see. We just added a poll above of "Who Should Host", so vote early/often. Every vote counts.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and GO COUGS!

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Marshall's Knee the Key to Day One

Finally. It's on. And not a moment too soon. I think we're all about "previewed out", wouldn't you say? I mean there is only so many ways you can look at the upcoming season before it all just kind of runs together. So enough of all that. It's time for the real thing. And now with cool new practice jerseys, including the Nike swoosh!

I'm sure by now you have heard all you need to hear about day one, and while there are a lot of stories and such, Vince's blowout recap from yesterday is the place to be. He also weighed in this AM as well with even more links and so on. Safe to say Vince has come out swinging in round one!

The toughness theme is there, and that's great. And really, is there any doubt that getting bigger/stronger/tougher is a theme that they are pushing for this year? When we saw them in practice a little bit this spring, and again after spring ball was over and Vince recapped the whole session, they did appear to be overall a tougher, crisper unit compared to the ragged '08 season. Even with some of the injuries and missing faces from the spring, they just looked, I don't know, different.

But it's not just for this year. As long as coach Wulff is at WSU, what we are going to see beginning now and into the future is a group that will pride itself on being a physical football team. It has been drilled into them since Wulff took over, the new approach to conditioning and nutrition and all that. It's not just lip service. It will be this program's identity, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

But of all the talk and excitement from day one, the early word I'm hanging my hopes on right now? Marshall Lobbestael and Jeshua Anderson.

Marshall was mentioned in Vince's post about the knee feeling good:

Lobbestael is coming off knee surgery, though he said it’s fine. “Feels good,” he said. “Got a new brace and it feels good. I was running, doing drops and stuff. I’ve just got to get used to doing everything. In spring I was sort of held out some drills, some running plays, but it feels good.”

Lobbestael would throw the day's only TD in skeleton drills. Big whoop right? Hey, We'll take WHATEVER WE CAN GET right now!

And the fact that Jeshua is out there practicing is very good news indeed. Even if it wasn't 100% clear that he would even return to the team until mid-July (did you know that?? It's not a surprise, but waiting until mid-July before deciding certainly is.). The team is, let's face it, lacking in play-makers at the WR position, and all things being equal, Jeshua is the biggest homerun guy in the lineup. Want to stretch the field and keep things honest? You better have a healthy, productive Jeshua out there to give the opposition a little something to think about. Even though we all expect the running game to be deep and all that, still, you better be able to get some things done through the air or else it could be another rough season with the football.

That's it for now. Look for some first-hand impressions from our own Longball in the coming days, as our Pullman "townie" should have some good looks at the team. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!
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Friday, August 07, 2009

Five Questions for Fall Camp

Hello Followers. I hope you have had a very pleasant (and profitable) week.

Well, as we now stand on the near eve of the start of the 2009 Cougar Football Campaign, I thought it timely to give you all the top five questions I am sending out to the Cosmos (e.g. Vince Grippi and Longball) as we head into Fall Camp this Sunday.

1. Will Ocho Rojo be declared the starting quarterback by the end of the second week?

Followers, we've already talked a lot about our quarterback situation and the offensive woes of last year past. But, for the Coug-A-Sutra, a few issues demand a quick revisit.

First of all, teams that are as historically awful as we were last year become that bad for a very simple reason: They lack talent. But, in addition to lacking talent, bad football teams can also become pretty horrible by demonstrating another important aspect of futility: PREDICTABILITY.

For us last year, being both awful and predictably awful started with not being able to run the football on first down and then culminated in constant "third down and forever to go" passing situations. Of course, both the start and end game of these twin scenarios is facing constant pressure that not only results in lots of Turn-overs, quick possessions, and lack-of-first downs, it also gets guys killed.

However, thanks to Coaches Paul and Sturdy, we might just have an antidote to last years' futility phenomenon/epidemic...

As we've noted before, the potential beauty of the no huddle is that it puts the pressure on opposing defenses to have to "react" to what we are doing--oftentimes without the right defensive personnel on the field. So, while we were mercilessly "attacked" all of last year due to our lack of talent and predictability, the successful execution of a no huddle has real promise to take A LOT of pressure off the offensive line and QB by making the defense think about something other than eating our blood.

Of course, in order to execute all that, you need lots of reps. Moreover, if you add a few wrinkles like a silent snap count in a first game at home, you need TONS of reps that can only be garnered if you have ONE guy who is declared as such early in camp.

So, the quicker Marshall gets declared #1, the quicker we move forward in being able to execute our offense and scheme. In the end, our O may not get there by Stanford even if Marshall wins the job early, but if #8 takes 80% of the snaps with #1 unit by the start of the third week, it might get there by Hawaii. And it better.

2. Will James Montgomery emerge as the lead RB for us by the end of Week 3?

Followers, we all need to count our blessings that we have been bestowed such incredible backs like Mitz, Tardy, Richmond, Staden, and "Randle." In fact, with the exception of Richmond, I would be plenty O-fraid of each of them if they played on opposing teams. Seriously.

So, it really isn't all that important if Montgomery is not head and shoulders above any of them. BUT, if he does jump to the front, then I think that we can be REAL confident that our running game has improved to the extent that it should be a pleasant factor for the upcoming year. And last I checked, teams with a good running game, seldom go O-fer, 1-fer, or 2-fer. In fact, most of the time, the worst they do is 4-fer.

3. Will Jason Stripling be able to "Shoulder the Burden" of the 2009 Season?

You wanna know why our defense has been so miserable for the past few years? Well, the first is that we haven't had many good players. The second? We've had only a few of those not very good players--the rest of have been TERRIBLE.

This year, we actually have the ability to be stacked with guys that are okay to maybe-not-so-great. And, in order to keep from having to play the TERRIBLE guys--or having our not-so-good-guys become TERRIBLE guys because they play 75 plays a game, we need to keep guys like Strip healthy.
Moreover, last I checked, Strip is SOLID when he's not on the stretcher.

So, enough with the Erik Bedard crap, Strip. We need you this year, brother...

4. Will we stay healthy or be hamstrung by injuries with the passing offense and defense?

Ankles, shmankles. Knees, shmees. Glutes, boots. Abs, flabs.

All those things can heal more or less with a few days or weeks rest. But alas, those hammies seem like they NEVER heal.

This week, Sean documented how thin we are at CB. And in weeks past, we talked about how our group of WRs actually may not be that bad this year (provided that our top 4--who actually know the offense and can kind of get off the line don't get hurt.)

So, watch those injury reports in days 3-10. When guys get sore, they have a hard time warming up. And when they have a hard time warming up, those hammies tend to go pa-ping, especially for the boys running sprints all the time--e.g WRs and CBs!

I therefore beseech you, Cougar Spirits, please no hammy injuries in spring camp. PLEASE!

5. Can we keep the leaders on the field?

There are five guys in my book who CAN NOT miss much time this year--especially for those first few games. They are: Marshall, Alfred, Mattingly, Hicks, and Turpin. The first four may not surprise you much, but maybe the last one did. As we saw toward the end of the year, T-squared really started to come around. And because he did, opposing teams could only run a VW bug through our defense instead of the Mac Truck we kept seeing all year.

If T-squared and the other two defensive leaders stay healthy, then all of a sudden we might just have enough depth for our maybe-okay-or-not-so-good guys to bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend throughout the year. And, if Marshall and Alfred stay healthy, then we'll have the leadership up the middle to build toward respectability on offense early in the year. And trust me, for our season to be anything but a disaster, that O needs to deliver--and soon!

So, those be my thoughts and reflections for this Friday, please don't be afraid to share yours, as well as your take on Leo busting out a WSU lid to go with a very nice v-neck T.

And to all, a hearty "Coug-de-L'Amor."

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