Happy Thursday Cougs!!! Cougar football is getting closer and closer by the minute and after following this team through spring and fall, I'm ecstatic to see what is to come for 2011. That's the first time I've been able to say that in years.
Something I else I haven't been able to say in years is that the Cougs actually have some quality depth. Remember the glory days of USC? They were so deep that if one of their first or second string players went down, they had another 5-star waiting in the wings. That may never be the case for the Cougs, but nonetheless Paul Wulff and company have built a strong roster...Not without it's flaws however.So today, we are far enough through fall camp that we can have a good idea of what the depth of each group will look like this season. So with that, I'm going to give a position by position grade to our 2011 Cougs. I haven't been able to do this for awhile. A couple of years ago they would've gotten F's across the board. Read on for more...
In a recent story on Jeff Tuel, Paul Wulff was quoted as saying:
"We have a Pac-(12) position now, 1 through 5. We have five quarterbacks here who belong in the Pac-(12). Not all of them can start, but they are going to continue to compete, and a couple of those guys will emerge and play a lot of football over the next few years."
The big guy seems pretty confident at the position, as he should. Jeff Tuel is expected to be a stud this year, and his fall camp has indicated nothing less. Marshal Lobbestael is a senior with starting experience, and Connor Halliday is emerging. So why not an "A"? If you watch this team, you'll know there is a massive drop-off in talent and production when you take Tuel off the field. Halliday is the future, but I don't think he's quite ready yet. When Cody Clements and Austin Apodaca get older, we're going to have some great depth.
Running Backs: B
This grade would have been lower without the fact that Carl Winston is having a great fall camp. Clearly Mitz and Galvin will be the guys who carry the load, but now Winston and true frosh Marcus Mason give us a pretty deep backfield capable of helping improve our woeful running game from the last few years. However, the sample size for these guys (Especially Galvin and Mason) is very small. They need to show us what they can do on Saturdays.
Tight End: B-
Andrei Lintz has stepped up big. I was so impressed watching him during the spring game and I'm so happy to hear that his solid spring has turned into a great fall. So great that he's holding our best recruit from the 2010 class, Aaron Dunn, down on the depth chart. With that having been said, if Lintz goes down, Dunn is also a solid option for us. After that there is virtually nothing resembling a Pac-12 tight end. However, keep an eye out for true frosh Mansel Simmons. As Longball has mentioned after watching him this camp, he is a freak of nature physically and looks to have a pretty good future.
Wide Receivers: A
It's been well documented that long-time wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller has said that this may be the best group of receivers he's ever coached. Just for that alone they deserve an "A". They've done nothing to rebuke that statement this fall camp. Even with the loss of Blair Bomber (whom I was really excited to see this year) to injury, this group has quality options down the board. They're so good in fact, that they may red-shirt Dominique Williams, a talented true frosh who has clearly shown this fall that he's Pac 12-ready. When's the last time we've had the luxury to do that?
Offensive Line: C+
I'm pretty excited about the improvement on our offensive line. However, I still think we're an injury or two away from being a train-wreck once again. Let's face it, although he never showed much on the field, losing Tyson Pencer hurt. He was expected to hold down the fort on our two deeps. Add in the fact that Alex Reitnour may be done as well and all of a sudden our depth on the O-line is a little shaky. Wulff doesn't seem too worried about it, but I would if I were him. If this group fails, he may lose his job. There is no group that is more critical to our success this year than the O-line.
Defensive Line: C-
I think this is probably our thinnest group, as has been the case for probably the last 4 years. However, because of injuries this fall, we have yet to see their full potential. Guys like Brandon Rankin, Ian Knight, and Jordan Pu'u-Robinson have all missed time with minor injuries (Pu'u-Robinson has been resting his surgically repaired knee he hurt in fall camp last year). They would like to redshirt some of their young players like David Davis, but if their health issues extend into the season, they may not have that luxury. Much like the offensive line is for the offense, this group is going to be critical to our defensive success.
This group can play with the best of them. The catalyst this fall however has been the well documented effort and intensity of C.J. Mizell. I've always said that if somebody can whip his butt into shape and get him to focus on realizing some of the immense potential he possesses, we are going to have an future NFL linebacker anchoring our defense. Thank God for Chris Tormey. While the light bulb has seemed to click for Mizell, it's going to be a long year so we'll see how it plays out. However, even without Mizell this is a very talented group. What earned them the especially high grade was what people are referring to as "The Big 3." That being Chester Sua, Logan Mayes, and Tana Pritchard, a group of true freshman that are turning heads big time this fall. (Note I didn't include Darryl Monroe because he played this spring and looks to have already cracked the 2-deeps). Not only are we deep for this year, but we will be for many more years to come.
I really like how are secondary is starting to shape up and this is one of our deepest groups. They are very young, but simultaneously very experienced. My only concern depth-wise however is at cornerback. Losing Aire Justin to suspension hurt this team as he was a senior who was playing at a very high level this spring. Also, Nolan Washington is talented, but oft-injured. They MUST cut down on their mistakes in coverage if our defense is to improve, which means they need to keep their veterans on the field and healthy. By the 2013 season, this could be one of the best secondaries in not only the conference, but in the country.
Special Teams: C+
I'm not sold on our special teams. Andrew Furney has had a decent fall camp, but outside of that he's been shaky. Dan Wagner has also had a good fall, but he's no Reid Forrest. Our return game is what saved this grade. I expect Henry Eaddy to have a big impact in those regards. If Rahmel Dockery ever makes it in, this will instantly bump it up to a B. I've made it no secret how high I am on his potential. Now let's collectively cross our fingers he gets in....
Have talked to Leve' several times and he made a point of telling us at a baseball game that he is being miss quoted. He said this may be his DEEPEST group of receivers, not his BEST. Very much to prove before they can top the Fab 5 and others, including Bledsoe's group.
I also took into consideration players who will redshirt and likely not see the field at all this year. For example, I really like Cody Clements as a quarterback and he was part of the equation in that grade. But no way he sees the field this year... unless 2008 happens again.
Guys guys guys. First of all I love all the comments. Let me just say that yes, absolutely I wrote this article with my crimson shades on, while drinking a fat ice cold glass of crimson kool-aid. I made this list more around how many Pac-12 quality players we have at each position and how we can sustain an injury or two at that spot, not so much based on the talent or production. If that were the case then we'd probably be D's and C's across the board, with maybe a B or two sprinkled in.... And well that's not really as fun to write about.
Tommy, I gotta like your optimism.
That said, I agree with the comments, we are very lightly proven in most areas. LB's are thin, RB's are not as tested as they should be, QB has 1 spot. Lob's isn't a PAC-12 starter on an every week basis. The O line is way too thin and inexperienced and the D line isn't any better. I agree with the WR grade though.
CPW has to recriut some linemen, offense and defense, period. Until that happens we will struggle overall, even through the wins.
Again, all that said, I still believe this team has at least 6 wins in them this year. That should give us a bowl game. Maybe that gives the coaches the opportunity to recruit those "stud hoss" linemen we all talk about but never seem to be able to land.
You do realize the production of the linebackers last season were arguably the worst in the nation out of 119 teams? Now because they seem to be doing well against the worst rushing attack in the nation the last three seasons, they deserve an A-. The fact that you're even allowed to write on a blog likely with an editor looking it over and determining that it looks good, is very puzzling to me.
I believe as always that the closer you are to things, often times the LESS clear they become. It is easy to be optimistic in practices, true that. But there is no arguing that the depth has finally started to build, and should pay off.....in 2012. This year it is young and unproven, and we are still a year away! There is no arguing however that it will be the deepest team in the Wulff era. But like being the worlds tallest "little person", is that really a win?? It is exciting though about what could be coming, as Wulff tries to build the elusive layers of depth that is a constant challenge in WSU football history!
Two things trike me about this list: the depth that got these A/B/C grades is young, and you're basing their awesomeness on their production in spring practices....going against themselves, who have been one of the worst squads in the nation over the past three years. A *lot* of teams would look good in camp if they got to go against WSU opposition. The older guys they surpassed don't inspire much confidence, either. Take the Lobster, for example. Sure he has starting experience....as a pinata.
Second....even if those optimistic projections of depth are accurate, you're going to need it with the line play you're likely to see. That's my only big issue with a Cougar bowl bid; I think you can even outscore people, with a helathy Tuel. I just don't think Tuel stays healthy if the line play doesn't improve dramatically.
Definitely going with RB a C-. Lots of positions a grade too high I kinda think. As a side note, I can't wait to see if Mizell can get it going this year.
you are an optimist. I give you credit. How can QB be a B+ when one hit could take out Tuel?. He is being counted on far too heavily, to carry the offense and put up points. He will have off days, assuming he doesn't get killed behind our line.
==Our LB play has been pathetic. We hear about AHE's "potential." Why do you think Polk ran for 300 yards in the A/C? Because AHE , among others, was totally out of position. Potential is meaningless. We need players,in positon, on the field.
--None of the preseason mags have our receivers any higher than about 4th or 5th. An A seems pretty high.
--The line line grades could easily be lower given our dismal OL and DL play. This area is my biggest criticism of Wull and Co. They have been unable to recruit solid HS linemen in every class. Line play is the key to football, period.
==I agree with the posters below re: TE, special teams, and RB.
--We have to win on the field. Period. I've been burned too many times being optimistic about WSU. I know, I know, I'm too negative. I've been a WSU fan since 1965. I've done my part financially. I'm just tired of the mediocrity, tired of the preseason talk that is totally meaningless, tired of the excuses, and quite frankly tired of the many fans who are willing to accept losing, who are fine with the Cougars being the lovable losers. .
OK, totally random, but this article popped up in the "You Might Like" section: http://www.wsufootballblog.com/2005-articles/july/pascos-monster-o-lineman-spurns-cougs-sonics-petro-wow-plus-nate-mac-10-update.html. Any idea how he turned out for the Dawgs?
I'd give TE depth a D at most. You have two unproven players (looking great in camp doesn't mean squat) and behind that you have...no one.
Good write up, T-Sims. But, I gots to say, I think your grade for the Running Backs is WAY too high. Mind you, I love Mitz and I also think that Ricky G is going to have a nice year. But, to this point, none of em has really shown that they qualify as above average in the Pac-12,
So, I give em a C-, with a good chance of being a B+/A- group by the end of the year.
@Dawgma Tuel played every game last year and was sacked over 50 times.
@Luchster allgedly he's in Pullman, but is in the group of players (Dockery, Taise, Mitchell, , among others) who have not been declared eligible. It seems to me that every day that goes by without a decision makes the chance of being eligible slimmer. We've been down this road before.
@bpcoug54 None of us ACCEPT losing. But we have never been a team that has had the depth and/or coaching stability to sustain long-term success. The jury is out on Wulff, and this is the year that it has to show on the field. I believe this is the best chance we will ever have at building a sustained winner - a perfect storm with Moos coming home, the huge influx of money from the new tv contract, HUGELY needed facility improvements, and the maturity of a young team that appears to have some talent. We are ALL tired of the losing, but to say we accept it is simply wrong. We have to believe in what Moos is doing - I do. Hopefully the Cougs and Wulff turn the corner this year, because the alternative sets us back, once again. GO COUGS!
@Upthewazzu That link isn't working. Which o-lineman?
Agree. We do not have TE depth. We like to think we do, but there has been no performance that really should make us think we do.
If I were doing this for UW, without my Purple and Gold glasses, here's what the DEPTH grades are:
QB - C
- A capable Price, but drops off with RS-Fr Montana and Fr Brown.
RB - A-
- All-Pac Chris Polk, Sophomore Callier (433 yards on 77 carries), Senior Fogerson, and Freshman (that would start for WSU) Sankey.
@YakiCoug I am not saying that YOU are tired of losing. I have been told by prominent Cougar fans that they go for the "gameday" experience and don't care if we win or lose. Many fans are happy if we win the occasional Apple Cup; that's good enough. I hear excuses: WSU is too small, too remote, we don't pay our coach enough to expect a first-rate coach (i like that one), we always have way more injuries than anyone else, we get bad calls from the refs(seriously), Doba destroyed the program so that Wulff's rebuilding job was more difficult than anyone before, on and on. Have you ever heard the Husky fans, at the end of a UW victory, start in with "Pooooooooor Cougars?" I'm just tired of the mediocrity. Thanks for letting me vent.
@Upthewazzu I see...needed to remove a "." It was Tolar. He redshirted his freshman year and then was a four-year starter. Best friend and roommate of Jake Locker as well.
@UWJasonUW@Dawgma Huskies - F. Period. Yeah, it is a homer article, but this is a WSU blog. I believe that as far as grading DEPTH - we are a lot of C's across the board. And even that is basing it on potential, as there is a lot to be proven yet. Those C's could easily go either way. We are deepest at WR - duh, and LB - but are awfully young. I believe in the end, our position grades as a whole will be better than our depth, which will likely show if he are hit hard by injuries.
DL - B-
- Ta'amu, Tokalahi, Shelton. Beasts. But the interior drops off after that.
DE - A-
- All-Pac Jamora, Sr Everrette Thompson, Jr and a starter as a Fr Talia Chrichton, Rs-Fr Josh Shirley, future star and USC snub Corey Waller.
LB - D+
- Sr. Dennison leads the group. No experience after that. Fuiamiano and Timu will start at either side of Cort, but beyond So. Gilliland, everyone is unproven.
DB - B+
- At CB, we go 5 deep. At safety we have 6 guys with experience and welcome back 3 of 4 starters.
WR - A
- All-Pac Kearse, Aguilar, Bruns, Smith, James Johnson, Kasen Williams (a starter now), Campbell. Seven guys that would play on any Pac-12 team.
TE - C+
- Too early on ASJ, but Rs-Fr Hartvigson is a great blocker. Barnett and Domanski provide depth. But no one proven here.
OL - B-
- Youth is starting, but they are experienced. Beyond those five, we have a slew of Rs-Fr and a few upper classmen.
@bpcoug54 I hear you - and believe me, I am definitely TIRED of the losing, but I don't accept it. I think if I ever heard someone say that they don't care if we lose they might get bitch-slapped. The "GameDay" experience is 100 times better when we are winning. I am tired of hearing excuses too, and I think Bill Moos is the guy that will change the mentality of Cougar fans as a whole. He has a definite chip on his shoulder and will do everything he can to change the culture for WSU football.