I guess it happens every August during fall camp, where players reach just about the midway point of a grueling stretch of practices and things start to drag a bit. It's pretty natural/normal, and that's fine. But it seems like it always happens right smack dab in the middle of a stretch of practices, from mid-August last year to, well, mid-spring ball now?
From the recaps from yesterday's day 7 of spring ball, it sounds like things are starting to get a little chippy? Per Cougfan, yesterday resembled something out of WWE in terms of the "skirmishes" and such, as spring ball hit just about the middle of the 15-practice schedule. HOWEVER, maybe it's just a little different this year? Maybe this isn't your typical dog days scenario?
In years past, we always got those reports where players started to drag, or wear down, or just kind of lose a little pep in their step right about now. But from the reports from yesterday, it's more like the dragging has turned instead to players getting after each other, big-time. Maybe that's the biggest difference we are seeing with this new staff, where the coaches are pushing, pushing, pushing all the time to get them to run through a wall with very little let-up? The Spokesman's latest recap details the up-tick in intensity:
Few could have watched Thursday’s practice and questioned whether the Cougars had any desire. During the team period, a scuffle seemed to break out every couple of plays, one of the most physical practices of the spring also turning into one of the most competitive.
Amongst us commoners, I guess you can look at it as being just about halfway through that long run/bike ride/workout/whatever. Where you have been at it for a bit, you have exerted a lot of energy, you are feeling pretty good but you also know you have worked pretty hard. Suddenly you realize you are only HALFWAY there!? At that point you have to make a decision - it's all about digging down and finding that second kick.....or, you slow to a walk and just quit. These guys seem to be pushing through it, and that is very, very encouraging to say the least.
I remember Tony Bennett several years ago talking in a radio interview about the culture change that they had to implement, and how hard it was at first on the basketball players. But not necessarily on the coaches per se, but how hard it was on the players and getting them to accept that they can, in fact, do more than they think.
It's like we all have a built-in barrier to what we believe we are capable of, such as running a set number of miles every couple of days and staying at that plateau, or even like being stuck in a rut of 3 sets, 10 reps of weights per body part. How do you break through and make the jump from, say, 4 miles, to 5, 6, or even more than that? How to you decide to go from 3 sets to 4, or even 5 sets and more reps??
Now obviously it's different for you and me, average Joe's just scratching and surviving. We exercise for the heart and mind and the whole "healthy" experience, but we aren't necessarily training to suit up and throw our bodies around every Saturday! But to get elite athletes to understand that they CAN do more than they think, to get them to believe that when they feel like they just can't go any further, to in fact take another step!? It's a whole different deal, and that was the hardest thing according to Bennett. Getting them to break down that wall when they never have done it before, and more so, already convinced that they can't do it is a huge challenge for any coach.
And yeah, I know it's just spring ball. We're only 7 practices in for the Leach era. Yes, we're excited about what lies ahead, and all reports from people in and around the program say this is a whole new level. There is promise with the returning talent and how they will fit in to these new schemes. The stadium is rising in the background, while Leach walks the practice fields. It's exciting to be a Coug right now, for there is serious hope for what is yet to come. And you know what? It's OK to be excited right now! After the 40 losses the last four years, and all that is moving in the right direction now, go ahead and let yourself be "jacked and pumped". The naysayers will try to piss in your Cheerios, if they haven't already done so, but don't let it bother you. Enjoy this moment, and be optimistic where this thing is headed!
OK, ALL THAT SAID, just how good (or bad?) is the WSU head coaching job? If you read this, well, at least we're not dead LAST in the Pac-12!.....well, we're tied for 11th with our ugly cousins from Oregon State, but still.
I honestly don't know how to take something like that. Of COURSE we're not happy about it, I mean why would we be? But from the outside looking in, a head coaching job in Pullman doesn't sound all that great. That said, when you peel away the layers and look at what's happening, WSU looks pretty good. Consider:
1) An AD and President committed to getting a winning product on the field.
2) Major stadium renovation happening, all part of a huge change in facilities and rebranding across the board.
3) A seat at the table in the Pac-12, quickly becoming a major force in the NCAA football landscape.
4) And if it was really that bad, would Mike Leach have taken the job?
But when you look at the list of schools in the Pac-12, where would you rank WSU? Is WSU a better job than Cal? Arizona? Utah? Colorado? Hmmmm.
Finally, the great ESPN blog has a look at possible surprise teams in 2012. Kevin Gemmell went with Utah, while Teddy Football went with Cal. They now have a poll, where you can pick from five different teams.....no, WSU is not on the list.
I think the question isn't "WTF!?!?!" But instead it's "what constitues a surprise team"?? This was the criteria, as set forth by the ESPN Pac-12 blogging duo:
Which team possibly might shock the world? Which team could break up this apparently preordained marriage at the top of the conference, one reportedly written in gold leaf onto the granite facade of Mount Rushmore?
Fair enough. When put that way, I guess WSU shouldn't even be a poll selection.....right?? I mean we're excited and all that, but are we walking around talking Pac-12 title!? Maybe at the spring game we'll be beyond drunk on "Leach Lemonade" or whatever they are calling it, and we'll be chanting "ROSE BOWL!" by the 3rd quarter. But realistic expectations in year one aren't exactly revolving around BCS bowl talk.
All for now. Enjoy your Friday, and of course, GO COUGS!
Bad news from the scrimmage today! The No.1 defensive line sacked Jeff Tuel 3 consecutive times against the No.1 offensive line today. The 3rd teams came in immediately after and gave up 2 more consecutive sacks! FIVE CONSECUTIVE SACKS! Ugh.
Well, at least we still got some good deep ball connections today despite it. But dang. That's a 3-man front and our O-line is getting whooped.
Honestly now that the salary is more than competitive with our peers, I think the WSU job is mighty attractive. A lot of these comparisons focus on how rural an area is, but the Big 12 is full of podunk towns in fly-over states and yet many of them are still destination jobs. In recent years some of the so-called sweet gigs like UCLA and ASU have had trouble getting interest in their openings and nobody has been able to lure Chris Peterson away from Boise State, so not sure some of those jobs are truly as attractive as prevailing wisdom would have you believe. Our conference, our AD and his commitment to football all make this a very attractive place. Throw in a safe and supportive community where your salary is multiplied by the low cost of living, not to mention an amazing place to raise kids and voila... Mike Leach.
@Longball Agree with pretty much everything said here. Any ranking that puts UCLA as the third best job in the conference is highly suspect... I sure didn't see many coaches jumping at the opportunity! When you find out how much money they were waving around, that just drives home the point that UCLA isn't such a great football gig. Ditto ASU. (we have more athletic donors than both those schools, too).
Isn't there an abundance of fights every year in spring practice? I don't think Leach is doing anything here that Wulff, Doba, Price, etc didn't?
@Soze There probably were skirmishes but the latest reports sound above and beyond. But we aren't there this year, so it's hard to really say what the difference is. Longball was in Pullman in prior years but he hasn't been there this year so we can only react to the news reports.
@TruCoug89 @SeanHawkins I guess my point was that -- whether or not if makes for better football -- there has ALWAYS been in-fighting in spring football. This is nothing new under the Leach regime, so we should not over react and think that better football is ahead because practices are more intense. They aren't.
why would either of these articles suprise anyone? WSU has been one of the worst coaching jobs in the country for oh, about 40 years now. Low salary ,( I think coaching salaries now are obscene and criminal, and that includes Leach's 2 million,, but WSU's coaching salaries have always been comparitively low); poor facilities, remote location, and WSU has always been diffiiult to recruit to. I agree with the above poster that OSU has advantages WSU doesn't.
==Why would anyone pick a team that has gone 9-40 to suddenly have a breakout year? I don't care a whit about "re=-branding." If we could win football games wearing the 1967 uniforms, (which were REAL crimson) it would be fine with me. We are doing a stadium expansion and upgrade. So is virtually every other school in the league. We have had a seat at the pac 8, 10, and 12 all along, too. I'm not so impressed with the idea that since the AD and President want to win, that will happen. Hasn't every WSU President and AD wanted to win football games? The ONLY thing to me that matters is winning football games. I do think Leach gets that and I am thrilled with the hire.
@bpcoug54 I don't know how surprised I was after reading it. But the point I was trying to make is that times are changing. We DO have a president and AD who have made changing WSU in sports a major priority, and their actions have spoken louder than any words we have heard from those positions. And having a seat in the Pac-8/Pac-10 was a big deal before, but nothing like it is today with the TV money that comes with equal sharing in the Pac12, it's night and day. In fact Leach said himself that the conference affiliation had a lot to do with his interest in WSU, more so than the Big 12 job in Kansas or even Maryland in the ACC the year before. The Pac-12 matters.
Those who know, or think they do, realize Bill Moos set the bar VERY high when he was @ Oregon. He's now doing it for us. WSU will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future. Leach may be here for a few years, or a lot of years, but between he and Moos WSU will be a desirable coaching location when Leach is no longer our coach. Our facilities will be among the best there are, and our teams will be more than just competitive. We've lost our "innocense" and while it saddens me, we may have gained much more. My hope is we don't become as the dawgs or qwaks.
@bpcoug54 @Ambush184 @SeanHawkins I think it's clear that there is an ongoing arms race among schools to lure the best coaches with higher salaries and the lure the best recruits with better facilities. The ammunition in this arms race is, of course, money (which the Pac-12 network deal has greatly increased). In the interest of keeping our athletics programs competitive, I am glad to spend the money. And hey, if being "innocent" is having a low-paid coach, mediocre teams, and sub-standard facilities, then put me in the camp that's glad we lost our innocence.
I agree with the others who have posted, that "institutional" factors have also come to light that make certain jobs more desirable than others, even when salary, facilities, and prestige are different. How else would ASU, UCLA, and Kansas have such difficulty filling their coaching vacancies? Incompetent AD's, low support for football, a history of not defending a previous head coach during crisis, "jerking around" other coaching candidates, a conference in flux, etc. can all make a job less desirable, even if the $ and facilities are superior.
I think it's too late. We've "lost our innocence." I think the facilities expansion Moos started at Oregon has come back to haunt all the NW schools. Once Oregon started it, then everybody had to have indoor practice facilities. etc. I think it's unnecessary...why do spoiled athletes need fancy lockerrooms, all the latest hydropools, etc.? All of us have contributed because of our obsession with what is just a game, entertainment, nothing more.
==Moos may have raised expectations. Nothing tangible has happened yet...basketball, baseball, football are just as mediocre as ever. We'll see if an attitude change makes a difference. Moos has money to work with, due to this new Pac12 TV contract, that no other WSU AD ever had at his disposal before.
@bpcoug54 Interesting questions. I think what we've seen in Leach's past is that while presidential support doesn't cub it by itself, it represents a necessary ingredient for winning. I also think that winning creates the foundation for a string program moving forward. For instance, Ofegon State used to be the worst job in the country, but after Reilly's 7 years of magic, it's a pretty good job. If Leach restores the punch back in WSU, well be back in the map. Also, I think we're a better football job than we are a hoops job: More tradition. Finally, the missing link in all of this: AIR BUD. With AB running the Air Raid, we'd win it all.