Happy April Fools/Game of Thrones/Etc day Cougs! Yes, today is the day of many things, from the faux "breaking news" tweets, Facebook updates and message board postings, to Season 2 of Game of Thrones!*
(*Disclaimer - I don't watch Game of Thrones. I've heard it's fantastic, and I have watched bits and pieces of it, but I haven't had the chance to do it. I believe I will start watching season 1 on-demand to see what all the fuss is about?)
Anyway, the Cougs scrimmaged yesterday for the first time under Mike Leach, and the results sound, well, a bit "mixed"? There were some highs, there were some lows, but all told it wasn't too bad. Cougfan has you covered there with this story, breaking down pretty much the whole thing.
Instant overreactions(for that is what we do here, overreact to the news!):
1) The offense isn't there - yet. Not that we expected things to be on full throttle just one week+ into spring ball.....but one thing that jumps off the pages when you read Mike Leach's book is how quickly teams in his past picked up his offense. From Tim Couch becoming a #1 pick running his offense at Kentucky, to Oklahoma winning huge with crazy numbers under Leach, to of course Texas Tech doing their thing from the get-go. The HOPE around Coug Nation is that everything falls in to place quickly this fall, what with Jeff Tuel an experienced senior who has seen his fair share of success throwing the football. Given Leach's past, and an offense with some serious looking weapons, I think we all are hoping(expecting?) things to click sooner rather than later!
But we have to be a bit realistic too, and realize that this offense, while simplistic in it's ideals, will still take some time in getting everyone on the same page. You see, so much of the Air Raid offense's success is predicated on the QB and his wideouts being on the same page mentally. It's not like the QB says "OK, slot receiver, run a down-and-in!" and that's the play, period. Instead, the offense is built upon the QB and the WR's seeing the same things, and reacting accordingly. At first it can be tough in the anticipations from a QB and what he THINKS his receivers are going to do. But early on in the process there are bound to be some, shall we say, miscommunication? Where perhaps the QB will see one thing, while the receiver sees or senses something else? The results on these types of things could be ugly in the early stages, but once everything clicks, it's an absolute thing of beauty if you love proficient passing attacks!
Leach says it's simple enough in his book, but basically it's like this - draw a line down the back of the center, essentially the middle of the field. Now look at the defense and find the holes, or open spaces that you can exploit. Now have your receivers go to these open spaces, get them the football, and the yards and points will start to pile up over four quarters. Sounds simple, right?
Is it really THAT easy?? I mean if it was, then every offense in the country would be running this system, averaging 500 yards per game and 40+ points! But when you look at Leach's coaching tree, the Dana Holgerson's and Art Briles of the coaching world and see the numbers those folks are putting up, you realize that it must not be that tough to execute if you have the right people calling the shots?
I guess the point to the ramblings is to just sit tight and give the kids time to figure it out. Jeff Tuel had his moments yesterday, but there were some mistakes as well which can be expected. And as Leach said himself after the scrimmage?:
“We’re improving but today I thought we were up and down,” Leach said. “There would be good efforts and someone would have the upper hand then they’d lay down. With that said we’re better than I thought we would be.”
2) The 3-4 is here to stay? It's early, yeah, we get that. But from scrimmage reactions, it sounds like the 3-4 is going to be at least the base defense and they are going forward with that plan. Travis Long was at the buck linebacker spot again, and the starting defense from yesterday didn't really reveal many surprises. Nice to hear Eric Oertel took an INT back to the house, as he gets a nice long look at the SAM linebacker position.
But who knows what things look like this fall. So much of defenses these days is having an extra defensive back(s?) in on passing downs anyway, you start to wonder if we'll see more of a 3-3-5 look half the time anyway? Or maybe a 4-2-5 with an extra pass rusher with his hand down off the edge? With all the multiple offenses in the Pac-12 and the emphasis on matching up with speed on speed and having the athletes to get out and defend the open spaces, we may not see the traditional 3-4 all that often anyway.
There was a really interesting debate on the 3-4 on KIRO the other day, with Brock Huard and Mike Salk. They just interviewed UW's Steve Sarkisian, as UW is going full steam ahead with their transition to the 3-4 defense. I know I have personally been a proponent of the scheme, just based on the very simple matter of watching all these spread schemes and thinking about how in the hell is the best way to defend that!?!? Do you go with the 4-3 and essentially take an extra speed guy off the field in an effort to defend the run, but leave yourself vulnerable to plays off the edge? Or shouldn't you just go with the 3-4, and while you are a little more vulnerable along the defensive line and you need to have the right personnel in the coaching staff and up front to pull it off, wouldn't it be better to get an extra athlete on the field who can run down plays out in space?? If the offenses are all about speed and getting out in space, shouldn't you get out there as well on defense!?
Salk brought up the idea that to beat spread offenses, shouldn't you just get bigger guys who can physically beat down on speed? But Brock was adamant in the 3-4 scheme and going with the approach of matching up your athletes as much as you possibly can. It has a strong UW lean to it, but it's a really good listen and has some relevance to what WSU is going to try to do on D:
One of the biggest things is that in a real traditional 3-4, ala what you see in the SEC, you need three 300-lb fire hydrants up front to withstand the physical SEC style of play. But out here in the west, I mean aren't we just a bunch of frat boys throwing a nerf football around in the parking lot (note- that is something Mitch Levy at KJR has said for years)?? Who needs a bunch of elephants up front when you see so much action out in wide open spaces, and teams are spreading you out wider and wider every single week? When you face UW and Stanford and their traditional NFL-style sets, you are going to be vulnerable. But the majority of what you are going to see from opposing offenses out west are going to be spreading things out.
It's going to be a tough transition. As Huard says, you have to get bigger, and you have to get faster (duh!). But I am on board with the 3-4, athlete-on-athlete style. I say get a hat on a hat, get more speed and athleticism on the field, and try to match up your defensive personnel with what the offense is going to throw at you! Out here with all the wide open schemes, we can get away from not having superstar 5-star SEC d-linemen provided we have more speed and athleticism on the field.
Finally, all the video from yesterday:
That's it for now. Happy April Fools day, and GO COUGS!
What the hell's going on with Ryan Leaf? I really thought the guy had turned the corner. No such luck it seems. It's really sad.
"Check out these highlights of Michael Crabtree and Wes Welker and see how good we are going to be!"
4-3, 3-4, as bp said, not that much difference IF they're played correctly, and some combination based on the situation is the best. I like what Simmions says in his comments too about having something to prove as a defense and playing as a team.
What I liked more was the interview with Leach about WR's blocking when they aren't the primary receiver. "If you don't block, you aren't going to play." That's going to be worth seeing.
South Sound Cougar Club has an event April 26, probably @ St. Martins college. Leach and Moos will be there.Yes, it's a Thursday, but that was the only date Leach was available. We had a different date, but couldn't get coach. We elected to go with it since it one of the few times he'll be on the west side. There's a luncheon with Leach in Tacoma earlier in the day. There's room for about 200 people and we're expecting a sell out. I'll have more information Wednesday, we have a planning meeting tomorrow.
#1 - Game of Thrones is awesome, one of the best shows on tv. Definitely DVR the season opener tonight and then catch-up on demand. I watched season 1 in 2 days. Its addictive.
#2 - Its also WRESTLEMANIA day! How can you forget the biggest sporting event of the year, Sean!?!?
@Robert K. Haven't heard a thing. But Marquess Wilson didn't have a catch either, and I saw him in one of the clips out on the field. Let's see how the rest of spring goes, especially the spring game. We'll have a good feel by then!
@UWJasonUW Ummm....who said that? You? All that was said is that it can be ugly early on, but once everything clicks with a Mike Leach offense, it's an absolute thing of beauty if you love proficient passing attacks.
Thanks for stopping by with your usual garbage Jason.
@SeanHawkins @Soze W.W. Whatever sucks unless it's 1984 and the match is between Andre the Giant and the Iron Sheik. I know that Clayton went down yesterday, but I like all scrimmages when the injury list is short. KNOCK ON EOOD!
@SeanHawkins @Soze @bpcoug54 @ptowncoug3012 @Sutra The D-line was the signature recruiting flop of the previous staff. I get to watch Luahpo play right here in Logan for the Aggies since the NCAA couldn't sort out his paperwork, and he would have been a nice peice in the middle, perhaps freeing up Rankin to play end. Also They had to move Spitz off the D-line to help out the O-line. This is a case of Roxas never being healthy actually hurt the D-line. Also, PuRob was always supposed to be good, but has never shown the ability to play or even string together consecutive pracitces without being shelved with some kind of injury or another. He's not even playing now. The D-line was definitely much improved against the run last year, but they never established pressure on the QB and the staff seemed almost dis-interested in finding other ways to get to the QB. I think a major shift in defensive identity is long overdue.
In '08: Laurenzi and Mackay signed, Mackay obviously with the horrific accident and Laurenzi has been serviceable?
In '09: Rankin, Chris Mastin, Travis Long and Justin Clayton signed. Mastin never made it, Rankin never panned out in the hype of a JC all-american pass rusher who switched positions, and Clayton is serviceable? Long is clearly the best linemen signed by Wulff in four years.
In '10: Al Lapuaho, Hoffart, Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole signed. Lapuaho never made it, but Hoffart, Cooper and Pole did. Pole and Cooper seem to have high ceilings, but it hasn't happened yet.
in '11: Lenard Williams, Ian Knight, Demetrius Cherry, Niko Aumua, Eli Edwards, TJ Poloai, Brock Lutes, and David Davis all signed, by far the most d-linemen in Wulff's tenure. Cherry, Aumua, and Lutes never made it. And Poloai was dismissed this spring.
So all told, that's 6 who never made it or were injured initially, and one who was just booted (Poloai). That's 6 out of 18, total, or about 33%.
@bpcoug54 @ptowncoug3012 @Sutra @Soze Agreed BP. In fact, a couple of years ago Wulff several times in his radio show would tout that defensive line, over and over again, saying how good it will be and how deep and talented it was about to become. For whatever reason he was sure sold on those coming up through the program, but it's hard to argue against the idea that the d-line outside of Long has been a major disappointment the last four years.
It's primarily a lack of talent/skill of our players, , but also players being of position and missing tackles. Wulff found it convenient to blame the players for missed assignments/lack of execution/ , which was part of it, but also we were sold a bill of goods about how he had upgraded the talent. The DL was Long and one other player getting some pressure on the QB and the other 2 guys doing nothing. Our highly touted DBs couldn't cover anybody and played about 5 yards off the receiver.
==I'm not expecting great defense at all this year. If we can create a few turnovers and get a few stops that will be huge.
@bpcoug54 @Sutra @SeanHawkins @Soze Your issue whether it is run properly , do you mean players doing what they should be doing, such as being in the right spot, or the lack of talent/skill of the players playing?
It seems to me that is the latter and I think that is the point of this discussion. Obviously LSU proved last yr that having a stout defensive front disrupts the spread.
I am at a pt where I don't think we can get the defensive line talent we need to play a 4-3, particularly against spread teams. However, I am not convinced that a 3-4 solves the spread either because generally your college LBs are going to be on the smaller end (220-230) and I don't like the match up of college olineman of 290-300 against these LBs, even in open space.
i don't get this endless discussion of the 4-3 vs. the 3-4. I don't think it matters in the slightest what you run; the question is, is it run properly? Our 4-3 over the last 4 years (and basically the 4 years before that) sucked because we haven't had defensive linemen who could pressure the QB or DBs who could cover anybody. And our LBs have been out of positon/overrunning the play/missing tackles/ talking rather than playing (your choice) . If we can get some defensive pressure and create a FEW turnovers that will be a big step forward.