Happy Monday Cougs, and welcome back to reality. A great weekend of fun in the spring sunshine over in Spokane, where 10K+ basked in the near-80 degree April weather in the Lilac city. I have a feeling there are more than a few of you out there who have a TREMENDOUS start to your spring farmer tan, unless you were smart enough to slather on the SPF-50. A lot of red arms and red necks around the offices in the NW today?
So aside from hanging out, eating and drinking and talking football and catching up with old friends, we got to watch a little football. Finally, the Leach offense was on display for the Coug faithful, available for public consumption. So what did you think? Was it what YOU thought it would be? Did you come away happy/sad/disappointed/meh? Like you, I've got a few thoughts of my own, so continue on for more. And please feel free to share/comment with your own insight as to what you saw.....
I thought the best way to do this was to go over some things that really stood out on what I was looking for anyway, so, here we go:
1) Jeff Tuel - What can we really say after a statistical performance like that? I believe he was everything I wanted to see prior to the game, and he was essentially in slice-n-dice mode from the outset. I know Sutra mentioned that he looked like some form of Eli Manning out there, but I have to agree that I was very impressed by his accuracy. Some of those balls were right on the flippin' MONEY against some tight coverage, and he seemed to have a grasp on the new scheme. That long ball to Marquess Wilson was a thing of beauty on the third play, and you really started to see what the offense can do as he spread the ball all over the place throughout the game. Some of our good friends at the game noticed how it just seemed like the ball was coming out quicker, like maybe Tuel has worked on his mechanics a bit from the last few years? Maybe it's a mirage of sorts and the quick-hitting scheme is part of it, but there were several balls where it literally looked like he just flicked his wrist and that thing was coming out of there with some real zip. I mean he's always had a strong arm, but there seemed to something just a little different? Maybe it is the scheme, or even more, maybe it's because we just haven't seen much of him lately after 2011 was such a lost season with Tuel(!), but it sure looked great to see him out there running the show!
IF there is something of a concern?? I thought that there were moments where maybe he held the ball a little too long. Now part of that could be blamed on tighter coverage in the secondary for sure, and there were moments where I know I was like "get rid of it!" but then you see down the field that nobody was really open. It's not like there were dudes running 40 yards down the field, waving their arms that they were wide open and he just didn't see them! For sure Tuel sees the full field and knows where to go, but there were definitely moments where he seemed to hesitate a bit. Perhaps that's just part of where we are right now, just what, 14 practices in to a whole new scheme? And it's an offense predicated not just on the QB seeing something, but the WR's as well have to be on the same page? That kind of timing will come with time, for sure, but even with the excellent stats you can see that there is still work to be done in the passing game. Not that we should have expected a finished product already, I mean of course the growing path has to be followed for this to work. And I'm NOT COMPLAINING, mind you, just saying that there looks to be some work yet to be done to get it to where they want to go. But all in all, a very promising public display of offense in spring game #1, and Jeff Tuel was a huge part of that!
2) The Wideouts - Filthy, I guess is the best way to say it? Marquess Wilson looked great, fast and strong as ever and looked like he was ready for the season to start already and enough with all this practice NONSENSE! His homerun TD to get things going set the tone for a huge day, and after a spring where he has kind of been down a bit, it was wonderful to see him blow things up early. It was almost like a huge "EFFFFF YOOUUUUUU!" to any doubters out there. And Dominique Williams looked fantastic as well, you really get a feel for his upside and where he fits in the offense. I swear there were a couple of his catches where I thought "....nice catch Marquess...." and then you realized it was #80, not #86. Not that he is a complete Marquess Wilson clone, but man, he sure looks like a big-time talent to which opposing defenses are going to have to account for on every play. I liked how Andrei Lintz worked in the offense, and again you could see what the coaches have been talking about as a converted tight end with the ability to play the slot. He's a match-up problem out there, no doubt about it, and if he stays healthy he could be a major threat every time out. The fumble was a tough way to end a big play as it definitely looked like he was going to score, but the bright side to that play was his ability to turn and run and break a big play after catching the ball. Even though he might not look all that fast at first glance, he did show that he can be more than just a possession guy with a play like that. With his size and quickness, and with Wilson and Williams drawing a lot of attention on the outside, you can see how Lintz is going to work in this thing!
By the way, Spokane, that cement around Joe Albi's field? GET RID OF IT! Lintz dove for a ball and crashed down hard out of the back of the end zone, and came down right on his elbow. I could hear the thud of his bone hitting cement from way up in our seats, and man, that could have been really, really bad! All the years I've been in that place, I never really noticed it, but that's not exactly the stadium's best feature.
3) The pass rush - I thought it was pretty good. Being that this was the first time I saw the D in person, I was expecting more of a traditional 3-4, but it looked like a lot of times we saw a 4-man rush with Travis Long or Logan Mayes with his hand down on the edge, coming off like a defensive end. I know that's the nature of the "buck" linebacker position in this defense, but I was more or less thinking we'd see a standard 3-4. But I liked what we saw! Long brought it all day long with quickness and power, and just continually drove his man back into the pocket. Logan Mayes really handled Rico Forbes as well at right tackle, a couple of times just flying by him after a few nice moves that resulted in a free shot at the QB. As a group they seemed to get some consistent pressure for the most part, although the so-called "sack" rule was a called a little too freely by the refs. I would guess that at least half of the sacks that were called wouldn't have been sacks at all, not with a guy like Jeff Tuel and his ability to get out of trouble with his feet. We understand that they need to protect the QB's in scrimmages, by all means necessary, but some of those sacks were just not reality.
4) The O-line - Not going to grumble too much about it, as the offensive numbers were really strong for the entire day. And there were some guys missing from action due to injury, so it was hard to get a good read on it. There were times where the pass rush came in waves and they looked a little over-matched, but other times they held up well and Tuel was forced into a coverage sack. But I thought for the most part the QB's had time to set up and do their thing, so I thought they were OK.
I guess that's about it from the action on the field. I know almost all of you caught the action yourselves, so I'm not breaking any ground here on things that happened on Saturday. And even though I am like you, encouraged by what we saw and all that, we have to take it all in stride. It was a scrimmage, after all, and this was just a taste of what we'll really see in the fall.
Some other quick things from Saturday:
1) The crowd was really great. For a spring scrimmage in just it's second year in Spokane, to draw almost 11,000 fans was pretty cool. Players and coaches were quoted after the action that they were happy with the turnout. I know they were hoping for 15K in the athletic department, so it came up a bit short there. But the almost-11K fans is about double the turnout from last spring, so things are definitely trending in the right direction. Check out the comparison of the crowd shots for "visual proof":
The angle on the pics are a little different, but you can definitely see a difference?? From our RV lot, at first the overall parking lot didn't look real full. But that was at 10 AM. By 11:30 or so, cars were lined up to get in and things started to fill up.
The crowd wasn't nuts or anything, I mean it's a scrimmage after all. But a great job on the turnout Cougs, and I'm sure things will continue to go forward next spring.
2) The GAMEDAY FLAGS - Great, great, great work by those who showed up with the flags as seen on ESPN Gameday and coming through the RV lot! I was lucky enough to wave Whitey, the one signed by Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. Very, very cool! There is a Gameday contest going on right now, where if enough fans of a school vote? Then ESPN will come out and do a commercial at your campus. Check it out here, vote early/often.
3) The 2012 Spring Tailgate - Definitely a success, all the way around. The drinks were cold, the dogs were hot off the grill, and we had a steady stream of visitors who came by to say hello throughout the day. Yes, we had adult beverages, but we kept things discreet and had no issues with the local law enforcement. We even brought our golden retrievers and they had plenty of room to chase down the Chuck-it balls, at least when they weren't trying to steal from unattended plates of tailgate eats!
Some old friends came by as well and it was great to catch up with so many of you. We have a ton more pictures that we will be posting to the photo gallery here on the blog in the coming days, so stay tuned there.
Officially I guess this is our fourth-ever tailgate as a blog, and things just went really well. And it was a great day all the way around - friends, food, and football, I mean does it get any BETTER than that??
All for now. Enjoy your Monday, and of course, GO COUGS!