Hello Followers. Hope you’ve had a great week.
Today, we mark the beginning of a new column for me during the off-season, a column that I am calling “Filibuster Thursday.” The focus: Fill up these pages with drivel until such time that football season actually begins. So, expect a slew of random takes and other forms of non-information moving forward..
Of course, while the off-season demands a healthy dose of filler, today marks the official start of the Mike Leach era at WSU. So, if you want to check out my wonderings headed into Spring Football, then click on the old JumpaVegas….
Followers, before we get to football, a quick shout-out to the Men’s Hoopsters who unloaded a very nice 72-55 shellacking of the Beavs last night in Corvallis. What made the win particularly impressive was the fact that Cougs stormed the Beavs on the road without the services of Mr. Brock Motum. In his stead, Abe Lodwick turned last night’s game into his own personal Gettysburg Address and POUNDED the Beavs with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Reggie chipped in with a two-deuce effort to top our list of scorers. Put simply, a GREAT team effort by the kids. And if Reggie can maintain the same level of aggressiveness with Motum in the game, then this team has a very good chance at winning this thing.
Now, on to Football!
Followers, because I am known on the Least Coast as the Pinnacle of Innovation and Creativity, I am going to organize this article in a way that may throw you off a bit (drum roll please!)
First, I am going to start with peeking in at the defense. And then I am going to look at the Offense.
So, lets get to it….
Followers, I know that many of us are excited about the fortunes of this football team for this upcoming fall and beyond. That said, when I look at our defense as currently constituted, I quickly reach the following conclusion:
THIS IS BY FAR THE WORST DEFENSE IN THE PAC-12.
I mean, not only was this group dreadful last year, a good case can be made that we lost 4 out of our top 6 defensive players to graduation or disciplinary action (Hoffman-Ellis, Rankin, Sekope Kaufusi, Mizell). Not good.
What we have returning are guys who range from being second-tier all-conference contenders (Long, Buchannon) to a group that still looks to me to represent meddling Pac-12 players (Laurenzi, Toomer).
So, as we head into Spring Camp, here are my main questions:
1) Who is gonna play Uncle Buck?
A few months ago, Mike Breske did an interview where he talked about the different LB spots which are featured in his 3-4 base set. The big position in that scheme? The “Buck” linebacker. In Breske’s scheme, the Buck has responsibility for rushing the passer, dropping back in coverage, and containment along the edge. In other words, this position basically requires a dude to read everything and do everything. Not exactly the type of position you want to hand over to a freshman that has never played a down in the Pac-12.
So, if experience AND size/athleticism are key to the position, then who can take the reins on this one? Presumably, Travis Long stands as a prime candidate to fill this spot. But is he athletic enough to drop back into coverage? At 6-4, 256 lbs, he more or less fits the bill size wise. But we’re sure going to find out. And if he’s not the answer, then count me in as a guy who might just favor sticking with the 4-3 until our newcomers get a little more experienced (I am comfortable with starting the year with Sua, Monroe, and Coen at the LB spots with the kids filling in to provide depth).
2) Who’s Gonna Cover (Your Mother)?
We all know that part of the difficulty faced by our secondary last year could be traced to our lack of pass rush—as well as Hoffcrates inability to cover a wheel route to save his life. We also know that part of the difficulty faced by Mr. Nolan Washington could be traced to a shoulder injury that no one knew about.
At the same time, it also can be said that for the most part, our secondary play as was seriously sub-par last year, notwithstanding the work of Horton and Buchannon: Washington and Simmons were largely terrible and Toomer often represented a Tumor to the defense last year
So, as spring ball starts, I am beyond hopeful that we can find answers at that second and third corner spot as well as the second safety sport. Personally, I think Wash is going to rebound a bit. So, what I’m looking for is a guy who can emerge as a solid #3 corner. And Mr. Max Gama represents the guy who I am really hoping can step up and in at the corner spot this spring and beyond.
At the start of last year, I told you all that I thought our hopes for bowl eligibility rested on the ability of the offense to score over 30 points a game. Well, I’m doubling down on that sentiment again this year. Simply put, for us to make it to the post-season for the first time in over a decade—and to do so somewhere other than New Mexico—this group is going to have to score five or more touchdowns in 80% of our games (yes, our D is going to be that bad, I fear).
So, in order for us to accomplish that goal, we’re going to have to block the crap out of people.
1) Offensive Line
Notwithstanding some health issues related to Wade Jacobson, I think we all know that one side of our line is set. The question is what happens in the Center spot as well as the right side of the line?
Personally, I am hoping that Matt Goetz run-in with Leach proves to be old news and that he holds down the center spot. I am also hoping to see Dan Spitz take another step forward at Tackle. And finally, I am REALLY hoping that last year’s practice player extraordinaire, Rico Forbes, steps up in a big way.
I will be glued to every practice report to hear about the progress of these guys.
2) Wide Receiver
Everyone knows that Marquess Wilson is great. Everyone knows that Bobby Ratliff can play. Everyone knows that Henry Eaddy is fast. And everyone knows that Kristoff Williams looks GREAT just standing around the football field. But beyond that, there are a host of guys on the roster who we have only heard rumblings about.
Personally, I am 100% jacked to hear about whether Dominique Williams is as good as advertised. I want to see how guys like Dockery and even Simone fit in the slot. And, of course, there is this Bomber kid who could be a nightmare running “6”, aka Leach’s version of four verticals. To me, there is no more exciting position on the team than this group of Wide-Outs. It will be fun to follow their progress as springball moves forward!
So, there you have it, my primary questions headed into spring ball. It’s going to be a fun month, that much is for sure.
Sean will be back tomorrow to help recap the events of Day 1 of the Mike Leach era.
All for now. Go Cougs.
I'm just glad to see us appearing on the covers of ESPN and Fox Sports' college football pages. When has THAT ever happened?
These are my hopes:
1. The O-line may actually be pretty good. There is a good amount of experience and depth there.
2. We have the same cast of characters in the secondary, but they are healthier, more experienced and under the tutelage of a new coach the light will come on.
3. We will be much more dedicated to pressuring the QB, helping mitigate some of our short comings at LB and DB.
4. Someone on the roster will move to LB and be a pleasant surprise, such as Eric Oertel, or maybe the speed rushing end Ian Knight.
5. Huddy scores free Bridgeport Kegs for our tailgates.
I completely agree with the defenseive assesment. I don't know if we will really suck, or just not be all that good...could be either. Then again if the lads step up, we could really surprise some folks. I don't see a lot of sacks or pressures on the QB out of this group though. I'd like to see Mayes and Long both be able to line up on the line and at LB. Could throw some confusion into the play calls from the other side.
WR's are going to be fun to watch as are our QB's. I can see 300+ yards/game passing, or more, if the O line protects like I think they may be able to.
I fully believe BYU will tell us a lot about the character and ability of this team this fall. I'm going to wait for any prognostications of W's and L's, probably until sometime in late November.
I agree with your assessment on the defense, at least at this point. I am really interested to see what types of blitz packages Breske puts together. I think my biggest question pertains to the offense and defense combined. That question being, can the offense score enough so that the defense may only need to get a few turnovers, or stops to win the game...
I can't wait for these practice reports. Should be interesting to see who lines up where as spring goes on. Defense is definitely the most questionable and interesting to me. I think the secondary really has enough experienced guys to be pretty good as long as the guys up front do their part. LB is where I am most concerened. With Kafusi and CJ, this group was looking pretty good, even with just Kafusi, it didn't look bad. Now, with no real starters coming back, it is very iffy. Su'a got some playing time as has Markle, but neither has a lot of experience. Will be interesting to see who emerges from the spring. I kind of think Mayes and possibly Pritchard will step in there and get some time. Hopefully the JC kid will come in and push for time in the summer/fall as well. I think this group is going to make or break the season.
OL I was pretty worried about, especially with the change, but getting Jacobson back really helped. I think they have enough experienced guys with Jacobsen, Goetz, and Fullington, along with Spitz and Rodgers who got some time in. Add in Forbes and Meighen who have practiced a bit and they have enough for a solid 1st string I think. Depth is a serious concern though, especially at tackle. Again, hopefully the JC guys can step in and push for time.
In all reality, I don't think we are really going to know much about the team after spring, especially the D. It will be more about figuring out where the current guys best fit into the new schemes and it may take most of the spring to figure it out. Plus, not having the transfers in yet and supposedly having 15 guys recovering from surgery, it is all just an experiment. That being said, I can't wait for the Crimson and Gray game to see where guys have landed and how well they do. I fully expect the offenses to light up the defenses in that game.
It's harsh, but an honest assessment of the D. I agree on Long, I mean I like his possible versatility but have we seen him drop into coverage and try to cover a skill guy out in space? He looks passable but does he have the athleticism? I hope this doesn't turn in to another Andy Mattingly-type failed experiment, but I don't know what other choice they have.
I still believe the d-line and the overall pressure up front will dictate everything. If they don't get consistent pressure on the QB and they have 5 seconds to throw the ball, we're dead meat. You could have Revis, Champ Bailey, etc and it wouldn't matter, guys are going to get open the more time they have to throw. Wulff's D never figured out a way to get consistent pressure on the QB and against the top offenses we were picked apart. I hope they have an answer to a major problem!
I do want to see how the LB's look, including what they do with Logan Mayes and Darren Markle. Mayes seems Kaufusi-like in his ability to put his hand down and rush from the outside or drop into coverage. Markle is a high school legend in power lifting, one of the strongest ever when he was 18. If they roll with a 3-4 I could totally see him filling one inside LB spot.
Personally I'm not so worried about the O-line. There is some decent depth, but Leach's offense rarely gave up more than 30 sacks in a season, only once in his last seven seasons at Tech. Believe it or not, in '07 and '08 they were either #1 or #2 in the nation in sacks allowed, like 2 % of all pass attempts resulted in sacks. The wide splits and the scheme of getting the ball out quick will be a huge boost to those guys up front!
@SeanHawkins I agree wholeheartedly that the play of the D-Line determines the day. I guess that I am less concerned about that group because I think the JC guys who are coming in this fall have the size and strength fill those spots...I just wonder about the amount of reads that these young LBs are going to have to make in the new scheme and whether the kids coming in this fall will be big enough and savy enough to pick it all up and execute it. Seems like an awfully tall order for me...
...That said, Leach said yesterday that he likes the kids that we have....Should be interesting!
@Sutra @SeanHawkins The Oline isn't my big concern. Leach put five Olinemen into the league with TT. He can coach them up and with the splits they have it should confuse everyone enough that if the hogs stick to their assignments, we should keep that 2% rate or better. The Dline should have the bodies to eat up space and hold the gaps. The LB's are obviously the question mark. Long will be shifted around to keep the opponent from keying on him. I don't see him as locking in on the buck spot. I see our pressure being generated from a safety blitz , ILB going for the 1 and 2 gap and the occasional coner crash off of press coverage. The whole key is if Breske can simplify the base aka Leach and his base offense.