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August 14, 2009

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Longball’s Afternoon Practice Report

August 14, 2009

Hello again everyone. I’m a little late getting you my notes from afternoon practice so I apologize. I did see some interesting stuff and snapped a few pictures to share, so better late than never, here we go…

Under gray skies and occasional light showers the veterans had a spirited practice Thursday afternoon. I got to the practice field as the guys were just starting to trickle out of the locker room for stretches. I was anxious to see all this new beef I’d been hearing about. Honestly, we still look a little bit small for a PAC-10 team, but if you look closely there is a difference from last season and even the Spring. Notably Kevin Kooyman stood out immediately. He’s always been a bit of a string bean, but no more. By far the biggest difference between the team I saw today and the team I saw last summer was way, WAY fewer guys sitting out practice. Last year it seemed there were more guys loafing around in those walking boots then actually practicing. Today I only saw one…

That is wide receiver Johnny Forzani. He is an intriguing prospect coming out of the Calgary Stampeders youth organization (Canadian teams have those I guess?) and is supposed to be quite the speedster. As you can see he wasn’t moving too fast today. Apparently this is nothing major, just soreness in a surgically repaired foot. They were also being cautious and resting a couple other guys who had off season surgeries including Bernard Wolfgramm and Myron Beck, but for the most part everyone was participating. What a difference a year makes.

Read on for more….

As you may have heard, two true freshman have been participating in afternoon practice with the veterans. Gino Simone, the all world receiver from Skyline and Travis Long, the man-child defensive end from Gonzaga Prep were both on hand. Here is Gino (1) stretching before practice with NCAA 400 meter hurdle national champ, Jeshua Anderson (85).


One player who returned to practice today after sitting out yesterday with a hip pointer was Apple cup hero Jared Karstetter (84), seen here with Kevin Lopina (9).

I’m not sure if it was a last minute decision, but when he ran onto the field the receivers and QB’s got excited, welcoming him back with a burst of applause.

It was clear watching the offense go through their plays that they have a much better grasp of things than they did at this time last year. Last summer the coaches spent a lot of time shoving guys into the right places, basically directing traffic, but this year, with the notable exception of Simone who is still learning the formations, everything was much more fluid. Most of what I saw from the coaches was fine tuning and pushing the tempo. If you’re like me, you were probably frustrated by the pedestrian pace of our no-huddle offense last year (the few games we actually ran it). But I’m hopeful from what I saw Thursday afternoon that we’ll be able to step up the pace a bit more.

You may have gotten the idea from some of my posts and comments that I am a big fan of Joe Eppele. When you see this team in person, he is without a doubt the biggest, strongest looking guy we have and I was excited to see him in the mix for a starting spot this year. Here is big #67, who doesn’t look to carry an ounce of body fat on his over 300 lb frame.

I took this picture to show how much he stood out amongst the other hosses on the team, but depth perception and my photography skills being what they are, you may be asking… who is #75? He looks like a behemuth! Well he is. That is redshirt frosh Tyson Pencer, who like Eppele, hails from British Columbia and is one of the growing number of guys who make us look like a PAC-10 football team.

In the picture above you see the coaches have laid foam pads about 3 yards apart on the turf. This set up was for a drill that was my favorite part of the day. As Vince highlighted in his report, this is a drill borrowed from Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma. An offensive lineman and defender faced each other between the pads with a QB and/or running back behind the O lineman. The idea was for the O lineman to open a hole for the running back to get around the defender within the tight confines between the pads. Basically, it was demolition derby.

There were some big collisions, the most notable I saw was when Joe Eppele lined up against Andy Mattingly. It was a pretty one sided affair as Eppele completely bulldozed Mattingly to an explosion of cheers from his cohorts on the offense. Also of note was true frosh Travis Long completely blowing up the O linemen he was up against and the running back in a single big hit. It is easy to see why this young man may see the field right away!

The other big moment of the afternoon was a long touchdown run in scrimmage from Logwone Mitz. He made a great cut when a hole opened off tackle left and was through it like a laser and out in the open where no one would catch him. As Grippi noted he got some nice blocks from his receivers, but from my vantage point all I could see was pure explosiveness. He looked like Shaumbe in the snow. Know what I mean, Coug fans?

Well that is all I have for now. I have a lot more I want to see and share with you in the coming days so stay tuned to this station and I’ll be back with more. Until then…

GO COUGS!

Rookie Watch – Checking in on Morning Practice

August 13, 2009


Hello Cougar Nation,

Longball here to give you an update on what I saw at today’s AM practice. As you may know coach Wulff has split the squads into two sessions each day, rookies in the morning and veterans in the afternoon. It’s all about reps, according to coach Wulff, and it’s a good chance to get as much work as possible for everyone. This morning I got a good glimpse of the future and my first impression…two words:

Jeff Tuel

If anyone watched Tuel’s highlight reel you know the kid shows a great arm to go with some live feet. Check it out here, by the way…

The highlights pretty much alternate between 60 yard TD runs and 60 yard TD passes. I can tell you that in person, he looks great, comfortable and in command leading the rookie offense up and down the field against the rookie D. He showed an easy throwing motion, strong arm and good accuracy, but also a great instinct for when to tuck and go. I was really excited by what I saw. He still looks very young and has a lot of filling out to do on his 6’3″ frame, so lets drop any talk of him playing this year right now. But the future looks very bright for this young man.

On defense I was really excited to see Darren Markle, the highly touted middle linebacker and serious power-lifter(400 bench, 600+ squat!?!), but it was another linebacker who really stood out to me.

Sekope Kaufusi

Good luck pronouncing his name. But however you choose to say it, Sekope stands out on the field not only because of the rock star mane of hair flowing out the back of his helmet, but also because of his size. He lines up at middle linebacker, but has defensive end size. This kid looks like he could be a lot to handle in years to come.

For the most part the O line seemed to have the upper hand, giving Tuel decent time and opening nice holes for the running backs, but whenever a running back found a nice seam up the middle they were met with a pretty loud pop in the defensive backfield followed a lot of cries of “Nice hit Jamal!” That Jamal I speak of? Safety Jamal Atofau, already making a name for himself out there.

Add Jamal to the list of young Cougs you can be very excited about for the future.

Other notes – It was interesting to see former wideout Anthony Houston running with the defense this morning as a cornerback, albeit a very large cornerback. It will be interesting to see if he can develop into a serviceable corner. With his size it would definitely help the defense match up against big receivers. Anyone who was at the Okie State game last year knows what I’m talking about?!

I had a brief chat with Co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears this morning and he succinctly reiterated what we’ve been hearing a lot about this team… bigger, faster, stronger and tougher. Sure sounds good!

That’s it for this morning folks. I will be at the afternoon session too get my first impressions of the guys we will be counting on to make a return to being competitive year. Check in later to see if there is any truth to this talk about gettin’ tough. Until then…

GO COUGS!

Louis Bland – A New Hope?

August 13, 2009


First of all, outstanding post-practice reports from Sir Vincent Grippi. Get ‘em here, here and here. Cougfan as well is spreading the info, with a free article to boot (!) in their chat with coach Wulff, as well as quotes from Louis Bland and Andy Mattingly.

Sounds like a busy day, splitting the practices between the rookies in the AM and mostly vets in the PM. And there’s good tidbits to devour throughout all the coverage. But the best news, at least from where I sit? LOUIS BLAND, per the Cougfan story:

“We’re more united as a defense,” outside linebacker Louis Bland said. “Last year, it seemed when times got hard, we laid down a little bit.

“Right now, we’re not backing down from anything.”

Bland has been slowed by a left knee sprain suffered during spring practice, but he saw his most extensive action of camp on Wednesday. He joined the starters in a practice that involved only the No. 1 and 2 offenses and defenses.

I think I’ll be ready for the first game,” Bland said.

The part about Bland saying he thinks he’ll be ready for the first game, yeah, I gave it some bold text. Now, Grippi doused the excitement a bit, with a quote from Wulff saying how Bland isn’t quite 100% and still speculated that he may not be ready for the opener. But you can’t help but love to hear some good injury news on such a vital part of the defense!

We can’t say enough about Bland, after a breakthrough frosh season last year, playing his heart out as a 205-lb outside linebacker in his first NCAA action. That picture above, Bland hitting Toby Gerhart with basically his face, just speaks volumes about the kid. But to see that he’s up over 220 lbs now, and running with the one’s during some hard-hitting practice this afternoon? Very, very good news for a defense trying to rebuild it’s image.

Also some good stuff on the rookies who stood out, including QB Jeff Tuel, WR Gino Simone and DE Travis Long. Simone and Long participated in the veterans practice, while Grippi reported that Tuel had thrown pretty well, even in the rain, and there were some drops due to his “fastball”.

Anyway, I know I/we have been cool to the idea of Tuel actually playing this year…but…well, have you seen what’s going on at USC? With Aaron Corp suffering an injury that is going to keep him down for a few weeks, true frosh Matt Barkley is taking the reins, at least for now. That’s right, a true frosh QB. Clearly Barkley is on another level, I mean we’re talking about the TOP GUN coming into NCAA football this year. He’s ultra-elite, and was projected to at least battle Corp for the job anyway. Tuel, I think everyone agreed, should be redshirting….but….IF he shows a lot, should he….aw, never mind. Redshirt the kid, let him get his feet on the ground, and we’ll see what happens next year.

Look for a Longball recap of practice in the coming days. As always, GO COUGS!


The Conference of… Running Backs?

August 12, 2009

Lets face it, it’s a down year in the Conference of Quarterbacks. There is talent, for sure, but up and down the conference there will be a conspicuous lack of experience lining up under center. However, the Pac-10 may just make up for it by temporarily becoming the Conference of Running Backs. In fact the conference is so stacked at this position that even the lowly Cougs have more talent in their backfield then they can really use, and our rivals across the state are going to line up their best running back at QB!

This year two of the very best running backs the conference (of running backs) has to offer will serve as bookends to our home campaign. On September 5th Stanford’s Toby Gerhart will provide a stiff early challenge for our rebuilding defense, and on November 21st, Jacquizz (“Quizz”) Rodgers will try to make a new highlight reel out of WSU’s Senior Day.

Quizz checks in at around 5’7″, 190 lbs, and while Gerhart is a more hearty 6’1″ 230, they will provide completely different challenges to our defense. But at the same time, they may provide an interesting measuring stick about how far our team has progressed, or lack thereof, as the season wears on.

It’s a little early to hit the panic button just yet, but It looks like Gerhart is going to face a Coug D that does not include Louis Bland. And by November 21st, who knows what other casualties will occur by the time Mr. Rodgers makes it to the Palouse. Either way, I look forward to seeing them both live and hope our guys can hold their own.

So where do the Cougs stand in this new-fangled “Conference of Running Backs”? Frankly, from a WSU perspective, it is the only position I feel downright giddy about going into the season. Having a talent like James Montgomery fall into our lap is enough to be excited about, but even without him the stable is plenty full. He joins a group that includes two other Cougs in particular that I’ll be rooting extra hard for this Fall.

Logwone Mitz

Arguably one of the great Cougar names of all time. I guarantee if all the potential this kid has comes to the surface over the course of his career, you will hear that name a lot more around Pullman. People will name their pets, boats, guns and first born sons Logwone. I have some first-hand knowledge that Logwone is a class act off the field, a consciensous student, nice guy and one of the many players we can be proud to have on our roster. Players like Mitz don’t seem to get enough attention these days. His Apple Cup run has already won him a small place in Cougar lore, but I look for him to give us many more memorable runs over the next couple years. Just stay healthy big fella!

Dwight Tardy

Tardy gets my vote for our current spiritual leader of this team. The senior has been through all the upheaval around the program and has been a steady performer and leader through it all. He is another kid we can be proud to have wearing Crimson. He has never been overly spectacular nor a particularly flashy player. I always considered him “serviceable” while we waited for younger talents like Chris Ivory or DeMaundray Woolridge to develop, if not take over the position entirely. But, alas, many of the challengers are gone, and it is Tardy who is still standing. It looks to be a showdown between Tardy and James Montgomery for the honor of handling that first hand-off on Sept. 5th. I’ll be watching this battle closely during Fall camp, but I have to admit, Dwight Tardy is my sentimental favorite to win the job.

So tell me, Cougar Nation… who are your sentimental favorites this fall? If there are any position battles you are especially interested in let me know in the comments. In the coming days ahead I will be taking in fall practices, and I’ll report back on how I see things shaking out. And on that note? It’s a shame I wasn’t able to make it to camp today. Apparently I missed seeing a few spirited altercations (FIVE fights!?! Really???) that make the first days of contact so exciting.

On a side note, has anyone else noted a bit of a change in Sir Vincent Grippi this year? He seems to be shedding his impenetrable veneer of objectivity and becoming a bit of a, dare I say… “fan” of whats happening with this team? Or maybe its just me?

Hang in there everyone, it’s almost Cougar Football Saturday! Remember, I’ll be checking out some practices in the next few days, so tip me off in comments if there is anyone or anything in particular to watch out for.

Vote Butch

August 11, 2009


OR else you’ll get some of this.

Yep, Butch is back in the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hooray Butch! I love the scouting report from the website – 6’3″, stacked and packed? Really? I’ve seen a lot of Butch’s in my day, as I’m sure you have too. But I’ve never seen one 6-3 and full of muscle!

Butch is a former Capital One champion as well, winning in ’06. He’s definitely got a shot this year. We’ll do our part. And at least he can rock the evil of the Thriller:

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Meanwhile Grippi had a mega post today, doing his best Ted Miller impression by linking to all the other PAC-10 news and stuff. Good work Vince. In the post, he again mentions Chris Ivory’s departure, but still no official word on the reason for the dismissal. We’ll have to wait and see what turns up. But whatever the reason, it was time for him to move on.

In the same post is a link to coach Wulff’s talk with the media, as reported by Teddy Miller. The overall tone?

“We don’t spend a lot of time addressing what other people think because it just doesn’t allow us to keep moving forward. They’re road blocks. It doesn’t matter. If you look at years past, the Cougs have been picked in the lower half and have done extremely well. I’ve coached teams that weren’t predicted to do well and have done well. The thing about it is they are predictions. So many things can happen, from teams improving and staying healthy to good teams that get too many key injuries that [once] were good teams but by the end of the year they’re not a very good football team. Those things no one can predict — coaches can’t, media can’t — we can only control what we can control. If we spend a lot of time worrying about anything other than that then we are just slowing ourselves down. It’s about us and the work we have to do to take care of every single day and each week. That will remain our focus.”

Sounds like major circle-the-wagons time right now. And there is very little motivating tactics out there that are better by telling elite athletes that nobody thinks they are any good. Just keep building up the chip on the shoulder, and eventually you become a nightmare to play on a weekly basis!

Cougfan has a charting of the weight gains for the Cougs. It’s a premium article (but they are running a 2-for-1 right now, 2 months for 9.95. Not bad). While we don’t have any details beyond what is already out there, Joe Eppele is mentioned as having put on 15 lbs of grade-a beef. Nice.

ESPN’s Bottom Ten has rolled out with a new edition (and with a Michael Jackson theme to boot, ala WHO’S BAD!). Yes, UW is on the list. No, WSU is not. But alas, WSU is on the so-called “waiting list”, as in stink it up early, and they’ll be happy to seat you in the bottom-ten. Great. Also worth mentioning that UW’s week-two opponent, the scrappy Vandals of Idaho, are #3 on the list.

Stay tuned for something out of our own Longball with an eye-witness report of fall camp. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

New PAC-10 Helmet Schedule Available; Ivory Out

August 11, 2009

Just a quick post on a couple of things tonight. First, the new helmet schedule is making the rounds for ’09. However it’s in spreadsheet format, and not everyone can see it like that. So, we found the creator of the project – SimonOnSports – and discovered he had actual pictures of each conference’s schedule. So we went with the PAC-10 version. Here it is, in full RETRO glory.

Click on it, and do the old right click/save as, and you have your own copy in JPG format. Note – SimonOnSports originally did not have the SMU game available on his PAC-10 graphic, so we added it in for WSU’s schedule. Anyway, enjoy.

Also note that on the sidebar, there is now a link directly to this PAC-10 helmet schedule.

One more quick thing. Earlier today there was a rumor going around that running back Chris Ivory has left the football team. Grippi’s post-practice recap today specified that Ivory was notably absent, but couldn’t get confirmation at the time of what was going on. Now, we know. Both Grippi and Cougfan are reporting that Ivory has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Grippi confirming the news with SID Bill Stevens of WSU.

It’s pretty disappointing, but I guess it’s not a huge surprise that he is no longer in the mix. With or without Ivory, the running back group was pretty crowded, so this will thin things out a bit. Likely we’ll see a combo of Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery and Logwone Mitz, with perhaps Marcus Richmond or Chantz Staden. That is, if Staden doesn’t redshirt, something alluded to from Grippi’s practice report.

But it’s disappointing in the whole Texas-Doba-Leon Burtnett recruiting thing that had people so excited several years ago. Now Ivory wasn’t part of the first Texas recruiting breakthrough in 2005, of Demaundray Woolridge, Greg Trent, Jason Stripling and James Bradley. Ivory actually was part of the class of ’06, but still in that Texas pipeline that we thought so much of back in the day. Now we did see Chima Nwachukwu show up in ’07, and he’s been starting since day one. But after all the hubbub, now it appears that only Trent will have made the biggest “dent” in all this. Stripling is still around, trying to overcome a bad shoulder one more time, but Woolridge, Bradley and now Ivory are gone.

Oh well. It is what it….is. That’s it for tonight. GO COUGS!

Cougars All-Access?

August 10, 2009


Lost in the shuffle of the opening of fall ball is one nugget of info – WSU announced that they have re-upped with FSN, into 2016-17. Big deal, right?

Well, it is a big deal for one very cool thing – COUGARS ALL ACCESS!

In addition to the network’s commitment to deliver live events for WSU football and basketball programs as well as Olympic sports, FSN will produce a 30-minute weekly show focusing on Cougar Athletics beginning this season. Cougars All-Access will provide fans a unique look at campus life for WSU’s student athletes, delivering more in-depth, personal, innovative and exciting coverage of the Cougars than ever before.

Cool! You know what the All-Access shows are, right? They are the weekly puff pieces that FSN does right now with Oregon State and that other BCS school in Washington, with behind-the-scenes stuff galore. Love it, love it, LOVE IT.

So, now the natural question is, who will host the show? Will it be:
1) Angie Mentink?

A former UW softball player in the Husky Hall-of-Fame….we can just stop right there. I’m thinking Angie won’t be roaming the Palouse anytime soon, nor would her heart really be into a weekly Coug show? I mean she’s professional and all, but there’s that whole UW thing.

How about:
2) Jen Mueller

I would bet the odds are pretty good here. But wait, after checking out her bio, she’s an SMU grad. SMU is a week-three opponent of our Cougs, so, that might be uncomfortable for all involved. Better move on to number three on the list….

3) Brad Adam?

Brad’s pretty good. Handsome, but not too slick-ass salesman handsome either. He does a decent job in his M’s hosting job, but, his baseball obligations to the M’s will take him all the way through September. So it may not work out.

Which brings us to….you guessed it:
4) Nicole Zaloumis

Not to go all “creepy Erin Andrews” here, but this might be the choice. Zaloumis is the newest face on FSN, after Cara Capuano moved down to SEC country to cover college football. So, low man on the totem pole might have to take on the new job, maybe one that the others wouldn’t necessarily want?

We’ll see. We just added a poll above of “Who Should Host”, so vote early/often. Every vote counts.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and GO COUGS!

Marshall’s Knee the Key to Day One

August 10, 2009


Finally. It’s on. And not a moment too soon. I think we’re all about “previewed out”, wouldn’t you say? I mean there is only so many ways you can look at the upcoming season before it all just kind of runs together. So enough of all that. It’s time for the real thing. And now with cool new practice jerseys, including the Nike swoosh!

I’m sure by now you have heard all you need to hear about day one, and while there are a lot of stories and such, Vince’s blowout recap from yesterday is the place to be. He also weighed in this AM as well with even more links and so on. Safe to say Vince has come out swinging in round one!

The toughness theme is there, and that’s great. And really, is there any doubt that getting bigger/stronger/tougher is a theme that they are pushing for this year? When we saw them in practice a little bit this spring, and again after spring ball was over and Vince recapped the whole session, they did appear to be overall a tougher, crisper unit compared to the ragged ’08 season. Even with some of the injuries and missing faces from the spring, they just looked, I don’t know, different.

But it’s not just for this year. As long as coach Wulff is at WSU, what we are going to see beginning now and into the future is a group that will pride itself on being a physical football team. It has been drilled into them since Wulff took over, the new approach to conditioning and nutrition and all that. It’s not just lip service. It will be this program’s identity, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

But of all the talk and excitement from day one, the early word I’m hanging my hopes on right now? Marshall Lobbestael and Jeshua Anderson.

Marshall was mentioned in Vince’s post about the knee feeling good:

Lobbestael is coming off knee surgery, though he said it’s fine. “Feels good,” he said. “Got a new brace and it feels good. I was running, doing drops and stuff. I’ve just got to get used to doing everything. In spring I was sort of held out some drills, some running plays, but it feels good.”

Lobbestael would throw the day’s only TD in skeleton drills. Big whoop right? Hey, We’ll take WHATEVER WE CAN GET right now!

And the fact that Jeshua is out there practicing is very good news indeed. Even if it wasn’t 100% clear that he would even return to the team until mid-July (did you know that?? It’s not a surprise, but waiting until mid-July before deciding certainly is.). The team is, let’s face it, lacking in play-makers at the WR position, and all things being equal, Jeshua is the biggest homerun guy in the lineup. Want to stretch the field and keep things honest? You better have a healthy, productive Jeshua out there to give the opposition a little something to think about. Even though we all expect the running game to be deep and all that, still, you better be able to get some things done through the air or else it could be another rough season with the football.

That’s it for now. Look for some first-hand impressions from our own Longball in the coming days, as our Pullman “townie” should have some good looks at the team. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

Five Questions for Fall Camp

August 7, 2009

Hello Followers. I hope you have had a very pleasant (and profitable) week.

Well, as we now stand on the near eve of the start of the 2009 Cougar Football Campaign, I thought it timely to give you all the top five questions I am sending out to the Cosmos (e.g. Vince Grippi and Longball) as we head into Fall Camp this Sunday.

1. Will Ocho Rojo be declared the starting quarterback by the end of the second week?

Followers, we’ve already talked a lot about our quarterback situation and the offensive woes of last year past. But, for the Coug-A-Sutra, a few issues demand a quick revisit.

First of all, teams that are as historically awful as we were last year become that bad for a very simple reason: They lack talent. But, in addition to lacking talent, bad football teams can also become pretty horrible by demonstrating another important aspect of futility: PREDICTABILITY.

For us last year, being both awful and predictably awful started with not being able to run the football on first down and then culminated in constant “third down and forever to go” passing situations. Of course, both the start and end game of these twin scenarios is facing constant pressure that not only results in lots of Turn-overs, quick possessions, and lack-of-first downs, it also gets guys killed.

However, thanks to Coaches Paul and Sturdy, we might just have an antidote to last years’ futility phenomenon/epidemic…

As we’ve noted before, the potential beauty of the no huddle is that it puts the pressure on opposing defenses to have to “react” to what we are doing–oftentimes without the right defensive personnel on the field. So, while we were mercilessly “attacked” all of last year due to our lack of talent and predictability, the successful execution of a no huddle has real promise to take A LOT of pressure off the offensive line and QB by making the defense think about something other than eating our blood.

Of course, in order to execute all that, you need lots of reps. Moreover, if you add a few wrinkles like a silent snap count in a first game at home, you need TONS of reps that can only be garnered if you have ONE guy who is declared as such early in camp.

So, the quicker Marshall gets declared #1, the quicker we move forward in being able to execute our offense and scheme. In the end, our O may not get there by Stanford even if Marshall wins the job early, but if #8 takes 80% of the snaps with #1 unit by the start of the third week, it might get there by Hawaii. And it better.

2. Will James Montgomery emerge as the lead RB for us by the end of Week 3?

Followers, we all need to count our blessings that we have been bestowed such incredible backs like Mitz, Tardy, Richmond, Staden, and “Randle.” In fact, with the exception of Richmond, I would be plenty O-fraid of each of them if they played on opposing teams. Seriously.

So, it really isn’t all that important if Montgomery is not head and shoulders above any of them. BUT, if he does jump to the front, then I think that we can be REAL confident that our running game has improved to the extent that it should be a pleasant factor for the upcoming year. And last I checked, teams with a good running game, seldom go O-fer, 1-fer, or 2-fer. In fact, most of the time, the worst they do is 4-fer.

3. Will Jason Stripling be able to “Shoulder the Burden” of the 2009 Season?

You wanna know why our defense has been so miserable for the past few years? Well, the first is that we haven’t had many good players. The second? We’ve had only a few of those not very good players–the rest of have been TERRIBLE.

This year, we actually have the ability to be stacked with guys that are okay to maybe-not-so-great. And, in order to keep from having to play the TERRIBLE guys–or having our not-so-good-guys become TERRIBLE guys because they play 75 plays a game, we need to keep guys like Strip healthy.
Moreover, last I checked, Strip is SOLID when he’s not on the stretcher.

So, enough with the Erik Bedard crap, Strip. We need you this year, brother…

4. Will we stay healthy or be hamstrung by injuries with the passing offense and defense?

Ankles, shmankles. Knees, shmees. Glutes, boots. Abs, flabs.

All those things can heal more or less with a few days or weeks rest. But alas, those hammies seem like they NEVER heal.

This week, Sean documented how thin we are at CB. And in weeks past, we talked about how our group of WRs actually may not be that bad this year (provided that our top 4–who actually know the offense and can kind of get off the line don’t get hurt.)

So, watch those injury reports in days 3-10. When guys get sore, they have a hard time warming up. And when they have a hard time warming up, those hammies tend to go pa-ping, especially for the boys running sprints all the time–e.g WRs and CBs!

I therefore beseech you, Cougar Spirits, please no hammy injuries in spring camp. PLEASE!

5. Can we keep the leaders on the field?

There are five guys in my book who CAN NOT miss much time this year–especially for those first few games. They are: Marshall, Alfred, Mattingly, Hicks, and Turpin. The first four may not surprise you much, but maybe the last one did. As we saw toward the end of the year, T-squared really started to come around. And because he did, opposing teams could only run a VW bug through our defense instead of the Mac Truck we kept seeing all year.

If T-squared and the other two defensive leaders stay healthy, then all of a sudden we might just have enough depth for our maybe-okay-or-not-so-good guys to bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend throughout the year. And, if Marshall and Alfred stay healthy, then we’ll have the leadership up the middle to build toward respectability on offense early in the year. And trust me, for our season to be anything but a disaster, that O needs to deliver–and soon!

So, those be my thoughts and reflections for this Friday, please don’t be afraid to share yours, as well as your take on Leo busting out a WSU lid to go with a very nice v-neck T.

And to all, a hearty “Coug-de-L’Amor.”


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