Archive for the ‘2009 Spring Football’ Category

Sterk Stays Above it All, Plus Other Stuff

April 29, 2009


So we all saw the comments from Scott Woodward, UW AD, over their failure in Olympia to secure taxpayer dollars towards their $300 million dollar renovation. For a refresher, Woodward said he held out “remote hope” that something could be done, but knew they were up against it.

“How do you lay off teachers and cut back on programs and then build a stadium?” Woodward said Monday in commenting publicly on the bill’s failure for the first time. “That was the psychological disconnect that a lot of people had a hard time getting around and I understand that wholeheartedly.”

Fair enough. The guy understood that times are tight, and politically this was going to be an extremely hard sell. But he didn’t stop there. When asked about the loud, mouthy WSU alums who had the audacity to actually speak out against UW’s request of using taxpayer funds towards their massive renovation? “It was just an irritant, that’s the best way to put it.”

I’m sure it was irritating. Irritating, as would any individual or group when they complain to the legislature that they oh, I don’t know, might want to second-guess handing over dollars for what would become a single-purpose facility, hosting six or seven events a year? But it’s understandable that Woodward would be irritated. I was irritated, and I’m a WSU guy!

But then, something happened. Instead of taking the high road and ending it there, Woodward lashed out at Jim Sterk and Elson Floyd. “The most disappointing thing about it is that [WSU president] Elson Floyd and [WSU athletic director] Jim Sterk didn’t do anything to try to contain that little group of Cougars that were out there doing that. It was a shame that they didn’t show leadership or courage to curtail something like that.”

Whoa.

Think Jim Sterk took this lying down? He didn’t. Per Grippi yesterday evening, Sterk responded to the call-out:

“It was so inappropriate that I laughed, basically,” Sterk said Tuesday. “I could not believe those comments were coming from him. One, to me as athletic director but then, two, to the president of the university.”

Does it even need to be said?? IT IS SO ON! But there was more, much more.

Washington State made a decision to not get involved in light of the financial stresses on a state legislature dealing with a $9-billion deficit.

“WSU felt it was not appropriate for the institution, for us to ask for any stadium support during this legislative session,” Sterk said. “The legislature and the governor, they were already facing all the significant challenges of the economic crisis. So that’s why we didn’t take a position.

“When the economy improves and if the legislature and the governor change their minds on stadium funding, as long as it’s fair to both institutions, WSU would join UW in the discussions.”

There’s more in the article, so we highly encourage you all to check it out.

Obviously this is a WSU blog. So can you guess what our reaction would be to all this?? But even taking the view from 10,000 feet, it’s clear. Sterk was right all along, and he’s right again here. It was always in WSU’s best interests to stay out of the way on this one. The university was right in the idea of watching how this whole thing plays out, and then, act accordingly. If UW gets access to the treasure trove of tax dollars, well, you can bet Elson Floyd and Jim Sterk will be running up the steps in Olympia, plans in hand, ready to ask for help. Until then, things will proceed as normal, with private donations as the backbone of our renovation.

Sterk’s comments were direct, to the point, and most importantly, STILL ABOVE THE FRAY. He clearly had a chance to return some nasty fire over the Cascades, yet chose to do what he’s done all along. He responded, yet still refused to get in the mud. And you know what happens when you mud wrestle with a pig? You both get dirty, and the pig is happy. It just isn’t worth it. BRAVO JIM STERK!

Moving on, hey, remember the photo contest? Well, we’re down to the LAST COUPLE OF DAYS OF VOTING. We’re up to around 300 votes right now, and it’s pretty tight…

“Mama Sledge”, the mother of rising Coug linebacker Mike Ledgerwood, has a slight lead over “Devard Daaaughling”. But “Bone the Dawgs” is lurking, just a few votes back. Polls close at 11:59 PM tomorrow, April 30th. Check out the link for the finalists, and keep voting. Good luck!

Lost in all the fray over stadiums, dollars, etc, was Grippi’s STRONG spring wrap-up for WSU football. Grippi looks at each position, and weighs in with his “Player to Watch”, “Unanswered Question”, “Time to Step Up”, and “What the coordinator said”. It’s a really good wrap on a spring that, let’s face it, didn’t go according to plan. Not when there were so many freakin’ injuries. I guess the good news is that it doesn’t appear that any of the nicks and cuts suffered by so many players weren’t of the season-ending variety. At least in April, it looks like most of the guys who were out will be ready to go by August. But we’ll see about that.

The most encouraging thing is that, according to Chris Ball in Grippi’s article, the culture is starting to take. Proof of that could be the big change in so many players’ weights, showing that the hard work in the weight room and at the training table was starting to mesh:

“We’ve instilled our culture,” defensive co-coordinator and associate head coach Chris Ball said. “With instilling our culture, the kids understand what to expect out of practice. When we come out here and coach, we’re coaching ball, not coaching how to run on-and-off the field. They’re doing that stuff.”

Sounds like light-years from last year, where they were so far behind they were teaching players how to get into a proper three-point stance?? And as Grippi has said on a few occasions while freezing his behind off for many practices….the team is, in fact, more physical, something we never heard last season. Physical in football is VERY, VERY GOOD! But they still have a full fall camp to survive. August is going to be hot and intense. Let’s hope they save some in the tank for Stanford in early September, and beyond??

Finally, we are hopeful the fund-raising idea can get finalized in the next couple of days. We will have an update for you, of some kind, probably on Friday. Until then, enjoy your Wednesday, and GO COUGS!

Does NFL Draft Talent Matter?

April 27, 2009


First off, without a doubt, CONGRATS TO BRANDON GIBSON! Heading to Philly in the 6th round of yesterday’s NFL draft, it could be a nice landing spot. He was actually “mocked” to head to Philly by one service, which is cool. And maybe his WSU experiences in our passing game will help him in a west-coast offense? Anyway, whatever happens, whether he makes the team or likely lands on the practice squad, CONGRATS!

That’s now 15 straight years WSU has had a player drafted in the NFL, beginning in 1995 (no players drafted in 1994). And, for good measure, the second year in a row that WSU has had the only player drafted from the state BCS schools (UW was shut out for the second year in a row).

Here’s a question for you. Looking at the breakdown of NFL draftees by school, does it actually matter whether or not your school sends players to the NFL? In the PAC-10, it sure looks that way.

USC = 11 players drafted
Oregon State = 7 players drafted
Oregon = 6 players drafted
CAL = 3
Arizona, ASU = 2 players drafted
WSU = 1 player drafted
UW, UCLA, Stanford = 0 players drafted

Sounds about right. USC has been an NFL factory forever, and this year is no exception.

And the Oregon schools have been sending a lot of talent to play on Sundays in the Y2K decade. But looking at that list, then looking at the PAC-10 standings last year?

1) USC
2)Oregon (tie w/ Oregon St)
3)Oregon State (tie w/ Oregon)
4)CAL
5)Arizona
6)Stanford
7)ASU
8)UCLA
9)WSU
10)UW

Amazing. The top five slots in players drafted basically mirrored the top five in the standings. And from 6th place Stanford to 10th place UW, only THREE total players picked. That’s half the conference producing only three NFL draft choices. Seems like a real have-have not scenario?

Here’s the weird thing, at least for this year. One would think, looking at the way it all broke down, that the best teams sent the most players to the NFL, while the worst teams do not. That’s SORT of true, but this year? In a weird twist, the BCS Championship game only had a combined EIGHT players drafted over the weekend. Oklahoma had five players picked. And your national champs, Florida? JUST THREE players picked! That’s only one more than the Arizona schools, and just two more than WSU. For a national champ to send only three players? Very, very odd. In fact, the combined number of draft picks from a BCS title game is the lowest ever.

I guess some of it could be attributed to the youth, of both Oklahoma and Florida. Both QB’s came back to school, and many believe Sam Bradford will be near the top of next year’s draft. And Tim Tebow, no matter his position, will be an NFL football player.

Or, maybe it’s the offensive systems that makes it difficult to project at the NFL level? Both Okie and Florida run spread-type schemes, with Florida much more of a running scheme while Okie loves to spread it and throw it forever. And remember Graham Harrell, Texas Tech record-setting QB, and Chase Daniel, who ripped up Big 12 defenses at Missouri? BOTH QB’s weren’t even picked by a single NFL team, both undrafted free agents. Again, the schemes themselves make it difficult to project on the next level. Anyway, the BCS title teams, just a weird anomaly to this year’s draft.

Speaking of draft, I thought this list was interesting. It breaks down the entire number of draftees, ever, for each NCAA school. Notre Dame at the top with 462, USC right behind them at 461. And for what it’s worth? WSU is currently #42, which again, seems about right. Not UPPER class, but maybe more like upper-middle class?

Moving elsewhere, we were JACKED about Aaron Curry and the Seahawks!….until we also heard that the franchise tag has been lifted on Leroy Hill in the process? WHAT!?? So you ditch Julian Peterson, tag Leroy Hill, draft Aaron Curry…and then cut loose Leroy Hill? I know the quotes are that the team is hoping to now sign him to a long-term deal, but wow, what a weird situation. Does Hill feel slapped in the face, enough so that he’ll bolt to another team? Or does he want to stay badly enough, and that this move is just a procedural thing before signing him long-term? I don’t get it.

Grippi has some good stuff on the spring finale, including some quotes by Wulff who claims “Every person got better. Because every person had a good attitude”. At least the healthy ones got better? They were awfully thin by the end of spring. Anyway, check it all out here.

Finally, the UW/Key Arena bill appears to have morphed into just Key Arena. And while the regular session of the legislature wrapped last night, it does appear likely that they are headed for overtime. Does that mean anything for the sports fan? Who knows. Anything can happen in a special session, so there is no guarantee they will get to the amended bill, which now specifically states the use of funds as a “multipurpose sports arena” instead of “stadiums in King County”. But the late amendment to get specific in terms of the purpose of the tax money might be a signal that they will address this in a special session. We’ll see.

Enjoy your Monday, and GO COUGS!

Aaron Curry!

April 25, 2009

WE LOVE THIS! Welcome to Seattle Aaron Curry. And your Madden ratings look pretty good? Although I think the “zone coverage” rating can come up a bit.

Look at the video and let your eyes be the judge:

He’s a high-character kid as well, bringing along with him a leukemia survivor to the NFL draft events in NYC. To see his tears of joy when he hugged his Mom, wow, that’s a fantastic moment. There has been a ton of good press that Curry is one special guy.

On the field, with Julian Peterson out of the picture, you just couldn’t find a better fit for the Hawks. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay gave the choice a solid “A”, for all the right reasons. And SI.com already says this is the best pick of the first round, giving the Curry selection their highest grade so far. Even though GM Tim Ruskell has now said they gave serious consideration to Mark Sanchez at #4, in the end they made the right choice for a pick who will play from day one. And to think of Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and now this guy joins the mix? Welcome Aaron Curry!

Finally, the spring game was today. With so many front-line guys or projected starters out, including the likely top two QB prospects for next year, well, even the idea of a scrimmage didn’t really move the needle did it? The offense got ONE TD on the day, a 38-yd catch by TE Andrei Lintz. But Lintz’s 38 yards on that one catch actually led the team in receiving yards for the entire day. All in all, not the most exciting spring game ever. As Grippi said in his morning post, now that it’s all over, time to heal, get stronger, and develop some leadership over the next three months before things get real in August.

Grippi did point out a good read by John Blanchette in the SR. Blanchette rips senator Ed Murray for his petty jab at the WSU loudmouths. Check it out here.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and GO COUGS!

Monday Links

April 20, 2009


I guess we could continue to beat the already-dead horse about the Apple Cup….but I think you, us and everyone else with an opinion has weighed in. There really isn’t much left to say as we wait for the shoe to drop.

With that, might as well see what else is going on…links-style. And believe it or not, there are some things happening other than the move of this game.

From Grippi, the Cougs had a scrimmage on Saturday, as spring ball enters the last week. It sounded like things went alright, although the ranks are awfully thin right now. Tardy with one carry before heading to the sideline with ice on his left leg? James Montgomery didn’t even play? Tons of linebackers, like Andy Mattingly and now Louis Bland, several defensive backs, etc, all out? Levenseller and Lobbestael still not part of scrimmage action? Wonderful.

Well, at least Kevin Lopina is getting a lot of reps, and with the thin running back situation, there were a lot of throwing opportunities. Lopina turned in some fairly decent numbers – 12-for-17, 162 yards, plus the only offensive TD of the scrimmage. 162 yards? That would be good for Lopina’s third-best total from all of last season (174 yards at Baylor, 167 vs. UW). So it is fair to say he’s playing pretty well given the extra opportunities.

But it is also fair to say that overall, the entire team is far from full strength, and maybe even a shell of the team that we will see in the fall. No offense to the current players who are out busting their butts on the field right now, but everyone knows they are missing some pretty key parts to this thing.

Moving on, from the same Grippi – WSU recruit Brock Motum has reaffirmed his pledge to Ken Bone, Ben Johnson and WSU! VERY, very good news here. The 6-9 Aussie will be ready to roll next fall.


Talk about a productive beginning for Bone – three of the four recruits, all regarded as the most important three of the four, all decide to still come to Pullman? No defections on the current roster? Retaining Ben Johnson? It’s ALL GOOD right now. And don’t forget, our own Kaddy met Ken Bone a week ago, and you can read all about it here.

Read on for more…

Meanwhile, off the field, UW is getting new Field Turf. Big deal, right? We already got ours a couple of years ago, as did Qwest Field last year. But the difference? PAINTED END ZONES! That’s right, UW is getting gold end zone paint, not just the green with their name colored in. So I ask, WHERE ARE OUR CRIMSON END ZONES!?!? Not a big deal, but still. I heard one time that painting the end zones a solid color was actually pretty expensive, over 100K or something crazy, so that’s part of the reason we don’t do it.

Washington State senate bill SB6116 has moved out of committee. It now heads to the senate, where they will vote, then if it passes there, to the house. If it passes all phases, then it becomes reality. Why point that out? Because SB6116 is the bill that has the stadium “language” in it, where not only would Key Arena get the long-desired renovation funds, but the door also opens for Husky Stadium. There is thought that the momentum is building behind this thing, and could be passed this week by the senate. From there it must pass the house, or, it could be “tacked on” to another house bill, such as house bill 2252. Should be interesting.

Here’s a question for you. If the bill means the Seattle Center and Key Arena get a major overhaul, but, UW gets their money to renovate their stadium, what do you think from a WSU angle? I know the NBA has been out of sight, out of mind for many of you. I know I survived without the league this winter. Would have been nice to have the NBA back, but with college hoops keeping some interest, and then with the return of Griffey to the M’s, things have blended nicely. As much as I loved having the Sonics in town, I have to admit I didn’t miss it a whole lot. Now part of that was by design of the prior ownership, where they did every possible thing they could to alienate the fanbase and get the hell outta dodge, on their way to “paradise” in OKC…you know, Oklahoma City? The center of the basketball universe? The Thunder sure put them on the map.

Anyway, it’s a double-edged sword. Having Steve Ballmer own the Sonics in an updated Key Arena and a major Seattle Center overhaul would be a great thing for Seattle and the NW. But it also means UW wins in their tax money grab, and they get their $300 million palace on the lake. We’ll see what happens, but it should be an interesting final week in the legislature.

Around the PAC-10:

USC had a scrimmage on Saturday, and their QB battle is still seriously ON. FOUR high school All-Americans are competing for the job?? Wow, tough times at Troy.

Oregon State is talking about money, and what might or might not be cut in these trying times. Even with Reser Stadium naming rights, a renovated stadium, and all their donors, they are struggling just like anyone else right now. It’s a good read to see how our state cousins in Corvallis are fairing.

The Quacks had a scrimmage on Saturday as well (seems like everyone had scrimmages Saturday) and it went “just OK” according to Chip Kelly. Jeremiah Masoli had a big day though, three TD passes plus a 51-yard run. Anyone who watched Oregon late last year and the improvement in their offense as Masoli grabbed that job can see that they got pretty scary by the end of the season. Who knows what they can do with a full season of him leading the offense, but he looks born to run that system.

Cal had their spring game on Saturday. The defense sounds clearly ahead of the offense, and threw a lot of blitzes at the O. Kevin Riley was “okay” according to their recap, but maybe a little indecisive if not disappointing?

UW had a scrimmage too – did we mention everyone had a scrimmage Saturday? – and they took a big step towards an undefeated 2009 with a running game so dominant, so brilliant, it blinded those who dared to stare directly at it….OK, not really. But they did churn out 174 rushing yards. LOOK OUT LSU!

Locker played OK – 10-16 for 133 yards (hey, LOPINA WAS BETTER!) – but he sounds like he is starting to get more comfortable in the pro-style offense.

“He’s starting to understand the nuances of the position within our system,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he was much more comfortable today than he’s been the entire spring. The one pick was a miscommunication between him and (Aguilar), I thought the rest of the day he had a really good day. He felt comfortable, distributed the ball well, had great huddle presence, had good command at the line of scrimmage, I just though he handled the day well.”

OK, it must be said – Is it me, or are they serving up super-sized helpings of hype to anyone who cares out there? I guess the change from the closed off, angry, guarded Ty Willie to the Twitter King in Sarkisian, with his arms wide open to all comers, is a big part of it. But the media seems to be playing along. Whatever. We’ll see soon enough if it’s the real thing.

That’s about it for a Monday. Enjoy it, and GO COUGS!

Coug Hoop Assistants Abandon Ship?

April 9, 2009


Per Grippi, the assistants under Bennett are starting to go over the rail. First Ron Sanchez made it official (although nobody is surprised, given that Sanchez accompanied Bennett to Virginia for his press conference, etc!). We also already heard that Mike Heideman would be moving on, based on his long-time relationships with the Bennett family. And Grippi also re-confirms that Mark Woodley is going in another direction.

So who’s left? As of right this moment, Ben Johnson.


Will he stay or will he go? And does it REALLY MATTER?

First of all, the two assistants you used to hear the most about in terms of recruiting ability were Ron Sanchez and Ben Johnson. Losing Sanchez hurts, absolutely. He has been regarded as a big reason for Xavier Thames, and a hope that Thames will still honor his commitment if Sanchez were kept around. But Sanchez leaving seemed like a foregone conclusion from the moment Bennett took the job. But it isn’t the end of the world. Truth be told, the common man such as myself heard more about Johnson than any other assistant over the years. Some WSU beat writers (Grippi??) actually thought Johnson could be a candidate for the WSU head coaching position, even if Jim Sterk and Elson Floyd didn’t.

So the focus is now on Johnson, and whether or not he’ll follow the Bennett’s as he has done in his past. Or will he stay to build something greater in Pullman, and maybe one day get a head gig himself, ala the “benefactor” as BH refers to him?

Now before you freak out, I wonder if we are just too close to it to see things clearly? I mean does it really matter which holdover assistants a new head coach actually keeps? I know there is a ton of interest in what this incoming recruiting class is going to do, and some of it very likely could be tied to which assistants are kept and so on. But can you let a few kids hold a program hostage by trying to dictate who should be kept? Of course not.

Think about it for a second. So many times you see a new coach come in. Do they always simply inherit the current assistants? No. Not in college hoops, college football, NFL football, MLB, or the NBA. Sure, a few might be kept around, such as Levy and Steve Broussard last year in the football program, and for good reason. And without a doubt, Johnson would be a good “get” for Bone, for a variety of reasons. It would be a better situation if he is kept, for recruiting, sure, but for just the idea of helping Bone settle into the WSU job. But for the most part, in all sports where a new coach is brought in from the outside, the head guy wants “his guys”, not force-fed the prior staff.

And it’s not like Bone is coming alone. He’ll bring a key assistant or two with him, and he’ll probably hire one from somewhere else as well. There is already talk of four or even five assistants that will be behind Bone in the pecking order, so give the guy a chance. Don’t simply assume he’s already failed at this because the majority of the Bennett assistants are moving on. There could be so many reasons we’ll never know about as to why an assistant leaves, from as extreme loyalty to Bennett, to another job offer elsewhere, to even just the simple fact of it’s time to move on down the road.

One name already mentioned is former UW player and current PSU assistant Curtis Allen. Per Bob Condotta at the Times, Allen will likely be asked to follow Bone to Pullman. Sure, Allen is a former HUSKY hoopster, but he’s also well-regarded by Bone, enough so to likely get an offer to be a part of his staff in Pullman. You can read Allen’s coaching bio here. Allen is young, and he’s a Tacoma product. Think that will help just a little bit in recruiting the west side? It sure couldn’t hurt to try and mine some gold in the Puget Sound area, an area that the Bennett’s never could make any progress.

And about Allen and the former UW tie? Get over it. We joke about it all the time, but it really doesn’t matter. Just like former WSU footballer Johnny Nansen is coaching for Steve Sarkisian’s staff in Montlake, it means nothing. See, not every former player can go back and coach at their alma mater! There simply isn’t enough room on the bench. Even the UW head man Lorenzo Romar served some time on UCLA’s bench.

Meanwhile, Cougfan broke last night that “one recruit is secured, three to go for Bone”. While the story is premium, we can’t list the name….but it is a player regarded as “an all-state SWING MAN”. By that description alone, you can probably figure out who it is.

In that same breath, it’s not over yet with Xavier Thames. Again, per Cougfan, Bone will sit down with Thames on Saturday to go over the new direction of the program. Bone has his work cut out for him, but if he can persuade Thames to stick with it, well, we can consider it an early win.

Oh yeah, spring football is still going on. There’s this from Grippi, saying that the team was pretty flat on Tuesday. Oh well. They are in the “dog days” of spring. This happens during fall camp as well. The initial surge is over, but they still have work to do.

One last thing – FACEBOOK. We actually figured out a way to set up a true “WSU Football Blog” group on Facebook. Hoorah. Go to Facebook and search for WSU Football Blog and you’ll find it. We’ll be putting up photos, link to our current stories, etc. And if you have some photos you want to share, basically anything WSU-related? Send them on and we’ll post them on Facebook. E-mail to: wsufootballblog@yahoo.com. See, setting up a WSU Football Blog group, that was the intent all along with Facebook. I just had no idea what I was doing.

That’s it. Enjoy your Thursday, AND GO COUGS!

Friday Comments and Stuff

March 27, 2009

Happy Friday to you all. So nice to have football back isn’t it? At least for a little while anyway.

I thought the picture was appropriate, based on the idea of how far the team has to go to compete up front. There is no question the offensive and defensive lines were rag-dolled most of last year, and the reasons were many – lack of size, lack of strength, too young, etc. But it does at least sound like we’re seeing progress there, such as the article the other day where they ran down the new weights of several players.

And on that note, there were some great comments you have left over the last few days, and we thought it would be a good idea to highlight a few of them.

’03CouveCoug had some good thoughts on what ails the program, and what to do about it:

Alright Sedi, you asked what’s broke, and how do we fix it…so here goes. What’s broke is simple…both lines.

Until the Cougs can send out Pac-10 caliber lines, they will not win many games. It all starts up front on both sides of the ball. We need DT’s that:
1. Clog the middle and allow the linebackers to make plays when offenses run and
2. To occupy as many opposing OL’s as possible on passing plays so that the DEs and/or blitzers can tee off on the opposing QB. Remember Long, Tupai, and Williams? Or Sasa and Eaton? THAT’S why those defenses were so good!

We need DEs that:
1. Can not only pin their ears back and rush the backfield on passing downs
2. That have the strength and quickness to turn running plays back inside toward their friends. Does DD Acholonu have younger brothers or cousins?

The only way to fix this is to continue to recruit “big frame” guys with good feet that we can put weight on to become DTs and to recruit “strong motor” linebacker types that also have the frames to put on weight in order to make them ferocious DEs.

Do we already have guys like this on the team? I believe the answer is yes, we fans just need to give them time to develop. I also believe that it is slightly easier to make quick improvement on defense because playing D does not require as much precision and execution as offense and can be played with more instinct and emotion.

On the offensive line, we need more “big frame” guys that have great footwork, good agility and great smarts. Not to say that every player doesn’t need smarts, but it is my opinion that besides the QB, the o-linemen need to be the smartest guys on the field. I really think that these types of o-linemen are already on the roster. I think health and cohesion will promote a vast improvement amongst this group this year (fingers and toes crossed). Let’s just keep recruiting the TE type out of high school and make them big boys!

I think a great example of this is down the way in Corvallis. The Beavs have developed a very good program because they have the ability to throw out waves of good, if not great lineman on both sides of the ball, which they have the ability to do because of great coaching and redshirting. If we develop our lines like OSU (easier said than done) over the coming years our beloved Cougs will perennially be a team to be reckoned with.

Well said. I think we are on the same page here? I know we’ve been trumpeting what Oregon State has become for some time, and they are the perfect model for WSU to follow….


Except the part about CHOKING the Rose Bowl bid at home against your hated rival! OUCH. Moving on…

CalebCherry dropped in to say that WSU’s future approach should be to focus a lot more on defense, ala the hoops program:

For us out here, I think if we are going to have one side of the ball dominate heads and shoulders above the other… especially in our conference, we stand a far better chance of getting to a bowl game with an offense that puts just enough points on the board and a defense that is our foundation and what keeps us competitive and turns peoples heads.

It seems like the most effective use of our time given we’re still a couple years into an completely new offensive philosophy.

There shouldn’t be any reason we can’t supply some demand for local (even west coast) guys who only have USC (and maybe oregon?) to look to when they dream about playing some pin-your-ears-back defense.

The best way I can say it is… I’d love to have the same feeling I get when cougar basketball plays ANYONE! I know it’s not out of the question that our defense will keep us in the game with literally… anyone.

Good takes. I remember Wulff saying on one of last fall’s radio shows about how he learned from Mike Price the approach of stocking up on speed and athleticism on defense, and how important that was to our past successes.


It’s easy to look at Price’s best teams and see how even with some very productive offenses, the D was a huge factor (’92, ’94’, ’97, ’01’, ’02).

Chris’04 weighed in, saying the pound increase on these guys sounds good, but “FAT” isn’t always a good thing….

This is GREAT news! I’m glad to see that Wulff has delivered on his promise to bulk up our guys. But, bulk does not always equal performance. Keep in mind that the Fuskies had the heaviest OLine in the Pac10 last year. Look where that got them. But I trust Wulff 100% that he is not adding bulk at the expense of strength and quickness.

Good point Chris. UW boasted about their large line, but yeah, didn’t really do much for them. Funny how much hype UW’s o-line had coming into 2008, but when they lost the scrambling Locker, suddenly they couldn’t move or pass block worth a damn? Coincidence??

“BMels”, a newcomer to comments I believe(?), had his thoughts and parallels with the WSU hoops program when the Bennett’s started their program flip:

When considering the future of our Cougs, I must think back to the ways of the Bennett crew taking charge at Beasley. First years were atrocious, awful, ugly, painful, disgusting…you get the idea. And for the most part, that continued even when Tony took over and “the big three” (Weaver, Low, Cowgill) were frosh. Their sophomore year, they continued to lose but all games were close, often coming down to the last couple minutes or plays. And the next year, well, I don’t need to tell anybody about our first trip to the Dance in recent memory. I honestly foresee the football team following suit and taking steps in the right direction.

No predictions but i see more competitive losses next year where we actually look like a football team with football players making football plays. We continue to grow and build, guys get bigger/faster/stronger, and team character builds. I think 2010 shows serious progress reflected in wins and losses but 2011 is the year where this year’s incoming freshman have the chance to make some noise.

And there is no way Wulff has anything to worry about even potentially until after 2010 at the earliest. He’s gonna get more than a fair chance to right the ship.

I know I have heard this comp a few times, as a lot of you have as well. While hoops and football are very different and, honestly, it at least appears that it is a little easier to change things in hoops more quickly than football, it is fair to compare both programs at this juncture to see if they follow the same path. Although Dick Bennett did coach at WSU for three losing seasons, and it wasn’t until Tony took over in year four before they broke through to the NCAA’s, well, we COULD see the improvement this year on the football field in terms of things are tightened up and the foundations are laid for future success. But I think it is difficult to compare the different sports and draw too much of a conclusion. Time will tell.

Finally, our own Hooty had this to say about the sour-face Governor during UW’s loss to Purdue:

If Gregoire were green, she’d look exactly like the Grinch.

Good call.

There are some links and stuff out there as well, floating about after day one.

GRIPPI NAILS ONE TODAY with his day-one practice recap. GREAT to hear Lobbestael throwing TD’s in seven-on-seven drills!

The TNT’s Ryan Divish dives into the improvement expected for this spring.

And Cougfan has been blowing up the coverage. It’s all premium stuff, but they are all over it.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and as always, GO COUGS!

Nobody Likes a Skinny Santa

March 25, 2009

“Eat Papa, eat. Nobody likes a skinny Santa.”
– Mrs. Claus, 1964, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

We’ve all heard the line, right? Some of you youngsters might not get it, but those of you who used to stay up late for that ONE shot every December at seeing the archaic stop-motion puppets do their magic, well, you follow me. Remember the line? When Mrs. Claus is trying to fatten up Santa before the big night out? For what it’s worth, that line is now OUT OF THE SHOW. No kidding. The new exchange goes like this:

Mrs. Claus: Eat, Poppa, eat.
Santa Claus: How can I eat? That silly elf song is driving me crazy.
Mrs. Claus: You’re gonna disappoint the children. They expect a fat Santa.

Turns out that enough politically-correct folks decided the “nobody likes a skinny santa” was offensive? Something in regards to promoting bulimia? Really?? Very weird.

Anyway, why even bring this up? Because Cougfan has a good read today on the bulking up of the football team as they head into spring ball (and the article is free btw). WSU has released the first official roster of the spring, and it’s eye-opening:

Comparing last year’s roster to the spring, an eye-popping 33 players have packed on 10 pounds or more. And in some cases, considerably more.

Remember Tyson Pencer, the hulking giant straight outta BC? He showed up at 6-7, 230 a couple of years ago. Today? Try 6-7, 297! I know they’ve been banging pots and pans about getting these guys to belly up at the training table, several trays filled with food, but wow, thanks for participating Tyson. Other big names include Xavier Hicks from 196 to 211, Bernard Wolfgramm from 264 (that seems pretty light?) to 288 (that’s more like it!), and even James Montgomery went from 192 to 202. Check out that link from Cougfan for more, because there are a whole list of names who are definitely larger than last year. And given where these guys were in 2008, this is very, very, VERY welcome news!

Also some position changes here and there, but the big/obvious one is Andy Mattingly is officially a linebacker again! HOORAY position switches! And Andy Mattingly is right where he belongs.


Let’s hope to Mr. Mattingly, 2008’s position switch is a distant memory. Get back to chasing QB’s, drilling running backs, and flattening WR’s who decide to venture into #45’s area. Most of all, MAKE THE MOST OF THAT SENIOR YEAR! He still has a chance to turn it all around!

Also, the WSU Official site will post the first depth chart of 2009, sometime today. Be sure to check it out, as there are likely to be a few surprises (there always are a few?).

Some other things floating around as well on the eve of spring camp….

Paul Wulff will be in a chat today at WSUcougars.com. Check out the details here. I know some of you have participated in these things in the past, and to be honest, they were a little dry/boring? However this one should be pretty interesting as we are likely to get a ton of updates on various key players for the hopes of 2009.

There’s a new PAC-10 commissioner, and his name is Larry Scott, former head of the Women’s Tennis Association(WTA). OK. Not much reaction here. I guess he did a good job with women’s tennis.


Let’s hope the PAC-10 search committee did their homework, and most of all, that he’s worlds better than Tom Hansen. Here’s to better bowls, better TV deals, better EVERYTHING with Larry Scott!

Finally, Cougfan (again) has a good read on the UW stadium tax grab bonanza. Greg Witter does it again. I can’t do it justice, so please, give it a look. It’s pretty amazing what is going on there, and clearly there is concern among WSU nation that this thing might sneak through.

That’s it for a busy Wednesday. ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!

Reason For Hope?

March 24, 2009


So spring ball is set to begin Thursday, and everyone appears excited to wash the feeling of ’08 right off their dirty, smelly bodies. And for good reason. But it’s a new season, with new faces, and the hope of all hopes that the ugliness of last year is just that – left to linger where it belongs.

But ask yourself this….have you prepared yourself for the idea that what happened last year just MIGHT carry over into 2009? What if we see this team talk of change and overall improvement all spring and throughout fall camp, then gets drilled by the usual round of injuries, a few suspensions, and they still haven’t figured out how to win? What if they get blown out to open the season vs. Stanford? Even though last season was a three-month extended scene of crawling through a tunnel of sewage, what if THEY NEVER GOT OUTTA SHAWSHANK??

Look, last year was tough on everyone – fans, alums, bloggers, your general ticket-buying public. I don’t need to tell you that. It is hard to imagine a worse season, in terms of blowouts, poor health, and just some lousy football that is so painful to relive that we won’t even bother….unless of course you are Ty Willingham…..but I digress. But seriously, how accepting will you be if you have to witness frustrating losses, week after week, in 2009? Are you “out” as a Coug fan, ready to start up firewulff.com, tear up your season tickets and rail against it all on this here site? Or will you ride out the storm, hoping coach Wulff can navigate this thing home and turn the program into another Oregon State?

Not to get all GLOOM here. I mean hey, it’s SPRING! The thaw is officially upon us. It’s light until after 7 PM. MLB’s opening day is just a few weeks away. And every college football program in America is undefeated right now. There IS always hope!

So to get us started for spring, here’s three new faces to be excited about for 2009, WSU Football Blog style…OK, actually four new faces to get excited about, two of which are playing the same position….but you get the idea. And we’ll look at other things this week, but this is a good place to start.

EXCITED ABOUT NEW FACES

It was said repeatedly for much of 2008 – especially towards the end of the year – and that is there is talent here that isn’t even playing, and according to coach Wulff, “We will be instantly be a better football team the moment the 2008 season ends.” But is he right?

Well, yes, probably. There are some big-time new faces who will be on the field this year, faces we have only heard about. But keep your eyes open and ears perked this spring for running back James Montgomery, offensive tackle Zach Williams, and D-linemen Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo.

1) First of all, Montgomery. A fabulously talented young back with moves and speed, Montgomery is a big-time talent. With injuries and other issues haunting Chris Ivory, and Dwight Tardy a solid-if-unspectacular ball carrier lacking that extra burst of speed, Montgomery’s skills should be a delightful fit into OC Todd Sturdy’s offense.

Montgomery, you may remember, was once the subject of a heated recruiting battle between UW and Cal, where the kid ultimately chose Berkeley. But there were rumors back in the day that Montgomery actually liked WSU quite a bit.


Montgomery played in every one of Cal’s games as a frosh in 2007, and even in limited time, still averaged almost five yards per carry (4.8). The future looked bright, but also crowded in Cal’s talented backfield. Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen ring a bell? Those two form the young two-headed running back monster for Cal and they aren’t leaving anytime soon. Combined with some personal issues, Montgomery made the move to Pullman. After practicing and sitting out all of last year, he’s finally ready to make his mark. Don’t be surprised if he works his way to the top of the depth chart by the end of spring or at the latest, the conclusion of fall camp.

2) Zack Williams (or “Zach”, or even Zachary) has been impressing folks since his first practice in Pullman. While not a prototype NFL-type tackle, he does have decent size at 6-4, 300. Regarded by many who’ve spied him as the most talented lineman in the program, he was often mentioned as also being the best one on the team…and that was LAST YEAR, just as a scout team guy during his redshirt season.


Given the upcoming full spring and fall practice sessions where he will now “run with the ones”, he should slide right into the vacated left tackle spot from the departed big fella/quote machine, Vaughn Lesuma. A redshirt junior, Williams will start and should be a fixture on the line for his few seasons of eligibility.

3) Finally, Wolfgramm and Luapo might be the two biggest keys to any hope of an ’09 turnaround. Recall a season ago – if you dare – and what do you remember from the Cougar D? Not good, is it? Obviously the conference-worst turnover margin had smething to do with the weekly thrashings. However, I don’t know about you, but the ease in which opposing offenses waltzed up and down the field on a weekly basis was alarming at best, absolutely BRUTAL at worst. The Cal game or Oregon game, I mean turnovers or not, either team could have skipped the whole huddle thing and simply yelled “OK, WE ARE RUNNING IT AGAIN!” And there was absolutely nothing the defense could do about it.

Now things did get a little better later in the season, once the switch to the 3-4 defense was complete, combined with a return to health from Toby Turpin, a welcome playmaker at nose tackle. But I even go back to the Okie State game and watching big Matt Eichelberger getting his 320 lbs driven 5 yards off the ball repeatedly, and you knew that was going to be a long, long season!

Adding Bernard Wolfgamm and Josh Luapo, both JC transfers who have some girth and ability behind them, will go a long way to shoring up the defensive front. Wolfgamm is the smaller of the two, coming in at 6-3, 275, but he’s regarded as a real playmaker up front. Look for him to slide between tackle and end, depending on the scheme or situation. But Wolfgramm will be on the field as much as possible.


Meanwhile Luapo is more of your traditional tackle in the run-stuffing mode, at 6-0, close to 300. He just enrolled in January, so he has a lot of road to cover in a short period of time. But one could expect he will either start at one tackle in the 4-3, or be a huge part of the rotation in the 3-4 to keep the bodies fresh up front.

Keep your eyes and ears open for how these guys do this spring. Their performances could be the difference between a huge step towards respectability….or a huge step towards the hot seat for coach Wulff.

Oh yeah, and thanks for the Facebook friend stuff. Some of you have become friends, and that’s cool. You are welcome to sign on, as we will keep the Facebook site updated every time a post hits here on the blog. Plus some other stuff as the season approaches. Check out the Facebook “badge” on the right sidebar for a link to our page.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!