Archive for the ‘Bernard Wolfgramm’ Category

The Magnificent Front Seven? Or Something Else Entirely?

July 28, 2009


Time to glance at the defensive front of our beloved Cougs. But instead of doing just the D-line or just the linebackers, I thought what the heck, do the entire front seven. And for good reason, I guess. I mean really, both sets of positions rely heavily on each other for success. The linebackers rely on the defensive line to plug up holes and/or occupy blockers long enough to fly to the ball and make plays. And the d-line, if they do their job? They still need competent, strong-tackling linebackers who are capable of getting to the ball and making the play. Both positions need each other, and together they complete the heart of any defense. They are almost one with each other, one feeding off the other’s success. But will it be a “Magnificent Seven” up front? Or something else entirely?? Let’s see…

First of all, it better be said now, and let’s just get this out of the way – the defense was abysmal last year. I mean how else do you explain the 43.9 points per game allowed, 118th in the country? The 247.6 rushing yards per game allowed, 119th in the country? Hey, passing defense wasn’t too bad, at 195.8 yards per game allowed, or 44th in the country. But let’s be honest, I mean the team was buried so deep and so early that many games saw teams doing nothing but student-body-right/student-body-left for half of their possessions. USC even took a knee at the 15-yard line of WSU before the half…..things were THAT bad.

I don’t think any Coug fan who watched them all season would argue against that statement, and many inside the WSU program would probably agree. Of course there were many circumstances as to why they were so bad, such as a madly ineffective offense, injuries, suspensions, blah blah BLEH! The list is too long to accurately point out every single thing that was wrong, so, you get the gist. In a nutshell, what could go wrong, did go wrong in ’08.

So let’s get to it. We’ll start from the inside out, meaning defensive tackles, defensive ends, and then the linebackers.

D-tackle rotation:
Some starting combo of Bernard Wolfgramm, Toby Turpin and Josh Luapo. If Wolfgramm is healthy, he will start alongside Turpin to form a thick, talented interior. Wolfgramm is pushing 290 lbs on his 6-3 frame, while Turpin checks in at 6-4, 285. The buzz from last year was that Wolfgramm was the best defensive lineman on the team, and Turpin wasn’t far behind. But even as injuries and other off-the-field issues hurt last year’s defensive line, Wulff resisted the urge to burn Wolfgramm’s redshirt. And now that move, hopefully, will pay off!


Other unknown or relatively unproven backups are (potentially) Dan Spitz, Justin Clayton and Anthony Laurenzi.

D-Tackle analysis: Starting to see a little depth develop here. Contrast these guys with what you saw for most of ’08, and it’s a whole different world inside. Wolfgramm redshirted, and Luapo didn’t even enroll until January of ’09, following the gray shirt route. And Turpin came on strong at the end of the year, but he didn’t really play until the last month of the season.


All that said, ’09 could still see this group as not-yet-ready for prime time. While Wolfgramm redshirted last year, and it’s great that he did so well and all that. But we’re talking about practice. PRACTICE!

Seriously though, he still hasn’t had a snap of PAC-10 football. And he had a balky shoulder that kept him out for some action this spring, so who knows what kind of shape he’ll be in by the opener. I know I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for how he does in August camp. While Luapo is big and all that, a fire-hydrant type at 6-0, 325 lb, like Wolfgramm, he hasn’t seen any PAC-10 action either.

Defensive Ends: Kevin Kooyman and Jesse Feagin are projected starters.

Defensive end analysis: Hmmm. Well, we like Kooyman. He has had some injury issues over the years, and started seven games last year. Kooyman is good-sized at 6-6, around 250, but isn’t exactly hell on wheels in terms of getting up field and rushing the passer. He is more of your all-around type of defensive end who isn’t a huge playmaker, with 31 tackles and one sack last year. It’s hard to believe he’s already a senior isn’t it? His career has absolutely flown by. He was regarded as one of the top recruits in the state when he came on board under Doba and company, regarded as a good guy, and last year, there was considerable buzz that he was set for a big ’08 season. It just never happened. He is the undisputed leader up front this season, and here’s hoping he goes out with a bang in ’09.

Feagin is another interesting case. Reportedly adding 16 lbs of muscle in the off-season, now near 270 lbs, he could make an impact right away. There is always some speculation that with the added weight, he could slide inside on passing/nickel situations, as a smaller pass-rushing defensive tackle. But it’s likely he’ll be at the top of the depth chart, opposite Kooyman as a starting defensive end. Feagin, like Kooyman, is also a senior. He played sparingly as a JC transfer in ’07, just three tackles in nine total games, and then missed last year due to academics. We’ve heard good things about Feagin over the last two+ years, so now we will find out what he’s really got in the tank.

As for backups, I would speculate heading into camp that Casey Hamlett, the transfer from Western, and Adam Coerper, the redshirt frosh who was the scout team defensive player of the year last year, will be the first d-ends off the bench. Hamlett was profiled in the spring as to opening some eyes with his high-energy approach. The opportunity is right there in front of him, and to go from playing at Western WA to being a regular in the defensive end rotation on a BCS school in one year has to get his heart racing! Coerper, meanwhile, is another kid on the rise, a youngster who has drawn praise since he arrived in Pullman. One of those nice, athletic frames at 6-4, 250, in the versatile mold who could play tight end or defensive end, the redshirt frosh has a real shot at regular playing time.

For a real young sleeper/long shot for ’09, Travis Long must get mentioned here. Long was one of the top recruits signed in February, and while he hasn’t yet put on the pads, there are some that believe he could see action as a true frosh. Long is, yet again, another one of those tall (6-4), athletic build-type kids at 245 pounds who can play tight-end or defensive end. He projects more at defensive end at this level, so, it’s at least possible he’ll open enough eyes in August to potentially get on the field in September.

Sadly, this is where we must mention Cory Mackay. Mackay had a big spring on the field, and was looking like he was headed for a lot of PT this fall. Then the terrible car accident a few months ago, and his life has changed for the foreseeable future. I would encourage you all to go check out the Cory Mackay fund group at Facebook, which has now grown to over 1500 members. They have done some good fund-raisers, such as car washes and even a hair-cutting service for donations, and the news has been positive there. Still, he has a long road ahead, so all our thoughts and prayers go out to Cory Mackay and family.

OK, that’s it for the d-line. Now, the linebackers.

Starters: You can book Andy Mattingly at strongside linebacker and Louis Bland at the weakside position, provided they are healthy? Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Mike Ledgerwood will battle for the inside. As for backups, we would do a lot worse than Myron Beck. Nine starts last year at strongside backer, now pushed to backup status with the Mattingly move back from defensive end. Hallston Higgins is in there as well, likely backing up Bland at the weakside.


Mattingly on one side and Bland on the other could be one of the best OLB tandems in recent times for the Cougs. They are both recognized as two of the best players on the defense, and it will be interesting to say the least at the idea of seeing them both starting from day one. However, injuries area already an issue here, as Cougfan broke a story the other day that said Bland is still nursing a bum knee, to the point that it could cause him to miss the season opener (damn). And Mattingly missed time this spring, and now has a lot to prove as he moves back to linebacker after a failed move to defensive end last year.

This is it for Mattingly, a player two years ago some pegged as a can’t miss star at linebacker. I include myself in that group who thought he was going to be the “real thing”, but last year was a loss on many levels. They finally moved him back to linebacker at the tail end of the season, and the defense overall did perform better vs. ASU, UW and Hawaii to close out ’08. Most of all, Mattingly simply looked more comfortable, almost like going home again, and should have a nice finishing kick to his up-and-down career at the strong-side position. Bland, if he can keep that knee right, looks like an absolute player on the rise. Sized like a strong safety at 5-10, 205, Bland has the heart of a lion and hits like a truck. 55 tackles, nine for loss as a true frosh last year in nine starts had him on some frosh All-American teams. The kid is a real bulldog and should be a strong leader for years to come.

The youthful match-up at middle linebacker is going to be something to watch. Mike Ledgerwood played in 10 games last year, and logged 14 tackles with 2.5 for loss in limited time behind Greg Trent. We like the looks of Ledgerwood, a solid 6-0, 225, and appears to be another young player on the rise. But Hoffman-Ellis is going to give him everything he can handle inside. The JC transfer who arrived last year, he and Ledgerwood are going to be in for a real fight for the honor in replacing Greg Trent in the middle.

As for some younger breakthroughs, it’s hard to say. Maybe a super-strong Darren Markle will emerge in the middle? Markle is a high school weight-lifting legend, with a 605-lb squat video making the Youtube rounds. 605 lbs!?!? That’s ridiculous strength. I would imagine trying to move him out of the middle is akin to trying to take down the Martin Stadium goal posts, complete with cement reinforcements. Good luck.

It is a younger group of linebackers, no question, and losing Greg Trent, Cory Evans and Kendrick Dunn thins out the depth. But if they can stay relatively healthy, they will be fine. And of course, the better the play is in front of them along the line, the better this group will do overall.

As an overall, I would say this group of front seven is in much better shape than last year. In ’08, they were too young, too light, and too few in numbers to compete against BCS talent. While six of the top eight projected in the two-deeps at defensive line are new faces for ’09, normally that isn’t a recipe for success. But I think this is a unique situation. Last year they had lost Andy Roof before the season started, so backups like Matt Eichelberger were thrust to the forefront. The personnel just wasn’t up to the challenge. Now, there is talent that is new, sure, but still it’s talent that has been on campus and in the system for a full season up until now. Bernard Wolfgramm, Jesse Feagin, both guys who should start, both guys who red-shirted last year, both older guys who have had that initial year to get used to everything. So while they are new, they aren’t exactly nervous true frosh who are overmatched from the beginning.

The best news around is that Wulff continues to recruit the big, lean frames out of high school and then have them grow and mature in the strength program, some of whom will ultimately end up on defense. It’s the old Mike Price philosophy – recruit speed and athleticism on defense, and let them develop and grow up in the program. And build it for speed, from the “outside-in”. So safeties become outside linebackers, outside linebackers become middle linebackers, middle linebackers become defensive ends, and defensive ends move inside to defensive tackle. All in a natural progression as their bodies add strength and “the right kind of weight”.

The downside to this approach, well, it’s a strategy for the long haul, not the quick fix. No 6-4, 325-lb SEC-style behemoths are walking through the Bohler Gym doors, ready to start from the day they arrive. Obviously Josh Luapo is the exception to this rule. But fear not. This developmental approach will start to bear fruit, and I bet we start seeing some of the changes this year, but really witness the evolution in 2010. Just not yet.

At linebacker, the loss of Trent and all those tackles will hurt. But moving Andy Mattingly back there gives the defense an entirely different personality. He is their big, experienced playmaker who gave the defense some extra energy when he first started getting regular PT over the last half of 2007. And it will be great to see Louis Bland take the field after his initial learning season is now out of the way. Instead of trying to survive, now we can see him attack and lead a little bit more?

Most of all, both units are going to need the other to up their game in ’09. The defensive line is going to have to do a better job of putting pressure on the opponent’s passing game by applying a consistent rush, and of course, plug up holes and occupy some space up front. But that’s just half the battle. The linebackers are going to have to play fast and physical, and take advantage of what the defensive line can give them, which is an opportunity to make plays.

So, will it work? Is the front seven in better shape in ’09 vs. last year? Can they not just survive, but thrive? What do YOU think?

That’s it for now. Enjoy your morning, and as always, GO COUGS!

Advertisements

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!

Is the 3-4 the WSU Defense of 2009?

November 11, 2008

So the three-man line got a lot of ink from Saturday’s game. Basically some injuries had cut down Andy Mattingly and Kevin Kooyman, and with the continued ineffectiveness of Matt Eichelberger, well, the lads up front were awfully thin. Factor in the loss of d-end Mike Graise for missing practices and workouts? They were basically down to FOUR healthy defensive linemen against Arizona. Not good, not good at all. As Wulff said in the Times:

“We got to a point where we’re so thin where we can’t even line up four players that have a legitimate amount of experience at all on the defensive line,” Wulff said. “So if you go to a three-down-line look, it at least helps us there and gives us at least an extra backup that we wouldn’t have in a four-down-line look.”

And at least they aren’t burning redshirts on the likes of Bernard Wolfgramm to shore up the weakness. This is such a lost year, that to do something like that would be foolish….almost Willingham-like in it’s ineptness….

But I think it begs a bigger question. Is the three-four for WSU here to stay? Given the way college football offenses have evolved, and the overall lack of depth that this program has had for a long time now on the defensive line, wouldn’t it be a good idea to just go to a 3-4, or, even, a 3-3-5!?!

For some background, yes, we have tinkered with the 3-4 from time to time. Remember down the stretch of the 2006 season? With injuries destroying that team, and even Mkristo Bruce heroically playing on one good leg, losing Ropati Pitoitua, Aaron Johnson and A’i Ahmu just crippled the depth inside. They had no choice but to scrap the 4-3, and go with the 3-4 during the year-end fade.


It didn’t really work, and the reasons were many. It was a brand new scheme of course, as the defensive linemen had different gaps and responsibilities that go with a three-man front. But even the linebackers had to adjust to having an extra linebacker out there, and it was too late to plug the hole in the dam. But the other reason was, mainly, they just didn’t have the proper personnel to run it effectively.

While we loved Mkristo Bruce, he was a better pure pass rusher than a run-oriented defensive end. Too many times he faced double teams, and it just didn’t work out. He was at his best coming around the edge, one on one with a tackle. But the other side was much, much worse, where Lance Broadus, all 215 pounds of him, was the other end. He was basically engulfed by the opposing offensive line, so badly out of position that it was a disaster on his side of things. Not his fault, but the man simply wasn’t built for the 3-4. They just didn’t have the personnel to run something like that

To be successful in the 3-4, you have to have a legit nose tackle who can take up space and occupy blockers, and he has to be big. Why? Because on about 95% of all defensive plays in that 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle will be expected to take on the center AND a guard, all at the same time. But it’s not just the nose tackle who needs size and strength. The defensive ends need to be a little different style as well. They have to be much larger than your Isaac Brown/DD Acholonu mold, you know, the converted 225-lb linebackers who rush wide and up the field? You need defensive ends with some girth, at least in the 255-260 range in college, to hold up and handle their gaps.

All three of the defensive linemen have what is called two-gap responsibility. They are expected to hit the offensive linemen head on, and watch the play to make sure the running back doesn’t come through on either side of them. It’s almost a read-n-react defense as opposed to a one-gap scheme you often see in a 4-3, where the defensive linemen simply chooses a gap and shoots it at the snap.

But a 3-4 defensive lineman is also expected to hold their block so that the offensive linemen can’t get free and to seek out a linebacker. Simply put, the linemen play a more physical game as they are taking on one or two offensive linemen directly, play after play. And the glamour? Forget it. The 3-4 linemen aren’t your stat hounds in any way, shape or form (how many great defensive ends in the 3-4 make headlines?).

The big plus to a 3-4 are the linebackers. Basically two inside linebackers who you want in the 240-range and also with some athleticism. But the outside linebackers can be in that Louis Bland/Myron Beck mold, at least in the NCAA, and you can get away with having 210-215 lb speedsters on the outside. They can blitz from different angles, of course, but they are also on the outside as much as possible, able to use their speed out in space. And against the spread-style offenses of today, that asset of speed on the edges is CRUCIAL if you want to survive something like Oregon throws at you. You have speed like that outside, and it makes it all the more difficult for the QB to scramble or roll out effectively.

I look at how Cal has handled Oregon in recent times, and it’s really no coincidence that Bob Gregory, the Cal DC, has evolved the defense. Cal used to claim to be a 4-3 defense, but they consistently threw 3-man fronts at opposing teams. But today, they finally DO claim to be a true 3-4 team, and it has really done well against the one-back offenses you see so much of in the conference. Against the true spread, which is thriving today in the Big 12 and you now see Oregon and Arizona running versions of it every week, Cal has the scheme to deal with it.

Now, can this work for WSU next year? I think it can, and here’s why.

1) Andy Mattingly is already being talked about as moving back to linebacker for next year. Paul Wulff has mentioned this at least a month ago on his radio show, and it’s been highlighted in other articles over at least the last month. And Andy Mattingly, we remember, was a 90-tackle, eight-sack guy as a linebacker in 2007. With Greg Trent, Cory Evans and Ken Dunn all graduating next year, the need for a linebacker with experience will be gigantic. Mattingly could slide right into an inside linebacker spot next year, with his 251 pounds a perfect fit back there.

2) The other inside linebacker might be a bit of a reach, but Mike Ledgerwood has played well this year as a true frosh backup to Greg Trent in the middle. But weight is an issue, as he’s only 215 pounds.

I would think he would need to get to AT LEAST 225 to handle it, but it’s possible. Marshall Pirtz is also an option, at 6-0, 231, but Pirtz may not even be a linebacker anymore, potentially moving to running back. We’ll see what happens there.

3) The outside linebackers might be the perfect fit. In reality, both Myron Beck and Louis Bland started out as safeties anyway, both in the 205-210 range in weight. Give both guys another year of putting on weight, and they could be 215-220 next season while maintaining their quickness and speed, with the ability to be stout against the run yet able to get out on the edges and make plays.

4) The defensive line might be much better suited for this defense as soon as next year. Toby Turpin is already 6-6, 280, and with another 10 pounds or so he could be just fine as a nose tackle. He started at NT vs. Arizona, so who knows what he might do. Add in Kevin Kooyman at one end, where he’s already around 250 pounds, and he could be just fine. The other end is interesting in that the top recruit from 2008, Bernard Wolfgramm, will be ready to play.


He’s already 6-3, 275, and has a ton of experience as a defensive end from his JC days. Also, Josh Luapo will be enrolling in January, and he’ll likely be a 300-pounder by September next year. He could be a fit as a backup nose tackle.

The other angle to this is the lack of depth on the defensive line. It would be much easier to get by with 5-6 defensive linemen if you only have three on the field at once. But if you are running four of them out there every play, the depth gets that much thinner. Add in the usual injuries, etc, well, you get the picture.

Finally, the spread offense – we’re only going to see more and more of it as it continues to thrive. Already Oregon and Arizona have fine-tuned their attacks, but there will be others to follow suit. It’s just too successful, what’s happening in the Big 12, to ignore it anymore. If Gary Pinkel or Mike Leach get the UW job, there’s another team that will instantly be running the spread. And you can already see some wrinkles with it at Oregon State, where they run a ton of one-back, but love to do some read option where the WR goes in motion to take handoffs from the QB, and they do a lot of shotgun as well.

I would hope that they will seriously consider it for next year. Not only is it effective against the spread/multiple offenses, but if you have the right personnel to run it effectively, it could actually be a strength of the team. I’d love to see Andy Mattingly absolutely cut loose his senior year, blitzing from the linebacker spot next year instead of with a hand down as a defensive end. With the thin defensive line set to lose Matt Mullennix, A’i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger next year, the lack of experienced linemen could be a big issue. Take one lineman off the field, and you can handle that lack of depth in a much more effective manner. And for once, we might actually have the correct personnel to get away with running the 3-4 at the college level, with some decent size at defensive ends and some real speed at the outside linebackers.

What do YOU think?? Should we go to a 3-4 next year? Or are we better off with the traditional 4-3?

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS!

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap – Week Eleven

November 6, 2008

Yes, another week, another radio show. This one on Wednesday due to the historic election on Tuesday, but still, the show goes on. They actually cut the show short 15 minutes early and brought on the soccer coach, so I turned it off at 7:45. Also note that the next few weeks will also be on Wednesday, due to the hoops season firing up, so we’ll have our usual recap on Thursday. Anyway, on to this week:

  • Bud in the host chair again. He asked Wulff first about the election and what the players thought. Wulff said they didn’t discuss it a whole lot but knew it was being talked about by a lot of them. He also said that at the end of their team meeting on Tuesday, they always wrap the meeting by chanting “1-2-3 GO COUGS!” This time, he said at least half of them said “1-2-3 GO OBAMA!” Kind of funny. Wulff didn’t say a whole lot about the election or politics or anything, clearly not an area they were going to go.
  • Once again, Wulff said they have had some very good practices this week. But he was quick to point out that he thought they practiced really well the week leading up to Stanford, and that didn’t work out. Wulff did say that they did, in fact, do some OK things against Stanford early on, and it’s actually true. They were within about 50 total yards of offense from Stanford in the first half. But the mistakes continue to drag this team down, and as soon as a couple of them happen early, it becomes an avalanche.
  • Nameck asked about the strength of the PAC-10 compared to the SEC, and how it’s hurting USC’s BCS rating. Wulff said that he still thinks that the PAC-10 is a brutally tough conference, and that the SEC might not be all that. BLASPHEMY, I know, to many NCAA fans! But mainly Wulff pointed out that in the SEC, you only play seven conference games, total, and that’s it. You can stock up on some weaker out-of-conference teams to pad your stats and victory totals. Personally I can’t support that argument myself, as we’ve seen enough of the SEC to know that it’s pretty bad-ass while this might one of the weakest PAC-10 conferences, outside of USC, that we’ve ever seen. But whatever.
  • Arizona was brought up pretty quickly. Wulff is hoping for a decent crowd, and that is usually the case on Dad’s Weekend. But Arizona is having their breakthrough season, and Wulff said they are easily in the top three teams in the conference in terms of overall talent. They have a lot of speed, they are very physical up front, and hey, they’ve been pretty HEALTHY this year! We know how important that can be.
  • A caller asked if Wulff could cool it with being so negative on his players, and then went into another question about recruiting in-state talent. Wulff didn’t acknowledge the negative question, and instead said they are working hard on some in-state kids and will continue to do so all the way up until signing day. The caller than slipped in a “how are you dealing with this nightmare of a season?” Wulff said that it has been tough, clearly the toughest situation of his career. But he said the good news is that this situation is something that can be fixed! He admitted he’s been through a lot in his personal life, but at least this situation can actually be fixed (hard to argue with that logic when you think about his mother and first wife). Wulff said that you can’t always grow without some adversity and/or the real tough times, and he still believes that this team is growing as he speaks. Wulff finally said that there are some very good pieces here, and that they are taking some decent steps forward.
  • Another caller asked about some of the younger players in the program that we aren’t seeing right now, players who will be on the field next season (Kaddy mentioned this in comments the other day). First Wulff brought up James Montgomery.

    Wulff said that Montgomery is an exceptional talent and will be a HUGE BOOST to the running game next season. You could hear it in Wulff’s voice, but he can’t wait until Montgomery can play. While we’ll only get Montgomery for two seasons of on-field playing time, it should be worth it. The next name brought up was Brandon Jones. Another Cal transfer as a defensive back, he has looked really good in practices this year. Like Montgomery, we’ll see him for two seasons of playing time starting in ’09. Bernard Wolfgramm was next, and Wulff said he has played extremely well in practices. They are excited to get him in games next season and will really add something to the defensive front. Another defensive tackle brought up was Jesse Feagin. Feagin played in ’07, but is redshirting this year. He will be back in the rotation at tackle next year and they really are hopeful about him. Finally, Zach Williams, an offensive tackle, is another guy they are thrilled about. A “gifted” guy who is strong and light on his feet, he will be in the offensive tackle mix next year. He even stood in at times last week at running back to try and simulate Toby Gerhart, so you can imagine he’s pretty athletic.

  • Some true frosh redshirting right now who Wulff brought up were Cory Mackay and Andrei Lintz, as well as a big safety in 6-2, 200 lb LeAndre Daniels, who has looked really good in practices recently (As a listener, one can hear it in Wulff’s voice when he says he believes they are going to be better with some of this younger talent on the field next year).
  • ON that same tone, a caller asked about how he’s dealt with knowing that he has some good young talent, yet has held off with redshirting many of them. Wulff said it’s been tough, but it’s a necessary thing. The only true frosh who are playing right now are purely out of necessity, but if he had his way, all recruits would redshirt that first year (we’ve heard this before). But then Wulff went deeply into why – he wants to do this thing THE RIGHT WAY. He understands that people don’t have a lot of patience these days, and at times, neither does he. But he also understands that the quick fix can be the worst possible thing when you are trying to build a program. He said sure, you could go with the quick fix and play all the youth immediately or get a bunch of JC guys and put them out there right away. But with a quick fix can come a quick fall, and the slower way to build and sustain success is to do it the right way. Wulff brought up some of the recent successful WSU teams, and how those teams were built. It was done the right way, built from the ground up, and that is what they are going to try and do here. But a big part of that is to avoid the quick fall after a successful group comes through, and that’s where the building with layers and layers of depth comes into play (Oregon State is the perfect example of building depth with Mike Riley’s approach, vs. the Erickson way which is to interject JC’s and youth immediately to win now, and worry about tomorrow some other day).
  • Arizona was brought up again. Wulff mentioned that the biggest difference he’s seen from them is that they are running the ball this season so much better than last year. A big reason is because of Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, two smallish, faster backs who have really given them a nice balance to what they are trying to do. They are the complete opposite of what they had seen out of Stanford’s power running game, so it will be quite the contrast. But they can kill you through the air, with WR Mike Thomas and TE Rob Gronkowski both big-time players. And of course, the senior QB element here with Willie Tuitama.
  • Their offensive line got some good mention as well, regarded as strong and physical. But again, even with Sonny Dykes coming from Texas Tech as the OC who created this “Air-Zona” passing attack, it’s the running game that has been the biggest reason why they have had success this year. In fact, Arizona has actually run the ball more times than they’ve thrown it in 2008! That’s not something that you would think, given their reputation.
  • Wulff was also impressed with their defense. It is better than people think, and very impressed with their back seven, with four seniors and three juniors among the starting linebackers and secondary. They are athletic, fast, play hard, and again, they’ve been healthy this year. Wulff said he was very impressed with how they played against USC, holding the Trojans to their lowest point total of the season.
  • Injuries were quickly brought up. Wulff said BJ Guerra is very questionable this week, and he was disappointed because he thought Guerra has been showing a lot of upside lately. Both Micah Hannam and Vaughn Lesuma are still dinged up, but they should both play. Wulff also mentioned that Lopina is getting better and better, and didn’t really address how that will affect J.T. Levenseller’s playing time (Boo! WE WANT JT!).
  • A caller asked about the workouts during the season, and just how much these kids are able to lift during the actual year. Wulff said that players who travel will get two to three lifting sessions in per week. But the redshirts go in at least four days a week – Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. And the redshirts are up at 5:30 in the morning hitting the weights! Wulff said that builds discipline and chemistry, and it’s a good time for them to be together as a unit. But they are working hard to get bigger and stronger.
  • Finally, Nameck reminded Wulff that they haven’t scored a point in 10 quarters now, not since the 2nd quarter of the Oregon State game. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some points early and put this behind you?? “ABSOLUTELY.” Wulff would love to get off to a quick start, get some points, and try to build some momentum and confidence. It is very important to what they want to do this week (and every week).

So there you have it. A bit of a lighter recap, as I’m trying to just touch on the highlights of what you, the reader, would give a rip about. But they cut it short for 15 minutes, so, this is about it.

Enjoy your Thursday, AND GO COUGS!

Andy Roof Out at WSU

August 26, 2008

So much for the 2-deep, and maybe so much for Bernard Wolfgramm’s redshirt. Breaking via Vince this afternoon, Andy Roof has been expelled from WSU. Here’s the quote from Wulff:

“I was very disappointed when I heard the decision. Since I arrived on campus
Andy has been a great leader for this program, on the field, in the locker room,
in the classroom, and done everything we’ve asked, that we ask of all
student-athletes. From where he was a year ago he has changed his life around
180 degrees and as a coaching staff we have seen the positive impact he made on
this program.”

Dang. Too bad for the kid, as it sounds like he was back on the right path. And too bad for the d-tackles, who suddenly lost 300 lbs of anger inside. Might not have any choice now but to let Wolfgramm play, because the tackles are thin, thin, thin.

Eye Witness Report: Longball Visits Fall Camp

August 6, 2008

Greetings Cougar Nation!

Since I live in Pullman, the center of the WSU Football universe, the good folks here at the WSU Football Blog have asked me to provide some eye-witness reports of the action taking place as the Cougs kick off Fall camp. I’ll be their boots on the ground, as it were, and I’ll do my best to make sure that Coug fans in Yakima, Bozeman, San Antonio, Baghdad and anywhere else the Crimson faithful have settled get the up close and personal Coug news they crave. I’m glad to be of service and as my first order of business I trekked up to campus with my coffee and camera for the morning practice. Here’s what I saw…

I am sure most of you have been following the stadium construction here, but I thought I’d share what I saw today as I made my way to the practice field. First of all…


Huh? Who hired these guys? Maybe the Vandals pay their rent for using our stadium in cement. After the whole Big Papi jerseygate in the new Yankee Stadium, I think someone should check this pour for shenanigans.

Moving on, I am sure you are all excited about our giant new video screen, and while I promise you that pictures do it no justice, its the best I can do…

The entire red area is the screen, but you won’t understand how big and beautiful it really is until you see it in person. As you can see to the left the Cougs were assembling for their morning drills so I made my way down to the field to see who was knockin’ heads this morning.

Above you see CPW and Coach Sturdy guiding the QBs and RBs through some drills.

I was disappointed to see that Rogers and Lopina weren’t out for the morning practice. It was definitely not the A squad, but a few notables were there. Number 8 is Lobbestael (not 12 as some rosters have him) and also of note in this picture is 22, Chantz Staden. He is the smaller, quicker, scat type back as advertised, but he is solidly built and looks to be strong for a smaller back, much like J-Smooth and Jerome Harrison were. As you can see they’re not in pads, so I didn’t get to observe him in a full contact situation. However, they did line up for some run plays against the D and he showed he can beat our backers to the outside. My first impression of Mr. Staden was a good one and I’ll keep my eye on him throughout camp.

Above is a nice moment for the Cougar family scrap book. The gentleman in the foreground is Orville Sears who made the short trip from the family ranch on the Johnson Road to watch his son, co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears (background) leading the DBs through their drills. Jody and his older brother Cotton are both Pullman High grads, local rodeo legends and former Cougar wide receivers. No doubt Orville is proud of his boy and as Coug fans we all hope he can help turn our defense into the bloodthirsty wrecking crew we used to be so proud of.

For Mr. McBoob, the fat guys…

Much to my delight they got together for some light scrimmaging so I could observe some matchups. In the middle is my main man, Toby Turpin, 90. More on him in a moment.

One guy I was on the lookout for was Bernard Wolfgramm, 99. You can easily spot him above sporting the Don Sasa/King Kongaika hairstyle. He faced double teams most of the time and was able to hold his ground, not getting pushed off the line. He did a workmanlike job of keeping the middle clogged. He held his own in there, but didn’t show me a whole lot, though I do dig the hair. As a contrast, when my main man Toby Turpin was in, he was splitting the double teams, getting his big old paws into the offensive backfield and generally raising hell. Just to the right of Wolfgramm above you see Staden, 22, who is about to bust one around the edge.

A closer look at Mr. Wolfgramm…

Of course any time you are watching your own defense and offense against each other every positive play for one side bodes poorly for the other. So while you are thrilled to see a D-tackle wreak havoc in the offensive back field, or a RB break off a big run, you worry that what you are really seeing is a vulnerability in your offensive line, or a weakness in your rush defense. What I did observe that looked good for both sides was energy and an emphasis on hustle and effort that the players have been alluding to. There was constant yelling from the coaching staff, imploring the guys to go 100% all the time. Like I said, this was not the A squad, but they still looked good. I’ll hope to catch this afternoon’s practice as well and bring you some images of some of our big guns.

Until then, Go Cougs!

Thursday Stuff, D-Tackle Style

July 31, 2008


Lots of links inside and outside of the WSU universe, so we’ll jump right in.

First of all, a huge thanks to a reader and fellow Coug Kristopher Jones. Kristopher is pretty gifted as a video guy, and sent me a few new creations. These are from the glory days, going way, way back….all the way to 2001!

Great work Kristopher, and thanks again. The videos are an eye-opener for three big reasons: 1) We were really good back then, and Gesser was just a total winner; 2) I don’t know about you but it gets me pumped up for some WSU football; and 3) We have a LONG way to go to get back to this level don’t we??

One can at least have hope with some of the 2003 highlights. You know, a team that not many people thought was going to do much after losing their senior record-setting QB, and the understudy who was taking over was a senior with limited playing time over his career (and some rough playing time spots at that). But 2003 was a special, special team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball with three starters in the secondary who have played in the NFL.

That brings us to today. The biggest difference compared to where we were in 2003 vs. today isn’t just the overall talent on that defense. We remember the flash-n-dash speed of Acholonu and Brown off the edges. We remember the speedy, physical linebackers with Derting and Don Jackson and either Scott Davis or Al Genatone. But the one spot people forget? The defensive tackles. The most underrated aspect of that great run from 2001-2003 are the defensive tackles. Rien Long, of course, the big-time force inside as a first team All-American, Outland trophy winner, etc. But it was the presence inside with guys like Jeremy Williams and Tai Tupai and even Steve Cook rotating inside with power and energy that allowed the defensive ends to fly up the field in one-on-one situations and make plays. It was those guys on the inside that helped occupy the center and guards on the opposing offensive line, allowing the linebackers to flow to the ball and make plays.

Now look at what our tackles look like today. Well, there’s A’i Ahmu.

The long-maned wild-man is a whirling dervish inside, a ball of power who can shoot gaps and get upfield. He’s a playmaker from the D-tackle spot, and could have a huge senior year. Of course, IF HE’S HEALTHY. Ahmu started 11 games in his true frosh year in 2004, and everyone thought we had a true star on our hands. But oh those injuries. That stress fracture that just never seemed to heal was his undoing, and now, he’s started just 11 games over the last two years COMBINED. We need a hero inside, and Ahmu is our best bet but obviously has to stay healthy.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Ahmu is the only tackle on the roster. I like Eich, as in Matt Eichelberger. But Eich is a senior already, and we pretty much know what we’re going to get there. He can occupy some space with his 6-4, 317-lb frame, but he isn’t exactly a major force inside. He’s been a backup his whole career, so there isn’t a whole lot of hope that he’ll turn into a ferocious beast that cannot be contained. If Eich can be neutralized by one offensive lineman, we might have a problem in helping ease the likely double-teams that either Ahmu will see inside, or Andy Mattingly could see on the outside with a guard sliding out to help the tackle assigned to Mattingly.

Maybe the hero is going to be JC transfer Bernard Wolfgramm? Wolfgramm looks to be Ahmu-like in his playmaking ability on the defensive line. He’s played a lot of D-end, and he really stood out on tape in the recruiting videos that were shown at the various banquets this winter. But Wolfgramm is projected to possibly play, if not start, at a D-tackle spot. He has the size at 6-3, 270, and serious athletic burst to where he could overwhelm some bigger, slower, less athletic offensive guards. Pair him up with Ahmu on passing downs and it could be an inside surge we haven’t seen in a long time around the Palouse.

But of course, there’s always a catch. First, Ahmu needs to stay healthy. Hold your breath there that each day of camp you don’t see the news that you dread. And Wolfgramm might make an impact, but as is almost always the case with JC’s, they need some time to get settled. It’s no secret that even the best JC’s take the first month or so to figure it out and hit their stride, so, we might be into October before we see what Wolfgramm can really do at this level.

The other wildcards in the mix? Toby Turpin, Tyson Pencer and Andy Roof. Turpin had little impact last year, just four tackles as a redshirt frosh in very limited playing time. But he looks the part at 6-6, 270, with room to put on more weight. Given the current depth chart, you have to believe Turpin will see several opportunities this fall to factor into the rotation. Pencer is finally coming after a long journey from Delta, BC, where he delayed enrollment at WSU until this year. Pencer has the frame and is still growing. Originally listed at 6-6 and a still-growing 260 lbs, Cougfan’s latest insider piece has him now a strapping 6-7, 274. He is destined to play inside with that size. But he hasn’t played a down yet at any level beyond high school, so, it’s tough to predict how he’ll do. But the door is open for him to make an impact this fall.

And finally, the ongoing Andy Roof saga. What’s interesting is the nugget Wulff unveiled at media day last week, that charges still haven’t been filed against Roof. Given the firestorm of negative press against him when the story first broke, and to consider that it’s now a few months later and still no charges seems a little odd. Maybe the circumstances surrounding the Roof story aren’t exactly as they appear? I know we’ve had several people tell us that we don’t know all the facts, and that there is a huge side of the story that isn’t out for full public consumption. We’ll see how it plays out. It’s hard to know what to expect from Roof, if he can play this year. He’s moving to tackle after being an O-lineman his whole WSU career, and he missed the entire season last year, so, who knows. If he is eligible and good to go, hopefully he can shake off the rust and cause some havoc.

Moving on, some links for your enjoyment:

Coach Wulff will host an online chat tomorrow at the official site. He did one earlier in March and it worked out pretty well. Get in there and fire away tomorrow.

The scoreboard is coming along. You can get a live look at it on the top-right of the site, but, the official Martin Stadium site updated with a July 30th photo gallery on the stadium renovations with this pic of the scoreboard:

Some people have mentioned that it’s been doing a lot of tests lately, and that it’s hard to tell from pictures but it looks really, really good.

You think we had some off-the-field troubles with 25 “problems” in an 18-month window? Have you heard about Penn State lately? Try 46 offenses over the last several years. It’s so bad that ESPN did an Outside the Lines segment on their troubles. Joe Pa is 81 now, so you have to wonder why he’s still hanging on with all this turmoil. Penn State kicked a couple of defensive linemen off the team yesterday, and it could only be the beginning. What a mess.

That’s about it for a Thursday. Enjoy your day, and as always, GO COUGS.

And so it begins…

February 7, 2008

Greetings Cougies.

Happy NLI Day. I’m back from the casino with a couple pages of notes; $20 bucks more than I had when I left the house (I hit it big in 3-card poker); and I reek of cigarette smoke.

I moved to Spokane 2 1/2 years ago and I can vouch for the fact that there is a noticibly higher percentage of dudes with mulletts here than anywhere on “the coast” – as we Spokanites refer to Seattle – with the possible exception of Kent. There are lots of guys with mulletts here, but they’re mostly run-of-the-mill. Occasionally, you might see a really long one or one with a sweet perm or something – but for the most part, you stop noticing them because you’re so used to them. Well, tonight at the Casino after the recruiting dealie, I stuck around to play some cards and I saw what could only be described as the best mullett in the history of mankind. And I know mulletts…

Freshman McBoob, circa 1988

Anyway, you know how Joe Dirt’s mullett is kind of a caricature of the real-life mullett? Well this guy’s mullett was actually better than Joe Dirt’s but it was on a real dude – and no shit – he was wearing a tavern jacket. He was actually with a fairly hot chick too, which made it even better.

So anyway, this mullett was SWEET! I actually made two attempts to capture it’s soul with my cellphone camera but alas, it was too elusive. Sorry about that. But seriously, thank you WSU, for having this thing at a casino in Spokane.

***

This is from one of Mini McBoob’s animal fact books:

“Young cougars are about two years old before they have enough hunting skills to catch their own food. Adult cougars care for them until they are able to live on their own.”

Wulff and staff made it pretty clear that this class may require some patience on all of our part, before they mature and become cougars who “hunt and kill.”

“Although cougar cubs are cute and cuddly-looking, they are dangerous and should never be approached in the wild. The young cubs will scratch and bite in self defense, and their mothers will attack anyone approaching their young.”

The feelings of one coach were that we may have a tough year ahead – but we WILL win some games that no one expects us to. I also suspect that as hard as this staff had to work to put together a recruiting class this big in only a month and a half, they will defend it as a class that could be to the football program, what Low, Weaver and Cowgill are to the basketball program. (You never know…)

The staff is well aware of the fact that this class is comprised mostly of kids who were lightly recruited by Pac-10 schools – if at all. As Coach Wulff put it, recruiting is based on creating relationships with players, coaches and moms and dads. That process usually takes a year or more. With only a month and a half to do the job, there was little time to forge new relationships so in many cases, they went with the players with whom they were familiar from EWU. They also worked hard to find those coveted diamonds in the rough with whom we have become so familiar over the years.

Wulff said they went after kids who were versatile, big, athletic and fast. Maybe more importantly (just kidding – but it’s still pretty important, right Barbara Hedges?), they were looking for high-character kids with strong academics, who would represent the university well.

I’m really bad at judging the size of a crowd, but I’d say about 300 Cougs came out to hear about the first recruiting class of the new coaching regime. It was a free event, yet there was a buffet. Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t this money have been better spent on oh, I don’t know, the stadium rennovation? I fasted throughout the event, in silent protest (although I did have a cup of coffee.)

As I entered, I scanned the room for familiar faces and not seeing any friends, picked a seat along the wall, right next to Jim Moore. I’m a fan of the Go 2 Guy but I have too much pride to appear the slightest bit star-struck, so I didn’t acknowledge that I knew who he was. That said, I was dying to chat him up.

Because of yet another winter storm moving through the area, there was about a half hour between the time I sat down and the time the event really got going. As we sat there, coaches started trickling in. This gave me the “ice-breaker” I was looking for with Moore. One of the last coaches to roll in was our new D Coordinator. I leaned over to Moore and said “USC has Ken Norton…and we have Jody Sears.” It drew a small chuckle and opened the door to a few more smartass remarks back and forth for the rest of the night.

The only two guys in the room who did not give coach Wulff a standing ‘O’ were Moore and myself – two cynical bastards. I’m generally happy with Wulff as our new coach but think he might do well to receive some publicity training. He’s not the most dynamic of speakers.

I once worked with a guy who had been around longer than most, had more knowledge than most and had more desire and passion than most. But he was really fat and usually appeared disheveled and dumpy (sounds like me, I know). Every time there was a promotion available, he’d get passed over because management thought he “needed more polish.” Paul Wulff is not even close to Mark Mangino but he’s also light years away from Steve Spurrier. He needs some more practice at the public speaking thing – I’ll just leave it at that.

That said, Wulff comes across as very genuine. If he lacks charisma in front of a crowd of yokel alumni, he makes up for it in work ethic with his team. I believed him when he said that although no current members of the team have left school due to the coaching change, that very well could change after they start workouts. “We’re going to work ’em” he said. “Maybe some guys will leave because they don’t want to work (that hard).”

Wulff introduced his staff and I’m not sure if this is news or not, introduced Chris Ball and Jody Sears as Co-D-Coordinators. Of the coaches, Broussard got a well-deserved ovation, as did Levy. I kept my eye on him as the coaches took their seats at their tables, looking to see how he interacted with the other coaches. Wulff described Levy as “the best receivers coach in the country” and it looks like he’s fitting in well with the new staff.

I mentioned above that a coach made a statement about our fortunes for next year and the fact that we’d surprise some people. Well that same coach (who I won’t name) is an acquaintence of mine and he told me this in a quick, private conversation. He also told me that this staff was night and day from last year. These guys are a tight bunch, who work well together, work hard and have a ton of energy. When Chris Ball spoke he said it was “the best coaching staff in the country.”

Speaking of Chris Ball, in my opinion, he stole the show. “When I left here,” he said “we were Pac-10 champs. That’s where we want to get back to.” If Ball was apprentice to Mike Price, one of the things he learned was how to work a crowd. His story was great. After Wulff was hired, Ball received a phone call from Bill Doba. “Paul Wulff is going to be calling you”, he said, and soon after, the phone indeed rang – but Ball did not answer. Knowing what his options were for this year, he had to weigh them with his family, including his wife who was not thrilled with the idea of another move. When his son, a freshman in high school, found out that Pullman was one of three options, he lit up. “There’s only one place I’ll go, Dad” and as you can guess, that place was Pullman. We are very fortunate to have Chris Ball on this staff and on the same day that Jim Mora Jr. was announced as the next head coach of the Seahawks, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for him in Pullman…

Todd Sturdy also spoke and I have to say, it was “like at first sight.” He seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy and is very confident in hmself and his offense. The question was tip-toed around – but asked on two different occasions (not in so many words): Will this no-huddle, D-II offense work in the Pac-10? I got the feeling that Sturdy bit his tongue when he tactfully replied that the same plays are being run by BCS schools all over the country. The scheme works – but as always, it’s up to the players to execute it. The task now at hand for the staff is to evaluate the players to determine how they will fit in the system. Sturdy assures that there will be competition at every spot – including quarterback. Though he did elude to the fact that he’d love to see Gary Rodgers – and other upperclassmen win jobs because you want to see the seniors “lead the young guys.”

After listening to the coordinators, here’s the Cliff’s Notes for next year:

On Offense, we will feature a balanced attack. We’ll be up-tempo, aggressive and smart. On Defense, we will feature an 8-man front, with speed on the edges. Everything we do will be predicated on stopping the run first. “We will be the best tackling team in the Pac-10,” said Ball. We will be fundamentally sound.

When Recruiting Coordinator Rich Rasmussen spoke, he made one thing very clear. Over MLK weekend, we hosted 9 recruits and their families. The ONE thing that really turned these kids Crimson, was seeing the incredible support the crowd gave the basketball team during the Oregon game. That turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the night. This team NEEDS our support. As Coach Wulff said at the end of the night, “I’ve made the drive from Cheney and Spokane to Pullman at least 15 times in the last month and a half. It’s not that bad. We need you guys to make that trip only 5 times this fall!”

Eventually, we got to see a little film on our recruits. It was literally only a few clips of each kid and it went by very quickly – but I did manage a few notes on most of them. Without further Madu, here are some of the newest Cougs.


Adam Coerper TE/DE 6’5″/230 Hood River, OR. Listed as a TE/DE and showed good blocking ability in clips. Lined up as an H-Back in one clip, he motioned back across the line and crushed an OLB. Projected as a DE at WSU.

Kevin Frank DB 5’10″/170 Elk Grove, CA. Related to former Coug and NFLer Ricky Reynolds, Frank may be the fastest kid in this class. With legit 4.3-4.4 speed, he’s one of only a few true freshmen that may play this year. Projected as a CB.

Terrance Hayward DB 6’1″/175 Carson, CA. Hayward just turned 17 in November and according to Wulff, if given another year of High School ball he’d be the focus of a major recruiting battle. He’s going to grow and will be big and physical. I suspect that may mean he projects as a Safety but it was not mentioned where he projects. Given his age, you have to wonder if he’s one of the few kids the staff will ask to grayshirt.

Tim Hodgdon OL 6’3″/287 Ladera Ranch, CA. Wulff says Hodgdon is actually 6’4″ and 300+ lbs. He has a nasty streak that the coach loves. “He’ll knock guys down and then lay on top of ’em.”

Jared Karstetter WR 6’4″/195 Spokane, WA. Hometown kid drew a good cheer from the crowd but coach didn’t have a whole lot to say about him. He’s still growing and has great potential. My guess is he’ll either get faster and develop his route-running under Levy; or they’ll start feeding him and make him a TE.

Anthony Laurenzi DT 6’3″/260 Placentia, CA. Looks like a high-motor, relentless type of player.

Mike Ledgerwood LB 6’1″/215 Finley, WA. One of several recruits who attended EWU camp. Staff is familiar with him and likes his football mentality. Has a nose for the ball but did not look horribly fast. If he succeeds at this level, will be labeled an over-achiever, a la Pat Bennett, Steve Gleason, Scott Davis, etc.

Andrei Lintz TE 6’4″/220 Bellingham, WA. The “hidden gem” of the class, according to Wulff. Whether he winds up at TE or DE, “he’ll be one of the best players at his position in the Pac-10.” Should be fun to watch his development.

Josh Luapo DT 6’0″/295 Torrance, CA. Lined up at DE in a couple clips, showed good quickness and strength. Will be compared to Ahmu. Lets hope he’s better.

Cory Mackay WR 6’4″/215 Redmond, WA. Lined up at OLB in one clip, he crashed in and absolutely blew up a fullback. Drawing a gasp from the crowd, Wulff said, “Let’s watch that again!” He re-wound the clip and said, “now imagine this guy (the fullback) wearing purple, with a gold helmet!” “You gotta love this guy!” said Wulff. “He spurned UW!” (to sign with us.)

Jay Matthews S 6’1″/200 Lake Oswego, OR. Another kid who may play this year. Looks like a hard-hitter from center field. Also offered by OSU.

Kevin Norrell WR 5’9″/180 Los Angeles, CA. Another potential hidden gem, discovered in LA by Bruiser. Did not draw a lot of attention because he played with a bad QB. Showed great hands and balance on a poorly thrown ball and can also return kicks.

Tyson Pencer DE/TE 6’6″/260 Delta, B.C. Hold-over should be ready to go this fall. Showed clips of him playing middle LB. I’m thinking with more bulk, he could be the next Rien Long.

Alex Reitnour OL 6’5″/235 LaCanada, CA. Needs to put on weight to play in the Pac-10 but he has good feet and can play all 5 spots on the line.

Jessy Sanchez DE 6’2″/265 Culver City, CA. Good combination of size and speed. Coming in as a junior, he’s “ready to play in the Pac-10.”

Calvin Schmidtke QB 6’0″/186 University Place, WA. We’ve all heard the Gesser comparisons as well as those to Todd Reesing at Kansas and Chase Daniel at Mizzou – and Wulff echoed those sentiments. Another guy who camped at EWU, so the staff is very familiar with him. He’s very competitive and you can tell that the staff belives he can run their offense. Showed decent arm strength and ability to move.

Daniel Simmons CB 5’10″/178 Ontario, CA. The last fax to roll in yesterday was from Simmons so you’ve probably not heard much about him. All you need to know is that Wulff thinks he could play as a true frosh.

Dan Spitz TE/DE 6’5″/245 Spokane, WA. Another hometown kid who will need to find his position. Very athletic but needs more bulk. Showed nice hands.

Chantz Staden RB 5’11″/200 Campbell, CA. Physical runner but has great hands. Expect to see him lined up all over the field.

Skylar Stormo TE/DE 6’4″/227 Everett, WA. Another big, athletic kid who will need to find his position.

Tyree Toomer DB 6’0″/180 Bellflower, CA. Coach thinks he was overlooked by many because he played out of position in HS. Projects at S for the Cougs. Legit 4.4 speed and he likes to hit.

Michael Vandenkolk WR 5’10″/175 Carlsbad, CA. Son of Cougar parents. Is smart, competitive and runs well. We’ll see what Levy can do with him.

Zack Williams OL 6’3″/285 Pasadena, CA. Very physical player on the OL. Has the nasty streak you look for in a dominant lineman and according to Wulff, has NFL ability. With enough depth on the line and 3 to play 2, Williams may redshirt.

Bernard Wolfgramm DE 6’3″/270 San Mateo, CA. Showed the ability to dominate in JC and will be counted on to step right in and be a star on the Cougar D. Largely considered the best “get” of the class.

***

In closing, Wulff announced that “Recruiting is done today; and tommorow, we go to work.”

The 2008 WSU football season began with a workout at 6AM this morning. Basketball. Shmasketball.

Go Cougs!

Monday Morning Information Overload

January 28, 2008

Lots of stuff buzzing so we’ll get right to it:

  1. Win some/lose some department – Cougfan has been all over the Cougar recruiting news, and there was some new info trickling out yesterday. Basically we stole one from UW (Cory Mackay, 6-4 WR, officially verballed to WSU); grabbed a 4-star JC defensive lineman (Bernard Wolfgramm, a pass-rusher everyone thought was headed to K-State); and finally, lost a possible diamond in the rough in Brian Baucham to USC. Baucham, you’ll remember, looked pretty good on tape last week. Only a 2-star prospect, but a kid with what looks like big-play ability. Come on Peter Perfect Carroll, you just had to steal one of ours? Didn’t you do that last year? Oh well. Maybe he’s mad about Bumpus refusing his grey-shirt offer in ’04 and coming to WSU when they kicked him to the curb for Dwayne Jarrett?

    There is some news that Kent WR/Safety Brandon Turner returned from his trip to the Palouse, but still no commitment. Turner is a 2-star player who interests WSU, but our own “source” in Kent says he’s good, yet not exactly a game-breaker. In fact, our source went on to tell me that WSU can probably go better and he’s a borderline D-1 player. Hmm, 6-3, 197, runs a reported 4.46? Sounds good to me!

  2. Yes, Brinkhater, we saw a return to Bennett Ball on Saturday. 56-55 is much more like it, but my God, I was sweating the last few minutes. Yikes. I really wonder where our heads might have been today had ASU won that game. Still, 4 homes games in a row coming up and a shot at 7-2 for the first half of the season if we can sweep the Bay Area schools. 7-2 when 5 of 9 games are on the road?? HELL YES I’ll take that!
  3. Speaking of the hoops team, looks like we’re #9 in the latest polls. Seems about right. A 1-1 split in the desert isn’t easy. And further, on the Arizona game – PLEASE STOP all the “we suck” talk. We don’t suck. But Arizona is better than we think they are. They had a white-hot weekend sweeping the Washington schools, as they blew out the Dawgs on Saturday. No matter what anyone says, they are still Arizona. We’ll see what happens when they cool off a bit and hit frosty Pullman next month!
  4. So, Erik Bedard – is he or isn’t he a Mariner? You hear Geoff Baker of the Times talk, the deal is now done and will be announced probably tomorrow afternoon after Jones passes his physical. I heard him on KJR this AM and he says it’s done. He also says that the M’s will sign Brad Wilkerson to a 1-year deal as soon as the deal is done to at least platoon in right field. The other names in the deal are George Sherill, and then it gets a little cloudy. Probably a combo of Tillman and Butler, a couple of minor-league arms with upside. Some had said it’ll be a 5-for-1, with another high-ceiling prospect going to Baltimore, but that isn’t clear yet. We do know that Jones has been yanked for good from winter ball, and Jones said in an interview that Bavasi told him to go to Baltimore for a physical and he was the centerpiece of a trade for Bedard. Hmm. Yet Baltimore denies it right now, and the windbag Peter Angelos hasn’t made up his mind yet?? He’s famous for pulling the plug on deals, he’s done it in the past and you know he’ll do it again. We’ll see, but stay tuned.

    I’ll say this – I heard Mitch Levy on KJR say it this AM, and I totally agree – the hardest things to find in sports are 1) a franchise QB, 2) an all-star NBA center, and 3) a legit ACE on an MLB staff. Those things don’t grow on trees. So when you find yourself at a moment that could see it happen, well, you go for it. I love what I’ve seen of Adam Jones, and I think he’s going to be a wonderful player. Better than Mike Cameron, and probably a parallel to Torii Hunter, if not even better when it’s all said and done. But Erik Bedard, my God, how do you pass on that? You know he was better than even the great Johan Santana in a lot of categories last year? And he’s 28, with 2 more years at least under contract? Jayson Stark said that he’s easily right there with Santana as the best lefthanded starter in BASEBALL. And he’s recently said that he’ll be open to talks of a contract extension? The very thought of pairing Bedard with Felix at the top of the rotation is really, really exciting. And the staff, 1-5, rounds out nicely with Bedard, Felix, Batista, Silva and Washburn. I’d put that 5 up against a lot of staffs in the AL, and it certainly matches up better with the Halos. And who knows, if these guys can get deep into games, the bullpen stays fresher, etc. It could be one interesting summer at the Safe IF this deal happens!

  5. So how about that UW story in the Times?? The story stinks so badly that they have to spread it out over FOUR DAYS of in-depth sleeze. Wow. And they want $150 million of King County tax money?? How many soccer moms in King County, who had no clue about any of this, are throwing up in their morning latte’s? Rape with Jerramy Stevens, among a long list of F-UPS?? Shootings with bloody fingerprints of Pharms, yet they let him play?? What’s next? It’s obvious the state reps have heard from some registered voters over the last week or so, hence the about face of Dr. Evil himself, Frank Chopp. But, remember, this isn’t just front-page sports page news. This is TOP FOLD, A1, front page news on the most circulated paper in the pacific NW. Hard to ignore these kinds of stories. I don’t know how much of you have read it so far, but it’s pretty disgusting. A fan of UW, WSU or Spokane Falls CC, the thing is an embarrassment for college sports.
  6. Have you heard the one about the most hated owner in the NW mocking a Sonics fan at the Key last night, to the extent that he did a “boo hoo” face to him and then had him ejected from the arena?? What a pile Cash-us Clay has turned out to be. No matter what happens, be it the city loses the case and they are out of here, or they are here for 2 more seasons, or he eventually sells, at least we know we won’t have to look at “crap with feet” forever. I just want the damn thing to be over with.

Enjoy your week!