Archive for the ‘Dwight Tardy’ Category

The Conference of… Running Backs?

August 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Logwone Mitz

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

Dwight Tardy

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

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

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

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

Who’s Carrying the Mail?

July 10, 2009

First off, a hearty WELCOME BACK to Sir Vincent Grippi, the best of the best Coug sportswriter in these here parts! Grippi has returned from a several-week hiatus, back to provide the fantastic coverage in ways only a champion can do. As many folks have already commented on the Spokesman-Review site, he’s a welcome sight for these sore eyes….

And in the usual fashion, back from vacation and some big news breaks. You probably heard already, but WSU’s budget information is making the rounds as of yesterday afternoon, and guess what? Per Sir Grippi, it ain’t bad. The gist: No sports have been cut, as all 17 men’s and women’s programs will continue to soldier on. But still, when you are dealing with nearly a million in revenue shortfall, you aren’t going to get off totally unscathed:

The athletic department, according to Sterk, had already instituted cost-cutting measures – “We’ve got a hit list about a page long of things we’ve done,” he said – and those will continue. They include leaving open positions unfilled, cutting back on travel for international recruiting and professional development, using ground transportation to competitions within 400 miles of Pullman (including Seattle football games), limiting the number of athletic publications and possibly cutting travel-squad sizes.

All sound, responsible decisions in these tough times. But you know what? Even in tough times like these, it’s those who have been fiscally responsible all along who will survive. And WSU is no stranger to being responsible, per the article from the AP in late June. We are used to doing more with less, so this shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal??

Moving on, we continue to look at the state of our Cougs on a position-by-position basis. Earlier in the week it was the QB’s. Today, it’s running back. Who’s going to carry the mail in ’09? Will someone emerge from what looks like it could be a crowded backfield? Or will it be a by-committee approach, where everyone will get a chance to do some heavy lifting? Let’s take a look-see….

First of all, we would be remiss if we didn’t look back at the running game from last year. And in 2008, it wasn’t pretty. As in 95.1 yards per game, good for a measly 110th in the country in rushing yards. And in those 95.1 yards per game, they averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.

Not good is it? Generally you want at least three yards per carry (three yards and a cloud of dust?), but something closer to four would be nice.

That said, in a weird way 2008 wasn’t all that bad in that there was some depth that emerged at the position. Dwight Tardy led the team in carries (133) and yards (481), but still averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. But the numbers overall for Tardy were down across the board compared to his pre-knee injury days in ’07. In that year, Tardy had 676 yards and 6 TD’s, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, before going down in the 8th game vs. UCLA. That 3.6 yards per carry is over a full yard less per touch compared to ’07. And looking back to ’06, Tardy logged 667 yards and four TD’s on 4.6 yards per carry.

So ’08 was definitely a down year across the board for Dwight.

So, was his downturn in performance related to the knee injury? It’s hard to say. I think it’s reasonable to look at his performance at times last year and wonder if he had lost some of his explosiveness. But at the same time, there were moments where he ran extremely hard. He had 75 tough yards vs. UW, and the following week vs. Hawaii averaged 4.1 yards per carry, scoring the only TD of the game for the Cougs. But it also must be said that the offensive line woes contributed mightily to the situation. The O-line was a jumbled mess through the first several games of ’08, where the same lineup didn’t start consecutive games until well into the latter part of the schedule. Such a lack of continuity made the running game suffer, heck, the entire offense suffered last year and a lot of the blame can be placed on the “fluid” situation up front. But that’s a post for another day….

The bright spot? Logwone Mitz. The kid is one physical dude, a bruising package at 6-1, 225. And who can forget his huge 57-yard TD run vs. UW in the third quarter of the Apple Cup, a play that seemed to lift the entire team in the second half?

While Mitz was second to Tardy in carries (90) and yards (441), he did tie for the team lead in TD’s with three. But the most impressive thing about Mitz? His yards-per-carry came in at nearly FIVE per touch (4.9). So even just sharing the load, in his physical style of play, he still was effective in moving the pile. Impressive stuff from a redshirt frosh, and a necessary ingredient for a balanced, effective running game. Flash-n-dash is nice, but man, you gotta convert those short yardage situations. Mitz is the lunchpail and hardhat type, unafraid to get a little dirt under his nails during a hard day’s work. Yes, WE LIKE MITZ around here!

The wild-card, without a doubt, is James Montgomery. The heralded transfer from Cal, Montgomery was a Parade All-American in high school, where he ran for over 4900 yards and 82 td’s. Rivals.com had him as the 14th-best running back coming out in ’06, and after a redshirt year, he played in every game for Cal in ’07.

Now after sitting out ’08 due to transfer rules, the junior-to-be is ready for action. More of a home-run big-play type compared to Mitz and Tardy, Monty will be right in line for plenty of carries this fall.

Yes, there are others in the mix, like Chris Ivory and Chantz Staden. But right now, it’s clear that the position is all about Tardy, Mitz and Montgomery. Per the spring depth chart, Tardy was listed as the starter, while Mitz and Montgomery were backups. But I think we can all agree that those three guys bring something a little different to the table. And, no matter who prevails as the starter vs. Stanford 9/5, you can bet that all three are going to get significant opportunities for touches.

So what do YOU think? Does Tardy get the starting nod, based on his experience as the senior returner? Should Mitz get more looks as the feature guy, and not so much the short-yardage type? Or, is it time to hand the keys to arguably the most talented offensive skill position player on the roster in James Montgomery and see what happens? Let’s get your takes on what could be the deepest, most productive position on the ’09 Cougar offense!

That’s it for a Friday. Enjoy it, and as always, FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FOR WASHINGTON STATE!

Rumor: Chris Ivory to Return for Senior Year?

January 12, 2009

I know it has been assumed all along that junior running back Chris Ivory would be out once the year was over. Injuries, rumors of being in Wulff’s “dog house” or whatever, etc. But here we are in January, classes are starting back up….and no news of his transfer or release from his scholarship? And now, rumor has it Ivory is going to stick it out? I heard from someone late last week that this was a possibility, and now today Cougfan.com’s message board has a “family friend” saying Ivory is coming back for his senior year. It hasn’t been acknowledged by the official media but we are checking out a few things to see if it holds water.

Ivory has been on both ends of the spectrum. When healthy he’s a fast, physical player with good moves and packs a punch at the point of attack. But it hasn’t altogether clicked for Ivory, and 2008 looked like a lost season for him. He’s been injured off and on since his frosh season, banged up with various leg ailments. But count me among many who thought he looked like he might take off after a good finish to the 2007 season, where he had two 100+ yard games rushing over the last three, including a career-best 114 yards vs. UW in the ’07 Apple Cup (averaging 8.1 yards per carry in that one).

Where does Ivory’s potential return leave the backfield? Crowded, but in a very good way. You have seniors Dwight Tardy and now Chris Ivory, plus the potential breakout of junior-to-be sensation James Montgomery, the transfer from Cal. And, you can’t forget the physical, bruising Logwone Mitz.


Mitz ended up second on the team in rushing in 2008, just 40 yards behind Dwight Tardy. And who could forget that 57-yard TD run in the Apple Cup? Mitz gives the Coug offense that short-yardage bruiser-type, always a necessity when you are trying to move the chains. Mix in Chantz Staden as a potential 3rd-down specialist, provided he returns from his knee injury, and you have FIVE guys who could be in the mix for carries.

Kind of goes along with BH’s prediction of seeing a TON of running plays next year, doesn’t it??

We’ll see if/when official news breaks. Here’s hoping he’s back and set to add depth and power to a position that is clearly looking like the strength of the offense in 2009!

ENJOY your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS!

Congratulations

November 23, 2008

What a finish, what a game. Who cares about how low both programs sunk to this year. Let the national media make fun of this game. Like we said earlier in the week, you can throw out the records and watch the kids compete, but it IS STILL the Apple Cup! It’s a game that still means a hell of a lot to a lot of people, and in particular the players on both teams. So I think we all knew the kids would sell out today and play hard, and while not the prettiest game in the world, the effort on both teams certainly didn’t disappoint.

We could try to break down this game, and look at what happened. But I don’t want to get too deep into it, but for a few things:

  1. How the HELL does UW not score more than 13 points in this game? They had one running back in Griffin go well over 100 yards and almost had another with Dailey, and as a team they had a net rushing yard mark of 225 yards. Anyone watching that game knows that UW’s front line, for the MOST PART anyway, had control of the line of scrimmage. And with that running game, they also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for over 35 minutes combined to just 24 minutes and change for WSU. So it was set up for UW to grind our young skinnies into the ground with their big fatties, but they just never seemed to be able to kick down the door.
  2. I was impressed by our ability, at times, to run the ball ourselves. 171 yards rushing is a good day. Dwight Tardy wasn’t 100%, but he sure ran tough, 76 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. He came to play today. And Logwone Mitz, WOW, what a time for a big play! That 57-yard TD definitely got some extra juice in their step, no doubt, and suddenly it was a 3-point game. I heard Wulff on the radio after the game, and he said they really stressed the idea of sticking to the run at halftime, and that without it, “we were not going to win this game.” He was right too. If they don’t stay committed to running the ball, they probably wouldn’t have pulled this sucker out.
  3. The little things just killed UW today, a microcosm of their season. Mitz’s TD was great, but there were two UW players totally out of position on that play. And on the big throw from Lopina to Karstetter, the free safety made a horrible play on the ball. But both the safety and the corner bit incredibly hard on the fake to the flat, and Lopina pumped fake just enough to freeze the corner, and Karstetter got free.

    And the missed field goals, JUST WOW. You make any one of those in regulation, you probably win the game. But again, when it mattered most, they couldn’t close the deal. It’s the same thing as what went down vs. BYU, where they could have at least forced OT but had an extra point blocked. The situations were a little different, sure, but the outcome is the same.

To win games, you HAVE TO DO THE LITTLE THINGS (listen to me, like we’re “used” to winning around here all of a sudden! 🙂 But you can move the ball between the 20’s all you want, the name of the game is scoring points. We used to be the kings of the 300-yard passing games and very little to show for it the last few years, so yes UW fans, we know of what we speak. Whether on missed field goals or sudden surges by the Cougar D, UW just couldn’t get it done.

Anyway, enough of the over-analysis. Somehow, the Cougs found a way, for the first legit time in 2008. They fought through the adversity and when the chips were down, made some plays that did the job.

I think some hearty congratulations are in order, for many of these guys who never gave up.

TO Greg Trent, kissing that trophy in the pic above, congrats to you. You busted your butt all season long, you tried your best to lead with pride and passion, and even though the season was lost a long time ago, you never gave in. A team-high twelve tackles today to cap your career in style in your home finale. You deserve every accolade you can get this year, for you must have felt truly alone in the middle. You had very little help in front of you, as the defensive tackles were eaten alive from the first game of the year vs. Okie State, to even today vs. UW. You had converted safeties in Louis Bland and Myron Beck on each side of you at linebacker, both 200-lb youngsters just learning to play the game. But still, you stuck you neck out there and fought with all you had. So kiss that trophy, coddle it, change it’s diaper. You deserve it.

TO Kevin Lopina, way to hang in there. A rough game by any standard, just 167 yards and again, no TD passes. But you never gave up, you took some huge shots, and you kept getting in there. That throw to Karstetter was FLIPPING MONEY. As “Atlanta Coug” said in comments, it doesn’t matter what happens in the future or whatever, but you are now forever alive in WSU history. And speaking of Karstetter, how big a play was that for the true frosh? Karstetter had THREE, count ’em, THREE CATCHES IN 2008 coming into this game, yet he saves his best for last. They say he’s got a big heart and that we are really going to like Karstetter’s future, but way to step up and make a play when WSU nation needed it the most.

TO Nico Grasu, great job! A perfect 3-for-3 today, 2-for-2 on field goals and one XP. Grasu hadn’t made a field goal since October 4th vs. UCLA, so to calmly step up and nail those big kicks from the right hash, just huge, huge, huge. GREAT JOB.


Congrats to coach Wulff. This season has been a nightmare in terms of injuries and playing kids who clearly weren’t ready. But you also fought against the resistence of the older, lazy players who were used to floating around the pool at Club Doba. So you pulled your boys through, and you deserved to dance like a little kid at the end. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a turning point??

Finally, to the FANS WHO WERE AT THE GAME TODAY, CONGRATS! It was awfully easy to decide to opt out and miss this game. The game was on TV, the weather forecast was awful, the teams were at historic lows, but yet you still made the trip and cheered these guys on to victory. You deserve to storm the field and celebrate. You played a part in this thing, so to you, congrats.

So there you have it. 2008 is in the books. That’s now four out of five, the first time ever in the 101-year history of the series where WSU has done that well. And what do you know, for the third time in the last four Apple Cup wins, WSU came from behind in the fourth quarter to win this thing. So much for “cougin’ it”. Maybe it’s more like “UW dawged it”?

ENJOY YOUR SATURDAY NIGHT! AND as always, GO COUGS!

A Tough Goodbye and Some Post-ASU Thoughts

November 16, 2008

I know the season is winding down (thankfully), and we’re officially in Apple Cup week. Sorry for the hoops-only post yesterday, but circumstances prevented much of a gameday thread. Besides, we lost 31-0 and the game wasn’t on TV. What do you want??

We’ll get to that in a moment. But I wanted to start off today by writing a few thoughts about our beloved golden retriever, Barkley.

Sadly, we had to say good-bye to the best dog ever yesterday, as he finally lost his battle with lymphoma. He was initially diagnosed in the spring, and we decided to fight for him by going the chemotherapy route. It was expensive and emotionally draining, but to us, it was worth it. He was, in our mind, just too young to let go. But the vet was very up front with us from day one, saying this is a terminal diagnosis. While we could kick it back into remission, it will return. And when it comes back, that will be it. We had, at BEST estimates, one year left with him, and that was as optimistic as it gets. Barkley was closing in on his 9th birthday, and while 8 years and 9 months might seem like a good amount of time for a dog, well, to us he was taken far, far too early.

Initially the chemo did wonders, as he bounced back quickly to at least somewhat like he used to be. Not all the way back to normal, but not too far away. We did everything we could to make this last summer his best, taking him with us everywhere we went, making sure to give him extra attention and love at every turn. But in the last few weeks, and especially this last week, we knew time was running out. The cancer had returned, making him weaker than ever. Even worse, Barkley had suddenly developed severe arthritis in his hips, making it very difficult to not only climb the stairs in our home, but just getting up from laying down became a struggle.

The one thing my wife and I pledged to do when we started the chemo treatments was that we didn’t want to simply keep him alive for OUR own reasons. If he was ever in some real pain, we would let him go. At the end, the situation became unbearable, and these last few days were beyond painful for all of us.

I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes and saying “it’s just a dog, get over it.” Yes, I understand that. He was just a dog. Some of you have gone through much, much worse. But to us, he was very special. Not just his loving personality, where everyone he met instantly became his best friend, but for many other reasons, big and small. I know you all have your own pet stories, so I won’t go too far into the details that made him exceptional to us. But I will share one big thing that made him such an important part of our lives.

Back in 2000, my wife was pregnant with our first child. Anyone who has been down that road knows the overwhelming experience that can be, as a father, mother, or any other family member. The excitement and anxiety, all rolled into one, is almost indescribable. But just over halfway into the pregnancy, something went terribly wrong. We ended up losing the baby, a girl we named Megan. To say an event like that is devastating is an understatement, and if any of you have been down that dark road, you understand.

But after we lost our baby, well, we needed something. We needed a new soul to enter our home, a soul we could love and cherish and care for, something to pull us through a difficult time. That’s when Barkley, an 8-week old puppy, entered our lives. His presence helped get us through those days, and for that, Barker Boy, we will always love you. I will see you again some day. And I know you will be waiting for me at the front door, tail wagging, thinking “Finally, you’re home!”, just as you always did in life. Rest in peace.

Moving on, ASU. You know what? Even though the final score was awful, the first half was actually pretty entertaining, just a 10-0 game at the break. There were some promising moments early, offensively moving the ball through the air. They even ground out a long drive early in the game, but missed a field goal that seemed to zap any momentum they might have discovered on offense.

But defensively, they really hung in there and fought hard. Playing exclusively early in a 3-3-5 defense, per the radio broadcast, they did a good job of getting some pressure early on Rudy Carpenter. They even logged back-to-back sacks one one possession, and on the next, drew a holding penalty on what looked like another sure sack. They were even stout against the run, not anything close to the outfit allowing 279 yards rushing per game. 132 rushing yards allowed, on 35 carries? That’s pretty damn good. And as a whole, they allowed under 400 total yards, and in a year like this? MAJOR victory.


But once again, the offense let the team down. That’s now the third shutout in our last four games. Think about that. For a team that hadn’t been shut out since the early 80’s, to now roll three goose-eggs? 130 total yards? Seven rushing yards? SEVEN?? Simply awful. Unfortunately they come out of this one a little banged up as well. Chance Staden was lost to a knee injury, adding to the list of injured backs in Chris Ivory and now Logwone Mitz. Basically it’s down to Dwight Tardy….and Marcus Richmond…..that’s about it for the running game.

And of course, Kevin Lopina was lost with the concussion. I know we have openly pined for the youngster to get his chance, and now it looks like he might if the doctors don’t clear Lopina for next week. Concussions are obviously tricky, and today’s day and age they take every precaution in the world, so the odds are probably good that JT gets the ball this week. Young Levy got into the game and made a few plays, but generally struggled to a 7-for-14, 41 yard, 1 INT performance, as well as a fumble on a sack that ASU scooped up for a score. Oh yeah, the kid also injured his left wrist on the play, but HOPEFULLY he’s ok!?!? Whether he’s ready or not, with the Lopina injury, the J.T. Levenseller era might be here after all. And what a week to start it, vs. UW.

Here’s a rumor for you regarding UW. We got this from a reliable source too. But UW might unleash a surprise at QB this week. No guarantees, but let’s just say you shouldn’t be shocked if #10 is under center for UW.

Finally, the hoops team won. Hooray hoops! And the kids played well too. Baynes led with 14 points, but Marcus Capers had nine boards and six assists?? Wow. And DeAngelo Casto had four blocks?? NICE. 16% shooting, and 25 points allowed, the lowest total given up since 1948?? This is going to be a fun, interesting season of college basketball (and I KNOW from comments yesterday some of you despise basketball!).

ENJOY YOUR SUNDAY, and GO COUGS!

When All is Lost….

November 3, 2008

It is so easy to fall into the negative ditch right now. We try to stay positive, but right now it’s tough on all of us. But I can’t imagine how the players and coaches feel right now. Like Kaddy pointed out, the team is likely divided between guys who don’t give a rip and can’t wait to get outta Shawshank, and the other half are guys who are simply too young or not even playing to have any impact whatsoever on the product you see every Saturday. It’s a ship completely adrift with no leadership or direction. But we’ve harped on leadership – or a lack thereof – before. We’ve been down this road.

But it’s not as if they aren’t trying. Closing practices during the bye week, trying to get through to some of these kids, and yet, as Kevin Lopina said again after Saturday’s game, players are quitting as soon as they get down. We’ve seen teams lay down before when the going gets tough, but in all honesty, this has to be one of the worst give-up teams we’ve seen around here. It’s embarrassing for the coaches and fans, and it’s tearing the locker room apart.

But enough of the harping. Today is a day for trying to look forward. Today is a day to not feel crappy about the weekly blowouts or a hail storm of turnovers (now minus-20 on the season, tied for the worst in America). Today, let’s look forward to something/someone you are excited about in the coming seasons, not dwell on where we are today. So here goes:

1) I’m excited to see how the young offensive line comes together. Just think, after another year of lifting and eating right, these young kids will be bigger and stronger and ready for the rigors of a PAC-10 season. And a glance at the depth chart for Stanford shows the offensive line going, from left to right, freshman, sophomore, junior, sophomore and sophomore. All these lumps they are taking now, believe it or not, WILL pay off.

2) I’m excited to see how some of the young skill position guys look, as soon as next year. Jeshua Anderson is lightning fast, which we all know, and will only be a junior next year. With a healthy off-season and a full spring/fall practice session, I bet we see a major leap forward with him next year. But there are others to be optimistic about, including Daniel Blackledge, Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter, who could form a decent WR corps next season.

3) I’m excited to see how the running backs look for 2009, provided they are healthy. Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory will both be seniors next year, but there will be more involved, including James Montgomery, the transfer from Cal, to be in the mix. I’m also impressed with how Logwone Mitz has looked of late. Mitz will be just a redshirt sophomore next year and could really be something as a power back in short yardage, as he continues to get stronger. And even Chantz Standen has shown a little bit as a junior, and he’ll be back there as well in 2009. That’s a pretty deep group of five backs to feel good about for next year.


4) I’m excited to see what J.T. Levenseller can do from here on out. Let’s HOPE THAT THE COACHES ARE GOOD WITH THE IDEA OF SEEING WHAT HE CAN DO THE REST OF THE YEAR!??!? Let’s hope he gets more than one first-half series this week?? Look, we have four games left this year and it doesn’t look promising in any of them. Let’s throw the kid out there more and more, and let’s see what happens. Let’s give him a foundation to build with as this year winds down, and he has something to build off for 2009. Who knows, with Lobbestael’s knee injury a little worse than initially feared, and Lopina going to be in his last year next year, J.T. MIGHT truly be the QB of the program for the next few seasons. Might as well start building the foundation TODAY.

5) I’m excited to see what kind of a linebacker Louis Bland can become. He’s already touted as a big-time leader and a kid that others can rally around. He’s not afraid to put his face in there and hit like hell. And in the way offenses are going, you will see more and more of the smaller, faster linebackers on the outside to defend spread style attacks. While he’s built more like a safety at 5-10, 205, he’s got a big heart.

6) I’m excited to see what the defensive line can do next year. The redshirt comes off for Bernard Wolfgramm, the top recruit from Wulff’s first signing class. He will be a big boost inside next year. But there are others, including Josh Luopo, a 300-pounder who will likely be in the mix next season after he enrolls this coming January. Add in Toby Turpin’s huge 6-6, 280 lb frame with another off-season of hitting the weight room, and who knows what he could turn into. He played a lot vs. Stanford after Eichelberger was pulled out, and Turpin will likely play a lot the rest of the season.

7) The secondary has been torn up this year, but it’s not all their fault. Anyone that knows anything about the game knows that if you don’t have any semblance of a pass rush, no secondary in the country can hold up for more than a few seconds. But the youth back there has in fact shown some promise. Romeo Pellum might be a just a sophomore, but he’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up. He now has 52 tackles this year, second to only Greg Trent on the entire team. And Xavier Hicks is playing hard, and even better, he didn’t quit against Stanford, racking up 10 tackles. Even Tyrone Justin, all 157 pounds of him right now as a true frosh, is doing all he can out there. So there is some decent youth back there, many of whom will have another year in the Wulff system to get bigger, stronger and more experienced.

8) Finally, I’m excited about signing day in February. Believe it or not, the recruiting IS GOING WELL. While it isn’t looking so good with Lynnwood’s Geoff Meinken, still, the current crop of verbal commitments is as strong as we’ve had in a long, long time. There is only one two-star player on the list, but the rest are three-stars. I know we never get too geeked on commitments, because it all can change rapidly with 18-year olds, but still, even with the bad times on the field, it’s going well towards building to tomorrow.

So there you have it – what I’m excited about, beginning in 2009. What are YOU looking forward to? Chime in with your thoughts, because we need all the positive karma we can get right now.

ENJOY YOUR MONDAY, and GO GOUGS!

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap – Week Ten

October 29, 2008

Week ten already? Is that right? Wow. Well, no time to waste, so we’ll get right after it with the usual radio show recap:

  • Bud Nameck in the big boy chair this week, hosting the show. Leading off, Nameck asked how the bye week went. What did the coaches do? Wulff said that they were recruiting hard, with seven coaches hitting the road on Wednesday (the NCAA max you can have out at once is seven coaches). The coaches hit Utah, California, Oregon and Washington. Saw some high school games, saw some coaches, and continue to find players emerging in their senior year. They are still looking for kids who want to be Cougs. The more rocks we turn over the more we will find. It also takes a lot of work and effort in recruiting. But Wulff said he is “amazed at this staff’s attention to detail on recruiting and the energy, the effort.” EVERY guy is on the same page in regards to recruiting, and he’s never been around a staff quite like this.
  • They talked briefly about how the heck you keep all that recruiting information organized? Recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen uses a recruiting radar software program that keeps it all under control. It’s also great for compliance and keeps a large database for recruits. It allows you to dissect information to get a read on the vitals of kids you are recruiting, etc.
  • Bud asked about an update in recruiting, without getting specific in terms of player names (which he obviously can’t do). Wulff said that they just got two verbals (you can see them here in Quayshawn Buckley and Jamal Atofau). But he also said that we are really close on a few more commits, and they should come shortly. But they are going to recruit, hard, all the way until signing day and you never know what’s going to happen. Wulff also touted some of the great people within WSU and how much of a help they have been for campus visits. He even mentioned that June Daugherty and Donnie Marbut helped out this summer talking to some of the kids.

  • Wulff was asked about Willingham, and what he thougth of the situation. Would he be worried about a new coach and the buzz that would create, as well as the chance to steal away some of WSU verbals? Wulff said you know, we’re too worried about ourselves to worry about what they do. They will still recruit their own commitments hard, and if a kid backs out of a verbal commitment to go elsewhere? Then maybe they never really wanted to be Cougars in the first place and it’s probably for the best. Wulff said they want the highest character kids they can find, and if they back out of their word too easily, then it probably wasn’t going to work out. (“we didn’t want them anyway”, isn’t that what UW message board types always say when WSU gets a verbal commitment??)
  • A caller asked a tough question – you are now 2/3rds of the way through the first season. How would you grade your own coaches? Wulff said that while he wouldn’t hand out letter grades or anything like that, he felt like they have done a pretty good job. Still, they can ALL DO A LOT BETTER (obviously). But Wulff also again talked about change, and the human resistance to it that can make it very difficult at first. Wulff also said that coaches and QB’s go hand-in-hand, in that he believes that coaches get too much of the credit when things are great, too much of the blame when things aren’t. They basically run parallel to each other. But he restated, again, that the coaches can all do a lot better, and while it’s easy to second guess some things, he does feel that they are doing and will do a better job.
  • Wulff talked about how the coaches are, still, getting to know the players and the players are getting to know them. It’s not like you walk into their lives and suddenly everyone knows everyone else, knows their backgrounds or the things that make them tick. It’s been a huge learning experience for the players, but also for the coaches in every possible way. He said they are still trying to figure out some of the players, and it is something that will come with time spent together. But overall, again, can they do better? Absolutely!
  • Nameck brought up something Dennis Erickson said back in the day. Erickson said that after his first year at WSU, as a staff, they were a little surprised at the difference between Wyoming and the Big Sky compared to the PAC-10 and the schemes, etc. Wulff said that maybe back then it was an issue, but today, it’s not so much of a big change. He said it’s still football, still a lot of the same in terms of x’s and o’s. Or as Jim Walden says, “it’s less about the x’s and o’s and more about the Jimmie’s and Joe’s!”He did mention, however, that he and the staff felt they saw a lot more things run against them last year at EWU than they have seen this year in the PAC-10. Wulff said it seems like this level is possibly even a little more simplified vs. where he was, and that it’s a lot more “athlete driven” at this level. Some of the things just don’t seem as complex as they thought. But overall they need to get better in matching up with the rest of the conference, because right now it’s awfully tough (as we’ve seen!).
  • A caller asked about how they handle the recruiting, in terms of the sheer volume of kids and how to figure out who to contact. Of course they are using the software, but Wulff also said it’s all about watching tape on kids, and calling them, getting to know them. It’s all about building up relationships and getting to know them, see where it goes. Wulff did say that the coaches will talk about the school’s successful history, talk about their current situation and where that player might fit in, and most of all, where they are headed as a program on the field and facilities, etc. But it all goes back to the building of the relationship and how that all goes. Wulff said that you can tell pretty quickly if a kid is interested or not just in how some of the initial phone calls go. They have limited contact they can do every recruiting season, so, they don’t spend a lot of time on kids that are not interested.
  • Nameck brought up Stanford, and what they’ve been able to do so far with Harbaugh. Nameck mentioned what a boost the new stadium renovation has been for them in recruiting, and Harbaugh has done a heck of a job so far(Don’t believe me? Check out Stanford’s list of current verbal commits. There’s a lot of star gazing going on right now!).

  • The name of Toby Gerhart was brought up, about what a factor he’s been for Stanford this year. One of the top running backs in the conference, if not the country, he’s a tough, physical guy with deceiving speed. Wulff said they saw immediately on film that with him on the field, Stanford is a MUCH better football team, and without him, their level of play drops off. He missed some time vs. UW and only had two carries in that game, but he’s been running well of late, with now three straight 100+ yard games. Nameck also brought up turnovers and how they’ve been an issue for Stanford, as they are ahead of only WSU in the turnover ratio department in the PAC-10 rankings. Wulff once again railed about turnovers, about how they can just destroy your chances at getting a win. He them went back to our own turnover issues, and how they just need to clean up that part of their game and things could really turn around. But we have to stop hurting ourselves.
  • Nameck asked about the last week of practice, taking things indoors and all that. Wulff said they had a good week, and it was time to get away from outside distractions and resharpen their focus on the task at hand. They are sticking together and they worked really hard on a lot of things, and Wulff was happy with how it went. They are back outside practicing now, as the weather has been great to be able to do so.
  • A caller asked what the deal was with the APR and the eight scholarship losses. Wulff said that by the end of the academic year, things should be back to normal, and by next fall they will be allotted the full 85 scholarships. However Wulff said that in at least that first year, they MIGHT not be at the full 85. They might be just under it. But he said by the fall of the following year (2010), they will for sure be at the full 85-scholarship limit.
  • A caller asked about the rebuilding plan, and if that has changed at all. Wulff said ideally they start out with the idea of redshirting every single player they recruit, and going from there. Obviously he couldn’t do that this year, as necessity has so many young players out on the field. It is what it is. He also said that over the next two or even three seasons, you are probably going to see them play young players earlier than they would like to, again, out of necessity. But ultimately, you want to have your kids with years in the program, learning and growing before they are counted upon as true leadership within the team. By the time they get to be upper classmen, they are ready to be leaders and have experienced some difficult moments. They want to have that core group to have the whole team lean on when times are tough and who to look to during adversity. It will take time.
  • Nameck then asked him about the Vince Grippi article, and if it was accurate. Wulff said it was “pretty good…but they left a lot of the details out.” He honestly didn’t sound all that thrilled with it (TAKE THAT VINCE!). He did say that it painted a solid picture of what they are trying to do, where they are headed, the overall plan, etc. But that was about it.
  • Nameck asked the question of the week, of course, the QB situation. I know it’s been reported everywhere already, but Lopina is going to start the game. But young J.T. Levenseller WILL PLAY this week. They have decided to burn the redshirt, but you most likely know that by now (and Wulff more or less broke that on last week’s radio show, but it’s official now). Wulff did say that they will likely play him in something like the third or fourth series of the game, and then they would go from there. The situation will dictate who plays or who doesn’t and what things look like into the second half. He didn’t get any more specific than that.
  • Wulff talked about Kevin Lopina. He has really improved, to the point that doctors now say he’s near 100% physically. Wulff noticed that he’s moving considerably better in practice and looks a lot more fluid, not stiff like he was before. But Wulff also said that Lopina needs to build up the mental recovery aspect of it, and get that confidence back.

  • Some other injury updates – Dwight Tardy is back, and will play. However Chris Ivory still hasn’t been able to get over the hamstring, so he’s out. Tardy will be in the mix for carries with Logwone Mitz and Chance Staden. Devin Frischknecht is still out with an ankle injury, and is at least two-three weeks away from coming back. Marshall Lobbestael will have surgery on his knee tomorrow, and then he’ll be ready to go for rehab. They talked about the hydro works machine, the underwater treadmill, that will be used for rehabbing ankle and knee injuries. They REALLY are excited to get that thing going, and it’s supposed to be ready next month. The O-line is looking OK, with Steven Ayers and Vaughn Lesuma both back this week. Micah Hannam is nicked up, but might be OK this week.
  • Finally, Wulff talked about Stanford’s defense. They are pretty tough up front, second in with 26 sacks, so they will be a handful for the offensive line. The QB’s are going to have to play better too, so, hopefully they are ready for the challenge. But Wulff again brought up the focus, and intensity, and what they need to do this week. They need to see a much better effort by everyone, and Wulff said he has a decent feeling about it this week. He has seen some improvements. He really emphasized that they need to keep up the intensity and focus early, even if things aren’t going well. If they can hang in there and not give in, then things will turn around.

So that’s pretty much everything. Some of it sounded familiar to what we’ve been hearing or reading over the last few weeks. But some decent insight as well into recruiting, etc.

Enjoy your Wednesday, and as always, GO COUGS!

Sunday Morning Gloom – Okie Edition

August 31, 2008

Oh well. Week one in the books, and now we have something to go off – and look forward to improving upon – besides practices and scrimmages.

First, great job yesterday by Brinkhater and of course, the comments. I think the vast majority of you saw the situation for what it is, which is a team that has a long way to go, yet still, you saw some things get better. I want to just touch on a few things, then we’ll look at some links.

What We Liked:
1) The defense is better. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I know, 39 points is rough, but really, you can’t lay it all at their size 14’s. One of those scores was a kickoff return for a TD, and there were several other short-field situations where the D toughened up. That final score could have been considerably worse if, by chance, we had the 2007 defense out there.

But as many mentioned yesterday, we seemed quicker to the ball and we tackled better than we have in recent memory. Early on, and even well into the third quarter, there were very few moments where Okie State got outside the defense. We did a good job of not getting beat out there, and turning the action back inside. There was more pep in their step, so to speak, and they did in fact play with a swagger. To put it in proper perspective, you have to remember who exactly they were playing. This wasn’t Idaho or Grambling State. Okie State is an offensive juggernaut, and their QB was the best dual-threat QB in the nation next to Tim Tebow last year, and we held our ground. Robinson ran for almost 850 yards last year, so if you would have told me we would hold him to eight carries for a mere 11 yards?? I would take that in a heartbeat! Plus we did something that was a huge improvement compared to last year, and that was THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS! Just 4-for-13 yesterday in a category where we were one of the worst in the nation last year.

2) The running game got going. What a nice surprise there. After a putrid first half, where we never even crossed midfield on EIGHT POSSESSIONS, it was nice to see them get in an offensive rhythm. The running game really got the offense going in that first possession of the third quarter. Out of the nine offensive plays of that TD drive, seven of them were running plays. The final tally of 114 rushing yards, or 3.4 yards per carry, isn’t anything to write home about, but you can see the upside there. Both Tardy and Ivory had their moments, and wasn’t it great to see Ivory play after being so questionable coming in? That was a relief, to say the least, and might be a great sign going forward. As Brinkhater said last night, imagine next season when we will also add the touted Cal transfer James Montgomery into the mix with Tardy, Ivory and Staden? Could be a pretty deep, talented backfield!

3) The offensive line did a commendable job. A unit so banged up and shuffled around even before week one, yet they held together pretty well. Granted that wasn’t USC’s defense out there, but really, they were a pleasant surprise. Even though Rogers struggled mightily, there were several times where he had more than enough time to set up shop and do his thing in a strong pocket. Just two sacks allowed, and only a handful of QB hurries all day. And they really fired off the ball in that third quarter, establishing the ground game and getting after it.

Like many have said all along, with Wulff as our coach, the offensive line is going to be a personal position of pride for him. I think we are going to be happy with what we see up front, and so far, so good.

Now, what we didn’t like:

1) “Special” teams were far from special. I think we all thought this was going to be an issue, but WOW. Over 250 yards allowed in the return game, including the 90-yard KO return and punt returns of 42 yards and 68 yards?? BRUTAL is the only way to even possibly say it. That kickoff return for a TD, that middle of the field was so wide open, as soon as the guy had the ball for the first ten yards, I glanced down the middle of the field and there was NOBODY there. You or me with a few pre-game drinks in us could have scored on that thing. The hang-time on the punts was just bad, bad, bad. Too many line drive-type punts that are a returners dream. Time to bring back the rugby punts that roll for 25 yards and pop-fly kickoffs that are fair-caught at the 35? I know we lamented all that, but after yesterday, I welcome the idea with open arms!

Of course, we’re rolling with a backup punter and all, and we are so thin that many guys not normally on punt and kickoff coverage teams are being asked to go out there and bust the wedge. But that has to improve, and fast.

2) The corners, defensive tackles and pass rush. Ok, there were some bright spots early on. As we stated above, we held our ground and forced field goals with a short field to work with. But Okie State figured something out, and that is our defensive backs had trouble with the size and athleticism of their WR’s. Particularly Dez Bryant.

You hate to use that old injury excuse, but, losing our top cover corner Alfonso Jackson so early in the game hurt the experience in the secondary. Tyrone Justin was forced to get extensive minutes covering Bryant, and try as he might, it was a mismatch. There were at least a few of those jump-ball style throws, where Bryant was covered, but simply elevated and went up and got it. And let’s face it, he has serious ability and was one of their biggest weapons as a frosh last year. He’s going to be a name to remember in the Big 12. So I don’t know what you can do on those types of plays, other than say “JUMP HIGHER!” But a look around the Pac-10, and there are a lot of guys like him we’ll see out there. Oregon and USC’s monster WR’s will be licking their chops when they see film of this one.

The tackles are thin, thin, thin. We knew that coming in, and it was proven yesterday. Ahmu did have six tackles, so he was OK yet no tackles for loss or any pressure on the QB. Eichelberger is a nice compliment, but you can’t expect to get by with those two in there for 60-70 plays. Losing Roof hurts, and Adam Hineline got in there for a few stops, but man, something has to be done in there. I heard Walden on the radio say that he couldn’t remember a time where we lacked so much quantity and quality at the defensive tackle position in all his years watching WSU.

Finally, even though Robinson and the rest of Okie State didn’t go video-game football on us, still, we didn’t get enough pressure on the QB. He had a relatively comfortable 20-for-27, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Not fantastic, but pretty much in control. The ends didn’t get the kind of heat that is going to be needed going forward. Greg Trent had the only sack of the game, and Kevin Kooyman had a couple of QB hurries, but otherwise, it was a non-existent pass rush. Maybe we’ll see more blitzing next week vs. Kevin Riley and Cal, but we need to get pressure one way or another.

3) The most obvious of all, the passing game. It was Rogers’ first game, and no, we’re not going crazy on this one. He deserves a mulligan for a game that was a huge adjustment for everyone involved. New as in new QB, new starting WR’s and TE, new coaching staff with a new no-huddle offense. Yeah, that’s new. Was he out of synch? Sure. Was he wild with his accuracy? On some throws he was very wild, but others he was fine. But this thing wasn’t all his fault.

First, the drops. We all love Brandon Gibson, and we know he’s going to have a big senior year. But two of those drops were balls that he just has to make. Yes, one of them a DB made a play on the ball, and any DB will tell you it’s their ball just as much as it’s the WR’s. But those drops turned out to be pretty big in the grand scheme of things. You have to wonder what might have happened if he catches at least one of those. Maybe the confidence is there and they loosen up the coverage for the other WR’s. Maybe the running game gets going sooner rather than later, and they keep the Okie State offense off the field for a few set of downs. Who knows. But given the long body of work with Gibson, you KNOW this won’t be an ongoing issue. It will improve, and probably next week. Heck, it improved in the 2nd half, and Gibson’s second half was really strong.

And the new receivers had a lot to do with it. Far too often it looked like they were hesitant, confused or even running the wrong route altogether. Maybe there are a lot of “read” routes in this offense, where the QB and WR read the defense on the route and decide to either break it off or go deep? But in focusing on how the WR’s were running their routes, there seemed to be some first-game issues out there. You can tell there was more thinking going on vs. pure reactions and athleticism, but that will change as they get more experience. But health is also an issue. Daniel Blackledge wasn’t even going to play, and Michael Willis looked a little slow out there. Even Frischnecht at TE wasn’t himself. So it’s hard to blame Rogers when his supporting cast couldn’t pick him up.

So, that’s about it. What will YOU take from this one? I think the biggest thing I’m going to take is big-picture, in that unlike last year, these guys didn’t quit. Remember the Oregon game last year? They laid down after a rough start. Not only would those field goals have been TD’s on last year’s defense, but it would have been a full four quarters of pain. We cut it to 18-6, but then they stole the MO right back with the kickoff return for TD. We drive down the field and score another TD, but then they would respond after a short kickoff. But the fact that they fought back off the mat is just such a great sign for what is to come. The offense ground out two long, impressive drives in the second half to make it interesting, and most of all showed improvement as the game went on. Coach Wulff has to be happy that they responded to adversity instead of taking the afternoon off.

I won’t link to a bunch of WSU stuff, as you know where it is and how to find it. However, there was this notebook from the Times in regards to the young line showing some promise. Steve Kelley had this good look at Rogers, highlighting the issues he had to deal with for his first-ever start.

Finally, around the conference. PEEEEEUW! I can’t believe UW was only down 14-10 at the half. 30 unanswered points later and it’s a 44-10 wipeout that has fans going ballistic. I guess if it was year four of the Wulff regime, and we were embarrassed like that, well, it would be hard not to be pissed if you are a UW fan right about now. The fact Oregon got it done with brand new QB’s after Roper went down with a concussion has to make it all the worse. But Jake Locker can only do so much, and yep, those young skill guys sure looked young. And truth be told, Locker wasn’t 100%. He looked gassed at times, even tapping his helmet after a few plays to signal to the sideline to please call a regular running play. We heard a rumor that his hammy was far less than 100%, and has been an ongoing issue for him this summer, and it showed last night.

USC, jeez. Just when you think they might have some issues on offense, Mark Sanchez goes bananas in the 52-7 humiliation at Virginia. As they said on ESPN, he was making NFL-type throws and his WR’s were doing their part. And that defense, forget about it. Might as well clear the calendar for a BCS bowl, yet again.

ARIZONA 70, IDAHO ZERO!?!? HOLY TOLEDO. Idaho was outgained 521-112 for the entire game? I would have thought the Vandals could keep it close, but hide the women and children.

Cal had a wild one, holding on 38-31 in a real offensive show. The QB controversy has to be officially dead though, as Kevin Riley was far superior to Nate Longshore. Cal’s running game is going to be a chore next week, too, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen both going over 100 yards.

Finally, ASU sleep-walked through a 30-13 game that was far closer on the scoreboard. It was 30-3 in the third quarter. Rudy was on fire early, completing a school-record first 13 throws on the way to a big 388-yard night.

Enjoy your weekend, and GO COUGS!

Running Backs Starting to Stagger

August 16, 2008

You really do want to stay positive. I mean it is just mid-August, and this is the time when you like to be optimistic about the upcoming 13-game gauntlet (Speaking of gauntlet, we’ve updated the 2008 schedule to the right with the newest version of Schmap, as they just rolled out their NCAA football schedules. I like it…..except they have no aerial shot of our own stadium! Whatever. We can remove it if you guys hate it, but I like the interactive-ness of it vs. pure text).

Anyway, we’re in the “dog days” of fall camp. They’ve been going at it, hard, for a couple of weeks, and it’s only natural to be a little less juiced about practicing in 90+ degrees. But as the injuries start to mount, it’s hard not to pout a little bit. First the wide-outs had some well-publicized setbacks, which stinks. But then RB Chris Ivory came up lame with a sore hammy, and now, Dwight Tardy’s troublesome knee developed a bruise that will likely keep him off the field for today’s scrimmage. Wonderful.

Hopefully both guys are just injured of the “nagging” variety and can get back quickly. And honestly, they better. A quick check of the calendar and oh, man, suddenly we’re just two weeks from kickoff vs. the hated Okies??!?? WOW.

Injuries are part of the deal, always have been, always will be. And for a program like ours, where depth hasn’t been our friend, we know what happens when we suffer a rash of injuries. It’s not always a pretty sight. And hard work and trying to impress a new coaching staff can in fact be a double-edged sword, I guess. On the one hand, you love to hear how hard everyone is working, how intense the coaches and players have been, how different it is with the new regime. But then you have these things pop up. I mean you want to see them practice hard and improve, but at the same time, you also want them to live in a bubble until things get real. Maybe even get some red-shirts or walk-ons to physically carry the starters around the hill? JUST STAY HEALTHY BABY! There should be quite a few backups out there, so, hopefully some of them impress. Cougfan had a premium story about Kevin Norrell doing well at practice yesterday, so that’s good. You never know who will shine when given the opportunity.

So the scrimmage is at 2:30 PM today. Won’t be hot or anything, right? Let’s see, per weather.com, it should be a comfortable 95 degrees by then. But it will “only” feel like 90, since the humidity will hover at 15%. It’s a dry heat! But 95 will feel cool and comfortable compared to tomorrow’s predicted 101. Maybe we could move things inside the bubble and crank the AC??

That’s about it for today. There should be plenty of news out there after the scrimmage, so we’ll touch on anything notable. Also, look for a WSU Home Uni Watch for tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend and GO COUGS!

Eyewitness Report: Longball Observes a Sudden Outbreak of Violence on the Palouse!

August 9, 2008
Autumn is my favorite season on the Palouse and no matter what the calendar says I can tell you it has officially arrived. I know this because today, over the chirping of the birds and the gentle rustling of the breeze blowing through the leaves I heard that telltale sound that heralds the arrival of Fall…
“PASS, PASS, PASS! BALL, BALL, BALL!”

That’s right Crimson Nation, Cougar football is BACK. This morning the boys put on full pads for the first time this season and got after it. Having learned from my mistakes I made sure I had plenty of juice for my camera and came away with some good images of the morning’s action on Rogers Field. There was a lot to see, so today I promise less jibber-jabber from yours truly, and more pictures of your 2008 Washington State Cougars in action.

I witnessed two spirited scrimmages today with skelly and other drills in between. You may have heard that there were some scuffles in the last few practices and today was no different. Below you see a couple of the guys continuing to tangle well after the whistle had blown…

Now some of you may find this worrisome, but I assure you this is a good thing. Football is a violent sport and between the snap and the whistle these guys are mortal enemies. That kind of intense aggression can’t always be switched off with the sound of a whistle so it inevitably spills over into shoving matches like this. Of course we don’t want this kind of stuff costing us yards and downs in a real game, but the coaches have plenty of time to instill that game day discipline in these guys. In the meantime it just shows that the passion and competitiveness we need are there, and those things are much harder to coach.

I was pleased that the scrimmage seemed pretty balanced, with both the Defense and Offense making their fair share of plays. to illustrate this, here are a few images from the intense battle between our receivers and defensive backs…

Above you see Brandon Gibson, 4, running after the catch and just look at that separation from the defender. Not too long after that he hauls in a score…

That’s just Brandon being Brandon. But he’s not QB Gary Roger’s only weapon by any stretch. Here is the resurgent and potentially electrifying Michael Willis, 3, also getting great seperation…


…and moments later, hauling in a score of his own.

But don’t worry, while it may look our defensive backfield is getting beat like a drum, they weren’t hanging their heads at all. Rather, they just tightened their chin straps and made a few plays of their own. Here is Devin Giles, 32, about to step in front of a diving Anthony Houston, 88, to make a difficult pick on this ball…


The offense responded, showing off another one of its many promising weapons as tight end Devin Frischknecht, 80, breaks into the open…


But it wasn’t all wide open spaces for the big tight end. Here you see him sloooooooowly picking himself off the turf after getting leveled by Myron Beck, 13.


Hits like that are exactly what I like to see from our DBs and Myron Beck looks to me like a bona fide assassin in our secondary. To Frischknecht’s credit, he did hang onto the ball and after regaining his breath let out a Braveheart yell, got back on his feet and ran off the field. Just great stuff all around.

We also run the ball sometimes, and as you can see below running back Dwight Tardy, 31, is wearing no protection on his surgically repaired knee.

Tardy ran hard today and continues to look good. That’s newcomer Chantz Staden, 22, behind him who with his helmet off looks like a mini-Steven Jackson. Promising young running back Marcus Richmond, 20, showed off his speed, finding his way round the end of the 2nd string Defense for a TD.

Not to be outdone, below, backup QB Kevin Lopina, 19, finds running room up the middle on a designed QB sneak.

But the defense came to play too. Below they celebrate after recovering a Greg Trent forced fumble…

Gotta love the defensive coaches getting into the celebration. Is that coach Akey circa 2003?

Now as Coug fans we are all programmed to worry about our offense’s effectiveness in short yardage situations, especially on the goal line. Here we see the 1st team Offense punching the ball into the end zone from just a yard out.


Of course it remains to be seen if we can pull this off in a real game.

Another area of concern for most Coug fans is what is usually called the “kicking game”, but for us recently has been more of a “shanking game”. Aww the life of a kicker…

This is where they hang out for most of the practice, shootin the breeze, stayin loose until suddenly, after HOURS of not really pedaling at all on those bikes, they are called to action! This year, the brave souls that will face off against those pesky uprights are incumbent Wade Penner, 35, and new comer Nico Grasu, 29.

And here is Penner…

…shanking one to the right. And for good measure, here is Grasu…

…shanking one to the left.

Hey, I can’t bring you only good news. Heck, if there was only good news we wouldn’t be the Cougs, would we? On a brighter note, on the very last play of the practice Penner booted a beautiful kick through the uprights from pretty far out (I have no depth perception, but I think it was 40+ yards at least).

Now for the impact rookie watch… you may have heard some buzz about freshman wideout, Jared Karstetter, 84. Here he is running down a ball that is just out of his reach…

He had a case of the dropsies in drills today, but overall it is apparent what the buzz is about. He has great size and athleticism, and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

Now I would be remiss (and a disgrace to my Alma mater) if I didn’t highlight another exciting rookie, freshman QB and Pullman High’s own JT Levenseller, 5 (yes, coach Levenseller’s son). Here JT stands and delivers…

JT may not have the size to be a full time QB, but he is a great athlete and tenacious competitor. I would not be surprised at all to see him on the field some day, perhaps as a slot receiver, or even a defensive back. Meanwhile, in spite of any doubts I might have, he is working hard to be our QB of the future and Pullman Greyhounds everywhere are cheering him on. Go Get ‘Em JT!!

Now some of you may be asking, “Where’s the beef, Longball?” I hear you loud and clear. Stay tuned for more pictures of the BIG boys on the line going head to head in a clash of titans this morning. So check in later for that and, as always…

Go Cougs!