Archive for the ‘Gino Simone’ Category

Longball’s Afternoon Practice Report

August 14, 2009

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

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

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

Read on for more….

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO COUGS!

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Louis Bland – A New Hope?

August 13, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


So Who’s Going to Pick it?

July 16, 2009


So we’ve taken a peek at who we think is going to chuck it, and who we think is going to carry it. Now let’s look at who, exactly, will be picking balls out of the air for the WSU offense in ’09.

Right away, it must be acknowledged who WON’T be picking it in ’09, and that is of course, our lead photo guy of the day, Brandon Gibson. For the first time since 2004, the WSU receiving corps will be sans #4 (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 all saw Gibson in the WR rotation). One of the all-time greats in WSU history, Gibson finished his career as the school leader in receiving yards (2,756). He was second in total catches with 182. His 17 TD’s placed him in the top six in school history. Gibson will be missed, there is no denying that. Gibson, as you are probably aware, was a sixth-round draft choice of the flying Philly Eagles, ready to make some noise back east.

We salute you Gibby, and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

But the page must be turned, so with that, we look ahead. And who shall lead them? Let’s see….

While 2008 was, overall, a lost season for many WSU WR’s, the raw numbers are a hard thing to comprehend. It seemed like nobody, and I mean NOBODY, improved at WR in ’08. After all, the superstar game-breaker in Brandon Gibson saw his numbers shrink considerably, going from a 67-catch, 1180-yard, 9-TD campaign in ’07 to just a 57 catch, 673-yard, two-TD campaign in ’08. But, believe it or not, there was someone who improved last year, even with an offense that struggled so terribly for the bulk of the season. The one guy who did improve, at least statistically, was none other than the track star – Jeshua Anderson. Wait, you mean the amazing hurdler who flirted with making the 2008 Olympic Team, and then missed all of August with an abdominal injury? THAT Jeshua Anderson?? It’s true.

After catching just 12 balls as a true frosh in ’07, Anderson emerged with 33 catches in ’08. His yards-per-catch was down in a huge way, at 9.2, but after ’07 there was nowhere to go but down. Anderson averaged an unrepeatable 31(thirty-one!) yards per grab in ’07, but that was on just the 12 catches. There was virtually no way he was doing that again, not as a starter after playing the deep threat role the year before.

I guess our concern with Anderson is the same one that a lot of people have for him, and that is has the track time taken away from his chances to get better on the football field? After all, he missed spring ball again this year to compete in the NCAA championships, where YES, he did repeat as NCAA CHAMP in the 400 hurdles. So as great as he is on the track, nobody can really blame him for missing practice time on the gridiron.


He is super-special in the hurdles, and a lucrative career may await on the track-n-field circuit once his NCAA days are behind him. Anderson does possess some good tools for the WR position, aside from just the great speed. He is cut at 6-2, 188, and shows good hands and excellent body control. But is he good enough at his craft to be THE MAN this year? He could be on the brink of a major breakthrough, or the load could be unbearable for a guy who may not exactly be ready to roll as the number one WR. But without question, Anderson is the fastest, most talented WR of the bunch coming back in ’09. Here’s hoping a healthy, productive practice session in August will see him ready for the rigors of a 12-game gauntlet in ’09.

Now it gets a little challenging, as what you have left is a real mash-up of young, somewhat experienced WR’s, but none of whom has really had a shot to make some noise. Of course, we love Jared Karstetter, and he will always live in Apple Cup lore for his 48-yard grab that saved the 2008 game.

But aside from that catch, he made just FIVE others the entire ’08 season. But that was his true frosh year, and he did only start three games on the season. Excellent size at 6-4, 203, and pretty athletic as well, he could evolve into a difficult match-up for whoever he faces on a weekly basis. Last year we hoped he could turn out to be another Jeff Samardzija of sorts, the former Notre Dame great turned MLB reliever? Samardzija was your bigger, possession-type target with good hands, but also good enough quicks to break one here and there. Karstetter is going to be an interesting guy to watch this year as we see if he’s taken a step forward in his development. The opportunity is there, no doubt about it. But the jury is, as they say, still very much out on Karstetter.

Another kid with a year of playing time now under his belt is Kevin Norrell. On the smallish side at 5-9, Norrell showed a little something with 11 catches last year. He’s perfect for the slot, and should be able to use his quickness in space against linebackers or safeties who line up across from him. But still a youngster as a true sophomore, like Karstetter, a long way to go before he’s a complete product.

Another WR to watch is Daniel Blackledge. Blackledge had a semi-good start to the ’08 season, but after eight catches in his first four games last year, he only had ONE catch the rest of the way. Built similar to Jeshua Anderson at 6-2, 179, Blackledge obviously doesn’t have the take-your-breath-away speed of Anderson, but he’s still a very good athlete with decent wheels. Hard to believe he’ll already be a junior this year, but they really could use his ability to get the ball down the field. Outside of Anderson, he is probably the second-best deep threat on the team.

Finally, the newcomers. Johnny Forzani, the Canandian prospect; Gino Simone, the heralded recruit; and Jeffrey Solomon, the transfer from Eastern.

First, Forzani. Who knows, really, what they got here. Most likely you know the back story already – but if you forgot, check out this link. He didn’t play high school ball, has some family CFL ties, and even though he was known more as a hoops player, he ultimately makes the practice squad of the Calgary Stampeders. Decent size at 6-1, 195, and really good speed as well, reports are he still has quite a ways to go before he is ready to make an impact. He is rough around the edges, but given some solid practice time with WR coach Mike Levenseller, anything can happen. Maybe they’ll catch lightning in a bottle? If anything, split him out opposite of Jeshua Anderson and send him deep with that 4.4 speed!

Simone is well-known in these parts. Regarded as the top player in Washington last year, he has a chance to get some real PT in ’09. Not huge, but big enough at 6-0, 170, Simone’s game is all about precise routes and excellent hands.

NOT a big highlight reel guy and he’s not a speed demon, but he was as productive as can be in high school, where Skyline won the 4A state title in a pass-happy offense.

Solomon is a real under-the-radar type guy, but could be something when the dust settles. Another six-footer, and 196 lbs, he sat out last year after coming in from EWU. He had an injury that forced him to miss the ’07 season, but ’06 as a true frosh he was somewhat productive under Wulff at EWU, playing in nine games that year. He only caught seven balls as a true frosh, but definitely showed enough to follow Wulff to Pullman. Keep an eye out for him in practice reports next month.

That’s about it for the WR spot. It’s kind of a weird position, where the superstar is gone, but there is young, somewhat experienced guys waiting in the wings? But that said, there are an awful lot of “IF’S” here to hang your hat on. IF Anderson is healthy and improves; IF Karstetter continues to get better and learns how to use his size and athleticism as weapons against smaller defensive backs; IF Norrell is used properly in the slot and they can take advantage of mismatches with his quickness. Etc, etc, etc.

But I do believe this position will be better in ’09 compared to last year. At least it looks like it has that proverbial “upside” tag, as long as health doesn’t become an issue (quick, knock on anything resembling wood!). Just remember, last year at this time, yeah, they had Brandon Gibson. But Jeshua Anderson was hobbled with an injury, Daniel Blackledge had ONE career catch coming into ’08, and both Karstetter and Norrell were true frosh! Those four – Anderson, Karstetter, Norrell, and Blackledge – will be the biggest factors in the passing game this season. And all four now have another year under their belts. So they should be a stronger, deeper, better unit in ’09. But it may still not be enough to stop another tough season. Now for 2010, wow, can we talk?? But for now, we’ll settle for improvement and consistency on a weekly basis!

That’s it for a Thursday. ENJOY IT, as always, and GO COUGS!

And So it Begins…

February 4, 2009

Pre-Signing Day Notes

February 3, 2009

First off, congrats to the Pittsburgh Steelers! Six Super Bowls, a record no other team can match, moving past Dallas and San Francisco for most all-time Lombardi Trophies. Schools in Pittsburgh were two hours late yesterday to help people recover from yet another championship. So, congrats (that’s for you Chris ’04).

Speaking of championships, while Pittsburgh’s record of six Super Bowls is fantastic, are they the greatest NFL franchise ever? Bob Costas said as much as the NBC broadcast wound down, calling Pittsburgh not only the best NFL team of all-time, but one of the greatest pro sports franchises of all-time. But is he right?

If you ONLY look at the Super Bowl era, then he is right. Six titles in 43 years is nothing to downplay. In today’s day and age, of salary caps and widespread free agency, so many teams and so much parity, that to constantly churn out a contender is amazing. But what about the era before the “Big Game” had a label? Do we simply ignore the NFL championships because the games didn’t have the words SUPER BOWL attached to them? The NFL has been around a lot longer than 1967. In fact, they’ve been crowning champions since 1920. So you have to take the full body of work of the league before you decide such things, don’t you? If you ignore the history before Super Bowl I, then you are blowing about 50% of the entire history of the league. That would be like baseball not looking back before, say, 1950. So forget about Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or the ’27 Yankees. Kind of ridiculous, right?

Anyway, Green Bay has the most NFL championships ever, with 12. The Chicago Bears are second, with nine, while the NY Giants are third, with seven. Pittsburgh has six, all Super Bowl wins. Impressive, all the way around. But while what Pittsburgh has accomplished is great, NBC and others shouldn’t completely disregard the history of the league before 1967.

Moving on, there are some decent recruiting write-ups making the rounds today, as we get ready for the signing day BLOWOUT tomorrow….

Howie Stalwick had this in the P-I. What do you take from this? It’s sort of a cold shower if you ask me. WSU has sunk to LAST in the PAC-10 according to Rivals.com recruiting rankings? Scout.com has them much more of a normal setting, at 50 in the country, but wow, Rivals sure isn’t excited about WSU’s haul. Interesting the discrepancy between the two services, isn’t it?

Bud Withers had this in the Times. An excellent look at the success WSU has had in the Puget Sound region this year, highlighted by Gino Simone but there are others as well, including Jamal Atofau, Nolan Washington and Andre Barrington. And Wulff said it best:

“To be able to recruit after the season we just had … the staff will do even better as we start winning games,” Wulff said. “We’ll continue to elevate our recruiting. I think this is as good a recruiting staff as there is in the country. They’re honest, and I think people see that.”

Here’s a question though – will this Puget Sound success continue, now that UW appears to have their house in order (sort of?). Recruits were avoiding UW this whole recruiting season until Sarkisian was hired. But will there be future recruiting battles now that UW has their coaching situation figured out? Or will UW return to their ways of getting the headline Puget Sound talent? Personally I don’t think WSU is going to win many head-to-head battles over kids from the Seattle area. It is an area we’ve never done too well with, and while we know it’s different with Wulff and staff, still, it’s hard to picture some top-notch kids from the Seattle area choosing WSU over UW. At least on a consistent basis anyway. Jake Heaps of Skyline just named his “final ten” schools, and WSU wasn’t on the list. Remains to be seen….but I don’t think we as Coug fans should hang our hats on the Puget Sound successes this year. Let’s see how it plays out over the next few years before we see if it’s a trend, or merely a post-Willingham/pre-Sarkisian fluke.

Finally, Grippi has this from the Spokesman. It’s a look at the 365-day drain that is recruiting, and all the time and energy spent on trying to build this thing into a competitive outfit. Recruiting and all that goes with it, the hard work behind the scenes that fans never see, it’s just a grind. Hats off to these guys for working harder than ever, and for pouring all they have into this program.

That’s it for today. We’ll have full coverage of signing day tomorrow, updating as the LOI’s show up in Pullman. ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS!

Super Sunday or, EH?; Best of Lists Continue

February 1, 2009


Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Ready to watch Pittsburgh and Arizona settle things on the field? And as a Seahawks fan, this is a tough one, and a question that has been sportstalk-fodder the last two weeks – who do YOU root for today? Do you root for your divisional rival in Arizona, a team that was a complete joke until just a few years ago, often times compared to the LA Clippers in terms of losing as well as ownership ineptness? But as Hooty wrote recently, do you really want to see the Arizona Cardinals with a Lombardi trophy before our beloved Seahawks??

Meanwhile, as Matt Hasselbeck said in a radio interview this week, how can Seahawks fans root for Darth Vader in the Pittsburgh Steelers? I stumbled upon the 2006 NFL Films production of the Seahawks – Steelers Super Bowl last night on ESPN2, and about 30 seconds was all I could stomach before flipping it off. I forgot about how sour that game tasted.

Besides, there isn’t a rooting interest from a WSU angle, as neither roster has a WSU player to be found, not even on practice squads or injured reserve. So it might be a weird feeling today.

But whatever. Enjoy the unofficial national holiday today, wherever you are.

Anyway, with signing day nearly upon us, some more “best of the west” recruiting lists have hit cyberspace. Where does WSU fit with these new lists? How about the “other” BCS school in the state?

Leading off with the good news, Scout.com has released their final Best 150 in the West list. Good news because WSU weighs in with ten recruits on this list, good for third in the PAC-10 behind UCLA and USC, seven of which are in the top 100.

Gino Simone – 44
Darren Markle – 57
Travis Long – 70
Arthur Burns – 84
Nolan Washington – 89
Jamal Atofau – 97
Chris Mastin – 100
Anthony Carpenter – 117
Jeff Tuel – 137
Andre Barrington – 141

As Scout.com says, all are three-star players, except for Simone’s four star rating.

I think this list says it all. Not so much that we’re getting the best of the best talent ala USC. But it speaks to the depth of this class and the potential it has to really build a strong foundation going forward. Getting seven of the top 100 alone speaks volumes for the kind of progress Wulff and the staff are making out on the trail. And the high-character stories on a lot of these kids is probably the best thing of all.

UW landed seven verbals on the list, but not a single one in the top 100. The highest-rated kid is none other than Desmond Trufant, coming in at 108.

Moving on, the News Tribune has their 2008-09 Western 100 out today. As the TNT says:

The Western 100 are the top 100 high school football recruits in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), as selected by The News Tribune, which polled college coaches and various media outlets.

WSU finished with only THREE players on this list – Gino Simone, Darren Markle and Travis Long. Quite a difference compared to Scout.com. Washington? Um, zero. Even in a transition year with the new coaching staff, a zero? Really? I don’t remember the last time they didn’t even have one player in the top 100 in the western states.

The TNT also had this comp article with Wulff and Sarkisian. It’s a good look at the different states of the recruiting process for both coaching staffs. Wulff’s staff appears to have their footing, while Sarkisian is still scrambling to cobble something together before Wednesday.

One thing I found interesting about Sarkisian in that article is the idea of them selling the players on playing in the NFL. That somehow his system is going to prepare them for playing in the league, better than the other schools around. That’s an easy thing for him to sit in living rooms and tout all the players he’s helped coach up to play on Sundays…..while wearing a USC sweatsuit. Will he be able to say the same thing after a few years in Seattle? We’ll see. But somehow I doubt he’s going to have the same success in getting kids into the league…ya THINK?

Now I don’t want to sit here and tout a whopping three players for WSU either. While we do believe this WSU class is looking strong in terms of overall depth, filled with high character, high-ceiling types, it’s safe to say we still have a ways to go before we are challenging the upper half of the conference. But it’s been preached since Wulff was introduced in December, and that is that this thing is going to take a while to build. As Wulff himself said all season long, we have to build layers upon layers upon layers of depth, so you aren’t forced to throw the young out into the wild. But I am also confident in saying that IF Wulff can sign at least two more recruiting classes like this one, the ideal program Wulff is shooting for will be much closer to reality.

That’s it for a super Sunday. ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!

Simone Edges Markle for "Must Have" of 2008

December 30, 2008

The poll closed several days ago, but we thought it would be a good idea to acknowledge it – Gino Simone has won out in the “must have” category for this year’s class. Simone received 66 votes, compared to 64 for Darren Markle. Good timing too, with Simone’s re-affirming his pledge to go Crimson over the weekend. But Markle, the top-25 middle linebacker/strongman from Idaho, made it pretty close.

Speaking of recruiting, I thought it was interesting to see how ESPN.com ranks some of the WSU commits for this upcoming class:

2009 Player Commitments
NAME POS STATE GRADE STATUS NOTES
Sebastian Valenzuela OG CA 76 Verbal
Darren Markle ILB ID 76 Verbal
Nolan Washington ATH WA 76 Verbal
William Prescott OT CA 75 Verbal
Anthony Carpenter ATH CA 75 Verbal
Chris Mastin DE WA 75 Verbal
Gino Simone WR WA 74 Verbal
Jeff Tuel QB CA 72 Verbal
Arthur Burns RB CA 72 Verbal
Casey Locker S WA 72 Verbal
Andre Barrington OLB WA 68 Verbal
Jamal Atofau S WA 40 Verbal
Quayshawn Buckley DT CA 40 Verbal
Justin Clayton DE CA 40 Verbal
Travis Long DE WA 40 Verbal
Jordan Pu’u-Robinson DE HI 40 Verbal

(note that a grade of 40 for ESPN’s ratings basically means that they haven’t been fully evaluated yet). But what I thought was interesting is that Scout.com labels Simone the top player in the state of Washington this year, yet only earns a 74 in the ESPN scale, actually lower compared to other Washington preps like Nolan Washington and Chris Mastin.

But whatever. I know it’s splitting hairs at this point, and really, what are these so-called grades all about? We all know the road is littered with players who were highly rated coming in, yet never panned out. In fact, Athlon’s goes out of their way every year in their preview issue to point out who matched the hype, and who missed the mark by a wide margin. It’s a real eye-opener.

In 2003, here’s the top 10 recruits for the entire country:

1) Kyle Wright – QB – Miami
2) Ernie Sims – LB – Florida State
3) Reggie Bush – RB – USC
4) Tony Hills JR – TE – Texas
5) JaMarcus Russell – QB – LSU
6) Whitney Lewis – WR – USC
7) Prescott Burgess – DB – Michigan
8) Nate Robinson – DL – Miami
9) Lamarr Woodley – LB – Michigan
10) Antonio Cromartie – DB – Florida State

Hit and miss, to say the least. Half the list has panned out and made it to the NFL (Bush, Sims, Russell and Cromartie were all first-round picks, while Woodley was a second-rounder). But that is only half of the top ten. What about the others?

#1 QB Kyle Wright was OK. He went 18-11 as a starter, but just 4-4 his senior year as the ‘Canes missed a bowl with a 5-7 record in 2007. He finished #7 on Miami’s all-time passing yardage list. But he only earned all-ACC honors once, and that was just honorable mention as a sophomore in 2005. Not bad overall. But clearly everyone expected more from the NUMBER ONE player in the country??

#4 Tony Hills Jr was derailed by a knee injury his senior year in high school that zapped him of his explosiveness. He was switched to the offensive line but didn’t start until his junior year. He did pan out there, getting first-team All Big 12 his senior year, but to be the #4 player in the country coming in, he has to rank as mildly disappointing.

#6 Whitney Lewis has to be one of the most disappointing of the list, if not the entire 2003 class. The number six player in the country, and the number one WR in the country, he NEVER CAUGHT A PASS in two years at USC.

He did letter in his true frosh year of 2003, but then had grade issues and missed 2004. He was a deep reserve in 2005 and then transferred to Northern Iowa, where he had 578 yards of total offense in two seasons.

Finally, Robinson never enrolled at Miami, instead heading to Rutgers after failing to meet entrance requirements. He had a rocky time there, kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. He landed at Akron and finished as a part-time starter, recording just two sacks his senior year. Burgess had a solid career at Michigan, but never earned first or second team All-Big 10 honors. He was moved to linebacker and started for his last two years, racking up 171 career tackles. But as a top-10 player, you would have liked to see a lot more than that.

Our own WSU class from that same 2003 is littered with lower-rated players having an impact, while higher-rated players never panning out.

For example, Jason Hill, arguably the greatest WR in school history and one of the top TD catchers in PAC-10 history was just a two-star safety prospect out of the bay area in 2003. And Alex Brink, the guy who threw for over 10K and owns several WSU passing records? He was a two-star QB coming out, just the #74-rated QB in the country. The same Alex Brink who beat UW three times in his career, the only WSU QB to do so.

Bobby Byrd started on the offensive line for 40+ games in his career, playing every position but center. But in that 2003 class, he was a virtual unknown, a 2-star special who didn’t even get a true evaluation.

In that same 2003 class, the top-rated WSU commits were RB Chris Bruhn, OL Patrick Afif and OL Keola Loo. All three guys JC transfers of the 4-star variety, yet what can be said about any of them? Bruhn was a serviceable backup running back, but never made the impact you would expect from a rating like that. Afif played in 17 games as a JC transfer and was pretty decent, but not an impact player in any way. And Loo never panned out, leaving the team after one season in 2004.

So while it’s exciting and newsworthy in the off-season, well, you just never know how a kid is going to pan out.

That’s it for today. ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and as always, GO COUGS!

Wulff Throwing Strikes with Recruiting Pitch?

December 28, 2008

First off, happy holidays to y’all. Hope you are safe and warm, and were able to spend some quality time with the loved ones. We’re finally getting some melting snow around here, and the roads are getting better by the day. Snow is nice to look at, but I think I speak for all western Washingtonians when I say ENOUGH ALREADY.

On to the football front. Another couple of days, some more good news from the recruiting trail.

A quick rundown: Earlier in the week, G-Prep’s Travis Long committed to the Cougs. Long was rumored to be a strong Crimson “lean” for several months, and he finally pulled the trigger on X-mas day. Long fits the mold of the kids Paul Wulff and company are currently seeking in their linemen-types. You know, the lean, 6-5, 250-lb kids who have the right kind of body type and athleticism? Big, wide frames where they can add the “right” kind of weight over time? Long projects to be a defensive end, but already at 6-5, 244, who knows where he’ll end up. Maybe even a play-making defensive tackle, ala another LONG who came before him??

OK, that’s a HUGE stretch at this point. Rien Long won the Outland trophy for gawdsakes. But what the heck, this is the season for stuff like this.

Oh, and there’s some tape on Long at ESPN, which you can check out here.

Then we had Gino Simone re-upping his commitment to the Cougs yesterday. While the article is premium at Cougfan, there was this piece by Howie Stalwick of the Kitsap Sun. Simone is now firmly in the “commit” category, upgraded from his “soft verbal” earlier this year. Simone is on the record as saying WSU “felt like home”, so you have to like the odds of seeing his name on a letter of intent in early February?

But it’s not over yet with Simone. Kim Grinolds of Dawgman.com is still holding out hope of some kind that Simone will become a Husky, saying that if Simone takes a trip to UW in January, anything can happen. However, consider the source. Last spring Mr. Grinolds predicted Tony Bennett would take the Indiana job, then when that failed to materialize, he virtually guaranteed he would take the LSU job. So there. Besides, if/when Simone actually comes to WSU, they’ll be quick to point out that Simone wasn’t big enough or fast enough, and they didn’t want him anyway, and OH yes, it’s a “down” year in Washington anyway……Again, consider the source.

Back to this football deal for a moment. The thing to take from the article from Howie Stalwick isn’t just that Simone has re-committed to WSU. But the quotes from the story aren’t from Simone or his family. They are from Skyline QB Jake Heaps and his mother, Patty:

When Wulff was hired last December, the Cougars had three verbal commitments. Scouting services generally rank WSU recruiting classes quite low, but Scout.com currently ranks WSU 41st in the nation and fifth in the Pac-10.

“Some people don’t know why some of these kids are going to WSU,” said Patty Heaps, Jake’s mother. “I think they’re developing a culture that is incredibly personable.”

Mrs. Heaps said she has been particularly impressed with the fact that WSU coaches send hand-written notes to recruits.

“He (Jake) gets several a week,” Mrs. Heaps said.

Further down in the story, Heaps himself said he is “definitely” considering scholarship offers from WSU and Washington, though he calls himself a “Husky fan.” He also expressed concern about the recent struggles of the Huskies and Cougars.

Now, let’s not get carried away here. Jake Heaps has 18 scholarship offers RIGHT NOW, ranging from Tennessee to LSU to Notre Dame to BYU, and of course, UW and WSU. But I think it is safe to assume that Jake Heaps is NOT going to come to WSU. I think we know that. But what is impressive to me are the quotes from the Heaps family about Wulff, and how they go about this whole recruiting thing.

Hand-written notes on a weekly basis? Developing an incredibly personable culture? All from a guy in Paul Wulff who has walked the walk? A guy who has fought adversity in his personal and professional life, and has persevered along the way? A coach and leader who will see to it that these kids will get an education, stay out of trouble and play at a BCS school? That pitch sure sounds good to me. And it’s sounding good in the most important area of all – in living rooms and the ears of recruits, all across the state.

So far, this recruiting class is nothing short of impressive. When you consider that WSU classes are generally rated pretty far down the list, to be in the middle of the road in the PAC-10 rankings right now, coming off a season that was 2008? What MORE can you ask for as a Coug fan than what they are doing right now?

It’s true what Wulff said from earlier in the year, on his weekly radio shows and in print. NOBODY is going to outwork these guys in recruiting. And that hard work is paying off. They know they have to keep their energy levels up and have to outwork the next guy for talent. And that, Cougar Nation, bodes well for getting this thing back on track. The work ethic, the energy, the desire to turn over rocks and find those sleepers or diamonds-in-the-rough types, that kind of thing is what made WSU a strong program at the start of the decade. The road is a long one to get back to respectability, but you have to like where this thing is headed.

ENJOY YOUR SUNDAY, and GO COUGS!

Who is Your "Must Have" For This Year’s Class?

December 17, 2008

So there has been a lot of recruiting news of late (’tis the season). Of course they are only verbal commitments until they sign on the dotted line, but it is hard not to curb a little enthusiasm? The latest news has coach Wulff landing a commit from a big-play safety in CA of the 3-star variety, who sounds like a solid kid all the way around (check Cougfan for more).

I heard from a source who follows high school football closely in the state, and he was very impressed with what our coaches have done thus far. This source is big into UW, but he has an open mind when evaluating prospects. He had very good things to say about our top commits and still can’t believe it as to how Wulff is doing it coming off a 2-win season.

I think the reality is they are doing a strong job in the living room and with the state’s high school coaches, an underrated aspect of recruiting. They are selling a unified message of a strong, structured system, a good education, a chance to play early at a BCS school and most of all, to be a part of the foundation of the turnaround of the program.

And you can’t forget the journey of Paul Wulff. He has been through some incredibly tough, character-building experiences in his life. Nothing was ever just given to him, and he has had to go out and get everything he has achieved. He is the genuine article, and what you see is what you get. No phony BS or empty promises here. How can a parent or coach not respect the path he has traveled and at least listen to what he has to say?

It’s not a typo or misprint. This class is shaping up to be one of the highest rated in school history.

THAT said, looking at the current commits (and you can see the link on the right to the current commits) plus some other rumored commits on the way (Travis Long of G-Prep?), who do YOU consider your “must have” of this year’s class?

Wednesday Ramblings

December 10, 2008


Good morning Coug Nation. Time to catch up on a few things.

First things first, in the bad news department. Late last night, Cougfan broke the news that top WSU commit Geoff Meinken had made it official. He is no longer going to be a Cougar, and has officially switched to Stanford.

Disappointing? Absolutely. Meinken, after all, was the first WSU commit for this year’s class, giving coach Wulff his pledge back in May, and he was considered an excellent “get” by the staff. Big and strong at 6-4, 250, and a fine all-around athlete who was just as strong in the classroom, the sky was the limit for this kid at WSU. There was also a story that UW came hard at him last summer, but Meinken held firm on his WSU commitment.

But Jim Harbaugh came hard after Meinken this fall, offering him a scholarship and even promising him he can play anywhere he wants. Harbaugh is a lot of things, but he is showing in very limited time at Stanford that the guy can flat-out recruit. Don’t believe it? Check out their commitment list for this year. They have TEN four-star recruits already pledging to Stanford. And right now, they are second only to USC in the Pac-10 in recruiting rankings, and on target for a top-15 class. Impressive to say the least. I know I said it in the spring when we did the fishwrap series, but Stanford’s stay at the bottom didn’t appear like it would last very long. To go from where they were two years ago to where they are now, just one win from a bowl game, shows you they are on the right track.

Is this surprising? Hardly. First off you can’t blame a kid for changing his mind. It happens all the time, to programs all over the country. And he is going to try and get his degree at Stanford. Not a bad way to go about higher education if you can get it. So yes, we’re disappointed, but this isn’t a shock.

The next bit of recruiting news is dealing with Skyline WR Gino Simone. Last month Simone announced that while he was still committed to WSU, well, he sat down with his family and decided to take some recruiting trips, just to be sure. Simone is taking his official visit to WSU this weekend, and the following week he will visit Oregon State (12/19). He is also on record as saying he will take a trip to Boise State, but the date hasn’t been announced.

Meanwhile, Steve Sarkisian is already out there recruiting for UW, visiting Skyline high school and Bellevue high school yesterday. Both Simone and Skyline QB Jake Heaps gave some good praise to UW for hiring Sarkisian, and Simone himself was quoted as saying “If he wants to talk to me, I’ll be glad to sit down and have a talk with him.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean Simone is going to UW, or that there is now automatically going to be a pipeline from Skyline to UW. After all, UW did just fire former Skyline head coach Steve Gervais yesterday, long thought of as a guy they brought on board to help recruit the Skyline talent! Sarkisian still has to sell them on an 0-12 rebuilding job. And while he had a “solid” reputation as a recruiter in the LA area, well, that was while he was dressed in USC colors from head to toe, and had Petey Carroll to close the deal. Let’s see how he’s received when he walks into a living room with a UW visor on his melon. He might find it just a little bit of a tougher sell?? So assume nothing.

Most of all, this whole recruiting thing is just another example of don’t count those chicks before they sign on the dotted line. Anything/everything can happen. And you get this kind of thing more and more when you get the early verbal commitments. That was one thing we know Bill Doba despised, to say the least. He HATED the early commit, felt that it was too “en vogue” to de-commit, and that type of thing went against every moral fiber in his body. But when in Rome? All the other schools are doing it, and if you don’t as well, you are at risk at being left in the stone age. You HAVE to do the early commits, or else you are left to trying to steal kids from other programs or take kids that are a step or two below the ones you really should have targeted from the beginning!


Don’t panic. Let’s hope Wulff can hold this class together. It’s still an excellent class right now, smack dab in the middle of the conference, just behind Cal in the Pac-10 rankings. And that is without Geoff Meinken. And the idea that we can even have a decent class, in this worst-ever season? Just imagine what it could look like once we start, oh, I don’t know, WINNING games!?!?

Finally, the stadium. I hate to say it, but we heard rumblings during Apple Cup week that the next phase was in serious jeopardy. Now we hear that it is official and the start of the next phase of the expansion will be delayed for another year. They cannot break ground next month due to the lack of cash ($5 million?). The unfortunate part is that not only does it delay the biggest part of the overall expansion, this delay will likely add to the overall cost of the project. So we might need even MORE money over the next year.

Look, we’re not stupid. We read the news and watch CNN. We know what is going on in this country right now. 534,000 jobs were cut in America in NOVEMBER alone. It’s hard to get money from donors, but even just as tough is going to the financial institutions who are cutting jobs left and right. Even selling the naming rights to different organizations wasn’t enough of an incentive to get the cash needed. Meanwhile UW continues to pursue their cash grab, somehow determining that the public should give them $150 million toward their $300 million dollar palace by the lake.

Whatever happens with Olympia and UW, you better believe that if they get as much as a nickel from the state, a WSU contingent with torches and pitchforks will storm the Governor’s mansion. It could get REALLY UGLY down there.

Isn’t there a basketball game tonight??

ENJOY YOUR WEDNESDAY, and as always, GO COUGS!