Archive for the ‘Harold Etheridge’ Category

Fat Guys Rule!

August 2, 2008

With Hawk covering off on his thoughts on the D Tackles the other day, I thought it would be a good idea to turn our attention to the other side of the line and examine what I believe to be the strongest overall unit on the 2008 Cougar football team.

Several weeks ago, we were approached by a writer from a SoCal sports blog who was looking for some insight into WSU’s 2008 football season. He asked us to contribute our thoughts on a handful of questions and we were happy to oblige. As a former “steakeater” myself (OK, my glory days ended after high school, so I was more of a “chilidogeater”) I jumped on the question about the O Line.
Here’s the question as asked:
Freshman lineman Andrew Roxas was one bright spot for the Cougars last year as he played center for the first time against UCLA and performed quite well. How is the left side of the line coming along with the return of Roxas and Vaughn Lesuma?

Like I said, this guy writes for a SoCal sports blog so I assume that’s why he has such an interest in Roxas (pronounced Ro-Hoss), who hails from LaCanada, CA. He was indeed a pleasant surprise as a true freshman. He performed admirably and got some valuable game experience but is still flying under the radar a bit in 2008. The 2007 team lacked depth on the offensive front and the emergence of Roxas was a very pleasant surprise. In my opinion, the O Line was the best-performing unit on last year’s squad and they are poised to keep that title in 2008. In fact, I think they’ll be much better this year and we look to be in great shape BEYOND 2008.

The only loss on the line from last year is the very consistent, if unspectacular Bobby Byrd. He had prototypical size for a left tackle but was actually moved to guard due to the emergence of Micah Hannam.

Frankly, we won’t miss Bobby Byrd – but there is one other departure that will be missed – Offensive Line Coach George Yarno. He was not retained by new head-man Paul Wulff, in what was largely considered a disappointing move. George is an old pro and always got every ounce of effort out of his pupils. There’s no such thing as “un-tapped potential” if you knocked heads for Coach Yarno – he got every ounce of potential out of his players and then some. Considered a strong candidate to replace Wulff at EWU, the Spokane native proved to be too big of a fish for the pond in Cheney and has landed on John Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay. We were lucky to have him and it’s a damn shame that he’s gone.

After strong rumblings that Yarno would be replaced with former Coug and current Montana State O Line Coach Jason McEndoo, Wulff chose the largely unknown (in these parts, anyway) Harold Etheridge. The last three entries on Etheridge’s coaching resume are Army, North Texas and Northern Illinois. With a collegiate coaching career that has spanned 19 years, Etheridge has a few feathers in his cap but it would seem that if were a truly great coach, he’d have had an opportunity at a BCS school before now. My sources within the program are about as reliable as the 7-day weather forecast in Seattle, but I’m told that Etheridge is having trouble fitting in with the staff.

The good news is that this O Line unit has the ability to rise above any coaching shortcomings due to the strong leadership of junior center Kenny Alfred. Alfred is a very solid, student of the game. He’s unheralded but does an incredible job of making the right calls at the line and playing his position. Only injury will keep him from post-season conference accolades.

With the new coaching staff in place and a slew of young up-and-comers fighting for spots on the depth chart, it’s probably too early to say on which side of the line they’ll line up, but the starters should be Alfred at center; Dan Rowlands and Roxas at guard; and the massive Vaughn Lesuma and Hannam at tackle.
Lesuma was the best of all the newcomers to the program in 2007. He was a steady performer all year and will likely be looked upon to anchor this year’s squad. As big as he is, he could anchor the Queen Mary. If he can improve his footwork and play quicker than his 6’5”, 329 lb frame would otherwise suggest, he has a great shot to play on Sundays in 2009. Coach Wullf seems to think so too.

Fighting for playing time and providing some much needed depth are four highly-touted redshirt freshmen: Kevin Freitag, Steven Ayers, Will Hunter and BJ Guerra (a converted D-tackle.) Sophomore Joe Eppelle and junior Reed Lesuma (Vaughn’s “little” brother), will also be pushing the incumbents. The recent announcement that new recruit Tim Hodgdon will grayshirt this year provides further proof that this unit is well-stocked in 2008. With so much youth and experience along the offensive front, this position appears to be in great shape for the foreseeable future.
The questions along the O line heading into 2007 were all about experience and depth. With those questions now answered, the biggest question heading into 2008 has to be about conditioning. The game of football is generally played with short bursts of energy followed by a “rest” in the huddle. The big guys on the line usually need that rest more than their playmaking teammates. With the new no-huddle offense, the breaks in action will be few and far between and it stands to reason that the offensive linemen will be the ones who have the hardest time adjusting to this perpetual motion. Hopefully a long summer under the watchful eye of conditioning coach Rob Oviatt has done the trick.
We’ll find out soon enough. The season kicks off in four short weeks.

Here’s to the fat guys!
Go Cougs!

Wulff’s First Big Win

January 8, 2008

You may remember Brandon Gibson from dominating performances like, oh, I don’t know, the 2007 Apple Cup? Well, Paul Wulff scored his first big win as head coach, as young Mr. Gibson is coming back to Pullman!

Well, ok, there’s another side to it. Such as Gibson’s potential draft grade wasn’t as high as he had hoped, so he wants to come back and get better, turn in an outstanding senior year and then go to the next level. So it wasn’t just Wulff’s overwhelming recruiting skills that kept Gibson in the fold. But I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

Personally I thought all along that Gibson would go pro, and I even told Brinkhater that last year, that a big year from him could leave things pretty bare for ’08. But man oh man, do they need him next year. Losing Bumpus, Dillon and even Collins from the passing game is going to be a tough blow. But to also lose Gibson, the best WR on the team last year and the only first-team All-Pac-10 pick in Pullman, could have been almost too much to overcome.

Looking ahead, Benny Ward is slated to return, so he could potentially be the starter. Jeshua Anderson showed a ton of promise as a true frosh, but he’s also a highly rated hurdler who will be competing for a Team USA track spot, and that could wipe out his 2008 season. There are others in the program that will get a shot, including:

  • TE Devin Frischknecht who had a nice Apple Cup (5 catches for 88 yds and 2 TD’s).
  • Daniel Blackledge, a young talented kid from Colorado who saw a little bit of playing time as a frosh.
  • Keith Rosenberg, the slot WR from Bellevue.
  • Anthony Houston, a good sized youngster who hasn’t had much of a chance yet.
  • Greg Walker, a 6-3 redshirt frosh last year who will probably be in the mix.

So all things considered, it’s going to be a young group that hasn’t done much on the field, but then again, hasn’t really had a shot with established guys like Bumpus, Dillon, and Collins in front of them. The best news is that Wulff’s offense is clearly WR-friendly! EWU’s Aaron Boyce, just a sophomore last year, hauled in 85 balls for over 1300 yards and 10 TD’s. As a sophomore. WOW. And that was with a sophomore QB at the helm. So if you ask me, Gibson has a chance to put up some insane numbers next year.

Other stuff:

WE WERE WRONG about McEndoo! Yeah, it happens. Our source said it was solid information, but something must have broken down along the way. The new OL coach has been hired and it’s not a name anyone saw coming. Harold Etheridge comes in from Northern Illinois as a 19-year vet of coaching offensive lines, so he’s been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. Check out the story, as he’s been so many places that we won’t even list them all out here. Still, sounds like a decent hire, but he’s not a guy with WSU roots. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t know, but Wulff clearly sees something here.

The coaching assignments have been finalized as well. Straight from the WSU release:

On the offensive side of the ball Todd Sturdy will serve as offensive coordinator and work with quarterbacks; Steve Broussard will be the running backs coach; Mike Levenseller will serve as wide receivers coach; and Rich Rasmussen will serve the duel role of tights ends coach/recruiting coordinator. On the defensive side, Jody Sears will be co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach; Chris Ball will be assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach; Travis Niekamp will coach linebackers and Malik Roberson will coach the defensive line.

Interesting that not only is Ball the secondary coach, but also the co-DC AND assistant head coach? Ball is a really strong hire, and now we can see he’s going to wear a lot of hats. And, well, we don’t know a whole lot about Sears, but I can say that I’ve read a few harsh comments from EWU fans in regards to the defense Sears called at EWU. Let’s just say they weren’t too thrilled, so the idea of having Ball and Sears co-coordinate the D might be a very good thing, at least for next season. Also of note, no Timm Rosenbach. Not a shock, but there was a bit of uncertainty around him initially. Sturdy gets the reins, not only as OC, but as QB coach. I wonder how much impact Levy will have in play-calling this year? OR do we get to fully blame Sturdy for every offensive struggle!?!? I kid.

In recruiting, things are definitely heating up. Andrei Lintz, the TE/DE prospect we wrote about a little while ago, gave Wulff a verbal commitment last night. Here’s a link to his profile. Good size and athleticism, he’s got that “upside” that gets everyone excited. There are more visits on the way too, including the 4-star JC defensive end, Grant Valentine, who will show up in Pullman this coming weekend. Valentine, you’ll remember, had that Youtube video where he was just flying all over the field making plays. Here’s a link if you want to watch it again. Also, the center who had Hawaii as his leader, Jonathan Solomon, will be in this weekend. Might the June Jones news (he’s OFFICIALLY at SMU now) have an impact on his future? We’ll see.