Archive for the ‘James Montgomery’ 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!

Reason For Hope?

March 24, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

EXCITED ABOUT NEW FACES

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!

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!

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap – Week Eleven

November 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Thursday, AND GO COUGS!

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!

Wulff Lands Cal RB Montgomery; Bennett Talks to LSU After All?

April 8, 2008


Nice job coach Wulff. Heralded stud RB James Montgomery was in Pullman over the weekend on a transfer/recruiting visit, and early word was that things went really well. Guess what? It went so well he’s now headed to the Palouse! Montgomery’s high school coach gave the word to the Sac Bee last night, and now the P-I, Cougfan and Vince at SR.com have it as well.

No mention of the Pac-10 rule that used to penalize an extra year if a player went Pac-10 to Pac-10, but, Cougfan’s story stated that he will probably sit out this year, then have two years to play two, ready for action in the 2009 season.

Maybe the most impressive thing is that Montgomery chose WSU over Florida and South Carolina. You mean to tell me an all-everything RB took a look at SEC power Florida and also Steve Superior in South Carolina and decided to cast his lot with Wulff?? WOW. You never want to over-react to something like this, but it’s hard not to be excited. This is a top-shelf talent, a Parade All-American. And despite what it might look like on the surface, he doesn’t have a lot of baggage. Sometimes with transfers you just sort of roll your eyes and say “we’ll see” and then when the transfer is a 4-or-5 star talent showing up in Pullman, you wonder what gives. But Montgomery is legit and the fit just wasn’t there in Berkeley. He admits now that he originally went to Cal to be close to his ailing mother, but now she’s healthy and they believed a change was the best for everyone. By the way, hat tip to our own Brinkhater who had this story a few weeks ago from his “Cal insider” who said from day 1 that he was a huge lean to WSU.

There is no way around it, getting him is just a huge statement. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – I can’t wait to see what Wulff can do with some time to build this program in his own image. There are going to be growing pains, but given the depths that we were headed, Wulff deserves all the time he needs to turn this thing into something that gets you bouncing off the walls every Saturday!

Speaking of coach Wulff, he sat down with Jim Moore of the P-I and basically stoked the UW rivalry flames a bit. Yes, he doesn’t like UW. No, he’s not backing off those remarks he made the day he took the job. And, YES, he has passion about it. As Rooster and I commented the night of the football dinner, these guys, from Wulff on down, “get it” as far as the rivalry goes. This staff is going to have that team tearing the locker room apart before the Apple Cup. Yes, it will be handled with class, but YES, the rivalry is going to turn up a few notches. You also have to like what Wulff has to say about how in-state recruiting is going. Of course he can’t get overly specific at this point, and it’s still just April. But there is no doubt, this is a new era!

Wulff was also on KJR with Mitch yesterday. A good interview and you can check it out here. Not one of Mitch’s best interviews, but I liked what I heard from Wulff. If you’ve listened to him speak much since he’s been hired, he really sounds more and more comfortable every time I hear him. I think deep down he might have been a little overwhelmed with the situation itself, I mean here he is as the head coach of his alma mater, but lately he just sounds a lot more ready to handle the extra media that comes with this job.

This seemed to be way under the radar, but the Times today says Tony DID talk to LSU. The article speculates that LSU’s primary target is Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. Interesting part of that story is that they also talked to Trent Johnson of Stanford. And before you get too worried, also realize the story states that they talked “to several coaches” over the weekend. So it’s not like they flew him in, wined and dined him and whispered sweet nothings into his ear like he is their #1 guy. Hey, Tony, how about doing your season wrap-up press conference? How about proclaiming to Cougar Nation that you are happy in Pullman and looking forward to the future? We’ve heard you are happy and staying in Pullman from everyone, to your AD to your President to several media outlets…..except you.

Quite a game last night, eh? Memphis is going to lament that game for the rest of their lives. 9-point lead with 2:12 to go, and then they brick free throws, get a little sloppy with the ball, and Chalmers hits a miracle 3. Here’s the question of the day – do YOU foul Chalmers before he gets that shot off to tie the game? There were 4 seconds left in the game when he was starting to take that shot. If you foul him with 5 seconds left, he’s forced to go to the line without a chance to tie the game. Even if he makes both, you have just a few ticks of the clock left and you are still getting the ball back up 1. It reminded me a lot of UW’s loss to U-Conn in ’06, when they were up 3 but chose not to foul Denham Brown, who cooly drained a 3 at the buzzer to force OT. Not that I wept for them that night (I didn’t), but once again we see the same scenario play out. The team chooses not to foul, and the player nails the shot. Memphis was dead after that, losing Dorsey to fouls late in regulation, but the momentum was officially gone at that point. Great job by Kansas, but make no mistake, Memphis kicked this one.

I was a little concerned hearing about Bill Self’s Okie State ready to throw the moon at him. Why would that worry WSU nation? Because that means if he bolts, Kansas opens up. It’s major connect-the-dots stuff, but would Kansas call Tony Bennett? Brinkhater thinks absolutely not, and Kansas would look to the major rock-star coaching tree, guys who have been to Final Four’s, guys who have won their conferences, guys who have been winning for several years. I wasn’t so sure, but after thinking about it a little more, I have to agree with him. Tony wouldn’t be to Kansas what he was to Indiana. IU is living off Bobby Knight at this point, and they are in a major mess right now with NCAA sanctions. While it’s still a great job, it isn’t Kansas.

That said, I heard Dickie V say today that it’s highly unlikely Self will leave. He has the most leverage you could possibly dream of right now, and he’ll get everything he wants at Kansas. So it’s probably much ado about nothing.

HAPPY TUESDAY!

Cal RB James Montgomery to Washington….State??

March 21, 2008

So news breaks this week that touted RB James Montgomery of Cal is leaving Berkeley. Lots of talk about the reasons, but mainly, he’s not happy at Cal. And of course, the usual connect-the-dots nature has many Seattle scribes placing Montgomery at UW, the school he originally committed to but ultimately changed his mind. But in the words of Lee Corso….NOT so fast my friend!

Guess who is elbowing their way into the picture?? That’s right, Paul Wulff and the WSU Cougars have snuck into this thing. Per the Sacramento Bee, Montgomery says that he’s wide open, but right now it’s Washington State, Florida and one other SEC school that wasn’t mentioned.

But we will go one step further. Brinkhater, he of the Sacramento area, reports an insider conversation he had yesterday evening with a Berkeley know-it-all. Basically, the word is, it’s WSU by a large margin, and Florida as a distant 2nd! The one big pull for Florida is that one of Montgomery’s best buddies, a player from Cordova High School, is headed for Florida. But otherwise, the odds are strong Montgomery COULD be a Coug!

If this happens, well, first off Montgomery would sit out next year, and would be eligible for the ’09 season. He would have two years of eligibility left at that point, so in essence it would be like getting a monster JC transfer, but you’ve had him practicing with you the prior year. Can you say INSTANT impact?? Team him up with Ivory or even Tardy, and we could be looking at one strong backfield! Stay tuned. We’ll have more information as we hear it, but for now, the rumors are strong that Montgomery is a “hard lean” towards Crimson!