Archive for the ‘Kenny Alfred’ Category

Who’s Going to Block?

July 20, 2009


Happy Monday Coug Nation. Hope you all enjoyed a sunny, relaxing July weekend. But don’t get TOO relaxed….training camp is coming, now just what, three+ weeks away? Time sure is flying by.

First of all, one last quickie on “lil’ Romeo” Pellum. We apologize if the untrustworthy part of the headline on Friday was misinterpreted by any of you. It could be a bit misleading, or even thought of as calling the coaches out as not being trustworthy, etc. Or, it could even be taken as giving too much credence to Pellum and what he thinks of the WSU program. None of these things were the intent. And to make things worse, we heard a few things about Romeo over the weekend that, uh, let’s just say him leaving Pullman is the best thing for everyone. But it’s over and done with, and we all will now move on.

That said, it’s still a slow time in the Coug universe. So we’ll plow ahead with a peek at the O-line for ’09, WSU Football Blog style.

First of all, the ’08 line was, well, battered. How’s that? Battered to the extent of a seemingly never-ending shuffle of linemen, in and out of the lineup. All told the offensive line started eight different combinations last year, with players in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis. The good news is that some young players got their feet wet, and, towards the end of the season anyway, things started to settle down. The last three games of the year saw the exact same starting five up front, and even all in their regular positions! How about that!? But it was THAT fluid up front.

With that revolving door came the best teacher of all – in-game experience – but it also came at a steep price. We saw the beatings that the QB’s took last year, where Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina, and Marshall Lobbestael all dealt with major pain. Of course, Rogers and Lobbestael were knocked out for the season, while Lopina missed several games in the middle of the year with the vertebrae fractures.


Even Dan Wagner, the fourth QB, was hobbled a bit later in the year, and although J.T. Levenseller barely played, HE TOO was beat up when he was in there! All told, the WSU QB’s ate it to the tune of 42 sacks (PAC-10 worst), plus numerous hits on the QB that might not go down in the stat book. It was a group that was trying to learn new schemes, from new coaches, with new players in and out. Doesn’t exactly add up to success, does it?

But that’s ’08, and it’s in the rear-view mirror (thank God). Time to look forward to a new era. And there is, potentially, some positions to feel really good about. Live in the past, stay in the past, right? So let’s see how the ’09 line might look….

Projected starters:

LEFT TACKLE: Steven Ayers – Sophomore

Decent size for tackle at 6-4, now up to 315 lbs, the sophomore-to-be should be a mainstay on the line for the next several seasons. He played in eleven games last year as a red-shirt frosh, including five starts, shuffling between guard and tackle. He played more guard than anything last year, in fact he had just one start at tackle for the entire season. So, starting left tackle will be a new deal for Ayers. Of course, brand new left tackles can make people nervous, you know, with the whole protect-the-QB-blindside stuff? But Ayers has that rookie season out of the way and sounds as if he’ll be ready for the challenge.

LEFT Guard: Zack Williams – Junior

Originally thought of as a potential heir-apparent to Vaughn Lesuma at left tackle, instead Williams will roll with the starters at left guard. Williams has been regarded as one of the most talented linemen on the team since he set foot in Pullman for his redshirt season last year, and was often mentioned by Wulff during radio shows and interviews that Williams looks like he could be a real player. He’s also mentioned as having a real tough streak to him, something this offensive line could really use in bunches right now. It will be awfully interesting to see how Williams does out of the chute. Not your typical JC transfer in that he actually has a red-shirt season at WSU under his belt, but still, this will be his first BCS action of his career. It’s one thing to do it in practice, but let’s hope his early buzz continues into September, and beyond.

CENTER: Kenny Alfred – Senior


The best lineman on the team, heck, probably the best player on offense to line up next year, Alfred has it all. Smarts (All-Academic team), experience (32 career starts coming into ’09), and toughness(winner of the Mike Utley lineman of the year award last year), he’s pretty much everything WSU could hope for at center.

He’s been pegged as being a good one since he first came to Pullman under Bill Doba’s watch, who once predicted Alfred would be a four-year starter back in ’05. And here we are. He’s on all the pre-season watch lists for offensive linemen, and rightfully so. A little worrisome is the hip injury that forced him to miss the entire spring practice session, but word is he is A-OK and will be ready to go next month. As center is really the quarterback of the offensive line, there is very little doubt that Alfred is the one guy they need to have out there on a weekly basis.

RIGHT GUARD: B.J. Guerra – Sophomore

Guerra has been up-and-down a bit, hasn’t he? Thrown to the wolves in ’07, he held his own as a backup, and then saw a lot of action last year, starting five games. Those five starts included the last three games of the year, when the WSU line had the same starting five for three consecutive games, the longest stretch of the season where the same five started a game. Originally a d-tackle when he came to WSU, he was switched over to the offense his red-shirt season and hasn’t looked back. He’s got some size (6-3, 311) and a little nastiness to him, a quality needed for this group.

RIGHT TACKLE: Micah Hannam – Junior

Similar to Alfred, Hannam is the other leader up front. Another brainy guy, named to an All-Academic team in each of the last two years, Hannam has some major experience as well. He has now started 25 consecutive games, all at right tackle. While not your NFL prototype tackle at 6-4, 284, he’s still strong and moves pretty well. Also like Alfred, Hannam missed all of spring drills due to injury, but, everything sounds good for the start of camp.

BACKUPS:

The backup offensive tackles will likely be Joe Eppele and Tyson Pencer. Both are enormous Canadians, hailing from the great white north province of British Columbia.


Eppele’s at 6-8, 306 and Pencer at 6-6, 297. But they are green, Eppele with two starts, Pencer with none as he is just coming off his red-shirt frosh season this year. Eppele is another smarty pants, placing on the second-team All-Academic PAC-10 squad for two straight years. While he only started two games last year, he did see action in 10 games total.

Inside, you will likely find Brian Danaher and Andrew Roxas as the backup guards. Danaher is a lunchpail-n-hardhat type, not a spectacular athlete but gives you all he’s got. He’s perfectly slated as a backup, but he still started EIGHT games last year. That’s some good experience to have in there, and he’ll be ready when called upon. Andrew Roxas, like Danaher, is also experienced, starting eight games himself last year. Roxas made a name for himself in 2007, when he stepped in as a frosh and started for the injured Kenny Alfred vs. UCLA. The result was a 27-7 victory at home that saw the Cougs run for 274 yards on the day, by far the season high in ’07.

Roxas has basically been a backup at center and guard ever since, and that’s where he’ll open up ’09.

So that’s a look at the starters, plus some key backups. Now here’s something else to think about – remember that NO HUDDLE OFFENSE we heard so much about when Wulff was hired?!? No? Neither do I. That’s because we barely saw the thing after the first game of the year. Once the injuries started to mount, forget it. But it wasn’t anybody’s fault, really. The whole idea was just too much, too soon, for everyone on offense to handle. But not anymore. It’s been said repeatedly that 2009 will see the “real” WSU/Todd Sturdy offense, and that involves a fast-paced, no-huddle scheme that is aggressive from the get-go. Now that we’ve seen a season in the books for all these guys involved, all in this new scheme, we’ll finally get a chance to see the real deal. Will the no-huddle give everyone a chance to show what they can really do? Is the O-line up to the task? The beauty is that we are going to find out!

So what do you think of the O-line? It looks pretty good…today…on paper. But we’re still quite a ways away from Stanford on 9/5.

That’s about it for a Monday. Enjoy heading back to the grind, and as always, GO COUGS!

At Least the Fight Song is Great

July 8, 2009

In a “man, July sucks for college sports” item, they are listing out the top ten PAC-10 fight songs over at Buster Sports.com. They even recruited the help of a retired sports writer from the Oregonian to break down the songs (yes, it is a slow time right now). But that said, guess who came in at #1?

May you continue to rest in peace John Candy…but God bless the character known as Tom Tuttle! By the way, some of you probably know this already, but, did you know that there was/is a real Tom Tuttle? It’s true. Remember Ken Levine, who worked for the M’s for a few years? That same Ken Levine is also an Emmy-winning writer/director/producer (so says his bio anyway). Levine actually co-wrote the screenplay to Volunteers, along with David Isaac, and is responsible for the character. And he specifically wanted the character to be from WSU, and they loved the fight song. Check it out, in an e-mail Levine sent to the “real” Tom Tuttle:

Believe it or not, my partner David and I wrote the very first draft of VOLUNTEERS in 1980. It took five years to get made and released. We honestly pulled the name out of the air. We wanted the character to be real gung ho and for contrast, hail from as far away from the east coast as possible. First we came up with WSU as the college. We wanted the school to be well known (they’re in the Pac 10) but still a little offbeat. We checked out a few fight songs, liked WSU’s the best and settled on that. Then we figured the character should hail from the state of Washington. Tacoma was sort of a funny sounding name and again, a city that was recognizable. We always pictured that the character was a little wired and whenever he introduced himself would say his name and where he’s from. So alliteration was employed to help the name roll off his tongue. Somehow we came up with Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. We just liked the rhythm of it. If we had gone with Spokane it might have been Stan Stodell from Spokane.

Cool.

Anyway, as the Buster Sports article says:

1. Washington State: “Fight Song”

Maves: Written a long time ago by two women, which doesn’t matter much. But they were both music majors, which does matter. Rhythmic, balanced, inspirational.

Notice who’s #10 on the list?

10. Washington: “Bow Down to Washington”
Maves: This thing is horrid, with neither rhythm nor timing nor anything to recommend it. It’s unsingable and barely playable. They have a really cool secondary song called “Victory for Washington” which is actually pretty good, but it ain’t the official song. Damn shame.

I’m sure it’s WSU’s fault that they are #10. Some how, some way, we’re responsible?

Moving on….

Meanwhile, they have announced who will be representing the different schools at PAC-10 media day, July 30th in LA. And none other than senior center Kenny Alfred will be on hand to answer the expected avalanche of “do you have any hope for this season?” type questions. I like Alfred, and without a doubt he’s the most experienced, decorated player on the WSU offense coming into ’09. A good choice for coach Wulff here. I think Alfred will say what’s on his mind?

Finally, something kind of cool here. A few months ago, a poster on a message board created an interactive Google map for PAC-10 recruiting this year. The map shows the geographical locations of all the current commits, for each PAC-10 school. Check it out:


The map is completely interactive too. You can click on a school logo, and instantly get a pop-up of the player name and photo. But the most interesting thing to me was to see the different areas of the country that Stanford has been reeling ’em in. They are ALL OVER the map, which is pretty remarkable. They currently have 23 commits, the most in the conference, and are sitting at number five IN THE COUNTRY in the early recruiting rankings. Again, pretty remarkable for a program just three seasons ago had one of the worst teams in the modern PAC-10 era.

I know Stanford is a different animal in terms of academics, literally an Ivy League school on the west coast. But I guess they are at least one example where if you get the right coach and the right system in place, it can turn around in a few short years? Anyway, you can get the whole interactive map here.

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

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!