Archive for the ‘Kevin Norrell’ Category

Spring Practice Questions, WSU Football Blog Style

March 26, 2009

So with spring ball upon us as of today, the optimism is there. Some great comments out of all of you the last few days, so the enthusiasm for football is still alive. They just couldn’t kill it after 2-11! Now it’s not overflowing with talk of “we’re going to open multiple cans of whoop ass”, but still, there does seem to be a good feel that things are about to get better.

Paul Wulff intimated as much yesterday in the WSU chat. While he didn’t roll out the pom-poms and lead everyone in the fight song, you could tell in his own, understated tone that he likes the direction. He really went into great detail about his feelings on these here “internets” and such:

Allen (Covington): Coach- in your opinion do Internet recruiting services help or hinder your recruiting process as a coach? There’s quite the debate online and offline (see Meat Market by Feldman).

Paul Wulff: They do both.

Well OK then.

Due to the lengthy responses from coach Wulff, I’d like to warn our affiliates we’ll be going over…
To repeat, warning our affiliates, we WILL BE GOING OVER our allotted time….

But back on topic, there are questions. MANY questions for this team, and what’s to come. Not to TOTALLY RIP OFF Vince Grippi from yesterday….by the way, Vince, “JC Levenseller”? We love you, and you won that phony election last year…but come on man.

Anyway, here are three super-terrific questions that we thought were relevant to what needs to be addressed, cleaned up, fixed, blown up, whatever….

1) WHO IS GOING TO THROW IT??

We WANT to be thrilled with Marshall Lobbestael’s potential. Seriously thrilled. And let’s face it, the kid did show some major moxie in his limited time last year. Oh, he didn’t go out and lead a titanic upset or anything. He had a few shining moments against Oregon, but how excited can you get over a 63-14 loss?

But in looking at Lobbestael, you almost have to just throw out the win/loss type stuff and realize all that was working against him last season. Such as a patchwork offensive line that had a different starting lineup throughout the first seven games, an ineffective running game, and an offense in general that lead the solar system in giveaways. Combine that with a massive malaise that overtook this team the first half or so games of 2008 with the flip-that-culture program running into some, uh, resistance, it is now pretty apparent that he simply wasn’t going to succeed. But to Marshall’s credit, he came in under said circumstances and held his own, leading the team in passer rating (103.7) and TD passes (4) in five games.

Wow, think about that for a second. A redshirt frosh QB played in just five games, and LED the team in TD passes with FOUR?? Who the?? WHAT THE?? Ryan Leaf used to have that many in one game, heck, one HALF. Mike Price is rolling over in his palatial El Paso estate (I didn’t say rolling over in his grave because coach Price isn’t actually dead….it’s just his career that has flat-lined). But those team-leading four TD passes is a real eye-opener isn’t it?

The biggest worry about Marshall is that knee.


I mean the kid did just blow that thing out on October 11th of last fall. It might feel like a long, long time ago, but that’s less than six months from right now. We hear that he’s made a ton of progress, enough so that he’ll actually participate in seven-on-seven skeleton drills this spring. Encouraging? Absolutely. But will he REALLY be ready for game action this fall? Not only do we have to hope for a full recovery in his knee, but will this injury rob him of his ability to move effectively? He’s not a Jeshua Anderson-type sprinter, but the kid could move pre-blown knee. Will he be able to do so post-injury? And how long will it take him to not only survive, but actually thrive on that knee? Mentally will he build up his confidence? I don’t know what you think, but he can wear the yellow no-contact jersey all fall camp and look great doing it. We aren’t really going to know until the season opener vs. Stanford. And we can be assured that the Cardinal D isn’t going to take it easy on him either. He will get hit, hard, for the first time in a long time. We just won’t know until that moment if he is all the way back.

So if Marshall just isn’t ready, what are the other options? JT Levenseller showed some spunk. But he has thrown just 34 passes in very limited time. He was tied with Kevin Lopina for 3rd on the team in TD passes. Of course, that number is ZERO. Young Levy has good feet, and from the looks of it, his arm passes the eye test. His skill-set appears to be a good match in the Todd Sturdy offense.

I know I’m excited as can be about this kid’s upside and reported intangibles from all who have been around him. But again, a bushel full of questions with him.

Finally, Kevin Lopina. What can we say? He evolved into a leader in the locker room, calling out the quitters and bad apples when things were falling down around him. For that, he gets points. And that throw to Jared Karstetter was enormous, a throw that will go down in AC history as one of the biggest plays in the series, pro-WSU style. And he is tough as can be, coming back off a fracture in his back to give it everything he had. But all that said, is it enough? How can we ignore his zero TD/11 INT ratio? Is that a starting QB in the PAC-10? You hate to be harsh on the kid, as he gave every ounce of sweat he had for this program last year. But I think many can agree that we might be best served if Lopina is the backup.

One nugget from the Paul Wulff chat yesterday is that the door is NOT closed on Lopina starting.

David California: On a recent radio show you stated there would be only one senior starting on offense in 2009. Would it be safe to assume that person is Kenny Alfred?

Paul Wulff: At the time, what I meant was there could be only up to one senior starting, the only proven senior being Kenny Alfred. But obviously, Tony Thompson has a clear shot at starting, as well as Kevin Lopina and Dwight Tardy.

Oh.

2) WHO’S GOING TO CATCH IT?

Gone is Brandon Gibson, who led the team in catches (57), yards(673) and TD’s (2). All numbers down across the board when you look back at how productive a player Gibson was in his career, but given the overall state of the offense, not too shabby either. Jeshua Anderson is back, second in catches (33) and yards (305), but yeah, there’s this whole track thing to think about. Hard to know exactly what he’ll be able to do by this fall after missing another spring practice session this year. Can’t exactly fault the kid either, I mean he’s clearly special in track and field, Olympics-type special. But there is also no doubt that he’s missing some valuable practice time to mesh with the updated offense, potential new QB’s, etc. It is what it is.

But the youngsters, while they didn’t pop with blazing numbers last year, are intriguing. Kevin Norrell played a lot as a true frosh, and while not a big physical presence, he did show some upside averaging 11.3 yards per catch. He’ll get a huge chance to shine this spring/next season. Daniel Blackledge was a little beat up last year but he too showed something, and has drawn some recent praise from Wulff. And Jared Karstetter was pretty overwhelmed as being force fed into the lineup as a true frosh last year, but there are some things to be excited about with him. Like, oh, I don’t know, a certain 48-yard catch in a certain game last year?


Most of all, these youngsters all got their first season out of the way. If anything, they’ve learned what it is like to line up across an all-conference talent like USC, Oregon or Cal rolls out every week. They shouldn’t be as overwhelmed by the moment this year. But boy, they will need to step up and be ready, asap. Plenty of opportunities available!

3) WHO WILL LEAD THE DEFENSE?

Gone is the “triangle” of Greg Trent at middle linebacker, A’i Ahmu at defensive tackle, and Matt Mullennix and his 1.5 knees held together with scotch tape at defensive end. All three gave what they had, each and every week, to help shore up a porous D that gave up tons of yards per game(443+) and points per game (43.8). While the world crumbled around them, they did what they could to try and hold things together.


So who shall lead them? My money is on Louis Bland, Xavier Hicks and Andy Mattingly. Bland, of course, burst onto the scene as an undersized true frosh who slid to outside linebacker. Next thing you know, he’s all-frosh with 55 tackles, nine for loss, including a couple of sacks, an INT return for a TD, and some huge knocks in the Apple Cup victory. But Bland has exuded “special” since he set foot in Pullman, and there was already talk LAST YEAR about Bland possibly being a team captain!

Xavier Hicks meanwhile has really turned it around. A big hitter with some meathead moves off the field, he appears to have taken well to the leadership of Coach Wulff. Even missing the first three games of last season didn’t keep him from finishing second on the team in tackles (78) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (2). Hicks might be the best all-conference candidate of the entire defense, and the timing might be right for a huge senior year.

Finally, Mattingly. A huge 2007 season as a breakout force at linebacker with the well-documented tackles (91) and sacks (8), 2008 was a lost year. Mattingly’s move to defensive end resulted in almost HALF the tackles from 2007 (44) and his sacks were trimmed from eight to just one in ’08. The good news is it appears they have seen the light, and Mattingly actually moved back to strong-side linebacker the last couple of games in 2008, and sure enough, the move is now permanent with the release of this spring’s depth chart. Very nice.

So that’s it. The three biggest questions (with possible answers?) to this team. There are many more, of course, ones that we didn’t even scratch the surface on. What do YOU think are the biggest questions facing this team? And what answers might you have to fix what’s BROKE?!?

That’s it for a Thursday. ENJOY YOUR DAY, 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!