Archive for the ‘Marshall Lobbestael’ Category

Marshall’s Knee the Key to Day One

August 10, 2009


Finally. It’s on. And not a moment too soon. I think we’re all about “previewed out”, wouldn’t you say? I mean there is only so many ways you can look at the upcoming season before it all just kind of runs together. So enough of all that. It’s time for the real thing. And now with cool new practice jerseys, including the Nike swoosh!

I’m sure by now you have heard all you need to hear about day one, and while there are a lot of stories and such, Vince’s blowout recap from yesterday is the place to be. He also weighed in this AM as well with even more links and so on. Safe to say Vince has come out swinging in round one!

The toughness theme is there, and that’s great. And really, is there any doubt that getting bigger/stronger/tougher is a theme that they are pushing for this year? When we saw them in practice a little bit this spring, and again after spring ball was over and Vince recapped the whole session, they did appear to be overall a tougher, crisper unit compared to the ragged ’08 season. Even with some of the injuries and missing faces from the spring, they just looked, I don’t know, different.

But it’s not just for this year. As long as coach Wulff is at WSU, what we are going to see beginning now and into the future is a group that will pride itself on being a physical football team. It has been drilled into them since Wulff took over, the new approach to conditioning and nutrition and all that. It’s not just lip service. It will be this program’s identity, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

But of all the talk and excitement from day one, the early word I’m hanging my hopes on right now? Marshall Lobbestael and Jeshua Anderson.

Marshall was mentioned in Vince’s post about the knee feeling good:

Lobbestael is coming off knee surgery, though he said it’s fine. “Feels good,” he said. “Got a new brace and it feels good. I was running, doing drops and stuff. I’ve just got to get used to doing everything. In spring I was sort of held out some drills, some running plays, but it feels good.”

Lobbestael would throw the day’s only TD in skeleton drills. Big whoop right? Hey, We’ll take WHATEVER WE CAN GET right now!

And the fact that Jeshua is out there practicing is very good news indeed. Even if it wasn’t 100% clear that he would even return to the team until mid-July (did you know that?? It’s not a surprise, but waiting until mid-July before deciding certainly is.). The team is, let’s face it, lacking in play-makers at the WR position, and all things being equal, Jeshua is the biggest homerun guy in the lineup. Want to stretch the field and keep things honest? You better have a healthy, productive Jeshua out there to give the opposition a little something to think about. Even though we all expect the running game to be deep and all that, still, you better be able to get some things done through the air or else it could be another rough season with the football.

That’s it for now. Look for some first-hand impressions from our own Longball in the coming days, as our Pullman “townie” should have some good looks at the team. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

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Is There a Real QB Question in Pullman?

July 7, 2009


Greetings Coug Nation. As usual, we hope you enjoyed a nice, long holiday weekend. But now that it’s behind us, time to start looking ahead. Over the last few months, we’ve spilled an awful lot of ink looking at the upcoming opponents for good ‘ol WSU. But now, with news slowing to a trickle in this historically slow time of the year, what better time to take a closer look, oh, I don’t know….the Cougs??

And with that, what better place to start than at the most important position on the field, the QB? And with some pretty good timing at that, as Cougfan yesterday ran a poll in regards to who should be the QB in ’09, Marshall Lobbestael or Kevin Lopina. Did you vote? Further, have you seen the results? As of 6:30 AM today, it’s Ocho Rojo in a runaway.

At first blush, it seemed a little surprising that this was even being asked of the Coug Nation. After last year, with an extended look at Lopina and just a glimpse of Lobbestael, the consensus was that young Marshall was the QB of choice, provided he could bounce back from the rough knee injury. But is it so clear-cut? Is there a chance that this will be Lopina’s job after all? Paul Wulff has been quoted a couple of times this off-season in saying that Lopina’s the returning senior, but Marshall Lobbestael will get a full opportunity to compete for the job. And what about the young wild card in all this, J.T. Levenseller? Let’s take a look….

First, the senior returner, Kevin Lopina.

2008: 87 for 153, 841 yards, 0 TD’s, 11 INT’s. 56.9% completions. 5.5 yards per attempt. Sacked 23 times, for a QB rating of 88.66.

Really a rough line, all the way around. In nine games played, including eight starts, Lopina only broke the 100-yard mark in passing yards four times. That means the majority of his appearances, he was only in double-digits in yardage. And to never find the end-zone in eight starts is kind of hard to fathom.


But it also must be said that the vast majority of Lopina’s playing time came after he suffered the fractured vertebrae. In fact, six starts came after Lopina was knocked out with the injury. And anyone who watched him play post-fracture could see he wasn’t up to speed. Not that he played “soft” or anything. The guy did play hard, as well as stepping forward with leadership in the locker room when the season was completely unraveling. For as bad as last season was in Pullman? Without Lopina calling out some of the quitters, it could have been much, much worse. As in, probably no Apple Cup win.

And let’s face it, the guy did make ONE big play on the season, a play that will probably live on in Apple Cup lore (check out the throw to Karstetter, about a minute into the video):

I guess the reality is that Lopina has to at least be acknowledged for doing what he could last year. To grit through the bulk of the season coming off the broken back, and to show leadership along the way, says a lot about the young man’s character. One can envision that even if he doesn’t win the job this fall, that he’ll still be there to help keep things together. But who knows. Now that he’s healthy, maybe we’ll get to see the “real” Kevin Lopina? The one that had people excited after he transferred in from Kansas State? The one who was a high-profile QB recruit out of Cali powerhouse De La Salle?

Now, Marshall Lobbestael.

2008: 53-for-103, 571 yards, 4 TD’s, 4 INT. 51.5 % completions. 5.54 yards per attempt. Sacked 12 times. 103.08 QB rating.

Not exactly blow-you-away numbers either. Granted, Lobbestael was a redshirt frosh, and he did only start three games last year. So we never really saw what he was – or wasn’t. The “small sample size” argument has to be made here. While he passed the eye test on a lot of plays last year, and showing some real touch on the deep balls he completed, the jury is still very much out on Lobbestael.

But again, we’re talking about a redshirt frosh dropped into the heat of the battle. For his first-ever game action at such a young stage of his career, he was more in survival mode vs. climbing the superstar ladder. And while the completion percentage is a concern, and the yards per attempt isn’t a good thing, the fact that he more or less held his own under some pretty adverse conditions might speak volumes about what’s to come.

The good news is that the kid seems to have some sort of “it” buzz going for him. The coaches have raved about him since early last year in regards to his leadership and personality. Players appear to really like the kid. So far, everyone raves about what they’ve seen of him thus far. So he’s got that going for him. Which is good.

Finally, young J.T. Levenseller.

2008: 17-for-34, 134 yards, 0 TD’s, 2 INT’s. 50% completion percentage, 3.94 yards per attempt, with a passer efficiency rating of 71.34.

Numbers alone make this one difficult, if not impossible, to really judge. He never started a game last year, appearing in just four for the lost ’08 season. He did show some good mobility, and in his last game vs. Hawaii was 6-for-11 for 53 yards, including a season-high 28-yard completion. But again, still far, far too early to make any judgments here.


Health was an issue for young Levy as well. He missed most of spring ball with a broken tibia, and while he should be recovered for camp next month, well, who knows.

In an ideal world, provided both Lopina and Lobbestael can stay healthy in ’09? With Lopina the senior and Lobbestael the more established young QB of the program, one wouldn’t mind seeing JT get a redshirt season this year. Then, when Lopina graduates after 2009, you could have Lobbestael as the starter as a junior, JT Levy as a RS-sophomore, and the promising young recruit, Jeff Tuel, a redshirt-frosh ready to compete in 2010.

So there you have it. A glance at the QB situation as we roll towards fall camp. What do YOU think? Is it Marshall by a landslide? Should Lopina be given a fair shot, now that he’s healthy and most experienced? Or does Levenseller deserve a long look as well?

Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!

Physical Scrimmage a Promising Sign?

April 4, 2009


GRIPPI UPDATE – 6:00 PM Saturday – “Jim Sterk, John Johnson and Anne McCoy are on their way back from Detroit having finished their interviews there, according to a source. We are sure they interviewed UAB’s Mike Davis along with at least two others, Portland State’s Ken Bone and, according to the Birmingham paper, former Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter, though when and where is still unclear.”

Grippi also mentions another candidate could have been in the mix for an interview, but hasn’t been named nor confirmed. Meanwhile a site at Alabama.com has been monitoring the situation from a UAB perspective. They claim that no job offer has been made, but one “could come as soon as today” according to a source. Stay tuned.

I know some people out there aren’t thrilled with spring football. I mean really, how much can be gleaned out of March and April workouts, when it’s not even close to a full roster? Some believe it doesn’t really mean much, or that it’s just another chance for an injury (like Andy Mattingly’s injured pectoral?). Or maybe some players not even enrolled right now will be there in August, ready to make an impact, such as a JC transfer or high school frosh. Or, some just generally think it’s a big waste of time. Even Bill Doba was heard celebrating a few years ago when they decided they wouldn’t practice on weekends in the spring!

But what’s not to like about the latest from Vince Grippi on today’s scrimmage?

One observation: It’s tough to tell whether the Cougars are going to be improved – I’ll leave that to smarter people than I – but it is obvious they are more physical. The hitting today was at a level I don’t believe I saw in any practice last season. These guys like to pound each other.

Me? I like that. And I love spring football. That’s right, I said it. But not just because it’s football…in the spring…I love it because you start to see some things take shape, things only subject to speculation and internet blabber for several months at a time. You know, such as the ongoing QB competition that has Marshall Lobbestael, JT Levenseller and Kevin Lopina each getting a shot to run the offense, even if Lobbestael is limited right now. Watching those QB’s compete in the midst of snow on Wednesday was pretty cool. Not just to watch them go through the drills, but you could see in their body language that no matter what the calendar says, no matter how hard it was snowing in April, they are competing for a job that is wide open. You might not care about what happens right now, but they clearly do. Even in those lousy conditions, they were in there working hard to get better.

I love it because it gives coaches an opportunity to work on some of the finer details, such as Wulff’s emphasis on special teams in an article from the other day. Quick, anyone recall how amazingly awful the special teams were towards the end of the Doba regime? Remember all the times you saw the offense go for it on fourth down from, say, the 25 or 30-yard line of the opponent, simply because of the lack of confidence in the kicker? Remember the squib kickoffs, driven by pure fear for the inability to actually cover a routine kickoff? Remember the 2006 Apple Cup, with the blocked punt for a TD by UW which amounted to the winning points in that game? Fake punts anyone?!?? Special teams can elevate or torpedo an entire season (and take a coaching staff down right along with it).

But most of all, I love the spring for the opportunities that present themselves for a young player to get on the field and learn. Learn from coaches getting paid a lot of money to teach them the fine art of playing football at a competitive level. A chance to learn from reps, time and again, which is the only real way a player can ever hope to improve. You can only watch film and study the playbook for so long before you have to go out there and see it for real, over and over and over again.

Let’s face it, practice and reps are at a premium these days, with so many limitations via the NCAA on the amount or prep time players get with their coaches. While the full roster isn’t even on the field, and most minds are on March Madness, basketball coaching changes or MLB opening day, these spring drills are awfully important for a very young football team. A young football team still trying to learn, grow, and mature. And it’s important for THIS football team, right now. Why?

Because THIS football team hasn’t been to the postseason since 2003.

You know why that is important? Because when you go to a bowl game, you get extra practices, sometimes 15 practices or more, leading up to said bowl game. That’s almost the equivalent of an entire extra spring session, where young players can go through the reps again and again. Think of the advantages of, say, an Oregon State has over Washington State in the last five years. Oregon State, with bowl games in four of their last five years, has had at LEAST 60 MORE PRACTICES than WSU. That’s about four extra spring sessions to learn from their coaches and work on their game. WSU is now in the bottom-third in the conference in overall record since the turn of the century. Meanwhile Oregon State is right there competing for 2nd-best in the conference since the year 2000.

OK, all that out of the way, the first scrimmage is now in the books. Grippi has a good read today from the scrimmage, as well as Marshall Lobbestael’s recovery from his knee injury.

First, Lobbestael – the kid is working his butt off, and coming along nicely. But you know what else? It’s FLIPPIN’ GREAT to hear about the new hydrotheraphy facility!

Through all the stages, Lobbestael has spent time lounging in a pool, though lounging might be the wrong word, considering the pool is in WSU’s recently opened Cougar Mania Hydrotherapy Facility with its underwater treadmill that can reach 8.5 miles per hour.

Each of Lobbestael’s – or any recovering athlete’s – water workouts can be taped from different angles thanks to a series of cameras and a computer monitor.

“In rehab, I was walking on the underwater treadmill almost right away after,” Lobbestael said. “I started out really slow in there and just worked my way up.”

I remember at the last Bill Doba football dinner in the spring of 2007, coach Doba was talking it up about how much that hydro technology “thingy” will help players recover faster and more efficiently from injuries. Back then it was just a dream, but now, reality. Lobbestael is exhibit A, that this is a great investment in the athletic department.

The other thing to take is the mention of Grippi that this was one physical scrimmage. Think about it. How many times do you hear a losing team, in the post-game comments, say “the other team was just MORE PHYSICAL than we were today”. You hear it in basketball, but especially football, and you hear it all the time. The more physical team that sets a tone is generally more successful than the finesse team that backs down when things get rough. Was this a physical team last year? They were a lot of things, but physical isn’t a term I, you or anyone else would use describing the 2008 WSU football team. But I can’t help but like the sound of these guys popping the pads and getting after each other. We know the talk of the players being bigger and stronger, but we’ve heard that before. But this year, to hear that it is actually starting to translate on the field, even if it is just practice? How can you NOT LOVE THAT!?!

Nothing new at this moment anyway on the coaching situation. Interesting from Withers about the wide net being cast at the Final Four (also known as Coaches Job Fair 2009). While losing Tony sucked, and the timing is never great….well, having a PAC-10 opening going into the Final Four, when you’ve proven you can 1) win in Pullman, and 2) get paid $1 million per year in Pullman is a good thing to have in your back pocket. Could be some interesting rumors over the next few days, but we can all be assured that Sterk and President Floyd are doing their best to deliver the right fit for our hoops team.

That’s it for a Saturday. ENJOY THE WEEKEND (is that the SUN??) and GO COUGS!

THIS is Spring?

April 2, 2009


Welcome to spring football in Pullman. Yikes. Not exactly what you order up for the idea of taking in a practice on April 1st?

That said, this post will be like my youngest son – short and sweet. Why? Because yesterday we ventured from the lovely Coeur D’ Alene resort down hwy 95, to at least TRY to take in some spring ball. It sounded like a great idea. The result? Not quite an EPIC FAIL…..but not that far off either. 🙂

First, the drive. If you’ve driven 95 between Moscow and Coeur D’ Alene, you know it can be a long one. But we thought hey, middle of the week, middle of the day even, and on a non-game day at that, it should be smooth sailing. WRONG. You had the snow, of course, snowing sideways and making visability a chore at that. But then you had the locals on the road, doing 35 – at best – in many instances. And good luck trying to pass on a day like this. So let’s just say I started sweating it when we only went 30 miles in the first hour of our 84-mile trip.

And all the while, our own Longball had set up shop in Dupus Boomers, anxiously awaiting our arrival with a birds-eye view of the practice field. Alas, we never met up as Shane had to take off before we could get there. Sorry Shane. We’ll try it again sometime. And hopefully Longball has some good insight to add in a future post, as he watched most of the first hour or more of practice himself.

However, we DID make it for the last 30 or so minutes of the practice. And we did see some things that were worth the trip….

First and foremost, and I’ll get this out of the way. Due to our delayed drive, where we spent about three hours on the road, we only saw the end of practice, and really just the 7-on-7 skeleton drills. That’s pretty much it. And we took in the action from the warm, comfortable setting of the bookie, with a “Madden” EA Sports type view of the field, elevated behind the QB (which was actually pretty cool). And to be kind? The end of practice we saw wasn’t great. In fact, it was almost as sloppy as the conditions. It was tough on the QB’s to make great throws, it was tough for the WR’s to haul in cold, wet balls, etc. So the conditions were less than ideal to get a full read on what was happening.


But what did we see? Well, the biggest/best thing to me was #8, Marshall Lobbestael. And not just seeing him on the sidelines either. Yep, Ocho Rojo was in the QB rotation in said skelly drills, and he looked JUST FINE DOING IT. That’s right, he LOOKED JUST FINE. I know you’ve read media reports that he’s been in there with the yellow jersey and doing the things of a normal QB in spring drills. But I can assure any of you reading this, it will do your crimson heart well to know that he looked as good as can be expected, and then some. He took the snap, made his drops, scanned the field and delivered the ball with confidence. And without a hobble that you might expect from a kid not even six months from MAJOR knee surgery? In fact, other than a brace and a sleeve of some kind on his left lower leg, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that he was coming off an injury like that. It is an absolute marvel that he is out there competing, let alone looking as fluid as he does right now. I was honestly blown away.

JT Levenseller and Kevin Lopina were the other QB’s in the rotation I saw, with each QB alternating snaps in the drills. JT made a few good throws, but had a few sail on him as well. He seemed to be a litte more hesitant with his reads, and checked down to the backs more often than the others, but it was good to see him in there competing. He did make a pretty good throw on a deep fade to the tight end, who was in one-on-one coverage with a safety, but the tight end dropped the sure long gain, which might have even gone for a TD. Oh well, it’s spring. Plenty of time to clean it up. And Lopina looked like, well, Lopina. He seemed more decisive on where to go with the ball, a little quicker on his delivery. But semi-accurate on some throws, while some more or less floated on him as well. It was really that kind of day (or at least that kind of practice at that stage of the day?).

The WR’s were a mixed bag. Jared Karstetter made a couple of nice grabs in traffic, one in which he took a pretty good shot over the middle, but he hung on to the ball. I don’t know exactly his weight difference from last year to this year, but he looked bigger, thicker to me. I wonder if he’ll be a pseudo-tight-end this year in the offense where he’ll venture more over the middle or run more underneath stuff, utilizing his size inside? But that said, there were your fair share of dropped balls as well by the other WR’s. One thing that did stand out to my eyes anyway was that in the view we had, ala the “Madden” view, elevated and behind the QB, I didn’t see a lot of seperation between the WR’s and DB’s covering them. I think that had a lot to do with the QB’s not getting the ball off too quickly, or checking down to their outlet receivers underneath or coming out of the backfield. But it’s not like guys were running down the middle of the field wide open, waving their arms, yelling for the ball. I don’t know if that’s bad for the offense, or good for the kids in the secondary?

I guess that’s about all I can report on. I know Vince is reporting that Andy Mattingly suffered a pectoral injury and was out of pads by the end of practice, but I never saw #45 at all. He was already done for the day by the time we got there.

The reward for making the drive down and braving the snow? SELLA’S! Wow do I miss that place. It has that Sella’s smell that you know, as soon as you walk in, just like coming home. And both boys worked hard on drawing on their placemats, hoping to get theirs up on the wall like so many before them. But while that didn’t work out, they were thrilled with the whole experience, and ended up taking their placemats home with them.


Best of all? While my 5-year old was more interested in the train at the depot downtown, my 8-year old has now given a verbal commitment to become a WSU Cougar. He has been to Pullman before for football games, but it’s funny how coming on a snowy day in April has closed the deal. He loved walking around campus, loved the Cub, loved the bookie, loved the whole thing. But he also declared that “I will eat at Sella’s three times a day when I’m living here!” I told him if that’s the case, he’ll gain so much weight they will end up rolling him up and down the Hill for classes. Not going to happen.

That’s it for today. ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!

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!

Wulff Speaks, Plus Other Stuff

March 19, 2009


Can it really be, a WSU FOOTBALL story!? Wow. But it’s true. And hard to believe they are going to tee it up in just over a week? Also true. Spring ball is nearly upon us, ready to roll on March 26th, and the first round of media is starting to hit cyberspace. Paul Wulff spoke to ESPN’s best college writer on the planet, Ted Miller, and gave some pretty good answers to some pressing questions, including the fact that Wulff isn’t exactly “phased” by the arrival of the Twitter King, Steve Sarkisian?:

Did things feel any different in recruiting when Washington hired Steve Sarkisian?

PW: Not really. Everything was pretty much the same. Anytime you have a coaching change, a staff change, there’s always that new energy and hope. Any school you are recruiting against, regardless of the team, when there’s a new staff there’s always renewed energy for a little while. But I think that all slows down after a year or so. There was obviously a breath of fresh air on their side of it, no question.

There’s some other good stuff here, including Wulff singling out some players who have had a pretty good off-season. And oh yeah, Marshall Lobbestael is not only going to participate in 7-on-7’s, but he’s already been reinstated from the whole puke-in-a-McDonalds-bag-gate thing…

Meanwhile, the UW Husky Stadium money grab is starting to look pretty real. Even though some media outlets are downplaying the reality of it happening, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. Others who follow this stuff and read deeply into the comments of these state reps believe this thing has a chance. A bill in the Senate has been released, called SB6116. This bill has some language pertaining to the county’s ability to tax for things like “stadiums” and “arenas”, but it doesn’t specifically say Husky Stadium or Key Arena by name. However you get the drift. Basically the word is if this bill passes the gaze of house speaker Frank Chopp, well, then UW is going to pull this thing off.

Our friend “Stiffmiester” asked last night in comments, but it’s a very good question – how do the WSU faithful feel about this? Maybe there is a bigger picture angle here, that if they DO in fact toss some tax money UW’s way, that President Floyd and Jim Sterk will be running up the steps in Oly, with future renovation plans under their arms, “shovel ready” and all that? Maybe in a way, we lose…but we could also win? And if it greases the skids for a Seattle Center renovation, which includes a Key Arena remodel in an area that so desperately needs not only a renovation but also an anchor tenant that can deliver 15,000 fans for at least 41 nights a year? See where I’m going with this? YES, it would suck if UW gets their $300 million dollar facelift. But if it means WSU can now ask for the same thing with a straight face? And Sonics 2.0 rise from the ashes, under the umbrella of Steve Ballmer?? Hmmm, maybe it’s not so bad after all….

Oh, Darth Vader. He’s at it again. This time, just being a total smart-ass:

So, the Madness BEGINS today! Who ya got? I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling about Gonzaga this year. This seems to me like it’s their best team in forever, maybe since their Elite 8 team so many years ago? They seem to have it all, including a bum ankle on Ty Lawson, Carolina’s amazing point guard who makes that engine run. Don’t forget, Gonzaga took down Carolina in NYC two years ago. Granted, the characters are different for both teams than they were back then, but that upset was with a healthy Josh Heytvelt causing all sorts of problems vs. Psycho T Hansborough.

We shall see. My Final Four was a little odd, but I’ve got Louisville and Memphis on one side, while yep, Gonzaga, and Pitt on the other side. Louisville cuts down the nets on Championship Monday.

But what do I know?? Nothing. 🙂

Finally, have you heard the Casey Casem prank call? Howard Stern’s guys did a call where they took some sound clips of him and had him call a Chinese restaurant. Check it out:

That’s it for today. ENJOY YOUR THURSDAY, and GO COUGS!

Wednesday Ramblings

January 29, 2009

Some pretty good stuff floating around so we’ll get right to it.

Cougfan had a good look at the Canadian sleeper, Johnny Forzani. He really is an interesting story. Have you ever seen such intrigue with a kid who didn’t play a down of high school football, yet has already garnered three-star ratings out of Scout.com? But the hype seems somewhat deserved in this case, and it is a special one. A hoops standout who caught serious attention with the football videos he sent around, he showed up at a tryout camp for the Calgary Stampeders junior team and blew them away with his size (6-1, 204), athleticism, and speed (4.37 to 4.45 in the 40??).

As Scout.com said in their evaluations:

“On Forzani, you notice first how quick off the line he is,” says Brandon Huffman, Scout’s West Coast analyst. “Some receivers don’t utilize their first step right but that’s not the case with Forzani.

“He’s got very good speed, and has good explosion. His size will help him in the Pac-10, especially against smaller corners. He’s got a good combination of speed and strength that you notice early and often in the film. Body wise, he looks like he could be a safety too, but I think receiver is where his best days will be.”

Nice! But that’s not all.

There was also a pretty good read about Forzani and his father, John, a former CFL WR who made a good living playing Canadian ball. The whole idea of wearing his father’s number for the Calgary team, wow, that’s pretty cool. He’s got the bloodlines, that’s for sure, and you have to wonder what will happen once coach Levy gets his hands on this kid.

I know, I know, you don’t want to get too jacked about a recruit. But doesn’t he look like your turning-over-rocks type guy who you get through hard work and thinking outside the box?? These kinds of stories, they are just the kinds of things we can probably come to expect out of the Wulff regime, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, on the theme of offense – an anonymous poster informed us that he spied none other than Ocho Rojo, Marshall Lobbestael, on campus yesterday. Big deal, right? Well, he was WITHOUT crutches. Certainly a better sight compared to last fall….


I tried checking it out today but didn’t hear much that isn’t already known. He will be EXTREMELY limited in spring ball and likely won’t truly be part of full practices until the fall. If he does get out there in the spring, it will be very, very light work. But the early word is things are looking pretty good.

While it will make for some good bar-stool chatter, and it should be an interesting QB derby this fall, I would bet the majority believe that if Lobbestael is healthy, he will be THE GUY in ’09? I sure would love to see him ready to go by August and really compete hard for the job against JT Levy and Kevin Lopina.

Most of all, let’s hope whoever the hell wins that job gets the full keys to the car so to speak. You know, like MORE than 50% of the playbook? You’ve all at least been in the system for a year, now let’s see what happens!

The Evergreen weighed in on the ’09 schedule. Not a bad look at next season, and they even take a shot at UW: “The Apple Cup concludes the regular season Nov. 28. The Cougars will head to Seattle this year, hoping to build a three-game winning streak against a Husky team that has a new head coach, a new system, but the same mediocre personnel.” So there.

Oh, and hey, they even throw out a PREDICTION – 5-7? Really? Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it still seem WAY too early for predictions in January? Don’t we need to get through signing day and spring ball, at the very least, to see the way these teams are going to be? You know we will weigh in this spring, and that means a return of the “fishwrap” series where we look at each 2009 opponent.

We’ve made a few changes around this here blog. First of all you might have noticed the “click here for more….plus Comments”. Kind of a cool little feature, it helps keep the front page of the site without too much scrolling for stories. Plus it gives you a jump right to the comments of each story, making it easier for YOU to weigh in. We also put a “latest comment” feature to the right of the page, if you scroll down below the Spokesman Review feed. It shows you the last five comments posted to the site. Interested to see if anyone responded to what you said? Just check there.

Finally, many of you already know this, but signing day is next week….Seriously. There is a free function in Spokane on the 4th, followed by a deal in Shelton on the 5th and the Seattle dinner on the 6th. We will do what we can to get some great coverage, one way or another, and provide the best recap available! But if you attend one of these functions and hear or see something pretty cool, by all means, you are welcome to share it here. The more tidbits we can pass along the better. We’re all in this together….right??

That’s it for now. ENJOY YOUR EVENING, and GO COUGS!

Jack Thompson (J.T.) Levenseller One Play Away

October 14, 2008

The QB quandary continues. First Rogers and Lopina out, Ocho Rojo in. Now Ocho Rojo out until next summer, Lopina back in. But now, Jack Thompson Levenseller has emerged and is looking like the backup to Lopina. At the rate these QB’s have been going down, J.T., keep your helmet on and stay loose.

So what is there to know about Levenseller? Obviously he’s the son of Mike, the former Cougar great WR and longtime assistant. Oh, and the J.T. stands for Jack Thompson, a great friend of Mike Levenseller. Great. But what else? Well, he was a hell of a high school QB in Pullman. Per his bio at Scout.com:

Grayshirted in 2007. Enrolled at WSU in January 2008. Was 23-2 as a two-year starting quarterback at 2A powerhouse Pullman High. First-team all-league quarterback and second-team all-league defensive back in 2006. His senior season he completed 74 of 150 passes for 1,283 yards with 14 tds and 4 ints. He also carried the ball 117 times for 712 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns.

As a junior in 2005 he passed for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs as he led Pullman to a perfect 14-0 season and the 2005 Class 2A state championship; earned first-team all-league and second-team 2A All-State plaudits at quarterback. Son of Washington State offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller. Named after WSU quarterbacking legend Jack Thompson. Also a standout basketball player.

Alrighty then. Looks good so far. State champ, that’s great. But what else? Well, he’s not a huge guy, at 6-1, 195, but that’s big enough. If/when we ever actually do implement the Sturdy offense as seen in Cheney last year, you know that size isn’t that big of a deal. What is impressive are his quicks, as he has reportedly run between a 4.6 and a 4.7 40-yard dash. Not lightning in a bottle, but that’s pretty fast for a QB. The 712 rushing yards in 2006 are impressive, and if you aren’t fast you don’t usually see that from the QB spot. And WITH THIS OFFENSIVE LINE!? You’re gonna need those legs kid.

That said, young Levy didn’t exactly burn up the recruiting wars. He basically chose WSU over Eastern and, later in the process, Hawaii came calling. But it is what it is, and who really cares about all that stuff now? He’s in the program, and with Ocho Rojo’s significant injury, he’s your backup.

The good news is that Wulff has actually talked up J.T. earlier this year. Twice on radio shows, I heard him say that the staff thought he was really coming along and improving by a huge amount since camp. It remains to be seen if he’s ready to actually play in a game, but we sure are close to finding out.

Our own Longball took in some practices this summer, so I will let him comment further on what HE saw with his own two eyes. Longball did speculate that the kid would see the field in some capacity, be it at QB, WR, or even at defensive back, an acknowledgement of the kid’s athleticism.

I found this article on JT at the Evergreen of all places, back after he signed with the Cougs in early 2007. Interesting read. A tough kid and a winner, hey, this could be a great story. Local kid grows up dreaming of playing in Martin Stadium in Crimson, and it sure looks like he is going to get that chance. And in a season heading to hell in a hand basket, we sure could use a good story couldn’t we?!?

We’ll be back tomorrow for the radio show recap. You can be sure the QB situation will be topic 1-A tonight. I’m sure Wulff will address the crappiness of the state of the program as well, and how there is a plan and they are sticking with it. I’m sure he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired. We all are. How many times can he say it? I can’t imagine there is anyone more frustrated than Wulff right now.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!

Breaking News: Ocho No-No

October 13, 2008


This just in from the evil Vince Grippi, lord of the sith:

Marshall has torn BOTH his ACL and MCL and is done for the year.

Obviously, this is more horrible news.

At this point, with #8s long-term status in question, I think that you have to look at J.T.

With 6 more games on the slate, that’s a lot of time for him to get some serious reps.

Then again, can he survive more than a couple games with our-Line?

Chime in.

Are You Not Entertained?

October 7, 2008

Why exactly do you watch Cougar football? Is it because of your student roots, whether you are still in Pullman or a former student/alum/whatever? WSU isn’t exactly your standard “t-shirt” school, where people all over the country buy your gear. That’s no secret. Sure, we had some bandwagon hoppers climb aboard from the 2001-2003 seasons. But those that hopped on at those times have clearly hopped right back off.

My blood runs crimson because I went there, and those of you who went there or still go there can attest at the affection you develop towards the place. It’s hard to put into words, but you simply understand. And because of that affection, that love of all things WSU, is why you care, even in these dark times. It’s why you criticize or celebrate on message boards and comments, even right here on this little site. It’s why you come here, looking for something new. We do what we do because we LOVE it, that’s all.

That said, one of the worst things you can do in sports, whether it’s college or professional, is be boring. Around the turn of the century (2000, to be exact) I worked in a sports news room, where NCAA football and MLB games were logged and sports were reported on a daily basis on a web site. There were people in this news room with all sorts of experiences in the sports media, from ESPN to SI to local stations like KING/KIRO/KOMO. They all had great stories from their various walks of life, and it was fascinating to listen to all the anecdotes of what they had experienced, from all over the country and all types of sports.

But one in particular caught my attention that I’ll never forget. It was from a guy who had a ton of experience, working in the NBA and NHL. He said the worst thing you can be, in sports, is BORING! For example, the NBA model is either go for the title, or tear it down and rebuild, but don’t be trapped in “middle earth”. You know what I mean by the NBA, right? Back when there was a team in Seattle, the most times the Sonics “moved the needle” among the fanbase was when they were contending for the NBA western conference, or when they stripped it down to nothing and rebuilt towards the future with youth like a young Gary Payton or Shawn Kemp. The big losses were OK, as long as GP was throwing alley-oops to the Reign Man and getting on plays of the week. You could see the promise of the future. But those years where they would be a mediocre 41-41, flirting with the 8-seed in the playoffs and getting into the back end of the lottery?? BORING. (note – you cannot bring up the poor attendance and Kevin Durant in Seattle, as everyone knew regardless of how wonderful a player he was/is, the Sonics were history in Seattle.)

The thing is, fans get it. If you are going for it, you are going for it. If you are rebuilding, and you are playing your young talent to point towards the future, then do it and don’t be shy about it. Rebuilding can, in fact, be entertaining. It can be worth the price of admission to get a glimpse at the young talent in the pipeline, and most of all, have hope for the future.


I remember the 2000 WSU football season. A young sophomore QB in Jason Gesser getting his first crack at the full-time starting gig. It was full of potholes and wildly up-and-down performances, from awful losses vs. Stanford and Idaho and UW that year, but also some high moments like at Utah, at Cal, and even at USC(!). But the one thing I took from that team was that it was really entertaining, and full of hope for the future. That was the year of three OT losses, where these young guys played their butts off. You could see glimpses of what Gesser could do, before he went down with the broken leg. You could see a young, high-energy defense with just young kids like Isaac Brown and DD Acholonu coming off the edges. You could see promise with Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Jason David in the secondary.

Most of all, we were ENTERTAINED. They were exciting, promising, and the best point yet, the seeds were planted for an excellent run to follow. 2001-2003 are the greatest years in program history. We’ve never topped that, and we might never again. But the 2000 season meant something. It was simply part of the process, a necessary process we had to experience. We had to see them get knocked down in 2000, so they could get up again in 2001-2003. And as a fan, I know I appreciated the pain of 2000 because of the fruit harvested from 2001-2003.

I heard our own Ian Furness on KJR yesterday. Amongst the gnashing of teeth of the inept Seahawks in New York (yikes), and the husky angst over Willingham, etc, he snuck in a little info regarding WSU. He said that based on who he has talked to over the last couple of weeks, there is a real growing belief internally at WSU that they will be MUCH better the moment the 2008 season is over. There is a strong feeling that there is hope for the future, and that there are some redshirts right now, players we haven’t seen, that will make this team a much better unit in 2009 compared to what we see right now. Furness also mentioned the CAL transfers, like James Montgomery and Brandon Jones, and that they will help a lot for 2009. Combine all that with a promising recruiting class that is forming as one of the best we’ve had in a long, long time, well, the seeds are in fact being planted.

So after this long rant, I ask you – are you ENTERTAINED right now? Do you look at Marshall and see a young Gesser? Do you see Jeshua Anderson making some athletic plays and see another Jason Hill or Brandon Gibson? Do you look at all the young players on defense, with the youth at linebacker and in the secondary, and do you see some promise for better days ahead? I know I have preached for patience, and belief in this coaching staff. I am approaching the rest of the season to hope for entertainment, improvement and most of all, a glimpse at a hopeful tomorrow. What do YOU hope to take from the rest of 2008?

We’ll have a Wulff radio recap available, either late tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!