Archive for the ‘Matt Eichelberger’ Category

Eichelberger Key to ’08 D?

August 21, 2008

While we mostly lament the defensive tackle situation as the likely “soft spot” on the defense, and the praise mainly goes to A’i Ahmu, well, what about Eich? After all, big 77 does have some good girth inside (6-4, 325 last year) and experience the last three seasons. But he’s been mostly overlooked, and it’s not hard to figure out why. He hasn’t lit it up when he’s gotten his chance.

2005: Three tackles, one sack.
2006: Two tackles.
2007: Four tackles, one sack.

Not exactly Rien Long. But like a lot of things new for the Cougs in 2008, it’s a whole new Eichelberger. Per the TNT’s Todd Miles, Eichelberger got serious about his body. How serious? He dropped 30 lbs, now a biscuit under 300, giving him an extra dimension of quickness that he hasn’t been able to flash in the past. And the weight loss isn’t just about taking off the shirt at the beach with a newfound confidence and swagger. It’s much more than that.

“First of all, he’s been a great leader by example, and he’s bought into what we’re doing,” said Malik Roberson, Eichelberger’s new position coach for the Cougars. “We asked him to lose weight, become quicker and be able to stay off the ground.”

And as Miles says, even all-league center Kenny Alfred has taken notice of the new and improved Eich. And what do you know, we’re roughly one week from kickoff and Eichelberger has emerged as a starter next to Ahmu inside. Not JC transfer Bernard Wolfgramm, not Toby Turpin, not anyone else but Eichelberger.

Let’s not sugar-coat things however. A strong year would be a nice jolt out of him inside, but I don’t know if we’re suddenly looking at a budding star. But I don’t think we require him to make headlines. Simply stand your ground, eat some space, and the rest will fall into place. And as we’ve touched on in the past, a strong push by the defensive tackles have always been a staple of the best WSU defenses in school history. Jeremy Williams and Tai Tupai in 2003. Rien Long along with Williams and Tupai in 2002. Leon Bender in 1997. Chad Eaton and DON SASA(!) in 1994. Create havoc inside, and the trickle-down is beneficial to not only the d-ends, but the linebackers are suddenly free to do what they do best – RUN AND HIT.

Speaking of defensive tackles, now that JC transfer Josh Luapo won’t enroll until January, WSU has moved to replace him on the roster. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis has been added to the roster in place of Luapo and ready to go this year. Hoffman-Ellis is a JC outside linebacker who had91 tackles and a pair of sacks in 12 games last year out of Moorpark JC. Here’s some highlights:

Looks pretty good, although of course, it is a highlight tape. But he looks physical, fairly quick, doesn’t give up on plays. Pretty intense too. And all those highlights were as an 18-year old freshman playing his first year of JC ball, so that’s a pretty impressive first year. And you have to like the special teams coverage. He looks like he could walk right on to the field next Saturday for the opening kickoff!

ESPN’s Ted Miller has given WSU his best-worst case scenario treatment. Looks like 8-5 is the best we can do, and 2-11 is the worst. Personally I think the best case can be better than 8-5, but that’s if EVERYTHING falls into place. You know, we stay totally healthy, Rogers is a GOD at QB, the defense takes huge steps forward on the d-line and in the secondary, the special teams become an asset….etc. But will we really be a two-win team?? I mean even in Poop Island days of the late-90’s, we at least won THREE games!

Finally, the wonderful Vince Grippi has a preview of the special teams. Steve Broussard is leading the charge, but everyone else will help out. It’s not going to be easy however, and as Wulff has been saying during camp, starters are going to have to play special teams out of necessity. As our own AtlantaCoug has pointed out, from the story:

“We want to play the best players who are going to help us have success on that particular special team,” he said. “If some of our backups aren’t capable of helping us do well, we’ve got to play starters.

“Ideally and eventually, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, our program will be as such where our backups will be major contributors on all the special teams. Our depth does not allow that right now. It’s going to be a while before we’re afforded that luxury.”

Sigh. Someday we will have depth, but probably not much of it this year.

One final note – please say an extra prayer for our own Hooty McBoob. We won’t go into the details here, but just know that a fellow Coug is dealing with a very difficult family situation right now. Our hearts and prayers are headed Hooty’s way. Hang in there brother.

Have a great Thursday. As always, GO COUGS.

Thursday Stuff, D-Tackle Style

July 31, 2008

Lots of links inside and outside of the WSU universe, so we’ll jump right in.

First of all, a huge thanks to a reader and fellow Coug Kristopher Jones. Kristopher is pretty gifted as a video guy, and sent me a few new creations. These are from the glory days, going way, way back….all the way to 2001!

Great work Kristopher, and thanks again. The videos are an eye-opener for three big reasons: 1) We were really good back then, and Gesser was just a total winner; 2) I don’t know about you but it gets me pumped up for some WSU football; and 3) We have a LONG way to go to get back to this level don’t we??

One can at least have hope with some of the 2003 highlights. You know, a team that not many people thought was going to do much after losing their senior record-setting QB, and the understudy who was taking over was a senior with limited playing time over his career (and some rough playing time spots at that). But 2003 was a special, special team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball with three starters in the secondary who have played in the NFL.

That brings us to today. The biggest difference compared to where we were in 2003 vs. today isn’t just the overall talent on that defense. We remember the flash-n-dash speed of Acholonu and Brown off the edges. We remember the speedy, physical linebackers with Derting and Don Jackson and either Scott Davis or Al Genatone. But the one spot people forget? The defensive tackles. The most underrated aspect of that great run from 2001-2003 are the defensive tackles. Rien Long, of course, the big-time force inside as a first team All-American, Outland trophy winner, etc. But it was the presence inside with guys like Jeremy Williams and Tai Tupai and even Steve Cook rotating inside with power and energy that allowed the defensive ends to fly up the field in one-on-one situations and make plays. It was those guys on the inside that helped occupy the center and guards on the opposing offensive line, allowing the linebackers to flow to the ball and make plays.

Now look at what our tackles look like today. Well, there’s A’i Ahmu.

The long-maned wild-man is a whirling dervish inside, a ball of power who can shoot gaps and get upfield. He’s a playmaker from the D-tackle spot, and could have a huge senior year. Of course, IF HE’S HEALTHY. Ahmu started 11 games in his true frosh year in 2004, and everyone thought we had a true star on our hands. But oh those injuries. That stress fracture that just never seemed to heal was his undoing, and now, he’s started just 11 games over the last two years COMBINED. We need a hero inside, and Ahmu is our best bet but obviously has to stay healthy.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Ahmu is the only tackle on the roster. I like Eich, as in Matt Eichelberger. But Eich is a senior already, and we pretty much know what we’re going to get there. He can occupy some space with his 6-4, 317-lb frame, but he isn’t exactly a major force inside. He’s been a backup his whole career, so there isn’t a whole lot of hope that he’ll turn into a ferocious beast that cannot be contained. If Eich can be neutralized by one offensive lineman, we might have a problem in helping ease the likely double-teams that either Ahmu will see inside, or Andy Mattingly could see on the outside with a guard sliding out to help the tackle assigned to Mattingly.

Maybe the hero is going to be JC transfer Bernard Wolfgramm? Wolfgramm looks to be Ahmu-like in his playmaking ability on the defensive line. He’s played a lot of D-end, and he really stood out on tape in the recruiting videos that were shown at the various banquets this winter. But Wolfgramm is projected to possibly play, if not start, at a D-tackle spot. He has the size at 6-3, 270, and serious athletic burst to where he could overwhelm some bigger, slower, less athletic offensive guards. Pair him up with Ahmu on passing downs and it could be an inside surge we haven’t seen in a long time around the Palouse.

But of course, there’s always a catch. First, Ahmu needs to stay healthy. Hold your breath there that each day of camp you don’t see the news that you dread. And Wolfgramm might make an impact, but as is almost always the case with JC’s, they need some time to get settled. It’s no secret that even the best JC’s take the first month or so to figure it out and hit their stride, so, we might be into October before we see what Wolfgramm can really do at this level.

The other wildcards in the mix? Toby Turpin, Tyson Pencer and Andy Roof. Turpin had little impact last year, just four tackles as a redshirt frosh in very limited playing time. But he looks the part at 6-6, 270, with room to put on more weight. Given the current depth chart, you have to believe Turpin will see several opportunities this fall to factor into the rotation. Pencer is finally coming after a long journey from Delta, BC, where he delayed enrollment at WSU until this year. Pencer has the frame and is still growing. Originally listed at 6-6 and a still-growing 260 lbs, Cougfan’s latest insider piece has him now a strapping 6-7, 274. He is destined to play inside with that size. But he hasn’t played a down yet at any level beyond high school, so, it’s tough to predict how he’ll do. But the door is open for him to make an impact this fall.

And finally, the ongoing Andy Roof saga. What’s interesting is the nugget Wulff unveiled at media day last week, that charges still haven’t been filed against Roof. Given the firestorm of negative press against him when the story first broke, and to consider that it’s now a few months later and still no charges seems a little odd. Maybe the circumstances surrounding the Roof story aren’t exactly as they appear? I know we’ve had several people tell us that we don’t know all the facts, and that there is a huge side of the story that isn’t out for full public consumption. We’ll see how it plays out. It’s hard to know what to expect from Roof, if he can play this year. He’s moving to tackle after being an O-lineman his whole WSU career, and he missed the entire season last year, so, who knows. If he is eligible and good to go, hopefully he can shake off the rust and cause some havoc.

Moving on, some links for your enjoyment:

Coach Wulff will host an online chat tomorrow at the official site. He did one earlier in March and it worked out pretty well. Get in there and fire away tomorrow.

The scoreboard is coming along. You can get a live look at it on the top-right of the site, but, the official Martin Stadium site updated with a July 30th photo gallery on the stadium renovations with this pic of the scoreboard:

Some people have mentioned that it’s been doing a lot of tests lately, and that it’s hard to tell from pictures but it looks really, really good.

You think we had some off-the-field troubles with 25 “problems” in an 18-month window? Have you heard about Penn State lately? Try 46 offenses over the last several years. It’s so bad that ESPN did an Outside the Lines segment on their troubles. Joe Pa is 81 now, so you have to wonder why he’s still hanging on with all this turmoil. Penn State kicked a couple of defensive linemen off the team yesterday, and it could only be the beginning. What a mess.

That’s about it for a Thursday. Enjoy your day, and as always, GO COUGS.