Archive for the ‘Michael Willis’ Category

Sunday Roster News

July 12, 2009

Some news broke yesterday on the WSU roster, updated prior to next month’s fall practice. The news? Some names you might have expected to be on the roster are missing. Grippi has a good read on the situation, including some quotes from Coach Wulff, so check it out.

While all the names are disappointing, I think the loss of Devin Giles might hurt the most on the field. Projected by some to start at corner this year, even though he missed spring ball due to academics and was a reserve for most of ’08, he did start 12 games in ’07. The senior-to-be was one guy with at least some starting experience in the PAC-10. And for those of you scoring at home, the corner position has been hit hard this off-season. Romeo Pellum, who started 12 games last year, is no longer in the program. Others in some hot water include Tyrone Justin (now known as Aire, per Grippi?), Tyree Toomer, and LeAndre Daniels.

Glancing at the spring depth chart, you wonder how the corner position is going to look once things get going next month. Devin Giles was actually listed as the starter at left corner, but that’s out the window now. Brandon Jones, the Cal transfer who sat out ’08, might elevate to the starting spot. Jones was singled out by coach Wulff during spring as a player who was performing quite well. Jones was technically listed at #2 behind Giles this spring, so it’s easy to see him as the starter now.

We’ll look at the secondary in the coming days, but overall? Things seem awfully thin back there.

Michael Willis is officially gone as well. Not disappointed there, just a little sad that it never worked out for him.

Willis had a long journey to Pullman (just check out all the stories on him from Scout.com, dating all the way back to 2003!). Willis also saw multiple position changes, from safety to corner to WR and back again. Excellent size, outstanding athleticism, and always regarded as a seriously hard hitter, it’s all over for him now. However, per the Grippi article, it appears that Willis is still in school and on track to graduate. So at least he’ll get a degree when it’s all said and done.

Meanwhile, Cougfan.com broke the news that there are four incoming recruits who will delay enrollment until January 2010, with the famous “gray shirt” path to Pullman. Offensive guard Quayshawne Buckley, safety Osi Hosea, defensive end Chris Mastin, and linebacker Terrell Thompson will all miss the ’09 season. Here’s hoping they get their academics in order and we see them early next year.

Finally, it doesn’t have anything to do with football, but Cougcenter has been blowing up with summer basketball updates. Looks like Klay Thompson’s Team USA won the gold today. Cool. If you are interested, check it out.

That’s it for today. GO COUGS!

Eyewitness Report: Longball Observes a Sudden Outbreak of Violence on the Palouse!

August 9, 2008
Autumn is my favorite season on the Palouse and no matter what the calendar says I can tell you it has officially arrived. I know this because today, over the chirping of the birds and the gentle rustling of the breeze blowing through the leaves I heard that telltale sound that heralds the arrival of Fall…
“PASS, PASS, PASS! BALL, BALL, BALL!”

That’s right Crimson Nation, Cougar football is BACK. This morning the boys put on full pads for the first time this season and got after it. Having learned from my mistakes I made sure I had plenty of juice for my camera and came away with some good images of the morning’s action on Rogers Field. There was a lot to see, so today I promise less jibber-jabber from yours truly, and more pictures of your 2008 Washington State Cougars in action.

I witnessed two spirited scrimmages today with skelly and other drills in between. You may have heard that there were some scuffles in the last few practices and today was no different. Below you see a couple of the guys continuing to tangle well after the whistle had blown…

Now some of you may find this worrisome, but I assure you this is a good thing. Football is a violent sport and between the snap and the whistle these guys are mortal enemies. That kind of intense aggression can’t always be switched off with the sound of a whistle so it inevitably spills over into shoving matches like this. Of course we don’t want this kind of stuff costing us yards and downs in a real game, but the coaches have plenty of time to instill that game day discipline in these guys. In the meantime it just shows that the passion and competitiveness we need are there, and those things are much harder to coach.

I was pleased that the scrimmage seemed pretty balanced, with both the Defense and Offense making their fair share of plays. to illustrate this, here are a few images from the intense battle between our receivers and defensive backs…

Above you see Brandon Gibson, 4, running after the catch and just look at that separation from the defender. Not too long after that he hauls in a score…

That’s just Brandon being Brandon. But he’s not QB Gary Roger’s only weapon by any stretch. Here is the resurgent and potentially electrifying Michael Willis, 3, also getting great seperation…


…and moments later, hauling in a score of his own.

But don’t worry, while it may look our defensive backfield is getting beat like a drum, they weren’t hanging their heads at all. Rather, they just tightened their chin straps and made a few plays of their own. Here is Devin Giles, 32, about to step in front of a diving Anthony Houston, 88, to make a difficult pick on this ball…


The offense responded, showing off another one of its many promising weapons as tight end Devin Frischknecht, 80, breaks into the open…


But it wasn’t all wide open spaces for the big tight end. Here you see him sloooooooowly picking himself off the turf after getting leveled by Myron Beck, 13.


Hits like that are exactly what I like to see from our DBs and Myron Beck looks to me like a bona fide assassin in our secondary. To Frischknecht’s credit, he did hang onto the ball and after regaining his breath let out a Braveheart yell, got back on his feet and ran off the field. Just great stuff all around.

We also run the ball sometimes, and as you can see below running back Dwight Tardy, 31, is wearing no protection on his surgically repaired knee.

Tardy ran hard today and continues to look good. That’s newcomer Chantz Staden, 22, behind him who with his helmet off looks like a mini-Steven Jackson. Promising young running back Marcus Richmond, 20, showed off his speed, finding his way round the end of the 2nd string Defense for a TD.

Not to be outdone, below, backup QB Kevin Lopina, 19, finds running room up the middle on a designed QB sneak.

But the defense came to play too. Below they celebrate after recovering a Greg Trent forced fumble…

Gotta love the defensive coaches getting into the celebration. Is that coach Akey circa 2003?

Now as Coug fans we are all programmed to worry about our offense’s effectiveness in short yardage situations, especially on the goal line. Here we see the 1st team Offense punching the ball into the end zone from just a yard out.


Of course it remains to be seen if we can pull this off in a real game.

Another area of concern for most Coug fans is what is usually called the “kicking game”, but for us recently has been more of a “shanking game”. Aww the life of a kicker…

This is where they hang out for most of the practice, shootin the breeze, stayin loose until suddenly, after HOURS of not really pedaling at all on those bikes, they are called to action! This year, the brave souls that will face off against those pesky uprights are incumbent Wade Penner, 35, and new comer Nico Grasu, 29.

And here is Penner…

…shanking one to the right. And for good measure, here is Grasu…

…shanking one to the left.

Hey, I can’t bring you only good news. Heck, if there was only good news we wouldn’t be the Cougs, would we? On a brighter note, on the very last play of the practice Penner booted a beautiful kick through the uprights from pretty far out (I have no depth perception, but I think it was 40+ yards at least).

Now for the impact rookie watch… you may have heard some buzz about freshman wideout, Jared Karstetter, 84. Here he is running down a ball that is just out of his reach…

He had a case of the dropsies in drills today, but overall it is apparent what the buzz is about. He has great size and athleticism, and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

Now I would be remiss (and a disgrace to my Alma mater) if I didn’t highlight another exciting rookie, freshman QB and Pullman High’s own JT Levenseller, 5 (yes, coach Levenseller’s son). Here JT stands and delivers…

JT may not have the size to be a full time QB, but he is a great athlete and tenacious competitor. I would not be surprised at all to see him on the field some day, perhaps as a slot receiver, or even a defensive back. Meanwhile, in spite of any doubts I might have, he is working hard to be our QB of the future and Pullman Greyhounds everywhere are cheering him on. Go Get ‘Em JT!!

Now some of you may be asking, “Where’s the beef, Longball?” I hear you loud and clear. Stay tuned for more pictures of the BIG boys on the line going head to head in a clash of titans this morning. So check in later for that and, as always…

Go Cougs!

Spring Has Sprung

April 12, 2008

Greeting, Cougies. Happy Mom’s Weekend…

Speaking of which, let’s start this post off with a little game. See if you can guess which one is the Mom?

OK – That was an easy one just to get you warmed up. How about this one? The first correct response wins an autographed June Daugherty jockstrap.
Speaking of Daugherty, she was one of several hundred spectators on hand to watch the Cougs close out Spring practice at Martin stadium this afternoon, on an absolutely beautiful day. Here she is giving another spectator a big hug behind the west endzone.

The little arms wrapped around Big June’s waist belong to none other than Keith Gilbertson. Disturbing, I know.

It was an absolutely glorious day in Pullman – the first day of legitimate “shorts weather”, Cougar Football and twice the number of women in town as usual.

I arrived in town early for some fraternity business and made my way to the Coug at about 10:15 for my blind date with Longball. To my dismay, the Coug was closed(?!) so I decided to make my way to the Bookie. As I looked up the sidewalk I saw a young guy hobbling around with a cane and knew it must be Longball. (It was good to meet you buddy. Hopefully you’ll be back in fighting shape soon.) We walked up to the Bookie for some caffeine and then headed for Martin.

With the scrimmage having been canceled, I wasn’t expecting a big turnout but there was an easy 1000+ people in the stands and on the sidelines. There were a few die-hards there, including “The 20-Yardline Crew” (above), as well as one guy that I’m sure most of you would prefer to see nowhere near Martin Stadium. Hopefully, the fact that he was wearing shorts and top-siders, instead of a crimson #10 is good enough – but yes, even Alex Brink took in the action.

So Alex (in the baby blue polo), what did you think of Gary Rogers’ arm?

Observation #1 (of actual football stuff): Gary Rogers is big and strong. I’ve known that all along I guess, but I’ve never had the chance to see him throw this much. He looked great in drills, making all the throws – and I honestly didn’t see a single pass with a wobble on it. Toward the end of the practice, the first team O ran the 2-minute drill against the first team D and Rogers drove them down for a score with ease.

Somebody had to catch those passes and on this day, the guy who stood out was Michael Willis. Without hesitation, I would say that Willis was the star of the day. After all his injuries and the move from safety to wide receiver, I would not have been surprised if we never actually heard from this guy – but he was incredible today. Gibson didn’t play much (when he did, he was money), and Blackledge didn’t make much noise, so it was Willis’ day and he made the most of it. He caught a beautiful 40-yard seam between a corner and a safety for the biggest play of that 2-minute drill and then capped off the drive with a nice catch for a TD on a ball that was thrown a bit behind him. Proving that there was a reason he started out as a safety, he also laid some hat, with a crushing block on a nice run around the left side. If Willis can stay healthy, look for big things out of him this fall.

Contrary to what we were lead to believe, several running backs played today and all showed flashes. Mitz and Jace Perry looked good, as did Chris Ivory – who broke a long run down the sideline for a score – and pulled up with a hamstring as he crossed the goal line. He watched the rest of practice on crutches from the sideline. Marcus Richmond and Joe (unfortunately, no relation to Earl) Campbell also saw action.

Rogers clearly outshone the other QB’s in drills and frankly, I was disappointed by Lopina. That is, until he ran the offense. He really didn’t look sharp in drills, but once he started running plays, he looked great. His arm strength is not nearly that of Rogers but he threw several nice balls down the sideline with great trajectory and touch. There were a lot of roll-outs and even some options – but curiously, none of those with Rogers. With Lopina, Lobbestael and Morgan, there was a lot of ball-faking and then either moving the pocket or straight options. With Rogers, it was mostly throws from the pocket. Kind of makes you wonder if we’ll see some rotation at the QB spot this fall. Most of the offense was run from the shotgun but we did see QB’s under center inside the red zone. Lobbestael and Morgan clearly lack the strength needed to make all the throws and I thought Morgan was slow with his reads.

Overall, it was exciting to see us playing this hurry-up brand of football – although there’s still a long way to go. Aside from the one really nice two-minute drill drive, the offense looked confused at times and was derailed by several penalties that prevented them from getting into a good rhythm. Summer conditioning is going to be huge this year – especially for the linemen, I would think.

On D, we saw a lot of 3-4 with a nickel back up near the line. The front 3 was Kooyman on the left, Ahmu and Mattingly. We did go with a 4-3 at times as well, but as promised, there was usually another DB up in the box. I thought both ends played really well, each getting to the QB a couple times as I recall. Dunn and Evans made several nice plays from their ‘backer spots and the nickel back with the first team seemed to be Myron Beck most of the time. Evans may take this defense over as their emotional leader. He was really fired up and made a few nice plays. Beck is new and unproven but made at least one really nice hit; on Perry after a (late) pitch from Lobbestael on an option left. We crowded the box on almost every play and were sending blitzes from all over the place. Sometimes, we’d drop back but it really seemed like someone was blitzing more often than not. Creating confusion seems to be a big part of this scheme. Generally speaking, we did a nice job of getting guys to the quarterback. Lots of pressure with guys flying all over the place. Pellum and Jackson manned the corner spots with Chima and Hicks at safety. I like that combo of thunder and lightning with those two. With his speed, Chima should be able to be an effective centerfielder this year.

Special teams was a bit of a mixed bag. Each of the three kickers on the roster made attempts between 40 and 53. Newly anointed 1st string kicker Patrick Rooney was horrid. I think he missed all of his attempts including a couple that barely cleared the heads of the linemen. At least one kick was blocked (can’t recall who’s). Penner actually made all three of his attempts from 53, though I believe he missed at least once from 40. Myers looks to have a strong leg – maybe strongest of the three – but was very inconsistent with his accuracy. Penner definitely won this competition for the day.

(Speaking of accuracy, I’m sorry about the lack of definitive information here. I don’t get paid to do this, so I don’t feel obligated to take notes…)

There was a kickoff returned for a touchdown, which is both good and bad, I suppose; the aforementioned blocked kick; and some pretty nice punting by Reid Forrest. All the punting was done east to west, with the wind at his back – but he looked very good. One real nice tail-wagger downed inside the 5 by Gibson.
I’d have to say that this team is definitely a work in progress but there was a real sense of excitement in the air. The energy on the field was good (not great) and it was great to see it from both players and coaches. I thought Todd Sturdy really stood out among all the coaches – he has tremendous enthusiasm. It was also in the stands. You can tell that there’s a lot of interest in what’s going on with the new system.

It’s going to take a lot more repetitions before this offense really takes off but once all our guys are healthy and clicking, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. Definitely a breath of fresh air from what had become a very predictable brand of football. As big of a changeup as we’ll be throwing at the Pac-10 this year, I can definitely see us taking a couple games that we “shouldn’t”.

That’s all I got, Cougs. If I didn’t cover anything that you’re curious about, please feel free to ask and I’ll be happy to let you know what I saw.

Go Cougs!