Archive for the ‘Mike Price’ Category

Polls Open, Jackson Makes Announcement

October 31, 2008

Pullman, WA–On Thursday, the venerable Keith Jackson held a news conference on the campus of Washington State University to announce his endorsement of Vincent Grippi and John Blanchette for Washington State College Sportswriter of the year.

In making his decision, Mr. Jackson cited Grippi’s loyalty to “old school journalism” as the primary tipping point in his decision.

The news appeared to overwhelm Grippi, who upon hearing the news, promptly stormed the podium and ran out of the room with the 2001 Sears trophy that accompanied Mr. Jackson to the event.

Elsewhere, Mike Price declared his support for Bud Withers on Thursday.

In his statement, Price described Withers as a “Great Coug” who “you can always count on for well-researched, straight stories that never include my drunken binges at the Sports Page.”

Neither the Moore-Yanity ticket or the WSU Football Blog picked up any major endorsements.

Both declined to offer any public comment, although a person close to the WSU Football Blog called the day’s events “crushing.”

Meanwhile, the final Gallup Poll showed a two-way race emerging as the Polls open:

Grippi-Blanchette polled at 35%, followed by Condotta-Withers at 25%, Moore-Yanity at 22%, and the WSU Football Blog at 18%.

Polls are open through Tuesday.

Jim Walden: "This is a Junior College Team"

October 21, 2008

If anyone has listened to the radio broadcasts this year, you know that it’s been tough on the old guys. Bob-Rob plows through the excruciating play-by-play, and seems to manage pretty well. But Jim Walden, ah yes, the guy lives and dies with every play. I especially love the “OH NO!” or “Ahhhhh” when the other team breaks a big play or a penalty happens against our beloved Cougs. Walden also ripped Jeff Tedford on the air for Tedford throwing hail mary passes up 42-3 in the 2nd quarter, or throwing for the end-zone when winning 59-3 in the fourth quarter. Tell us how you really feel coach.

That is one of the best things about Walden, is that he doesn’t sugar coat things….at all. Last year, after Doba was let go, he was asked his opinion on Mike Price’s return, as well as who should be the next coach. Let there be no doubt, Jim Walden did NOT want Mike Price to return. Period. And Walden also stumped for Paul Wulff. The interview where Walden let loose is still online and available here, if you care to go back in time to December 2007.

Once you cut through the hee-haw, Walden is also pretty sharp when it comes to what he sees on the field. For example, I heard him after the Okie State game lament our lack of defensive line talent, especially at tackle, saying “this is the thinnest, least-talented group of defensive tackles I’ve ever seen at Washington State” and how that was “going to be a major problem this year”. He called that one didn’t he??

Now today, Walden has weighed in on where things are right now. And as always, Walden delivers:

“There’s less talent to work with here than at any time since Jim Sweeney was the coach. With so many freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, what you have, really, is a junior college team. That just isn’t going to do it at this level.”

There’s more. When asked about the job Wulff is doing, Walden broke it down in Pullman-speak:

“If you have nine guys plowing their fields with John Deere tractors and one guy is still using mules, the guys with tractors are going to do a better job and raise bigger crops. That doesn’t mean the guy with mules doesn’t know as much or isn’t working as hard or harder. The guys with tractors just have better equipment. That’s the way it is in the Pac-10. I don’t think Pete Carroll of USC could win more than two games with this bunch.”

Fair enough. Pretty clear picture isn’t it?

Thanks for keeping it real Walden. Not that the older players will really care what you say at this point, as from some of the comments and things we have heard recently paints a “who gives a $hit, who gives a f_ck” attitude by some of the supposed elders. Whatever. But Walden might be as homer-hackish sounding color guy as there is in the game, but he’s OUR homer-hack! And let’s hope he continues to call it as he sees it.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and Go Cougs.

Spring Fish Wrap – ASU Shocker Edition

June 20, 2008

Anyone know what the deal is with ASU fans always flashing the SHOCKER symbol all the time? I know, it’s supposed to be a pitch fork….but I think we know what’s really going on.

Anyway, why go with SHOCKER for an ASU fish-wrap? Well, for one thing it’s cool to see cheerleaders doing the SHOCKER. For another thing, the whole Dennis Erickson to ASU backstory? SHOCKER in itself.

Here’s some solid rumor-mongering for you (take this as you wish, but we have heard from more than one person that this actually happened). Back when ASU was interviewing around for their head-coaching position upon giving Dirk Koetter a copy of the “home game” after the ’06 season, AD Lisa Love of ASU stumbled upon good old Mike Price. One thing led to another, yada yada yada, boom – Love is totally feeling Price, so much so that she was ready to hire him. Only one small thing. As part of the hiring process at ASU, Love needed Price to list some referrals on his application. Guess who was #1 on the list?

psst – if you can’t tell, that’s Dennis Erickson.

Anywho, so Lisa Love calls Dennis, and she’s like “So, hey, tell me about Mike Price” and he’s all “Oh, Mike’s a great guy, graduates his kids, successful on and off the football field…..”and she’s all “Cool” and he’s all “…..hang on a second Lisa…….this ASU job….is it still officially available?” And she’s all “Uh, YEAH!” and he’s like”….can I tell you that I’m interested?” And boom, bada bing, yada yada yada, suddenly Lisa Love is on a plane to Moscow! We know how that turned out….

Meanwhile old friend King of Poop Island is back in El Paso wondering when the deal is done and what color tie he should wear to the press conference…..hmmm, Sun Devil gold? Maybe maroon? Oh, hey, how about BOTH! Maroon and gold stripes! Honey, can you run to the Walmart and see if they have maroon and gold striped ties!??! Yet like a watched pot that never boils, Price’s cell never rings with Love on the other end. News breaks that Love is in Moscow, and the dots are connected. Price’s heart breaks. That SOB did it again.

Ok, in all seriousness, we don’t know with 100% certainty that is the way it went down. We only have heard some chatter about the situation which made it’s way around the RV scene when ASU was in Pullman last fall. It could be complete BS. It could be completely innocent, and Love changed her mind after talking to Erickson. Then again, with a track record like Erickson….you make the call.

On the verge of taking the Miami job: “I’m not interested.”
On the verge of taking the Seahawks job: “I’m not interested.”
On the verge of taking every other job on the planet: “I’m not interested.”

All that out of the way, one cannot ignore Erickson’s college record. 158-68-1 in 19 years at the NCAA level? That is pretty remarkable. Even more, everyone predicted he would turn things around down in Tempe, and sure enough, year one saw them win 10 games before getting throttled in the Holiday Bowl by Texas. That was the game that Mack Brown’s moronic step-son just couldn’t help but try and be part of the game:

That kid took a lot of heat. The thing is, look at all the extra Texas people on the field on that play. It could have been anyone to reach down and hit the ball. One coach in the background is at least 5 yards onto the field. But whatever. It’s good blog-fodder, but that’s about it.

Anyway, how does ASU look coming out of spring ball? Are they ready to challenge for the conference title?

2007: 10-3, 7-2 in the Pac-10, tied for first with USC. After starting 8-0, finished 2-3 including Holiday Bowl wipe out, 52-34, at the hands of Texas.

Offensive Scheme: In the classic Erickson attack, it’s a one-back system, with three WR’s and a tight-end. We’ve seen that same offense in the Palouse for the last 20 years, so you know what they do. The offense played OK last year but I think ASU fans expected a little better. They were only 56th in the nation in total offense, and struggled in the running game, averaging 137 yards per game, or 77th in the nation. With seven starters back, including the QB, they should be better in their second year in the Erickson offense.

Top Offensive Player: QB Rudy Carpenter. The kid is still black-n-blue from the beating he took last year, a ridiculous 55 sacks(!). Our own Andy Mattingly had a career day against ASU last year, blitzing from every angle to bag four sacks of Carpenter in Pullman. But Carpenter still got the job done last year, throwing for over 3200 yards and 25/10 TD to INT ratio. Still, Carpenter took a beating last year:

Carpenter has a good arm and throws a nice deep ball, but he is not your prototype QB in terms of size. He stands 6-2 and weighs in at just over 200 lbs. Not Flutie-like or anything, but 55 sacks would take a lot out of any QB, and he certainly doesn’t have the build for that kind of punishment. It’s hard to finish off the season strong when your QB is on his back every other pass attempt. As Indiana Jones said, “it’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage.”

Defensive Scheme: 4-3 alignment, but somewhat conservative last year. This year is billed to be more aggressive, attacking, blitzing defense now that everyone has settled into the schemes. Craig Bray is the defensive coordinator, and yes, that is the same Craig Bray who spent considerable time at WSU, including help coaching up the defense for the 1994 Palouse Posse and the 1997 Pac-10 champions. The first year under Bray went pretty well, ranking 30th in the nation in total defense, and 21st against the rush. They were third in the conference in passing defense and scoring defense as well. Seven more starters are back on D for the upcoming year, and with a renewed commitment to attacking more, they could challenge USC as one of the top defenses in the west.
Top Defensive Player: Strong safety Troy Nolan looks like the best of all the returning defensive players. Nolan had six int’s last year, just one behind Oregon’s Jairus Byrd for the most in the Pac-10. He also had an impressive 64 tackles and 13 passes defended, good for #8 in the Pac-10. Decent size at 6-2, 210, he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty on defense.

Top Spring Questions:

1) 55 sacks last year? What’s the deal with that? Are they trying to put their own QB in the morgue?

That is pretty amazing to think about the QB actually going down that many times. What you don’t know is how many other hits he took in just getting rid of the ball. But there is supposedly a new commitment to keeping Carpenter healthy this upcoming season from offensive coordinator Rich Olson, including some more “spread ’em out” additions to the playbook. Also look for more quick-hitting pass plays vs. the traditional 5-and-7-step drops. Finally, they will be breaking in three new starters on the O-line. After 55 sacks, as well as the 77th ranked running attack, that can only be viewed as a positive thing.

2) Besides Nolan, who else could shine on an experienced defense?

The answer is actually two-fold, but ASU’s defensive ends look really impressive. Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez will both be seniors this season, and they combined for 15 sacks and 25 tackles-for-loss last year. Davis alone had 10.5 sacks, tied for 2nd in the Pac-10 last year.

But Luis Vasquez….hmm, sound familiar to you? That’s because he committed to WSU out of junior college late in 2006, but once Robb Akey left for Idaho, Vasquez bailed on the Cougs, instead opting to go with Erickson. Thanks again Dennis!

3) How about the rest of the skill positions?

They did lose Ryan Torain, who was having a strong season for the first half before suffering a knee injury that ended his senior year. But the rest of the top running backs are back, led by Keegan Herring. The 5-10, 195-lb back had 815 yards and 5 TD’s last year, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. But junior Dimitri Nance is a load at 5-10, 220. He had an even 500 yards last year with a team-high 7 rushing TD’s.

But where they are really strong is at wide-out. They looked stacked, where they might have the best receiving unit in the Pac-10. Chris McGaha led the team in catches(61) and yards(830). But Michael Jones is the true home-run threat. He had 769 yards, a 16.7 yards-per-catch average and an impressive 10 receiving TD’s, tops on the team and 9th in the conference in scoring. Jones is a nightmare on the edge, at 6-4 and 200 lbs and outstanding hands and speed.

WSU Football Blog Bottom Line: A lot of the experts see big things for ASU in ’08. Some are even saying that they will threaten USC for the conference title, and are showing up as the #2 team in the Pac-10 in virtually every pre-season rag. But are they what they seem? On the surface, I wouldn’t hesitate too much to put them squarely behind USC in the pecking order. But after looking at them a little more, well, I’m not so sure at this point.

First of all, we all know how important the schedule is. Last year, ASU opened the season with four straight home games, and then a road game at Stanford. The road to 5-0 was paved in gold. In fact, six of their first eight games overall were at home. This year, it’s sort of the same…but not really.

Sure, they open with four straight at home again, but one of those four is a doozy – GEORGIA, everyone’s darling pick to win the SEC and even possibly the top BCS title contender! But after that game, they begin a stretch of four road games over their next five. They travel to Cal, and then to USC before hosting Oregon. Then they take consecutive trips north to begin November, at Oregon State on 11/1 and at Husky Stadium on 11/8, before WSU comes to Tempe on 11/15. We all know, playing in the NW in November can be a dicey proposition for a team out of Arizona.

That looks like a real grind beginning with Georgia. They get waxed in that one, it could be tough to get up off the mat, but with the meat of the Pac-10 on the horizon, they won’t have a choice.

But most of all, I really wonder if they can take the heat off Carpenter. The beating he took last year just cannot continue in ’08. If it does, he won’t survive, especially when Georgia gets off the bus on 9/20. I don’t know if you caught the Sugar Bowl last year vs. Hawaii, but that defense was as fast and nasty as I saw out of any team last year, and that includes USC. And while they look loaded at the skill positions, breaking in three new offensive line starters could cause some strain on Carpenter. They better get the kinks worked out early.

No matter what, they are going to be a real interesting team to watch in ’08! It should be another entertaining year. We’ll see if they can match the expectations.

Only two more fish-wraps to go – UW and Hawaii. They will hit next week, and that will be it. Also we’ll be monitoring the Seattle Times tear-down piece on WSU. As soon as it hits, we’ll do our best to filter through the BS and get to the heart of the matter.


The Gess is Best; What Up With Those Beavs?

December 30, 2007

I guess it was a little predictible, but the first-ever WSU Football Blog poll question has selected Jason Gesser as the runaway winner for “Best WSU QB Ever”. More than size or stats, Gesser just plain won. And who can ever forget his guts vs. UCLA in 2002? That performance still resonates today, and will always be with Coug fans everywhere.

Gesser finished with 61 out of 140 individual votes, or 43% of all votes cast. Bledsoe took 2nd with 39 votes, or 27%, followed by Leaf, who finished with 30 votes or 21%. Also interesting…but not really….was Brink finishing way back, with 10 votes, tied with the Throwin’ Samoan.

I guess the voting shows one huge thing – wins, well, win votes. Statistically, Brink is the all-time leader in passing yards and TD’s at WSU, and even won 3 Apple Cups, but he never tasted post-season play. That is the end-result of all this. But maybe it’s not fair for Brink. Maybe some time needs to pass before it’s even much of a debate. He did what he could with limited tools, and was absolutely great in his Apple Cup performances, so he’ll always rate as one of the best. But clearly he’ll never be looked upon as THE best, and no matter if it’s 140 or 140,000 votes, he’ll likely never break the Gesser-Bledsoe-Leaf ratings.

Predictably, this is a slow time right now for the football program. The holidays, the dead period in recruiting, and of course, no bowl game. But there is a little recruiting news. Cougfan has a story about Andrei Lintz, a 2-star TE prospect out of Bellingham. He holds an offer from WSU and has the Cougs as his leader. The usual NW schools are in the mix, but he hasn’t been offered from UW, Oregon or OSU. He’s a big, versatile kid at 6-4, 227, playing both ways and even punted in 2005.

The Sporting News has a story about the 1997 Rose Bowl breakthrough (it should be on the news feed to the right, but here’s a link). What a team, and what a season. The Fab Five, the Fat Five, Leaf getting Heisman hype, Price the coach of the year, and even the defense was #1 in the Pac-10 in total D. That team was just so flippin’ special, and really, pretty damn close to winning a national title. If they execute in the end vs. ASU, and they get another snap vs. Michigan, who the hell knows what could have been?

Like Nuss wrote about on his blog, he was covering the Cougars in 1997 for the Evergreen. He saw Mike Price weeping after that ASU loss. Not because they had simply lost the game, but because that was such a special team, and such a special season. That team was NOT a paper tiger. Remember, they had to go to USC, which was never easy, to Oregon, which is always tough, to ASU, which of course was the only regular season loss, and to UW, which was a top-10 team for a lot of 1997. They had OSU as their bye, and the Beav’s were smack-dab in the middle of 27 straight losing seasons. They earned every inch of that season. Ah, memories.

Finally, hats off to Oregon State. Another 9-win, bowl-winning season. And thanks for representing the lousy Pac-10 showing thus far in the bowl season. To think that they won 9 games, and a bowl game, with a lousy QB situation (11 td’s, 21 int’s?) and the loss of the #1 returning WR in Stroughter?? Amazing coaching job by Riley by getting 9 wins out of a season that had 5-7 written all over it, especially when they were sitting at 2-3! They ran off 7 wins in their last 8 games. Nobody in the Pac-10 circles the wagons better than Mike Riley and the Beav’s. Don’t believe me? Last year, guess how they started their season? 2-3. How did they finish? 10-4, with a bowl victory. Amazing.

It really is impressive what they’ve been able to establish after so many years of misery. 27 straight losing seasons is hard to turn around! But think about where they are now – They’ve now won 5 of their 6 bowl games in this decade. They now have 58 victories since 2000, behind only USC and Oregon in the Pac-10. They’ve won 4 of their last 6 games vs. the hated Quacks. It’s all about that 2000 season, with the Erickson excitement and Fiesta Bowl romp that got it all rolling. Now they have a fantastic, intimate 45,000+ seat facility that is first-class in every way.

As Kaddy and I have conversed, OSU did it, yes, with a sugar-daddy in the Reser sponsorship. But they’ve also done a genius thing, and that is reach out to the middle-level donor. The young alums that are establishing themselves in society are able to not only get season tickets, but the school makes them feel “special” I guess is the way to put it. OSU makes the middle guy feel important, if not downright VITAL, to the program’s success, and they’ve managed to reel in those fish and not wasting energy in trying to land the White Whale. /criticism: Maybe our athletic department needs to worry less about landing Moby Dick (cough*Paul Allen*cough) and more about getting the middle guy with $500 in his pocket and would love to feel like he’s important?? /end critcism. Just sayin’.

We’ll have a new poll question up this week. The first one was an easy place to start, but if you have any suggestions, leave a comment. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Price Bows Out

December 9, 2007
The Price is wrong b*tch.

From the following video link, old friend Mike Price has officially withdrawn his name from consideration for the head job at WSU. The Seattle Times has the story here. Surprised? Actually, no. Based on some things we have heard recently, it sounded like Price was further down the list than it initially appeared. We have also heard here through a reliable source that his wife Joyce wants to get back to the area, asap, and Price has purchased even more land recently as he sets up retirement plans. But clearly he has either seen the writing on the wall or was told flat-out that they were going in another direction. Price did say that he was a viable candidate and was interested, but he never actually interviewed for the job.

There is possibly an “ugly”, business-side to this story too, however. We wrote about this a few days ago, that maybe Price is kinda-sorta on the list in order to help him get a better contract at UTEP. Well, El Paso Times writer Joe Muench goes into detail that Price is pushing hard for a contract extension and/or a decent raise, but the turnip might be dry down there (Did you know Price’s base salary is only $260K!?!? That’s less than half of Doba’s salary! Wow. I know there are some incentives, but man, that’s super-cheap.) But the thing that struck me is reading some of the comments from UTEP fans. It appears that things aren’t as wonderful that Price says they are in El Paso??

Anyway, from a WSU angle, this is the strongest sign yet that they are close to pulling the trigger here. If this thing was going to drag out too much longer, I would tend to believe Price would remain on the interview list, but he wouldn’t publicly pull out like this unless he knew they were headed in a specific direction.

I’ve never been 100% behind the idea of Price returning, for reasons that have been brought up time and again. But I have to admit I’m a little sad about this. I’m a sentimental guy, and how can I ever forget what Price gave us? He did lead us to the highest of highs as a program, and for that I’ll always be thankful. The 10-win seasons and top-10 finishes, the Rose Bowls, the five bowl games with a 3-2 record in those bowls, QB’s drafted #1 and #2 in the entire NFL draft (think about that – that really is amazing for little ‘ol WAZZU!). The guy sold Pullman and WSU with all his heart, and was able to dig deep and find absolute gems in recruiting (the list is too long to go into right now, but you know the drill – Trufant, Long, Gesser, Derting, etc, all guys not with the flashy star ratings, yet all guys rating as some of the best in school history). Price won with fantastic offenses as his calling card, but he showed he could win with a fantastic defense as well. Price won with crappy facilities, a tiny donor base, and no TV coverage to speak of.

And to this day, he gave me the greatest WSU moment of my life – the 1997 Apple Cup. I will never, ever, ever forget everything about that day. I know time clouds the memory, but even coming into that game at 9-1, there were a lot of people that doubted we could stroll into that stadium with the Rose Bowl on the line and pull it off. But we did. I’ll never forget before the game, the energy in that stadium, the Leaf flag paraded around, just the buzz before that game was unreal. I remember in warmups Jason Chorak taunting Leaf right around midfield, yelling and pointing at him like it was before a WWF match, and Leaf pointing right back in a “bring it!” fashion. Unbelievable.

And of course, the 1998 Rose Bowl. When that team ran out of the tunnel, and looking at the 50,000+ crimson pom-poms waving, that was a moment that is burned on the brain. We looked so friggin’ big-time that day it’s hard to even put into words. So for all that, Mike Price, we at WSU Football Blog THANK YOU for all that you gave to WSU. The divorce was messy and I don’t want to get into that now, but again, Thank You! Thank you for making WSU relevant on the Pac-10 football landscape.

Moving on – The scary thing is this year’s recruiting class. 3 commits (and they are all holding firm, by the way, a very good thing!), but the dead period is coming where a coach cannot contact a recruit. It begins next Saturday and runs through the holidays, all the way up until 1/13. I don’t want to get down on Doba, but that whole late offer thing is really hurting us right now. Of course it’s likely that if we did go out and get like 10 kids to commit earlier this fall that some of them would be bailing out due to the coaching change, but still. The new coach has some serious heavy lifting ahead.

So, with that out of the way, where do we go from here? Who’s left on the interview list? Wulff, Smith and Sumlin are all on the books. The TNT has a good pro-con story on Wulff, with the pro’s outweighing the cons on this one. One source also claims that Bobby Hauck is on the list and may have already interviewed for the job(?). Another thing we’ve heard is that there still is a viable “mystery” candidate who’s team is preparing for a bowl game, so the contact hasn’t yet been made official. Still no word on Bob Gregory, Chip Kelly, Tim Lappano or any of the other top Pac-10 assistants making it past the preliminary list, but it’s not over yet. One thing that has been confirmed is that these interviews are NOT taking place in Pullman, but rather in Salt Lake City (looks like the Times was right on that one). So I guess we can forget about that web site to track flights in and out of Pullman-Moscow airport?? Stay tuned!

Update: Wulff Interviewed Friday Night; Jim Walden Loves Paul Wulff, Hates Mike Price

December 8, 2007
I want YOU, Paul Wulff, to coach my Cougars!

Updated 1:30 PM 12/8/07 – Paul Wulff has officially been interviewed by the Cougars. The Spokesman has the details. If you’re scoring at home, that’s now three names that have been through the official process – John L Smith on Thursday, Kevin Sumlin on Friday and now Paul Wulff Friday night. We’ll see where it goes.

I had mentioned this a week or so ago, about Jim Walden’s interview on KRKO 1380. Walden has gone out of his way to explain why Wulff is the guy to hire, and it’s a good listen, even if it is a week or so old. Check it out. The recruiting angle in-state is a good point, as well as Wulff’s background. The other thing about this is to listen to his opinion of Mike Price. No, coach Price, Walden will not buy you a mug down at the Cottage, a pitcher at the Page, a pop at the Village (if it’s still there?), or even a calzone at Sella’s!

Another good listen is Wulff on with Jeff Aaron of 1380. Good stuff. You can catch it here.

One thing to like from hearing Wulff? He considers himself an offensive coach. Wide open on offense. Led the Big Sky in offense 4 of the last 5 years, even #1 in the nation 2 of the last 8, ranked as high as second a couple of other times. Lots of spread option, no-huddle, dictate to defenses what they want to do. VERY aggressive, he even says they’ve had a game where they’ve done nothing but the 2-minute drill on every play! Best of all, he’s adaptable on offense and they are not predictable (read: Not the same, tired, one-back offense). And of course, a former lineman who has a lot of pride in what the big uglies up front do on a week-to-week basis.

Meanwhile, sources claim that Oklahoma co-OC/passing game coordinator Kevin Sumlin interviewed yesterday, per the Spokesman. The same story says that John L interviewed on Thursday. But the Times comes out and says that they claim that Sterk is off-campus doing these interviews! So which is it? We’re working on our source to see what the real deal is, but it’s pretty murky. See what happens when you don’t communicate? Speculation/rumors/Internet blogging blabber!

What do you think of Sumlin? He’s been a pretty mobile coach with a background of job-hopping, but that can be looked at in so many different ways. He’s doing what it takes to climb that ladder. WSU background as a grad assistant from 88-90, so he does have at least SOME NW/WSU roots. He’s mainly been a Big-10/Big-12 guy, though, from Minnesota, Purdue, and then Texas A & M and finally Oklahoma. The buzz is pretty positive about him, and I doubt they would interview him if they didn’t think he was a viable candidate. And Oklahoma’s offense is pretty strong, with young Bradford tearing it up as a frosh this year at QB. And we know they can run the ball with a guy like Adrian Peterson from last year.

The obvious weakness is no head coaching experience on any level, but you need to start somewhere. Supposedly he’s a good recruiter, but how can you quantify a claim like that? The article mentions he helped land Taylor Stubblefield at Purdue, but that is already being disputed and some say that it was really Greg Olson that really got Stubblefield. So who knows.

John L? He is who we think he is. But to get an interview is one thing, to actually get the job is a whole different deal, we know this. So it might have been a courtesy chat more than anything else. Someone posted in the comments yesterday, calling himself SpartanFan, and said STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS MAN! But he laid out some points as to why:

Let me tell you a bit about John L Smith….

I am a Michigan State Spartan. Born and raised. I’ve seen every game played by the football team since 1983.

Here are some tidbits about The L:

1) I can remember the day he was hired by MSU. His current team, Louisville was playing in a bowl game, and word spread throughout the stadium that he was leaving AS THE GAME WAS BEING PLAYED. It was a total boondoggle. And the funny thing is that the Louisville fans, almost to a person, were saying “Good Riddance”, “Your act has worn thin”, “He’s not the real reason the team is any good anyway”. I thought it strange at the time, and just wrote it off as sour grapes. But in the end it was all true.

2) MSU had two major recruits during John L Smith’s tenure: Charles Rogers and Jeff Smoker.
a) Charles Rogers– a pot-smoking slacker who later became possibly the biggest bust in the history of the NFL draft.
b) Jeff Smoker– one of the top QB recruits at the time, shocked everyone by leaving Manheim PA for East Lansing. JoPa was pissed. By Smoker’s junior year, in what was supposed to be his Heisman Trophy campaign, Smoker left the team mid-season, and checked himself into rehab, leaving the team virtually QB-less. What’s more, the unpublished fact was that Smoker’s coke habit was so bad, and that he was so deep into his dealer that he had been threatened physical harm, and that Smoker ran off to rehab to avoid getting a little payback. There were also rumors about point-shaving, but once Smoker claimed a medical addiction, it became an untouchable subject.

3) John L Smith teams are woefully unprepared. He seemed literally unable to make any kind of adjustment to the game plan on the fly, just standing on the sideline with that goofy look on his face.

4) His team’s are in poor physical shape and wear down during the season.

5) His “cowboy boot and mountain climbing” schtick is just that. All hot air and no substance at all.

Cougars, I implore you. Do NOT allow this man to become coach of this team. Do some research and draw your own conclusions. But don’t just let that man walk in and take the job without asking some very serious questions about how that man handles a program.

Not exactly a glowing endorsement from his last job? Oh well.

Finally, to help you through a Saturday of no football, how about another picture of Tim Tebow’s girlfriend?? Happy Saturday, and congrats on that Heisman Tebow!

UPDATE – Kevin Sumlin Interviewed today; So Who’s REALLY on the List?

December 7, 2007

Updated 12/7/07, 2:30 PM – As reported by the Spokesman, Oklahoma assistant Kevin Sumlin has interviewed today for the job. So the ball is officially rolling. John L will get an audience, we know that. But what about Wulff??

At this point, I wouldn’t even doubt that these guys were contacted by Moos. I don’t know if they’d work in Pullman though, but with the writers strike, you never know. I don’t think coach McConaughey would be ok with the “shirts must be worn at all times” rules for a head coach though, so it’s probably a pipe dream. And the other guy, I think he’s still stranded on an island somewhere.

Ok, bad joke. But you get the idea. Who the heck is really on the list? Who’s been contacted? Who’s yet to speak with the team? And why is it that we’re two weeks in and there’s not even an known interview yet? Is Sterk up to his Bennett-like tricks??

First, here are four of the most prominent names that we know of who have admitted to being contacted about the job:

1) Paul Wulff
I don’t know if you caught his interview last night, but give it a listen here if you dare. I’ve heard him talk before in small shots, but this is the longest I’ve heard him. He’s definitely got the passion for the job. He’s confident, yet not overly arrogant and he certainly doesn’t talk in “coach speak” filled with cliche’s, etc. He’s a Coug, there’s no doubt about it, and that could sell really well. He pushes the whole underdog mentality and he totally understands what Pullman is all about. And, no, there will be no coordinator deal while he’s biding his time to be the head guy. In fact, in the interview he admits that WSU has approached him in the past about being an assistant or a coordinator and he turned them down. He is a HEAD COACH, and don’t forget it.

Here’s the thing though. In his interview he says flat-out he’s been contacted, but, still no interview. We’re almost two weeks into this thing and no interview? And he’s just 75 miles up the road? That seems a little odd. Or is it?

First of all, Wulff said publicly that last week he was interested but didn’t want to talk about it as he was getting ready to play a playoff game. So he wouldn’t even be ready to talk until this week. Then, Jim Sterk was in NYC for the first part of this week to attend an awards presentation. So, Sterk has only just got back into the office. There’s literally like 1 or 2 days, tops, that they could even meet. So I really think he’s going to get his shot at this thing, but the timing has to be just right. And, based on what we’ve been told around here, you can lean heavily towards the idea that as far as some people know, he IS very close if not the #1 guy on the list right now.

Here’s a Youtube video by Wulff, asking fans to help raise funds for an EWU football program that is on the rise, but definitely needs money:

2) John L Smith
We’ve joked that John L has set up a campaign headquarters and wants to get this job so bad he can taste it. He’s a former WSU assistant and had a lot of BCS experience, so he does fit the bill to a certain degree about what some people are looking for. But I don’t know. Age is against him, 59 right now and not getting any younger. We already know we’ve been beat up in recruiting circles this year based on age, so do we want to go back there for a guy who is known for kind of “losing it” at Michigan State??

And who could forget “the slap”?

Is that the guy Sterk wants to hire? Hmmm. We do know that it’s likely that Smith will be meeting with Sterk, potentially even today or some time this weekend.

3) DeWayne Walker

He’s got the reputation at UCLA for being an excellent position coach and a fantastic recruiter. He’s young and has a lot of energy, something that is going to be required for this job. He’s African-American, and that’s something that is considered in this. The downside is the UCLA situation itself, and Walker is very much a viable candidate for that job as the head coach. So if we want him, there’s going to be some stiff competition. Plus he’s never been a head coach, and that could be an issue with Sterk.

4) Mike Price
He’s been contacted, admits interest, yet that’s as far as it’s gone. He’s said as recently as Wednesday that WSU is “his school” and he’s interested. But then in the next breath says he’s working on an extension for UTEP? Maybe this is a case of “Mike, we’re going in another direction but we’ll do you a favor. This thing is going to take a while, so, we’ll float your name as someone we’re interested in. You can use that as a hammer in your contract extension talks with UTEP and you can get that one last big extension.” It sounds like a dirty trick, but look around the country. It happens EVERY DAY with college coaches! The latest is Grobe from Wake Forest, who was all but done and was going to take the job at Arkansas yesterday, only to suddenly get a great contract extension! Wouldn’t be the first time – nor the last time – something like that went down. I do think that there’s a shot Price could come back, but from what we hear, it’s not likely.

Now, rumors:

June Jones was floated over the last few days, and in particular last night the rumors started to percolate. KRKO 1380’s Jeff Aaron said on the air that he heard yesterday that Jones is the new hot rumor floating around the WSU athletic department offices. It kind of makes you wonder, is it realistic? Well, as our good friend Kaddy points out, Jones only makes $800K at Hawaii. I believe we could match that, if not exceed it. He’s the king of the world over there, sure, but it is a WAC school and there’s always the lure of BCS competition. He’s from Portland so he does have some NW ties, although nothing directly related to WSU. Still, there are some strange things about Jones. One rumor is that he’s very friendly with the female coeds. Even one rumor had him so friendly with one notable Hawaii volleyball player that she ended up suddenly transfering all the way to Alabama. The talk was that she “with child”. Hmm, screwing the students might not go over well with Jim?!?

There was someone named “Bucky” who floated a Barry Alvarez rumor last week. It sort of makes some sense if you think about the Bennett connection. Retired guy with great success recently is brought in to get the program to another level, maybe even a succession plan behind him. Sterk was in Madison this fall of course, for the opener, so you know their paths have crossed. And I would imagine that if “Dick Bennett is on line 1 Barry” happened on a regular day in Madison, that Barry would pick up the phone. And, Alvarez has been in rumor mills since he retired, so stranger things have happened (like Bennett to WSU??). But Alvarez is a Wisconsin guy, he’s their AD right now so why would he even want to get back into the grind?

Other names floating include Turner Gill, for obvious reasons and rumored to have talked with Sterk already, although no confirmation there. Gill says he isn’t really looking for anything new at this time after striking out with Nebraska. Brady Hoke of Ball State is on the radar, but it might not be a match. In fact, Hoke is showing up in other rumor mills, including Michigan where he was a former assistant. Bob Gregory admitted he got a call about it, but nothing has happened there.

So, that’s where we are. With Sterk’s statement of “no more comments!” in regards to this search, well, rumors are going to fester. Someone is going to go online at a message board or (gasp!) a blog and say, “I’ve heard so-and-so is interested!” This is what happens when there’s no communication. Like it or not, the rumors are only going to get hotter as things roll forward.

Meanwhile, hats of to UW. I’m not kidding either. Have you seen their latest commits??? Fogerson from O’Dea, the kid who ran for 297 and 4 TD’s in the state title game last weekend, finishing with over 2500 yards and 36 TD’s this year (wow!). He actually committed to Ohio State, but now says he’s going to be a Husky? And then the number one fish in the state, Ta’amu of Rainier Beach, now says he’s going to UW? They are looking at a top-15 class in the nation, at least. Not that we were going to compete with these guys on the recruiting trail, and we usually pursue a different kind of kid, but they are flat-out killing right now. Willingham has set up a fence around the state and right now, he’s keeping ’em home. That’s HUGE.

Meanwhile we have 3 commits, and probably half our assistants are working the phones on trying to land a new job when they are still on our payroll. Come on Jim, this thing could turn out to be a total mess if you don’t get moving. Please, MAKE A GREAT HIRE HERE. The heat is on!

The Fantastic Seven?

December 1, 2007

So today, sources have told the Spokesman that the list is now down to seven candidates. Without further adieu, first, the obvious five:

1) Mike Price (Really???)

2) John L. Smith

3) Paul Wulff

4) Bob Gregory

5) Dave Christensen

The usual suspects and names that have been bandied about. John L has been a quote machine of late. I seriously wonder if he’s set up a campaign headquarters with a bunch of staffers running around making calls on behalf of the candidacy of the next head coach of the WSU Cougars, John L. Smith! OK John, OK, we get it – you want the job.

But two other names have been leaked, and they are head-scratchers.

First up, Brady Hoke, head coach of Ball State. Hoke is an interesting guy with a strong background with ties to Michigan, spending eight years there under Lloyd Carr on the defensive staff. His NW ties go all the way back to Oregon State, where he coached there from 1989-1994.

It seems a bit odd to tell the truth. Hoke played his college ball at Ball State and is a Ball State guy all the way. His wife went to Ball State, and their only daughter is a student there as well. But when a BCS program comes calling you at least have to listen. On the plus side, he’s got some great BCS assistant experience, at OSU and Michigan. But the downside, well, Hoke’s record isn’t what you would call flattering. 22-36 at Ball State? OK, he’s got them at 7 wins this year so they are going bowling, but still.

The other new name in the mix is Ray Sherman. Sherman has a long, varied background in coaching. Sherman played his college football at Fresno State, then began a 14-year college coaching career, including as an assistant at San Jose State in 1974 and jobs at Cal, Michigan State, Wake, Purdue and Georgia. But it’s his NFL experience that opens your eyes. He started in Houston, and went on to San Francisco, Atlanta, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Green Bay and Tennessee before joining the Cowboys this season. He was the OC for Pete Carroll in 1994 at the Jets, and then in 1998 for the Steelers and 1999 at Minnesota.
The obvious plus here is a huge variety in experiences on both levels. He’s likely seen everything there is to see, and he’s coached under some outstanding head coaches. He gets a lot of credit for coaching up Green Bay’s WR’s in his time there, including Donald Driver and Javon Walker. He also gets some credit for the run-n-shoot offense under Jerry Glanville back in his Houston days.
The downside? Well, age for one. He’s now 56 years old, not exactly a spring chicken and/or the young, up-and-comer that some speculate will end up with this job. He’s got no real ties to the NW. Cal is his closest job he’s had to the area, so he would be coming in with very little knowledge of the lay of the land.
Oh, and no mention of Barry Alvarez (Bucky, where are you??).
A few other quickies today:
  • To get this out of the way, our friends at Montlake might be in for a VERY long night. My brother-in-law, who shall remain nameless, is a prominent booster over there and actually traveled with the team. Well guess what? They were scheduled to leave SeaTac at 11:15. He called me at 4:30 to say they were STILL SITTING AT THE AIRPORT. No joke. The plane was delayed out of Baltimore. Then, it finally gets there. Guess what?? It’s delayed due to mechanical problems!! Finally, at 3:15 AM PST, he e-mailed me from his mobile to say they were finally there but still hadn’t checked in to the hotel. It should be an interesting game tonight, after all the travel BS and then oh yeah, that’s Colt Brennan and the top passing offense in the galaxy on the other side of the field, rested and ready to try and get a BCS bowl in the biggest game in the history of Hawaii! Over/under on Brennan’s passing yards of 500? I’d lean heavily on the over!
  • Next, Mike Price again talked about the job on Friday to the El Paso Times. Price did say that things are still very preliminary, and he’s off to California to scout a JC game today, and that’s the extent of it. A writer for the El Paso Times blogs that he believes Price wants out ot El Paso (what a shock!). And, YES, I feel hard for the FAA website that showed a plane mysteriously traveling from Lubbock, TX to Pullman yesterday…..until I saw that the Lady Red Raiders of Texas Tech were battling June Daughtery’s gals today. DUH. Oh well, I admit it.
“We will make no public statement regarding the hiring process or the candidates we are considering,” said Sterk. “We are currently screening and researching potential candidates and are hopeful to have a new head coach in place by the first of the year.”
  • Finally, congrats to Chima and Hannam for making the Sporting News All-Pac-10 Freshman team! Hannam was a nice surprise on the line and looks like he could be a starter for years to come. Chima meanwhile grew up fast, going from an utter disaster early on to being a player that you can really see potential once he gets some more meat on those skinny bones (did you know Chima quietly logged 73 tackles?? Not bad for a true frosh!). I still say that the first time I saw Chima against Idaho, he was raw, no question, but he had really good feet and showed athleticism. I was impressed by both Chima and Giles and I think I got it as to why they were starting. The growing pains were rough, but the future is pretty bright for both Chima and Giles.

This May Take a While

November 29, 2007

If you are on the edge of your seat, waiting for what you think is a foregone conclusion that Mike Price is the next head coach? You might want to cool it. Jim Sterk went on KJR last night with Elise and Ian, and he did in fact acknowledge that Bill Moos has talked to Mike. But Sterk said that he himself had not yet talked to Mike, at all. When asked if Price was interested in the job, Sterk wouldn’t elaborate, saying that was up to Price on however he wanted to talk about the situation. But Sterk did say that Price was NOT THE GO-TO-GUY ON THE LIST, and this search is not about Mike Price.

Here’s the link to the interview. It’s a really interesting listen, and I encourage you all to check it out.

If you heard Sterk last night, you might want to dig in for the long haul. The impression he gave was that this is, in no way, going to be a rush job. Despite what you may have heard from whatever sources you may have, Sterk flat-out said that this is going to be a thorough, detailed process leaving no stone unturned. He even mentioned that they won’t set a true deadline, but that the end of the year the new coach should be in place (!?!). End of the year?? I don’t think we like the sound of that, not when December is such an important month for all recruiting efforts, but especially one that Doba had stead-fastly decided that we would be different and we would wait things out, jumping in late on a lot of kids. Not such a swell idea now, is it??

And one more thing from Sterk on Price. Let’s just say if Sterk wanted Price and he was the clear-cut #1 choice. Would there be talk of this long process with Moos and Floyd all actively involved? Sterk also said that there is really a committee, including a few team captains, and they are all going to have input on what they are hoping for in a new coach. Sterk admitted himself that he loves to get input from many different people before he makes the decision, so it’s not as if he’s sprinting to the podium with his arm around Price. But if they wanted Price that badly, this thing would already be over, ala Houston Nutt at Ole Miss. This is not going to be a quick process.

Maybe that’s actually the best news of all. Moos and Sterk and Floyd are extremely confident in their situation, and it was hard not to listen to Sterk and feel nothing but good feelings that they are going to do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to get us the perfect fit. They are smart guys who know what they are looking for, and Sterk himself has shown he can think “outside the box”. To this day, nobody saw the Bennett’s coming, yet here we are #6 in the country and a team with legit Final Four aspirations. The June Daugherty hire is still considered a major get, and in a few years they could be a factor in the conference. So let’s just see what they come up with. Maybe it will be a name that nobody saw and we’ll be absolutely blindsided. But I know this. We should feel great about the guys leading this search, because I don’t think we could be in better hands.

Price did speak to (who else) Howie Stalwick, and more or less danced around the topic. Moos said they talked but it was a “feeling out” process and that was the extent of the details. In the same article, John L. Smith said he was interested and Moos had contacted him already as well. And the Cal guys, Gregory and Michalzcik, both admitted interest as well. Again, not a surprise.

Meanwhile, Moos does say that things are moving fast. At least as far as the preliminary call list, Moos is basically done according to the TNT. I imagine that he’s been glued to the phone the last couple of days, and that they are ready to dig deeper after the initial contact phase.

For the rumor-monger, Pat Hill at Fresno State is mentioned in Howie’s article. While he didn’t come out and say he wants the job, a “source with Fresno State ties” admitted that Hill is very interested in WSU, but Hill said Wednesday that he hadn’t talked to anyone. And if you really want to dig rumors, how about the one that said Rick Neuheisel had been spotted in Pullman Wednesday?? Nah. I don’t think we can fathom going there, even if the Go-2-Guy sure can.

Finally, Jim Walden – if anyone thinks he is cool with Price returning??? Think again. He went out of his way to push Wulff in the P-I yesterday, and he was just getting started. He also went out of his way to piss on Price’s candidacy, both in print and on the radio. I heard him last night with Jeff Aaron, and he said Price “won’t happen”, for many reasons, including age, the circumstances with how he left and his poor record the last couple of years which shows that he really hasn’t built much of anything at UTEP. Here’s a link to the story, although you may have trouble getting to it. Reading some of these quotes from Walden, and hearing him last night, I don’t think he’ll go out of his way to buy Price a beer if he returns to Pullman:

“If they’re beating up Doba (in recruiting) because of his age now,” said Jim Walden, one of Price’s predecessors and now the Cougars’ extremely colorful commentator on radio, “why wouldn’t they beat up Price for the same thing?”

“I don’t think a coach that leaves a school when he’s got them in the Rose Bowl and goes to another place is what you want,” said Walden, as usual holding back not at all. “I’m not thinking that’s a serious move for a school.

“We didn’t divorce him. He left us. The Cougar in me says, ‘No.’ Maybe it’s emotional. Or maybe I have a deeper feel for the school that says we’ve got to get better.”

“What is he doing for UTEP that we would get excited about?” Walden said. “Has he been to four bowls in four years? Won 50 games? What makes us think he’s a great prospect? I’m not trying to knock the guy, but let’s move on.”

Finally, on the air last night, Walden said not only “it won’t happen” but that he doesn’t think Price wants the job or really cares to get it. According to Walden, the only reason he would do it is if he can get Eric the head coaching job down the line, just like everyone has speculated. And that Price doesn’t need the money or the new challenge at his age, and that he’d likely just take the job and spend more time at his lake place than out on the road recruiting or doing the extra work it’s going to take to get this thing back to where we want it to be. Safe to say, Walden IS NOT IN THE PRICE CAMP!

Turkey Day Q & A; 2002 Rose Bowl Clincher Vid

November 22, 2007

First of all, it’s good to be Tim Tebow. I would imagine he’s got a lot to be thankful for today. And I’m not talking about the Heisman front-running status either.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled WSU blogger ramblings. We did a quick Q & A with UW blogger John Berkowitz of the UW Football Blog. He does a fine job of covering his team and has a lot of passion for his Huskies, even while living in Illinois. Check it out here (Brinkhater was especially funny). It eventually morphs into a hoops discussion and how we’ve topped them 5 straight…and counting….but give it a read anyway.

Second, I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but I couldn’t resist – my 6-year old proudly donned the colors at school yesterday, and he told me he got a lot of “Go Cougs!”, even here in Mill Creek. But I loved the picture that the teacher took of him yesterday, so I just had to share:

“Ahhhhh, yeah. One on each arm, and dressed in the colors. That’s how I ROLL Daddy.” He’s got something to be thankful for this year too. Not quite Tebow, but hey, you have to start somewhere. Nice work son.

More coaching change chatter going on. The Go-2-Guy was on KJR yesterday afternoon, and while he didn’t specify a source on the matter, he concludes that it’s his belief that it’s “basically a done deal with Doba” and that we’ll see a change. Meanwhile Sterk gave another no-comment on Doba in today’s P-I, only to say that it will be addressed after Saturday’s game. And again, the silence is deafening among the WSU Football Blog “sources”, so you can sort of connect the dots here. Personally I’m leaning heavily towards a Monday morning presser to announce a change, but we’ll see.

Finally, I’ve been feeling some memory lane type-stuff this week with all the Apple Cup highlights and stories. I thought I’d put up some video of when we blew out UCLA 48-27 to clinch the 2002 Rose Bowl bid (I’m trying to use Blogger’s video feature, so I don’t know if it’ll look good or not compared to AOL Uncut of Youtube, but I thought I’d give it a shot.).

It’s just the last minute of the game, but there are some Gesser highlights mixed in and of course, post-game comments from Price and Gesser. I love the true emotion in Price after that game, after witnessing Gesser step up on one leg and take us home, it’s just fantastic. He really is at a loss for words, like many of us were after watching that game unfold. I also like Keith Jackson talking about Bill Doba and how he’s “a pretty damn good defensive football coach” after Dobes got the Gatorade shower. I also like listening to Bob Toledo hugging Gesser and saying “you’re a hell of a Warrior” a few times. The MVP of the history of WSU, hands down.

Hmmm, how about a Price – Gesser coaching combo in Pullman? Maybe Price is the head guy, Gesser can be an offensive/QB coach, Doba stays as the DC and when Price steps down, Gesser gets the “dream” job?

Nah. It makes too much sense.

Brinkhater will come out swinging tomorrow with the final Football Friday of 2007, complete with a prediction (note that unlike our Cougs, Brinkhater is a perfect 11-0 in picking WSU football games in 2007. The perfect season is on the line tomorrow!). So, to all, Happy Thanksgiving!