Archive for the ‘Myron Beck’ Category

Is the 3-4 the WSU Defense of 2009?

November 11, 2008

So the three-man line got a lot of ink from Saturday’s game. Basically some injuries had cut down Andy Mattingly and Kevin Kooyman, and with the continued ineffectiveness of Matt Eichelberger, well, the lads up front were awfully thin. Factor in the loss of d-end Mike Graise for missing practices and workouts? They were basically down to FOUR healthy defensive linemen against Arizona. Not good, not good at all. As Wulff said in the Times:

“We got to a point where we’re so thin where we can’t even line up four players that have a legitimate amount of experience at all on the defensive line,” Wulff said. “So if you go to a three-down-line look, it at least helps us there and gives us at least an extra backup that we wouldn’t have in a four-down-line look.”

And at least they aren’t burning redshirts on the likes of Bernard Wolfgramm to shore up the weakness. This is such a lost year, that to do something like that would be foolish….almost Willingham-like in it’s ineptness….

But I think it begs a bigger question. Is the three-four for WSU here to stay? Given the way college football offenses have evolved, and the overall lack of depth that this program has had for a long time now on the defensive line, wouldn’t it be a good idea to just go to a 3-4, or, even, a 3-3-5!?!

For some background, yes, we have tinkered with the 3-4 from time to time. Remember down the stretch of the 2006 season? With injuries destroying that team, and even Mkristo Bruce heroically playing on one good leg, losing Ropati Pitoitua, Aaron Johnson and A’i Ahmu just crippled the depth inside. They had no choice but to scrap the 4-3, and go with the 3-4 during the year-end fade.


It didn’t really work, and the reasons were many. It was a brand new scheme of course, as the defensive linemen had different gaps and responsibilities that go with a three-man front. But even the linebackers had to adjust to having an extra linebacker out there, and it was too late to plug the hole in the dam. But the other reason was, mainly, they just didn’t have the proper personnel to run it effectively.

While we loved Mkristo Bruce, he was a better pure pass rusher than a run-oriented defensive end. Too many times he faced double teams, and it just didn’t work out. He was at his best coming around the edge, one on one with a tackle. But the other side was much, much worse, where Lance Broadus, all 215 pounds of him, was the other end. He was basically engulfed by the opposing offensive line, so badly out of position that it was a disaster on his side of things. Not his fault, but the man simply wasn’t built for the 3-4. They just didn’t have the personnel to run something like that

To be successful in the 3-4, you have to have a legit nose tackle who can take up space and occupy blockers, and he has to be big. Why? Because on about 95% of all defensive plays in that 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle will be expected to take on the center AND a guard, all at the same time. But it’s not just the nose tackle who needs size and strength. The defensive ends need to be a little different style as well. They have to be much larger than your Isaac Brown/DD Acholonu mold, you know, the converted 225-lb linebackers who rush wide and up the field? You need defensive ends with some girth, at least in the 255-260 range in college, to hold up and handle their gaps.

All three of the defensive linemen have what is called two-gap responsibility. They are expected to hit the offensive linemen head on, and watch the play to make sure the running back doesn’t come through on either side of them. It’s almost a read-n-react defense as opposed to a one-gap scheme you often see in a 4-3, where the defensive linemen simply chooses a gap and shoots it at the snap.

But a 3-4 defensive lineman is also expected to hold their block so that the offensive linemen can’t get free and to seek out a linebacker. Simply put, the linemen play a more physical game as they are taking on one or two offensive linemen directly, play after play. And the glamour? Forget it. The 3-4 linemen aren’t your stat hounds in any way, shape or form (how many great defensive ends in the 3-4 make headlines?).

The big plus to a 3-4 are the linebackers. Basically two inside linebackers who you want in the 240-range and also with some athleticism. But the outside linebackers can be in that Louis Bland/Myron Beck mold, at least in the NCAA, and you can get away with having 210-215 lb speedsters on the outside. They can blitz from different angles, of course, but they are also on the outside as much as possible, able to use their speed out in space. And against the spread-style offenses of today, that asset of speed on the edges is CRUCIAL if you want to survive something like Oregon throws at you. You have speed like that outside, and it makes it all the more difficult for the QB to scramble or roll out effectively.

I look at how Cal has handled Oregon in recent times, and it’s really no coincidence that Bob Gregory, the Cal DC, has evolved the defense. Cal used to claim to be a 4-3 defense, but they consistently threw 3-man fronts at opposing teams. But today, they finally DO claim to be a true 3-4 team, and it has really done well against the one-back offenses you see so much of in the conference. Against the true spread, which is thriving today in the Big 12 and you now see Oregon and Arizona running versions of it every week, Cal has the scheme to deal with it.

Now, can this work for WSU next year? I think it can, and here’s why.

1) Andy Mattingly is already being talked about as moving back to linebacker for next year. Paul Wulff has mentioned this at least a month ago on his radio show, and it’s been highlighted in other articles over at least the last month. And Andy Mattingly, we remember, was a 90-tackle, eight-sack guy as a linebacker in 2007. With Greg Trent, Cory Evans and Ken Dunn all graduating next year, the need for a linebacker with experience will be gigantic. Mattingly could slide right into an inside linebacker spot next year, with his 251 pounds a perfect fit back there.

2) The other inside linebacker might be a bit of a reach, but Mike Ledgerwood has played well this year as a true frosh backup to Greg Trent in the middle. But weight is an issue, as he’s only 215 pounds.

I would think he would need to get to AT LEAST 225 to handle it, but it’s possible. Marshall Pirtz is also an option, at 6-0, 231, but Pirtz may not even be a linebacker anymore, potentially moving to running back. We’ll see what happens there.

3) The outside linebackers might be the perfect fit. In reality, both Myron Beck and Louis Bland started out as safeties anyway, both in the 205-210 range in weight. Give both guys another year of putting on weight, and they could be 215-220 next season while maintaining their quickness and speed, with the ability to be stout against the run yet able to get out on the edges and make plays.

4) The defensive line might be much better suited for this defense as soon as next year. Toby Turpin is already 6-6, 280, and with another 10 pounds or so he could be just fine as a nose tackle. He started at NT vs. Arizona, so who knows what he might do. Add in Kevin Kooyman at one end, where he’s already around 250 pounds, and he could be just fine. The other end is interesting in that the top recruit from 2008, Bernard Wolfgramm, will be ready to play.


He’s already 6-3, 275, and has a ton of experience as a defensive end from his JC days. Also, Josh Luapo will be enrolling in January, and he’ll likely be a 300-pounder by September next year. He could be a fit as a backup nose tackle.

The other angle to this is the lack of depth on the defensive line. It would be much easier to get by with 5-6 defensive linemen if you only have three on the field at once. But if you are running four of them out there every play, the depth gets that much thinner. Add in the usual injuries, etc, well, you get the picture.

Finally, the spread offense – we’re only going to see more and more of it as it continues to thrive. Already Oregon and Arizona have fine-tuned their attacks, but there will be others to follow suit. It’s just too successful, what’s happening in the Big 12, to ignore it anymore. If Gary Pinkel or Mike Leach get the UW job, there’s another team that will instantly be running the spread. And you can already see some wrinkles with it at Oregon State, where they run a ton of one-back, but love to do some read option where the WR goes in motion to take handoffs from the QB, and they do a lot of shotgun as well.

I would hope that they will seriously consider it for next year. Not only is it effective against the spread/multiple offenses, but if you have the right personnel to run it effectively, it could actually be a strength of the team. I’d love to see Andy Mattingly absolutely cut loose his senior year, blitzing from the linebacker spot next year instead of with a hand down as a defensive end. With the thin defensive line set to lose Matt Mullennix, A’i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger next year, the lack of experienced linemen could be a big issue. Take one lineman off the field, and you can handle that lack of depth in a much more effective manner. And for once, we might actually have the correct personnel to get away with running the 3-4 at the college level, with some decent size at defensive ends and some real speed at the outside linebackers.

What do YOU think?? Should we go to a 3-4 next year? Or are we better off with the traditional 4-3?

ENJOY YOUR TUESDAY, and GO COUGS!

When All Else Fails….

September 15, 2008

Three games in, and nobody’s happy. Obviously there are issues, and they are plenty. But don’t fret, as you are not alone in your unhappiness. Coach Wulff is right there with you, and because of the inept performances thus far, changes are a brewin’ on the Palouse. And rightly so. Per Bud Withers in the Times today:

1) Xavier Hicks is back. You may remember him from his off-the-field, uh, slip-ups. But the kid is a big-hitting safety who only started three games last year, but had 53 tackles and some huge hits that separated man from ball. UCLA remembers him, I’m sure, from last year’s 27-7 win:

Hicks coming back means that the secondary will likely do some shuffling, with potentially Chima going back to corner, and Alfonso Jackson moving back to safety. Remember those two had switched positions, but due to injuries and other issues, it wasn’t exactly working out. Go back and watch the first play vs. Cal, when Jahvid Best took the ball 80 yards. Look at the last line of defense on that play, and see the safety who completely whiffed on the tackle attempt. That’s just one example, but it shows that a change needs to be made.

Having Hicks and Jackson in the middle of the field makes a heck of a lot of sense. Jackson had 65 tackles as a safety last year, and even though he’s been beat up this year, he just didn’t look like corner was the spot for him in that first game.

2) Myron Beck, who did a fair job as a safety, has been moved to linebacker. Makes sense. He’s shown a nose for the ball and with his quickness, he could be a pretty good, quick outside linebacker. He’s well-built at 6-0, 210, so it could be a really good move for him as well. And with all the issues we had trying to slow down Baylor’s running game – QB Robert Griffin had over 200 yards himself, remember – Beck is probably going to eat into some of Kendrick Dunn’s playing time at weak side LB.

But no matter what, we’ve GOT to stop the run, whether it’s Beck’s speed at linebacker, or if the tackles are going to be pushed out of the way, you better be strong up the middle in other areas with the safeties. Hopefully this change will help Trent man the middle of the field, because right now he’s all we’ve had out there!

3) The o-line is going to shuffle again, and this time it might be for the better. Vaughn Lesuma will move inside to guard, and that could be the best for him. Lesuma isn’t fully healthy, and even when he is OK, he’s always had some issues with the speedier rush ends out there. He’s a huge dude at 6-5, 330, so he might be better suited to be a road grater inside and lean on some defensive tackles with all that girth. Steven Ayers and Joe Eppele will fight it out for the left tackle spot. This is big news, as Wulff has mentioned in his radio show how high they are on Joe Eppele’s ability as a tackle, but his knee injury has held him back thus far. It sounds as though he is now ready to compete, so, we might see him play for the first time this year.

4) At QB – even with the turnovers shown by Lopina – Wulff made it sound like IF he’s good to go, he will start on Saturday. The wrist is sore, but it will likely be Lopina if he’s ready. We all have opinions on the QB, and the question can’t be fully answered yet if you ask me. I would be fine if they continue to split time this Saturday, and then see what happens. But in true foundless, blog-style rumor mongering…..we’ve heard a few things about the QB situation recently, and well, let’s just say it isn’t a shocker that Lopina is getting a long look.

Finally, Vince has a good round-up of the different positions Wulff spoke about yesterday. Check it out here (but you probably already have by now…)

So there you have it. If you keep failing at something, well, what do you do? You try something else. It’s pretty basic. But now that we are three games in, the coaches have found out quite a bit about the players they have and what they do on game day. And most of all, how they fit into what they are trying to accomplish. It’s been a tough three-game stretch, almost like a mini-NFL-preseason audition if you want to know the truth. But the first three games are now in the rear-view mirror, and these guys can now make some adjustments going forward. Let’s see how it all plays out on Saturday. I’m sure as hell hoping they taste victory, for everyone involved! These guys need a win right now.

In other news, the postings might be a little light this week. Real life is more or less getting in the way this week of our massive output of daily content…..we’ll try to stay on top of things, but it might be a lighter-than-normal week. But just know we aren’t going anywhere. Sorry. 🙂

Enjoy your Monday/week, and 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!

Good Behavior Already an Issue for Hicks?

May 16, 2008

Yeah, that whole good-behavior thing? It was a nice idea with Xavier Hicks, but, unfortunately we’re off to a rocky start. As part of Hicks’ sentence, he must participate in a work-release program. After a routine check-up on Hicks, well, he wasn’t there. Per the Times today, Hicks was not where he was supposed to be. This latest mess-up could likely result in Hicks having to serve the full 45-day jail sentence, instead of the hoped-for 30 days based on good behavior. Maybe there is a legit excuse or a mis-communication. However, at this rate I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve seen the last of Hicks in a WSU uniform.

Insert heavy sigh….NOW. You hate to see kids screw up, but it’s even worse when they are on their last “strike”, been given second-third chances, etc. He’s hanging by a thread, so you would hope he would make the right decisions at this point. We’ll see how it turns out, but so far, NOT so good.

Wulff mentioned in an article on Cougfan the other day about who would be in line to take over for Hicks, at least in the first three games of his ’08 suspension. The two most prominent names are Myron Beck and Easton Johnson. If you don’t recognize the names, you aren’t alone. Both are walk-on JC transfers. But it might not be the end of the world here.

Beck is an intriguing guy. 5-11, 205, led his JC league in Glendale, AZ in picks last year. He’s a Seattle kid who was excited about coming back to the northwest when he committed in January. Here’s some tidbits from his bio on signing day:

Myron Beck, S, 5-11/205, RS-SO, Seattle, Wash. (Ingraham HS ’06)
HIGH SCHOOL: Three-year letterwinner at Ingraham High School…led Metro League in receiving as a JUNIOR…hauled in 52 receptions for 952 yards and 12 touchdowns…named first-team All-Metro Sound Division…named a Seattle Times White Chip prospect following his SENIOR campaign…posted 34 receptions for 828 yards and three touchdowns…two-way player was named first-team All-Metro Sound Division as both a wide receiver and defensive back.
EASTERN ARIZONA: Redshirted the 2006 season.
GLENDALE COLLEGE: Led the Western States Football League with six interceptions as a REDSHIRT FRESHMAN, returning three for touchdowns…named NJCAA All-Region First Team and second-team All-WSFL

Another sad commentary here is looking at the recent run of stories in the Seattle Times that are WSU-related. I know the Times HATES us, heck they have UW alums running the show there, but in order, here’s the most recent WSU headlines:

WSU safety Xavier Hicks pleads guilty to assault, theft

We sound like a broken record here. But we’ve got to get that culture turned over.

Finally, Wulff was on KJR a couple of days ago with Husky Honk Dave Softy Mahler. It’s a pretty good listen, as it always seems to be with Wulff. Wulff is open and honest about things, including the WSU-UW rivalry, and dealing with the APR issues. Give it a listen here.