Archive for the ‘Paul Wulff’ Category

Vote Butch

August 11, 2009


OR else you’ll get some of this.

Yep, Butch is back in the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hooray Butch! I love the scouting report from the website – 6’3″, stacked and packed? Really? I’ve seen a lot of Butch’s in my day, as I’m sure you have too. But I’ve never seen one 6-3 and full of muscle!

Butch is a former Capital One champion as well, winning in ’06. He’s definitely got a shot this year. We’ll do our part. And at least he can rock the evil of the Thriller:

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Meanwhile Grippi had a mega post today, doing his best Ted Miller impression by linking to all the other PAC-10 news and stuff. Good work Vince. In the post, he again mentions Chris Ivory’s departure, but still no official word on the reason for the dismissal. We’ll have to wait and see what turns up. But whatever the reason, it was time for him to move on.

In the same post is a link to coach Wulff’s talk with the media, as reported by Teddy Miller. The overall tone?

“We don’t spend a lot of time addressing what other people think because it just doesn’t allow us to keep moving forward. They’re road blocks. It doesn’t matter. If you look at years past, the Cougs have been picked in the lower half and have done extremely well. I’ve coached teams that weren’t predicted to do well and have done well. The thing about it is they are predictions. So many things can happen, from teams improving and staying healthy to good teams that get too many key injuries that [once] were good teams but by the end of the year they’re not a very good football team. Those things no one can predict — coaches can’t, media can’t — we can only control what we can control. If we spend a lot of time worrying about anything other than that then we are just slowing ourselves down. It’s about us and the work we have to do to take care of every single day and each week. That will remain our focus.”

Sounds like major circle-the-wagons time right now. And there is very little motivating tactics out there that are better by telling elite athletes that nobody thinks they are any good. Just keep building up the chip on the shoulder, and eventually you become a nightmare to play on a weekly basis!

Cougfan has a charting of the weight gains for the Cougs. It’s a premium article (but they are running a 2-for-1 right now, 2 months for 9.95. Not bad). While we don’t have any details beyond what is already out there, Joe Eppele is mentioned as having put on 15 lbs of grade-a beef. Nice.

ESPN’s Bottom Ten has rolled out with a new edition (and with a Michael Jackson theme to boot, ala WHO’S BAD!). Yes, UW is on the list. No, WSU is not. But alas, WSU is on the so-called “waiting list”, as in stink it up early, and they’ll be happy to seat you in the bottom-ten. Great. Also worth mentioning that UW’s week-two opponent, the scrappy Vandals of Idaho, are #3 on the list.

Stay tuned for something out of our own Longball with an eye-witness report of fall camp. Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

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Wulff Speaks on State of the Program

August 6, 2009

Good morning Cougs. Hope you are all enjoying the cooling off period we are experiencing in the beautiful pacific northwest. It’s only creeping into the 70’s now, quite a difference from last week’s triple-digit scorchers.

Lost in all the previews and such this time of year, none other than Paul Wulff hopped on KJR with Mitch Levy for an interview on Tuesday. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out here.

It is a good listen if you have the seven or so minutes to give it a go. Wulff is candid, speaking on a variety of things. And say what we will about KJR from time to time (and we say a lot), after all they are the UW flagship station. But Mitch Levy is one of the best in the biz in terms of handling player and coach interviews. He isn’t shy about asking some sticky subjects, and always does what he can to kind of peel back the layers and get some of these guys to open up a bit more than the norm.

Wulff touches on the usual things we’ve heard before – the players weren’t physically ready for PAC-10 play, changing the culture, surprised at the lack of nutrition and eating right, etc. Things we’ve been hearing for the last year-plus.

But he also hits on a few other things that I haven’t heard from him, such as some deeper self-evaluation for himself and the staff. He said things like “As a coaching staff, maybe we went too fast last year and didn’t take into account what our players were capable of handling mentally and physically. Looking back, maybe we should have slowed down on some things.” He also spoke on the state of the program when he arrived, saying there “were things spiraling out of control and the program was in a tailspin when we arrived. There were situations happening on the inside that people didn’t hear about but the changes we made were necessary”.


He also said he’s been doing a lot of reading about certain things this year, things like change. He’s found that it’s easy to just make change, but the reality is that people really won’t fully change for maybe a couple of years. This isn’t the NFL where you can go out and sign free agents to fill holes. Instead you have to go out, recruit players and build them into what you want them to become. And that takes time. Not only is it about recruiting the players that fit what you want to do, but you ALSO have to get the current crop of players to embrace the changes. Again, it all takes time.

He also lists some quickie things to be excited about (you mean there’s something to be excited about??), including:

Defense – We will be mentally stronger and clearly a more physical football team on defense. When asked about Andy Mattingly, Wulff says could be an NFL player, depending on his season and how he fits with some teams on the next level, but he needs to have a great year.


Personally I’m a big fan of Mattingly. The glimpses he showed in ’07 are that of an impact, game-changing linebacker who can be a real headache for opposing teams to deal with. Now that he’s back at his natural position, and it’s his senior year, I feel like he’s on the cusp of going out with a bang.

He also spoke about Chima Nwachukwu and Brandon Jones in the secondary, and says Jones will open a lot of eyes this year.

Offense – o-line should be much improved, and there is solid depth there and at running game. He’s also excited about the QB and passing game, with a lot of youth at WR but some game experience now. Special teams will be improved as there is more depth this year, plus both kicker and punter are returning. EVERY AREA will be much improved.

We’ve touched on this in the past as well, but we’re talking about young kids. Sure, they are resilient and often times just need some strong leadership to steer them in the right direction. But I don’t think we, on the outside looking in, can fully know what last season must have been like with the vast differences between the two coaching staffs. That shock to the system was probably a big part of why they hit rock-bottom last year. But they are going in the right direction.

Looking around, Buster Sports has a list of the Top-10 PAC-10 QB’s for ‘09. Guess which team didn’t have a player listed??

UW blogger John Berkowitz takes a quick look at WSU, and basically declares UW will kick our asses in November, and doesn’t see WSU winning a single game. I hesitated to even link to it, but you may want to check it out. Of course, his crystal ball has got his own UW in bowl contention in ’09. The same UW team that failed to win a game last year and was actually worse that WSU. So if you do click over, just know that going in.

ESPN dropped their list of the top 150 recruits in the country. No, no WSU commits on the list. In fact, very few PAC-10 teams actually have players in the top 150, with just NINE commitments right now. But it’s still just August, and a lot of undecideds are on the list.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Thursday, and GO COUGS!

Romeo Pellum Rips WSU

July 17, 2009

Looks like Romeo Pellum is feeling like he got the shaft from Paul Wulff and company. Pellum, as you probably know, was suspended from the team for stealing electronics in February, and then was arrested in April for driving with a suspended license. Pellum has decided instead of sticking around and dealing with it, he’s going to leave. Or was he kicked off the team? It’s all a little foggy. I guess it doesn’t matter, whether he was booted or chose to leave, because either way he’s gone.

Anyway, he had some choice words for the coaches as he moves on down the road…

“I felt like I was treated unfairly with that whole situation,” Pellum said. “I was suspended for the whole spring. If you read those charges that happened back in February, it’s pretty self-explanatory what we were suspended for.” Pellum said because he was treated unfairly and not given a second chance, he elected to depart both the team and the university to pursue other football opportunities.

“(The coaches) are untrustworthy and I don’t want to be a part of the Wulff era,” he said. “I wouldn’t say all of the coaches, but a handful.” Pellum also said the team’s strict and unfair nature became evident after he witnessed the suspension of five players, four being reinstated, and three charged legally.

Is he really being treated unfairly here? He was arrested twice in three months this spring. Wulff has a system in place where the player incidents are dealt with in a particular way, with discipline handed down from the players and staff. Either you play by the rules that everyone else has to follow, or you don’t, and you move on. Case closed. At least Jim Sterk, who happens to be Wulff’s boss, thinks that Wulff is doing just fine in the discipline department.

But what’s odd is that Pellum calls the coaches untrustworthy. Yet, as the Evergreen story reports, Pellum claims he is leaving on good terms, and Wulff and Jody Sears both wrote letters of recommendation for Pellum….? Oh well. Good luck to Romeo, wherever he ends up.

Pellum’s loss does hurt though. 65 tackles and a couple of picks last year, and a likely starter in the depleted secondary, he does leave some shoes to fill. We like the Cal transfer, Brandon Jones, and Tyrone Justin at corner (as long as Justin stays out of trouble as well?). We’ll look at the secondary in the next week or so.

Speaking of moving on, in completely unrelated, non-Cougness, Jessica Simpson was released by Tony “Dimples” Romo. And it sounds as though she is devastated. What’s cold is that Romo cut her loose the night before her 29th birthday! Even I can say that’s cold man, cold.

Seriously though, Jess has literally ONE JOB to do, and that is stay a hot chick if she wants to hang on the arm of Mr. Wonderful…..did she succeed, or fail? Check it out:

What happened??

Gisele figured it out and is doing what it takes to hang with Tom Brady. It’s a tough, competitive market for being with an NFL superstar QB. Maybe age 29 is the “cutoff” for Romo, and it was time to trade into something newer and sleeker? Meanwhile there’s probably 3 million females in the state of Texas who are still up popping champagne over Romo’s new-found free agency. Let the bidding begin!

Finally, one last thing on Michael Jackson.

The Sunday after he died, Fox ran the famous Simpson’s episode, where Homer is admitted to an insane asylum and meets a guy who claims to be Michael Jackson (and he clearly is not the King of Pop). It’s a really good episode, if you are a fan of the show or not.


If you recall the episode, the voice of the Jackson impostor sounded amazingly like Michael. Yet, when the credits rolled, there was no mention of him as the voice. There were rumors it was him, but it was never really confirmed.

But now, the truth can be told. Jackson WAS the voice after all. Per wiki:

Michael Jackson guest stars as Leon Kompowsky’s speaking voice, while his singing is provided by Kipp Lennon. For contractual reasons, Jackson was credited as John Jay Smith, and his role in the episode was not officially confirmed until later. Kompowsky was originally set to return in a second episode, except voiced by Prince, but the episode was never produced.

Cool.

That’s about it for a slow Friday (obviously). ENJOY your weekend, and as always, GO COUGS!

Kaddy Reports From Columbia River Cougar Club

June 17, 2009


Our own Kaddy was able to take in the Columbia River Cougar Club function a few weeks ago and got some good time with some of the coaches. Check it out (and as always, a big thanks to Kaddy for the recap!):

Well, that time of year for the Columbia River Cougar Club dinner-auction-fundraiser to support Cougar Athletics came and went. This year the event was held on Friday, June 5 at the Vancouver Hilton Hotel, as usual.

I happened to be on the auction committee this year, and let me tell you, it was a LOT of work. I had no idea how much went into these events. Usually I just show up for cocktail hour and silent auction, everything is laid out on the tables, marked with descriptions, and away we go. Not so much this year. First of all – the soliciting of businesses and Cougar supporters for stuff to auction off is an event itself. If you know of anyone that needs some cold-calling experience, have them volunteer for a fundraising auction. One thing I learned by calling on local businesses is that many of them receive calls EVERY DAY for items to be donated…sometimes 5 a day. I had no idea. Needless to say, many of your calls go unanswered or unreturned.

When all was said and done, however, the event turned out to be pretty successful, with all things considered (i.e. economy, job market, general apathy, etc). Attendance at the Vancouver event was pretty close to last year, with about 175. We expected a slightly lower number this year, so that was good news. I don’t yet have the dollar amount raised, but it was definitely down this year, which was also expected. Many people don’t have the extra cash to spend this year, understandably. To give you an example, I purchased two sideline passes for the SMU game in Pullman for $150! These normally go in the $500-600 range.

Read on for more…

I do have to say that this year was the most fun I’ve had at the event. We had a great table, and the auctioneer actually said we were his favorite table, as well. The primary reason for this had to do with the amount of alcohol we drank, and the fact that our table bid on almost every item in the auction, sometimes bidding against ourselves without knowing.

Coaches in attendance this year were Paul Wulff, Todd Sturdy, Steve Broussard, Chris Ball, and Malik Roberson for football. Donnie Marbut was there to represent baseball, Ken Bone for men’s hoops, and Brian Holsinger for women’s hoops.

Cougar celebrities in attendance were Jason Gesser, Gary Rogers, and Drew Dunning. Jack Thompson golfed at the tournament the next day, but couldn’t make the auction.

I had a chance to speak to talk to Donnie Marbut quite a bit, and he was very impressive. He had a chance to speak on stage, and probably the coolest thing he said was that, although the baseball program has many of their own needs, the most important thing that Cougar fans and supporters can do right now is to get Phase III done.


He pointed to Coach Wulff and said that when we have a successful football program, the rest of the sports share in that success (hint: $$). I thought that was incredibly unselfish of him, and showed his ability to see the big picture in terms of Cougar Athletics. In addition to Marbut, Wulff, Bone, and Holsingers also spoke, and all did a good job.

Jason Gesser spoke from a former student-athlete point of view, and emphasized the importance of providing scholarships.


Gesser has got to be right there with Jack Thompson as one of the quintessential ambassadors for WSU. I hope that he someday gets the chance to coach at WSU, which is his dream job. He is the new Head Coach for Eastside Catholic High in Issaquah, for those of you that don’t know already. I made a point afterwards to ask him to send all D-1 talent to Pullman, and he guaranteed they would all end up at WSU (uh-oh, please no recruiting violations!!)


All in all, it turned out to be a great event, as it always is. If you haven’t had a chance to attend one of these fundraisers, you really should. They happen every year in Seattle, Vancouver, Tri-Cities, Olympia/Shelton, and many other locations – all with the goal of raising much needed money for Cougar Athletics.

Finally, and just like last year – I have a pic with our friend Todd Thrasher, who organizes this event, and his trusty sidekick volunteer, Michele, one of the great Cougar supporters!


That’s it for today. As always, GO COUGS!

Wulff Speaks on Arrests

June 15, 2009


Happy Monday Coug fans! Still rolling around over the new uni’s? I was out of town over the weekend but snuck away to check them out on my little blackberry. EA Sports kind of “softened the blow” a bit, and they were pretty close to the real thing. The all-white look might be pretty cool on the road, although they look a lot like Oklahoma? But you can bet they’ll mix-n-match. I thought the gray pants looked a little dull, but that could just be the lighting. And you know they’ll roll out the “Cougars” helmets for the Apple Cup, and hopefully with the gray pants as well. Anyway, overall, put me in the like ’em camp.

Meanwhile, Q-13 spoke to Wulff in an interview over the weekend, and of course, the topic of the recent news is the off-the-field arrests ‘n such. He addresses the recent bad news, plus Xavier Hicks as well. Check it out, in THREE PARTS:

Part One – HAVING trouble directly imbedding the video, so here’s a link to part one:

http://www.q13fox.com/video/?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=3865121

Part Two – Having trouble directly imbedding the video, so here’s a link to part two:

http://www.q13fox.com/video/?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=3865116

Part Three:

Note – if you can’t see the videos, here’s a link to the transcript.

Don’t want to click the link? On the juicy stuff (read: arrests), here’s what he had to say:

Q. I have to address the Tyree Toomer and LeAndre Daniels situation. They’ve been suspended from team activities. What else, if anything, can you tell us about their situation?

A. First of all, it’s a mistake, and a poor choice by a couple young guys that have never been in trouble prior to Washington State or in their first year. Both have been done very well academically as well. I think when it’s all said and done, there’s a question mark on whether the charges will even be filed. There are some issues there behind the scenes that look favorable for the players.

Q. Have you spoken with them, and if so, what was your message?

A. Oh, yeah. I had a message. But we don’t need to talk about that one here. But, bottom line is they’re very remorseful and we’ll deal with that, and the bottom line is they need to make sure they learn from those mistakes.

Q. Do you expect them to rejoin the team, and if so, when?

A. Yes we do, and hopefully soon.

Q. You talked about Xavier Hicks during spring practice as being a leader on the team. How much of a blow is that, that it happened again?

A. Xavier’s done a great job. He really had. What occurred was he had a traffic ticket in 2007 in Othello and it wasn’t paid. And college students move around, his address, he didn’t receive any of the information that it was suspended. And then he got pulled over and then he found out then. So, that’s the offense. It’s something he has to learn from, obviously, but those mistakes are going to occur.

Q. Are there any repercussions?

A. We’ve got a few things we’ll do to handle that, but for the most part, at this point, he’s not going to be suspended.

So there you have it. Daniels, Toomer and Hicks will get dinged, but will be part of the team this fall. Interesting.

The entire interview is pretty good, and it’s the first in-depth information we’ve really heard from Wulff this off-season. He sounds pretty forgiving. But they have a process in place and he knows the full story for each of the bad news items. If they don’t deem the offenses bad enough on the scale to actually kick someone off the team, then so be it.

That’s it for today. Enjoy your Monday, and GO COUGS!

Monday Links

April 20, 2009


I guess we could continue to beat the already-dead horse about the Apple Cup….but I think you, us and everyone else with an opinion has weighed in. There really isn’t much left to say as we wait for the shoe to drop.

With that, might as well see what else is going on…links-style. And believe it or not, there are some things happening other than the move of this game.

From Grippi, the Cougs had a scrimmage on Saturday, as spring ball enters the last week. It sounded like things went alright, although the ranks are awfully thin right now. Tardy with one carry before heading to the sideline with ice on his left leg? James Montgomery didn’t even play? Tons of linebackers, like Andy Mattingly and now Louis Bland, several defensive backs, etc, all out? Levenseller and Lobbestael still not part of scrimmage action? Wonderful.

Well, at least Kevin Lopina is getting a lot of reps, and with the thin running back situation, there were a lot of throwing opportunities. Lopina turned in some fairly decent numbers – 12-for-17, 162 yards, plus the only offensive TD of the scrimmage. 162 yards? That would be good for Lopina’s third-best total from all of last season (174 yards at Baylor, 167 vs. UW). So it is fair to say he’s playing pretty well given the extra opportunities.

But it is also fair to say that overall, the entire team is far from full strength, and maybe even a shell of the team that we will see in the fall. No offense to the current players who are out busting their butts on the field right now, but everyone knows they are missing some pretty key parts to this thing.

Moving on, from the same Grippi – WSU recruit Brock Motum has reaffirmed his pledge to Ken Bone, Ben Johnson and WSU! VERY, very good news here. The 6-9 Aussie will be ready to roll next fall.


Talk about a productive beginning for Bone – three of the four recruits, all regarded as the most important three of the four, all decide to still come to Pullman? No defections on the current roster? Retaining Ben Johnson? It’s ALL GOOD right now. And don’t forget, our own Kaddy met Ken Bone a week ago, and you can read all about it here.

Read on for more…

Meanwhile, off the field, UW is getting new Field Turf. Big deal, right? We already got ours a couple of years ago, as did Qwest Field last year. But the difference? PAINTED END ZONES! That’s right, UW is getting gold end zone paint, not just the green with their name colored in. So I ask, WHERE ARE OUR CRIMSON END ZONES!?!? Not a big deal, but still. I heard one time that painting the end zones a solid color was actually pretty expensive, over 100K or something crazy, so that’s part of the reason we don’t do it.

Washington State senate bill SB6116 has moved out of committee. It now heads to the senate, where they will vote, then if it passes there, to the house. If it passes all phases, then it becomes reality. Why point that out? Because SB6116 is the bill that has the stadium “language” in it, where not only would Key Arena get the long-desired renovation funds, but the door also opens for Husky Stadium. There is thought that the momentum is building behind this thing, and could be passed this week by the senate. From there it must pass the house, or, it could be “tacked on” to another house bill, such as house bill 2252. Should be interesting.

Here’s a question for you. If the bill means the Seattle Center and Key Arena get a major overhaul, but, UW gets their money to renovate their stadium, what do you think from a WSU angle? I know the NBA has been out of sight, out of mind for many of you. I know I survived without the league this winter. Would have been nice to have the NBA back, but with college hoops keeping some interest, and then with the return of Griffey to the M’s, things have blended nicely. As much as I loved having the Sonics in town, I have to admit I didn’t miss it a whole lot. Now part of that was by design of the prior ownership, where they did every possible thing they could to alienate the fanbase and get the hell outta dodge, on their way to “paradise” in OKC…you know, Oklahoma City? The center of the basketball universe? The Thunder sure put them on the map.

Anyway, it’s a double-edged sword. Having Steve Ballmer own the Sonics in an updated Key Arena and a major Seattle Center overhaul would be a great thing for Seattle and the NW. But it also means UW wins in their tax money grab, and they get their $300 million palace on the lake. We’ll see what happens, but it should be an interesting final week in the legislature.

Around the PAC-10:

USC had a scrimmage on Saturday, and their QB battle is still seriously ON. FOUR high school All-Americans are competing for the job?? Wow, tough times at Troy.

Oregon State is talking about money, and what might or might not be cut in these trying times. Even with Reser Stadium naming rights, a renovated stadium, and all their donors, they are struggling just like anyone else right now. It’s a good read to see how our state cousins in Corvallis are fairing.

The Quacks had a scrimmage on Saturday as well (seems like everyone had scrimmages Saturday) and it went “just OK” according to Chip Kelly. Jeremiah Masoli had a big day though, three TD passes plus a 51-yard run. Anyone who watched Oregon late last year and the improvement in their offense as Masoli grabbed that job can see that they got pretty scary by the end of the season. Who knows what they can do with a full season of him leading the offense, but he looks born to run that system.

Cal had their spring game on Saturday. The defense sounds clearly ahead of the offense, and threw a lot of blitzes at the O. Kevin Riley was “okay” according to their recap, but maybe a little indecisive if not disappointing?

UW had a scrimmage too – did we mention everyone had a scrimmage Saturday? – and they took a big step towards an undefeated 2009 with a running game so dominant, so brilliant, it blinded those who dared to stare directly at it….OK, not really. But they did churn out 174 rushing yards. LOOK OUT LSU!

Locker played OK – 10-16 for 133 yards (hey, LOPINA WAS BETTER!) – but he sounds like he is starting to get more comfortable in the pro-style offense.

“He’s starting to understand the nuances of the position within our system,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he was much more comfortable today than he’s been the entire spring. The one pick was a miscommunication between him and (Aguilar), I thought the rest of the day he had a really good day. He felt comfortable, distributed the ball well, had great huddle presence, had good command at the line of scrimmage, I just though he handled the day well.”

OK, it must be said – Is it me, or are they serving up super-sized helpings of hype to anyone who cares out there? I guess the change from the closed off, angry, guarded Ty Willie to the Twitter King in Sarkisian, with his arms wide open to all comers, is a big part of it. But the media seems to be playing along. Whatever. We’ll see soon enough if it’s the real thing.

That’s about it for a Monday. Enjoy it, and GO COUGS!

Negative for Fans, No Big Deal for Team?

April 17, 2009


Ouch.

So here we are. Reaction pours in from all corners of the state. Is it safe to say that the majority view on the idea of moving the Apple Cup to Qwest is a really bad idea? A lot of comments, here and everywhere, more or less back that up. Today’s article from Bud Withers shows that even true purple-blooded Husky fans don’t like it. Mike Lude, the former AD?

“If I were still the athletic director,” said the man who once was AD at Washington, “they’d have to do it over my dead body.

“It would be a tragedy.”

I have to say I would think the UW fan base wouldn’t be quite so hating on this. The game is just a few miles south of their campus, they don’t have to travel to “the armpit of Eastern WA” in late November, as someone put it yesterday in comments, etc. And the finances, forget about it. To trade in a miserable trip to Pullman where they only take home a few hundred thousand, to now play in Qwest Field for upwards of $2 million? WHERE DO WE SIGN?? I thought there were many reasons that this is a major benefit to the purple-n-gold, but maybe not.

But, what did the powers-that-be expect the overwhelming response was going to be? We love it? I mean honestly, we are COLLEGE FOOTBALL FANS. College athletics are some of the most emotional athletic competitions on the planet. The NFL is intense, sure, and the NBA playoffs at least can get pretty hot. But there is more of a sense of “ownership” by students, alumni and just fans, at least in a lot of regions throughout this country, in NCAA athletics. There isn’t a Steinbrenner or Nintendo in the ownership box. We believe (right or wrong) that WE are part owners of this thing. That WE are right there with them, doing the heavy lifting and carrying the torch for our respective institutions. We are the ticket buying public, we write checks for the athletic department, we buy the apparel, and most of all, WE are the butts in the seats!

So to rip the game out of the heart of both campuses to make some extra money? It’s a little naive to think that the initial wave of fan reaction was going to be positive.

However it also must be said – not everyone hates this in the blogosphere. The lads at Cougcenter? They like it, to the point they sound like they are endorsing it. And after reading some of their arguments for the game, they do raise some decent points. They might be in the minority today, but they appear to be on the bandwagon.


Moving on, Grippi bellies up with his offering on the WSU reaction. The players don’t sound real upset by it. But coach Wulff kind of goes around and around with it, but doesn’t exactly hate it. In fact he likes the idea of a guaranteed bye with moving the game to after Thanksgiving in a twelve game schedule. But most of all, don’t forget he’s in the administration. He is all too aware of the bottom-line challenges that we are facing in the coming days.

In the same article, Grippi notes how Pullman isn’t skipping down main street over this one.

In a more concrete development, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce sent an open letter to WSU athletic director Jim Sterk, stating the group was “astounded at the idea of moving the Apple Cup game to Seattle for the next 6 years,” and urging Sterk take into account “the broader economic and psychological impacts of moving this game out of town.”

The letter, signed by chamber president Tom Handy and executive director Tammy Lewis, cited Apple Cup economic impacts that, according to those surveyed, are for some, “double or triple the revenues they reap from a regular home game weekend.”

NOT IN LOVE WITH THIS. Not. One. Bit. And can you blame them? Punting double or triple the revenues they get compared to a regular game pretty much sucks for said college town. And let’s face it, they don’t (or won’t) come from all corners of the state to watch New Mexico or SMU in Pullman, will they?

I talked to a good friend in Spokane last night, who is part of a key demographic of WSU eastern WA alums. A season-ticket holder for several years, in his late-30’s, married with young children, a homeowner, and some disposable income living in Spokane. You know what his reaction was? Disgust. And if he was forced to buy a ticket for that game as part of his season ticket package, how fast can he get his tickets on Craigslist, Ebay, Stub-Hub or anything else for that matter?? To him, it is a sellout move by the administration and a big chunk of the season-ticket base in Spokane is feeling awfully betrayed by this.

In a down economy, we are all making tough choices with our discretionary income. Will something like this lead to some sort of backlash? Time will tell. While the financial carrot is awfully large in this, man, I would tread lightly when dealing with the biggest contingent of your fanbase – the eastern WA alums.

We’ll see what happens in the coming days. It sounds like it could be announced soon, as in early next week.

That’s it. ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and GO COUGS!

Physical Scrimmage a Promising Sign?

April 4, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Comments and Stuff

March 27, 2009

Happy Friday to you all. So nice to have football back isn’t it? At least for a little while anyway.

I thought the picture was appropriate, based on the idea of how far the team has to go to compete up front. There is no question the offensive and defensive lines were rag-dolled most of last year, and the reasons were many – lack of size, lack of strength, too young, etc. But it does at least sound like we’re seeing progress there, such as the article the other day where they ran down the new weights of several players.

And on that note, there were some great comments you have left over the last few days, and we thought it would be a good idea to highlight a few of them.

’03CouveCoug had some good thoughts on what ails the program, and what to do about it:

Alright Sedi, you asked what’s broke, and how do we fix it…so here goes. What’s broke is simple…both lines.

Until the Cougs can send out Pac-10 caliber lines, they will not win many games. It all starts up front on both sides of the ball. We need DT’s that:
1. Clog the middle and allow the linebackers to make plays when offenses run and
2. To occupy as many opposing OL’s as possible on passing plays so that the DEs and/or blitzers can tee off on the opposing QB. Remember Long, Tupai, and Williams? Or Sasa and Eaton? THAT’S why those defenses were so good!

We need DEs that:
1. Can not only pin their ears back and rush the backfield on passing downs
2. That have the strength and quickness to turn running plays back inside toward their friends. Does DD Acholonu have younger brothers or cousins?

The only way to fix this is to continue to recruit “big frame” guys with good feet that we can put weight on to become DTs and to recruit “strong motor” linebacker types that also have the frames to put on weight in order to make them ferocious DEs.

Do we already have guys like this on the team? I believe the answer is yes, we fans just need to give them time to develop. I also believe that it is slightly easier to make quick improvement on defense because playing D does not require as much precision and execution as offense and can be played with more instinct and emotion.

On the offensive line, we need more “big frame” guys that have great footwork, good agility and great smarts. Not to say that every player doesn’t need smarts, but it is my opinion that besides the QB, the o-linemen need to be the smartest guys on the field. I really think that these types of o-linemen are already on the roster. I think health and cohesion will promote a vast improvement amongst this group this year (fingers and toes crossed). Let’s just keep recruiting the TE type out of high school and make them big boys!

I think a great example of this is down the way in Corvallis. The Beavs have developed a very good program because they have the ability to throw out waves of good, if not great lineman on both sides of the ball, which they have the ability to do because of great coaching and redshirting. If we develop our lines like OSU (easier said than done) over the coming years our beloved Cougs will perennially be a team to be reckoned with.

Well said. I think we are on the same page here? I know we’ve been trumpeting what Oregon State has become for some time, and they are the perfect model for WSU to follow….


Except the part about CHOKING the Rose Bowl bid at home against your hated rival! OUCH. Moving on…

CalebCherry dropped in to say that WSU’s future approach should be to focus a lot more on defense, ala the hoops program:

For us out here, I think if we are going to have one side of the ball dominate heads and shoulders above the other… especially in our conference, we stand a far better chance of getting to a bowl game with an offense that puts just enough points on the board and a defense that is our foundation and what keeps us competitive and turns peoples heads.

It seems like the most effective use of our time given we’re still a couple years into an completely new offensive philosophy.

There shouldn’t be any reason we can’t supply some demand for local (even west coast) guys who only have USC (and maybe oregon?) to look to when they dream about playing some pin-your-ears-back defense.

The best way I can say it is… I’d love to have the same feeling I get when cougar basketball plays ANYONE! I know it’s not out of the question that our defense will keep us in the game with literally… anyone.

Good takes. I remember Wulff saying on one of last fall’s radio shows about how he learned from Mike Price the approach of stocking up on speed and athleticism on defense, and how important that was to our past successes.


It’s easy to look at Price’s best teams and see how even with some very productive offenses, the D was a huge factor (’92, ’94’, ’97, ’01’, ’02).

Chris’04 weighed in, saying the pound increase on these guys sounds good, but “FAT” isn’t always a good thing….

This is GREAT news! I’m glad to see that Wulff has delivered on his promise to bulk up our guys. But, bulk does not always equal performance. Keep in mind that the Fuskies had the heaviest OLine in the Pac10 last year. Look where that got them. But I trust Wulff 100% that he is not adding bulk at the expense of strength and quickness.

Good point Chris. UW boasted about their large line, but yeah, didn’t really do much for them. Funny how much hype UW’s o-line had coming into 2008, but when they lost the scrambling Locker, suddenly they couldn’t move or pass block worth a damn? Coincidence??

“BMels”, a newcomer to comments I believe(?), had his thoughts and parallels with the WSU hoops program when the Bennett’s started their program flip:

When considering the future of our Cougs, I must think back to the ways of the Bennett crew taking charge at Beasley. First years were atrocious, awful, ugly, painful, disgusting…you get the idea. And for the most part, that continued even when Tony took over and “the big three” (Weaver, Low, Cowgill) were frosh. Their sophomore year, they continued to lose but all games were close, often coming down to the last couple minutes or plays. And the next year, well, I don’t need to tell anybody about our first trip to the Dance in recent memory. I honestly foresee the football team following suit and taking steps in the right direction.

No predictions but i see more competitive losses next year where we actually look like a football team with football players making football plays. We continue to grow and build, guys get bigger/faster/stronger, and team character builds. I think 2010 shows serious progress reflected in wins and losses but 2011 is the year where this year’s incoming freshman have the chance to make some noise.

And there is no way Wulff has anything to worry about even potentially until after 2010 at the earliest. He’s gonna get more than a fair chance to right the ship.

I know I have heard this comp a few times, as a lot of you have as well. While hoops and football are very different and, honestly, it at least appears that it is a little easier to change things in hoops more quickly than football, it is fair to compare both programs at this juncture to see if they follow the same path. Although Dick Bennett did coach at WSU for three losing seasons, and it wasn’t until Tony took over in year four before they broke through to the NCAA’s, well, we COULD see the improvement this year on the football field in terms of things are tightened up and the foundations are laid for future success. But I think it is difficult to compare the different sports and draw too much of a conclusion. Time will tell.

Finally, our own Hooty had this to say about the sour-face Governor during UW’s loss to Purdue:

If Gregoire were green, she’d look exactly like the Grinch.

Good call.

There are some links and stuff out there as well, floating about after day one.

GRIPPI NAILS ONE TODAY with his day-one practice recap. GREAT to hear Lobbestael throwing TD’s in seven-on-seven drills!

The TNT’s Ryan Divish dives into the improvement expected for this spring.

And Cougfan has been blowing up the coverage. It’s all premium stuff, but they are all over it.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY, and as always, GO COUGS!

Spring Practice Questions, WSU Football Blog Style

March 26, 2009

So with spring ball upon us as of today, the optimism is there. Some great comments out of all of you the last few days, so the enthusiasm for football is still alive. They just couldn’t kill it after 2-11! Now it’s not overflowing with talk of “we’re going to open multiple cans of whoop ass”, but still, there does seem to be a good feel that things are about to get better.

Paul Wulff intimated as much yesterday in the WSU chat. While he didn’t roll out the pom-poms and lead everyone in the fight song, you could tell in his own, understated tone that he likes the direction. He really went into great detail about his feelings on these here “internets” and such:

Allen (Covington): Coach- in your opinion do Internet recruiting services help or hinder your recruiting process as a coach? There’s quite the debate online and offline (see Meat Market by Feldman).

Paul Wulff: They do both.

Well OK then.

Due to the lengthy responses from coach Wulff, I’d like to warn our affiliates we’ll be going over…
To repeat, warning our affiliates, we WILL BE GOING OVER our allotted time….

But back on topic, there are questions. MANY questions for this team, and what’s to come. Not to TOTALLY RIP OFF Vince Grippi from yesterday….by the way, Vince, “JC Levenseller”? We love you, and you won that phony election last year…but come on man.

Anyway, here are three super-terrific questions that we thought were relevant to what needs to be addressed, cleaned up, fixed, blown up, whatever….

1) WHO IS GOING TO THROW IT??

We WANT to be thrilled with Marshall Lobbestael’s potential. Seriously thrilled. And let’s face it, the kid did show some major moxie in his limited time last year. Oh, he didn’t go out and lead a titanic upset or anything. He had a few shining moments against Oregon, but how excited can you get over a 63-14 loss?

But in looking at Lobbestael, you almost have to just throw out the win/loss type stuff and realize all that was working against him last season. Such as a patchwork offensive line that had a different starting lineup throughout the first seven games, an ineffective running game, and an offense in general that lead the solar system in giveaways. Combine that with a massive malaise that overtook this team the first half or so games of 2008 with the flip-that-culture program running into some, uh, resistance, it is now pretty apparent that he simply wasn’t going to succeed. But to Marshall’s credit, he came in under said circumstances and held his own, leading the team in passer rating (103.7) and TD passes (4) in five games.

Wow, think about that for a second. A redshirt frosh QB played in just five games, and LED the team in TD passes with FOUR?? Who the?? WHAT THE?? Ryan Leaf used to have that many in one game, heck, one HALF. Mike Price is rolling over in his palatial El Paso estate (I didn’t say rolling over in his grave because coach Price isn’t actually dead….it’s just his career that has flat-lined). But those team-leading four TD passes is a real eye-opener isn’t it?

The biggest worry about Marshall is that knee.


I mean the kid did just blow that thing out on October 11th of last fall. It might feel like a long, long time ago, but that’s less than six months from right now. We hear that he’s made a ton of progress, enough so that he’ll actually participate in seven-on-seven skeleton drills this spring. Encouraging? Absolutely. But will he REALLY be ready for game action this fall? Not only do we have to hope for a full recovery in his knee, but will this injury rob him of his ability to move effectively? He’s not a Jeshua Anderson-type sprinter, but the kid could move pre-blown knee. Will he be able to do so post-injury? And how long will it take him to not only survive, but actually thrive on that knee? Mentally will he build up his confidence? I don’t know what you think, but he can wear the yellow no-contact jersey all fall camp and look great doing it. We aren’t really going to know until the season opener vs. Stanford. And we can be assured that the Cardinal D isn’t going to take it easy on him either. He will get hit, hard, for the first time in a long time. We just won’t know until that moment if he is all the way back.

So if Marshall just isn’t ready, what are the other options? JT Levenseller showed some spunk. But he has thrown just 34 passes in very limited time. He was tied with Kevin Lopina for 3rd on the team in TD passes. Of course, that number is ZERO. Young Levy has good feet, and from the looks of it, his arm passes the eye test. His skill-set appears to be a good match in the Todd Sturdy offense.

I know I’m excited as can be about this kid’s upside and reported intangibles from all who have been around him. But again, a bushel full of questions with him.

Finally, Kevin Lopina. What can we say? He evolved into a leader in the locker room, calling out the quitters and bad apples when things were falling down around him. For that, he gets points. And that throw to Jared Karstetter was enormous, a throw that will go down in AC history as one of the biggest plays in the series, pro-WSU style. And he is tough as can be, coming back off a fracture in his back to give it everything he had. But all that said, is it enough? How can we ignore his zero TD/11 INT ratio? Is that a starting QB in the PAC-10? You hate to be harsh on the kid, as he gave every ounce of sweat he had for this program last year. But I think many can agree that we might be best served if Lopina is the backup.

One nugget from the Paul Wulff chat yesterday is that the door is NOT closed on Lopina starting.

David California: On a recent radio show you stated there would be only one senior starting on offense in 2009. Would it be safe to assume that person is Kenny Alfred?

Paul Wulff: At the time, what I meant was there could be only up to one senior starting, the only proven senior being Kenny Alfred. But obviously, Tony Thompson has a clear shot at starting, as well as Kevin Lopina and Dwight Tardy.

Oh.

2) WHO’S GOING TO CATCH IT?

Gone is Brandon Gibson, who led the team in catches (57), yards(673) and TD’s (2). All numbers down across the board when you look back at how productive a player Gibson was in his career, but given the overall state of the offense, not too shabby either. Jeshua Anderson is back, second in catches (33) and yards (305), but yeah, there’s this whole track thing to think about. Hard to know exactly what he’ll be able to do by this fall after missing another spring practice session this year. Can’t exactly fault the kid either, I mean he’s clearly special in track and field, Olympics-type special. But there is also no doubt that he’s missing some valuable practice time to mesh with the updated offense, potential new QB’s, etc. It is what it is.

But the youngsters, while they didn’t pop with blazing numbers last year, are intriguing. Kevin Norrell played a lot as a true frosh, and while not a big physical presence, he did show some upside averaging 11.3 yards per catch. He’ll get a huge chance to shine this spring/next season. Daniel Blackledge was a little beat up last year but he too showed something, and has drawn some recent praise from Wulff. And Jared Karstetter was pretty overwhelmed as being force fed into the lineup as a true frosh last year, but there are some things to be excited about with him. Like, oh, I don’t know, a certain 48-yard catch in a certain game last year?


Most of all, these youngsters all got their first season out of the way. If anything, they’ve learned what it is like to line up across an all-conference talent like USC, Oregon or Cal rolls out every week. They shouldn’t be as overwhelmed by the moment this year. But boy, they will need to step up and be ready, asap. Plenty of opportunities available!

3) WHO WILL LEAD THE DEFENSE?

Gone is the “triangle” of Greg Trent at middle linebacker, A’i Ahmu at defensive tackle, and Matt Mullennix and his 1.5 knees held together with scotch tape at defensive end. All three gave what they had, each and every week, to help shore up a porous D that gave up tons of yards per game(443+) and points per game (43.8). While the world crumbled around them, they did what they could to try and hold things together.


So who shall lead them? My money is on Louis Bland, Xavier Hicks and Andy Mattingly. Bland, of course, burst onto the scene as an undersized true frosh who slid to outside linebacker. Next thing you know, he’s all-frosh with 55 tackles, nine for loss, including a couple of sacks, an INT return for a TD, and some huge knocks in the Apple Cup victory. But Bland has exuded “special” since he set foot in Pullman, and there was already talk LAST YEAR about Bland possibly being a team captain!

Xavier Hicks meanwhile has really turned it around. A big hitter with some meathead moves off the field, he appears to have taken well to the leadership of Coach Wulff. Even missing the first three games of last season didn’t keep him from finishing second on the team in tackles (78) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (2). Hicks might be the best all-conference candidate of the entire defense, and the timing might be right for a huge senior year.

Finally, Mattingly. A huge 2007 season as a breakout force at linebacker with the well-documented tackles (91) and sacks (8), 2008 was a lost year. Mattingly’s move to defensive end resulted in almost HALF the tackles from 2007 (44) and his sacks were trimmed from eight to just one in ’08. The good news is it appears they have seen the light, and Mattingly actually moved back to strong-side linebacker the last couple of games in 2008, and sure enough, the move is now permanent with the release of this spring’s depth chart. Very nice.

So that’s it. The three biggest questions (with possible answers?) to this team. There are many more, of course, ones that we didn’t even scratch the surface on. What do YOU think are the biggest questions facing this team? And what answers might you have to fix what’s BROKE?!?

That’s it for a Thursday. ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!