Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Baby Trufant the Best One Yet?

February 19, 2008


As we bask in the glow of the Oregon win (more on that in a moment), some actual football recruiting buzz is starting to percolate. What do you know? Desmond Trufant has been making a name for himself down in Tacoma, and is drawing raves from all over. And I guess Wulff meant it when he said that right after signing day they are already working on next year’s class. Wulff has already stepped up and offered Trufant a full ride (what a difference with this coaching staff?).

Yes, that is Trufant, as in the Tacoma Trufant’s. Do the Cougs’ have a leg up in this fight? Well, as of today, young Desmond is wide-open in the recruiting battle. We’ve offered, but so has Ty Willingham. And Oregon is interested as well.

Maybe Wulff has an edge here, not only with the WSU lineage with Marcus, but we all likely know that the middle Trufant, Isaiah, played for Wulff at Eastern. So we’ll see how it all plays out.

Trufant is an interesting prospect. Good size for a high school junior at 6-0, 170, and reportedly runs a 4.5. But his coach at Wilson already says that he’s better at this stage than his older brothers in terms of making big plays and showing pure athletic ability. He’s also a heck of a guard on the hoops team. He made second team All-Narrows league this season and will be a likely first-team candidate next year. He also ran track in ’07, running in the 4×100 relay. And as a frosh, he even triple-jumped over 40 feet, good for 5th best that year against a bunch of upper-classmen.

You know what’s great though? Wulff is out there fighting for this kid, regardless of his name and the possible “ins” we have here. Can you imagine the former staff actually offering a kid this early?? Never would have happened. I think back to losing Cameron Elisara to UW and how that former staff handled a player that many thought would be a sure thing to WSU. After all his dad played on the ’81 team, he was playing in Spokane, he had interest in WSU. But while we collectively fell asleep at the wheel, he chose UW because they were after him, showed him the “love”, that sort of thing. I can’t WAIT to see what sort of classes Wulff can put together over the next couple of years once he has a chance to establish his product!

So the latest polls have our hoop team at #17 in the AP, #19 in the coaches/USA Today. Seems about right. You can’t help but feel good about how they’ve righted the ship. I’ll let Brinkhater go off about the x’s and o’s, but from where I sit they seem to have that swagger back that they were lacking there for a tough stretch. That same swagger they had earlier in the season while winning close road games at Gonzaga, Baylor and UW, it all seems to be coming back. The health of Weaver is a concern, no doubt, and that seems like it might be something to really keep an eye on down the stretch. But it’s also a situation that appears to have let Rochestie take more of the offensive load? He has stepped up his offensive numbers lately, and was huge at the stripe down the stretch on Saturday. Finally, LOVED TO SEE LOW get off! I told Brinkhater last week that I am still waiting anxiously for him to just get it rolling, and the start of that Oregon game was huge for him. He is so streaky, but he has moments where he’s really, really special and looks like he could take over a game at any time. He shows those flashes of big-time scorer and you wonder where it is all the time, but that’s just the nature of being a fan I guess.

The Arizona schools are up next, starting with the Sun Devils on Thursday. Oh those naughty Sun Devils!
Then of course it’s Arizona on Saturday.

A sweep of the desert schools would sure be nice. But for some reason I suddenly don’t hate them all that much, do you?

On the Sonics war front – Can David Stern please SHUT THE F*CK UP? More rhetoric, more saber-rattling, more sky is falling. Yet you still hear and see no sign of panic among the Seattle “leaders”. Why? Because for one simple reason – they KNOW they won’t lose in court! The NBA and the Sonics ownership is screwed and they know it. The NBA doesn’t want to be drug through the mud which, coincidentally, this case would start during the NBA Finals, when the whole nation is watching the league. Their only hope is to try and buy out the city so they can get the hell out of here, but the city knows how strong a case they have. They know it, you know it, I know it, Bob Dole knows it. The thing to be a little uneasy about however is the story today that says “we won’t settle…..for now.” Let’s hope they do the thing that is in the best interest of the fans, and that’s stick to the outcome of the court case, period. And if the city somehow loses? Just appeal, appeal, appeal, and delay their departure. Make it painful on Clay-Clay.

The other side to this is that there are strong rumors that a local group is forming, all behind the scenes, to make a tremendous offer to buy the team. But that offer won’t come until after the case is heard. The other part of that equation is that a huge Key Arena remodel package is also in the works, one that would come right along with the new ownership group. But again, all that is behind the scenes and kept private until the outcome of the court case. It’s a frustrating way to play it, all the silence, but it’s the way it should be done for now.

Here’s the thing. The city has Slade Gordon on the roster to fight for this thing. I can’t think of anyone better to be on our side than Stud Gordon. Do you know why we even have the Mariners right now? Slade Gordon sued Major League Baseball after the Pilots bolted for Milwaukee, and WON Seattle a franchise! Do you know why the Seahawks are here? Slade Gordon was part of the group that stood up to Ken Behring and helped play a role in getting Paul Allen to the table with Behring. Today the Seahawks are a model NFL franchise. Slade Gordon doesn’t lose to professional sports leagues, PERIOD. So let David Stern say there’s no hope, no miracle. Let them flap their wings about settlements and such. But at the end of the day, they are staring at a losing cause in court, and they know it.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

And so it begins…

February 7, 2008

Greetings Cougies.

Happy NLI Day. I’m back from the casino with a couple pages of notes; $20 bucks more than I had when I left the house (I hit it big in 3-card poker); and I reek of cigarette smoke.

I moved to Spokane 2 1/2 years ago and I can vouch for the fact that there is a noticibly higher percentage of dudes with mulletts here than anywhere on “the coast” – as we Spokanites refer to Seattle – with the possible exception of Kent. There are lots of guys with mulletts here, but they’re mostly run-of-the-mill. Occasionally, you might see a really long one or one with a sweet perm or something – but for the most part, you stop noticing them because you’re so used to them. Well, tonight at the Casino after the recruiting dealie, I stuck around to play some cards and I saw what could only be described as the best mullett in the history of mankind. And I know mulletts…

Freshman McBoob, circa 1988

Anyway, you know how Joe Dirt’s mullett is kind of a caricature of the real-life mullett? Well this guy’s mullett was actually better than Joe Dirt’s but it was on a real dude – and no shit – he was wearing a tavern jacket. He was actually with a fairly hot chick too, which made it even better.

So anyway, this mullett was SWEET! I actually made two attempts to capture it’s soul with my cellphone camera but alas, it was too elusive. Sorry about that. But seriously, thank you WSU, for having this thing at a casino in Spokane.

***

This is from one of Mini McBoob’s animal fact books:

“Young cougars are about two years old before they have enough hunting skills to catch their own food. Adult cougars care for them until they are able to live on their own.”

Wulff and staff made it pretty clear that this class may require some patience on all of our part, before they mature and become cougars who “hunt and kill.”

“Although cougar cubs are cute and cuddly-looking, they are dangerous and should never be approached in the wild. The young cubs will scratch and bite in self defense, and their mothers will attack anyone approaching their young.”

The feelings of one coach were that we may have a tough year ahead – but we WILL win some games that no one expects us to. I also suspect that as hard as this staff had to work to put together a recruiting class this big in only a month and a half, they will defend it as a class that could be to the football program, what Low, Weaver and Cowgill are to the basketball program. (You never know…)

The staff is well aware of the fact that this class is comprised mostly of kids who were lightly recruited by Pac-10 schools – if at all. As Coach Wulff put it, recruiting is based on creating relationships with players, coaches and moms and dads. That process usually takes a year or more. With only a month and a half to do the job, there was little time to forge new relationships so in many cases, they went with the players with whom they were familiar from EWU. They also worked hard to find those coveted diamonds in the rough with whom we have become so familiar over the years.

Wulff said they went after kids who were versatile, big, athletic and fast. Maybe more importantly (just kidding – but it’s still pretty important, right Barbara Hedges?), they were looking for high-character kids with strong academics, who would represent the university well.

I’m really bad at judging the size of a crowd, but I’d say about 300 Cougs came out to hear about the first recruiting class of the new coaching regime. It was a free event, yet there was a buffet. Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t this money have been better spent on oh, I don’t know, the stadium rennovation? I fasted throughout the event, in silent protest (although I did have a cup of coffee.)

As I entered, I scanned the room for familiar faces and not seeing any friends, picked a seat along the wall, right next to Jim Moore. I’m a fan of the Go 2 Guy but I have too much pride to appear the slightest bit star-struck, so I didn’t acknowledge that I knew who he was. That said, I was dying to chat him up.

Because of yet another winter storm moving through the area, there was about a half hour between the time I sat down and the time the event really got going. As we sat there, coaches started trickling in. This gave me the “ice-breaker” I was looking for with Moore. One of the last coaches to roll in was our new D Coordinator. I leaned over to Moore and said “USC has Ken Norton…and we have Jody Sears.” It drew a small chuckle and opened the door to a few more smartass remarks back and forth for the rest of the night.

The only two guys in the room who did not give coach Wulff a standing ‘O’ were Moore and myself – two cynical bastards. I’m generally happy with Wulff as our new coach but think he might do well to receive some publicity training. He’s not the most dynamic of speakers.

I once worked with a guy who had been around longer than most, had more knowledge than most and had more desire and passion than most. But he was really fat and usually appeared disheveled and dumpy (sounds like me, I know). Every time there was a promotion available, he’d get passed over because management thought he “needed more polish.” Paul Wulff is not even close to Mark Mangino but he’s also light years away from Steve Spurrier. He needs some more practice at the public speaking thing – I’ll just leave it at that.

That said, Wulff comes across as very genuine. If he lacks charisma in front of a crowd of yokel alumni, he makes up for it in work ethic with his team. I believed him when he said that although no current members of the team have left school due to the coaching change, that very well could change after they start workouts. “We’re going to work ’em” he said. “Maybe some guys will leave because they don’t want to work (that hard).”

Wulff introduced his staff and I’m not sure if this is news or not, introduced Chris Ball and Jody Sears as Co-D-Coordinators. Of the coaches, Broussard got a well-deserved ovation, as did Levy. I kept my eye on him as the coaches took their seats at their tables, looking to see how he interacted with the other coaches. Wulff described Levy as “the best receivers coach in the country” and it looks like he’s fitting in well with the new staff.

I mentioned above that a coach made a statement about our fortunes for next year and the fact that we’d surprise some people. Well that same coach (who I won’t name) is an acquaintence of mine and he told me this in a quick, private conversation. He also told me that this staff was night and day from last year. These guys are a tight bunch, who work well together, work hard and have a ton of energy. When Chris Ball spoke he said it was “the best coaching staff in the country.”

Speaking of Chris Ball, in my opinion, he stole the show. “When I left here,” he said “we were Pac-10 champs. That’s where we want to get back to.” If Ball was apprentice to Mike Price, one of the things he learned was how to work a crowd. His story was great. After Wulff was hired, Ball received a phone call from Bill Doba. “Paul Wulff is going to be calling you”, he said, and soon after, the phone indeed rang – but Ball did not answer. Knowing what his options were for this year, he had to weigh them with his family, including his wife who was not thrilled with the idea of another move. When his son, a freshman in high school, found out that Pullman was one of three options, he lit up. “There’s only one place I’ll go, Dad” and as you can guess, that place was Pullman. We are very fortunate to have Chris Ball on this staff and on the same day that Jim Mora Jr. was announced as the next head coach of the Seahawks, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for him in Pullman…

Todd Sturdy also spoke and I have to say, it was “like at first sight.” He seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy and is very confident in hmself and his offense. The question was tip-toed around – but asked on two different occasions (not in so many words): Will this no-huddle, D-II offense work in the Pac-10? I got the feeling that Sturdy bit his tongue when he tactfully replied that the same plays are being run by BCS schools all over the country. The scheme works – but as always, it’s up to the players to execute it. The task now at hand for the staff is to evaluate the players to determine how they will fit in the system. Sturdy assures that there will be competition at every spot – including quarterback. Though he did elude to the fact that he’d love to see Gary Rodgers – and other upperclassmen win jobs because you want to see the seniors “lead the young guys.”

After listening to the coordinators, here’s the Cliff’s Notes for next year:

On Offense, we will feature a balanced attack. We’ll be up-tempo, aggressive and smart. On Defense, we will feature an 8-man front, with speed on the edges. Everything we do will be predicated on stopping the run first. “We will be the best tackling team in the Pac-10,” said Ball. We will be fundamentally sound.

When Recruiting Coordinator Rich Rasmussen spoke, he made one thing very clear. Over MLK weekend, we hosted 9 recruits and their families. The ONE thing that really turned these kids Crimson, was seeing the incredible support the crowd gave the basketball team during the Oregon game. That turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the night. This team NEEDS our support. As Coach Wulff said at the end of the night, “I’ve made the drive from Cheney and Spokane to Pullman at least 15 times in the last month and a half. It’s not that bad. We need you guys to make that trip only 5 times this fall!”

Eventually, we got to see a little film on our recruits. It was literally only a few clips of each kid and it went by very quickly – but I did manage a few notes on most of them. Without further Madu, here are some of the newest Cougs.


Adam Coerper TE/DE 6’5″/230 Hood River, OR. Listed as a TE/DE and showed good blocking ability in clips. Lined up as an H-Back in one clip, he motioned back across the line and crushed an OLB. Projected as a DE at WSU.

Kevin Frank DB 5’10″/170 Elk Grove, CA. Related to former Coug and NFLer Ricky Reynolds, Frank may be the fastest kid in this class. With legit 4.3-4.4 speed, he’s one of only a few true freshmen that may play this year. Projected as a CB.

Terrance Hayward DB 6’1″/175 Carson, CA. Hayward just turned 17 in November and according to Wulff, if given another year of High School ball he’d be the focus of a major recruiting battle. He’s going to grow and will be big and physical. I suspect that may mean he projects as a Safety but it was not mentioned where he projects. Given his age, you have to wonder if he’s one of the few kids the staff will ask to grayshirt.

Tim Hodgdon OL 6’3″/287 Ladera Ranch, CA. Wulff says Hodgdon is actually 6’4″ and 300+ lbs. He has a nasty streak that the coach loves. “He’ll knock guys down and then lay on top of ’em.”

Jared Karstetter WR 6’4″/195 Spokane, WA. Hometown kid drew a good cheer from the crowd but coach didn’t have a whole lot to say about him. He’s still growing and has great potential. My guess is he’ll either get faster and develop his route-running under Levy; or they’ll start feeding him and make him a TE.

Anthony Laurenzi DT 6’3″/260 Placentia, CA. Looks like a high-motor, relentless type of player.

Mike Ledgerwood LB 6’1″/215 Finley, WA. One of several recruits who attended EWU camp. Staff is familiar with him and likes his football mentality. Has a nose for the ball but did not look horribly fast. If he succeeds at this level, will be labeled an over-achiever, a la Pat Bennett, Steve Gleason, Scott Davis, etc.

Andrei Lintz TE 6’4″/220 Bellingham, WA. The “hidden gem” of the class, according to Wulff. Whether he winds up at TE or DE, “he’ll be one of the best players at his position in the Pac-10.” Should be fun to watch his development.

Josh Luapo DT 6’0″/295 Torrance, CA. Lined up at DE in a couple clips, showed good quickness and strength. Will be compared to Ahmu. Lets hope he’s better.

Cory Mackay WR 6’4″/215 Redmond, WA. Lined up at OLB in one clip, he crashed in and absolutely blew up a fullback. Drawing a gasp from the crowd, Wulff said, “Let’s watch that again!” He re-wound the clip and said, “now imagine this guy (the fullback) wearing purple, with a gold helmet!” “You gotta love this guy!” said Wulff. “He spurned UW!” (to sign with us.)

Jay Matthews S 6’1″/200 Lake Oswego, OR. Another kid who may play this year. Looks like a hard-hitter from center field. Also offered by OSU.

Kevin Norrell WR 5’9″/180 Los Angeles, CA. Another potential hidden gem, discovered in LA by Bruiser. Did not draw a lot of attention because he played with a bad QB. Showed great hands and balance on a poorly thrown ball and can also return kicks.

Tyson Pencer DE/TE 6’6″/260 Delta, B.C. Hold-over should be ready to go this fall. Showed clips of him playing middle LB. I’m thinking with more bulk, he could be the next Rien Long.

Alex Reitnour OL 6’5″/235 LaCanada, CA. Needs to put on weight to play in the Pac-10 but he has good feet and can play all 5 spots on the line.

Jessy Sanchez DE 6’2″/265 Culver City, CA. Good combination of size and speed. Coming in as a junior, he’s “ready to play in the Pac-10.”

Calvin Schmidtke QB 6’0″/186 University Place, WA. We’ve all heard the Gesser comparisons as well as those to Todd Reesing at Kansas and Chase Daniel at Mizzou – and Wulff echoed those sentiments. Another guy who camped at EWU, so the staff is very familiar with him. He’s very competitive and you can tell that the staff belives he can run their offense. Showed decent arm strength and ability to move.

Daniel Simmons CB 5’10″/178 Ontario, CA. The last fax to roll in yesterday was from Simmons so you’ve probably not heard much about him. All you need to know is that Wulff thinks he could play as a true frosh.

Dan Spitz TE/DE 6’5″/245 Spokane, WA. Another hometown kid who will need to find his position. Very athletic but needs more bulk. Showed nice hands.

Chantz Staden RB 5’11″/200 Campbell, CA. Physical runner but has great hands. Expect to see him lined up all over the field.

Skylar Stormo TE/DE 6’4″/227 Everett, WA. Another big, athletic kid who will need to find his position.

Tyree Toomer DB 6’0″/180 Bellflower, CA. Coach thinks he was overlooked by many because he played out of position in HS. Projects at S for the Cougs. Legit 4.4 speed and he likes to hit.

Michael Vandenkolk WR 5’10″/175 Carlsbad, CA. Son of Cougar parents. Is smart, competitive and runs well. We’ll see what Levy can do with him.

Zack Williams OL 6’3″/285 Pasadena, CA. Very physical player on the OL. Has the nasty streak you look for in a dominant lineman and according to Wulff, has NFL ability. With enough depth on the line and 3 to play 2, Williams may redshirt.

Bernard Wolfgramm DE 6’3″/270 San Mateo, CA. Showed the ability to dominate in JC and will be counted on to step right in and be a star on the Cougar D. Largely considered the best “get” of the class.

***

In closing, Wulff announced that “Recruiting is done today; and tommorow, we go to work.”

The 2008 WSU football season began with a workout at 6AM this morning. Basketball. Shmasketball.

Go Cougs!

Boys Will Be Boys? Hardly.

January 31, 2008

So now that the Times has finished serving it’s 4-course meal of UW thugism (plus one inspirational story of Anthony Kelley’s success, despite the program) , what do we as Cougar fans think? Plenty, obviously. But I’m going to take a slightly different angle.

No jokes or barbs tonight. Why? Too easy to kick a dog while it lies in the gutter? Too easy to laugh and make fun of a program that was out of control because this level of thugism hasn’t happened at my school? Nope. I’m not going there, because it doesn’t feel right. At all. The jokes aren’t very funny when you think of the victims in all this. Like the girl who was raped by Jerramy Stevens, only to have the case hidden away from public view and Stevens got to keep playing. Or the battered women in the lives of Pharms or Curtis Williams. Or how about the regular, non-football people that were beaten senseless in all the assault cases and fights?

More than anything, I’m just embarrassed in reading all that stuff. I’m embarrassed for the victims of these thugs. I’m embarrassed that prosecutor Norm Maleng in King County chose to look the other way in many instances, if not bury evidence that only recently came to light due to the Times reporters requesting that records become unsealed. Like Vince said earlier in the week at SR.com, I’m mad too that people that were trusted in authority acted like complete idiots when they should have done the right thing, time and time again.

I’m embarrassed that 25 players from that 2000 team were arrested at some point or another during their stay at UW. That’s not boys being boys. That is much, much worse. I’m embarrassed for Rick Neuheisel. He should be, without question, absolutely ashamed of what happened on his watch. The element that was rampant during his run as head coach is pathetic and inexcusable. I seriously wonder what UCLA officials might have thought if these details came to light before they hired old Rick. He might still be a QB coach in the NFL right about now. Who knows, maybe Roger Goodell would suspend him if he were currently on an NFL staff! What a joke.

But most of all, I’m embarrassed for family and friends associated with UW in one form or another. Family and friends that adored that 2000 team, with all their Tui-led comebacks, and how tarnished that must feel now. I mean put yourself in their shoes for a moment – what if, say, the Spokesman suddenly rolled out a series of F-UPS from the 1997 WSU Rose Bowl team, or the 2002 Rose Bowl team? And what if it happened the week before letter-of-intent signing day, as well as in the drive to get the stadium renovated? I’d be bitter, angry, defensive, probably a little in denial. But most of all, EMBARRASSED AND ASHAMED THAT IT HAPPENED AT MY SCHOOL. I would only hope that we could learn from history, for those that don’t are doomed to repeat it.

Some of you know I have family with very deep UW ties, family that have donated and supported the UW program since before I was even born. Without question, I’m embarrassed for them, and I hope beyond anything else that they were as unaware of these things as you and me.

Ok, down off the soapbox.

A’i Ahmu got arrested for mixing it up at Pike’s, including underage drinking and busting a window. That’s now two projected starters, Xavier Hicks the other, that have screwed up in the last month. As Vince says in his blog, all eyes – including the eyes of players – are on the coaching staff to see how they handle these things. Wulff said himself the day he took the job that there needed to be a culture change in the program. Not to speculate – but that’s all blogs really do, speculate based on what’s in the news? – but maybe there is some deeper problems with this program other than changing the culture? All I know is that in light of these recent UW stories, the media near and far is going to be on high-alert in scouting out player indiscretions. Let’s hope Wulff and company do the right thing, no matter the caliber of player, if they cross the line that we all know is out there.

On a much better, happy note, I heard a great Wulff recruiting story today. Turns out that after the big recruiting weekend after the Oregon basketball game, a bunch of recruits and their families took a bus to Spokane on Monday to catch their flights home. Well, halfway to Spokane, the bus breaks down. They are in the middle of nowhere (you’ve made that drive a million times, so you can picture exactly where I’m talking about), and not only is the bus broken down, but there’s NO HEAT on the bus. Our Pullman source says it was 29 degrees INSIDE THE BUS. So Wulff gets the call that the bus is broken down. But what does he do? Yes, he gets the wheels in motion, so to speak, to have a replacement bus sent right away. But he also hits the road and drives out to where they are and waits with the players and families the whole time until the replacement bus arrives and takes them on their way! No way was he just going to sit there in his office while his recruits and their families shivered in the cold. And how did that work out? Every player on that bus – every one – ended up committing to WSU! Well, ok, that’s not 100% true. There was one player who did commit, but ended up changing his mind and is now headed for USC (you can probably figure out who). But otherwise, every other player is set to become Cougs! I couldn’t help but be impressed by that story. I know it’s not THAT big of a deal, but that kind of stuff goes a long way in the eyes of players and families. It shows what kind of guy Wulff is, and that uh, yeah, I think we’ve got ourselves one hell of a recruiter running the show! Major hat-tip to coach Wulff on that one.

I look to my left, I look to my right, I look straight ahead, and still no Erik Bedard. What a soap opera. Tonight, Geoff Baker has the audio clip of Adam Jones over the weekend telling the reporter that he had been traded in the Bedard deal and that he was headed for Baltimore the following day. Wow. What a weird story this has become. Why can’t trades just get done anymore? Now many claim that Angelos is upset that Jones spilled the beans and is trying a last-ditch effort to ink Bedard to an extension. Yet the offer of 4-for-Bedard, headlined by Jones, is by far the best the O’s are going to get. Especially when you look at the haul that the Mets gave the Twins for Santana, without giving up their top hitting or top pitching prospect? I guess there’s a reason the O’s have had 10 straight losing seasons, and really have zero hope for any success for the next several years. Angelos is borderline-insane in his mini-Steinbrenner ways, and he’s on the verge of seriously blowing it!

Damn

January 23, 2008

What a sad, sad story out of New York. Heath Ledger was a fine actor and I always liked what he did. He seemed to always pour himself into whatever he was doing, and Brokeback Mountain jokes aside, you couldn’t help but at least respect that about him. And man, I have been excited as can be for this summer’s new Batman, where the buzz on Ledger has been off-the-charts great about his performance as the Joker.

It sounds like this was kind of coming, too, if you believe the “internets and such”. This article from the NY Times a few months ago had some telling quotes and back-stories about his battle with insomnia, including the drain that was the Joker role on his life:

“I stressed out a little too much,” Mr. Ledger said.

He tends to do that. He is here in London filming the latest episode of the “Batman”franchise, “The Dark Knight.” (Mr. Bale, as it happens, plays Batman; Mr. Ledger plays the Joker.) It is a physically and mentally draining role — his Joker is a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy” he said cheerfully — and, as often happens when he throws himself into a part, he is not sleeping much.

“Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.” One night he took an Ambien, which failed to work. He took a second one and fell into a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing.

Even as he spoke, Mr. Ledger was hard-pressed to keep still. He got up and poured more coffee. He stepped outside into the courtyard and smoked a cigarette. He shook his hair out from under its hood, put a rubber band around it, took out the rubber band, put on a hat, took off the hat, put the hood back up. He went outside and had another cigarette. Polite and charming, he nonetheless gave off the sense that the last thing he wanted to do was delve deep into himself for public consumption. “It can be a little distressing to have to overintellectualize yourself,” is how he put it, a little apologetically.

There are also a lot of drug rumors beyond just the sleeping pills, such as the worst of all drugs, heroin. Who knows. You don’t want to read TOO MUCH into someone’s behavior during an interview….but….well….he looks a little “tweakish” here during this interview a few months ago, doesn’t he?

But all we do know is that the kid is dead and it’s a sad story. I really feel for his 2-year old daughter who will not have a father for the rest of her life. Sad, sad, sad. On a very selfish level, I wonder how they are going to handle the Dark Knight this summer. So much hype about Ledger’s performance, about how dark and twisted this version of the Joker is, but now that he’s gone you have to wonder what direction they’ll go with all this. The show must go on and all that, but still, it’s going to be weird.

Keeping up the gloom, sad to see about Rien Long. Hopefully he can pull through. As of right now it appears he’s still in critical condition but nothing more is known. The latest news as of yesterday had him in bad shape after a wreck in the middle of the night on Monday. Thoughts and prayers are with him right now, for sure.

Finally, some good news. A successful weekend of recruiting saw the Cougars haul in four new prospects to add to the growing class of 2008. We’re now up to 14 lads for this class as we come down the homestretch. Still not breakthrough superstar pledges at this point, and a lot of the 2-star variety. But there’s still time and still a chance for a few surprises this year. The buzz is good that Wulff and company are doing as good as can be expected with so little time to put things together, and it might end up being at least a respectable class after all.

Probably the most intriguing new prospect is running back Brian Baucham. Only a 2-star prospect, and not a huge guy at 5-10, 175, but he does have a reported 4.4 time, so that’s good. He looks good on tape too:

Is YOUR Popcorn Ready??

January 15, 2008

Hey Jerry Jones, how’s that TO experiment working out in Dallas? Ohhh, too soon?? BURN.

Actually you have to admit, TO showed some moxie playing on a high ankle sprain just 3 weeks after the injury. He showed it in Philly, too, in the SB on basically a broken ankle. The guy has amazing healing ability, and he does situps in his driveway so he’s pretty special. But once again, the Cowboys are out. And I think America is a much better place for it too. Just think of all the TO/Romo/Jessica Simpson/Jerry Jones BS that we would have had to stomach for the next 3+ weeks if they would have made it. Thank you NY G-men!

On to business – Our Cougs had some recruits in on visits this last weekend, and the news has been fairly positive. The Times has a quick run-down of the newest Cougar pledges, all of which are JC kids. Not sure I’m excited about a bunch of JC’s at this point, but we may not have much of a choice. They are so behind the 8-ball with this recruiting class, not only with the lateness of the new hire but the lack of progress under Doba, that it’s really a scramble to the finish line.

A big-time JC safety has suddenly shown interest in WSU and was on his visit. Cougfan has a free story about David Sims and his trip to Pullman and how the process is going. But is there a Terry Mixon-like story here? Should WSU just avoid the 4-star JC’s due to potential baggage?

A JC running back did just commit last night to WSU. Chantz Staden, a 3-star player from Arizona, looks pretty good on tape. This is from his 2005 senior year and it’s impressive. Check it out:

He’s got some pretty good hands, as a lot of his highlights are catching the ball out of the backfield. With Wulff’s offense, running backs probably will need to have the ability to do multiple things, so you have to like that. Good cutback ability too on a few of those runs. Not to get too pumped over a high school highlight tape! He doesn’t look like he has blazing speed, but there’s a few plays where he outruns everyone. Could be a nice get for this year’s class.

I hate to be down on JC’s. Dennis Erickson has done well going that route, especially early on the job to get some instant success. And Jerome Harrison was a JC, remember him? It’s not like they never work out. I guess I’m gun-shy over the JC’s that just never pan out. I would think that based on some comments Wulff has made since taking the job, that we’ll likely see a heavy lean towards high school players in the future. But this year is more about just getting some talent, any way you can, and hope things will work out. More visits are set for this coming weekend, so again, we’ll see how it all shakes out.

Finally, we’re number EIGHT in the latest polls! Yep, we fell 4 places after the UCLA loss. No biggie. We are better in the hunter role anyway, and not the undefeated, “hunted” team with a big fat target on their backs. We all know this is going to be a grind of a season, and to steal a line from Brinkhater, quite simply we just don’t match up well with UCLA. Period. Let’s see, they basically play the exact same style of defense that we do, only they are bigger, faster, stronger and better. It’s not a good matchup. And as Brinkhater said last night, we actually have a better shot at the Kansas and Memphis teams of the world, rather than a team like Ben Howland’s Bruins.

Speaking of Ben Howland – you have to just tip your hat to what he’s accomplished down there. Really, to think that he can reel in the McDonald’s All-Americans, and then get them to buy into the team-first, defensive approach? It’s a recipe for many Final Four’s. It must be pretty hard to get kids focused in LA-LA land, with so many distractions at every turn, but he’s getting it done in a huge way. They have become like USC has become in football, where you get all the stars, yet get them to buy in.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Tru Gets His Due

December 18, 2007

Sooooo happy to see a classy kid get his Pro Bowl nod today. That’s right, Marcus Trufant, PRO BOWL STARTER for the NFC. And you can’t say he didn’t earn it this year. The numbers don’t lie, and 7 INT’s is huge.

Reportedly a lot of credit can go to Jim Mora on this one. I heard an interview earlier this year where they said that one of the first questions Mora asked when he showed up in Kirkland is “why isn’t Trufant a left corner?” Left corners are where the true, elite, shut-down types usually go, and Trufant has battled shoulder injuries over the years that made it more of a struggle on that side. But Mora insisted he move back to his natural position, and the rest is beautiful music.

Now the bad news, if you are a Seahawks fan – Trufant will be a free agent this year. Not bad timing to have your career year at age 27 and free agency looming?? I’d love to see him stay in Seattle and keep building his career and reputation in the area, but at the end of the day, money talks. Will he stick around, or will a huge signing bonus with $10 – $15 million up front lure him elsewhere?

A few other notes poached from Cougfan:

WSU is hosting a JC All-American pass rushing specialist this weekend for an official visit. Grant Valentine is a 6-4, 240 lb 4-star defensive end from Glendale, CA. Fresno State leads right now, but WSU is in the mix with K-State, NC State and West Virginia (although with Pete Rodriguez, maybe Michigan gets into the picture?).

Here’s some video straight outta Youtube. Looks pretty good to me! (#51 in your programs). You may want to adjust the volume on your speakers. Some of the lyrics in the song, well, might not be safe for work if you follow me? You’ve been warned:

Cougfan also has a good perspective story on this year’s recruiting class. The premise? Don’t get too high and think we’re going to reel in commited 4-star players. But we’re not going to sign anything with a pulse either. The examples of Stormo, or possibly Cody Mackay, where it’s just the right fit overall is what’s likely to happen. And that’s ok. Don’t waste scholarships on kids that don’t fit! The story goes on to talk about California, and maybe there are some under-the-radar kids that would love to be in the Pac-10 and haven’t yet heard Wulff’s pitch. But we’ll see!

I also caught Wulff on KJR last week and he talked about going after kids who had committed. He wanted it to be clear that THIS year, yes, they are going to pitch to kids who haven’t met them yet on behalf of WSU and hadn’t heard what Wulff and staff have to say. But in the future, don’t expect that practice to continue. Sure, there will always be a few kids that change their minds, I mean it is what it is. But Wulff was very clear in the interview that this is not going to be the norm. I guess you can take that as it is. Personally I’d like to see him pursue kids he has a chance of landing, regardless of their commitment status. If they open the door a crack, see what can happen. But don’t waste time and energy going after a kid who’s repeatedly said no, because you do that and you’ll miss potential gems elsewhere! So the approach is one way now, but will be different next year.

Yes, Recruiting DOES Matter

October 10, 2007

We at the WSU Football Blog staff are first and foremost die-hard Coug fans. You know this when you read this stuff. So the following comes at you with the idea that this isn’t to rip on WSU, but to simply help further explain an angle as to why we are where WE are right now.
It’s a normal human reaction to play the blame-game. It happens in every sport, at every level. Joe Torre is likely out of his job this week after the Yanks came up short, again. Is it his fault that his starting pitching was so poor? Is it his fault Roger Clemens got $28 million pro-rated in one of the biggest wastes of money of all-time? Probably not, but Joe will get the axe. I’m not comparing the Cougars to the Yankees, but I am using it as an example that people want to blame someone for failure to succeed. And, obviously Alex Brink and Bill Doba get the brunt of the blame for where we are.
The thing I’ve been harping on, and something that some of you have downplayed, is recruiting. The hype and the 4-and-5 stars are overrated, you said. The Cougars are better off getting the lower-rated guys and developing them, and that there are a lot of highly-rated players that never pan out. But ask anyone that involved with this sport, at any level, and they will tell you flat-out that recruiting is THE LIFEBLOOD of a program. It’s a fun experience to win with a bunch of scrappy kids that the other big programs passed on for whatever reason, but it’s becoming painfully obvious that it’s harder than ever to actually pull it off with lesser talent. Things have changed drastically since our big run in 01-03, and diamonds in the rough are harder than ever to find. Not only do you need a lot of luck, but you also need a coaching staff that can coach ’em up better than the average bear. Beano Cook always said that Mike Price had to be one of the best coaches in the nation, period, because he always did more with less, and we always tout Price for finding guys that others overlooked, such as Rien Long, Jason Gesser, etc. You know the list.
Anyway, we said a few weeks ago to go back in time, and look at the recruiting classes under the Doba era. Go look at the first few years, especially 2004 and 2005, and then look at where we are today. I’m sure none of you actually did it. But Bud Withers did, and wrote an excellent article about how we got into this position. Among the highlights:
  1. 2003 – 16 signees, including Brink and Jason Hill. But only 7 are even in the program anymore.
  2. 2004 – Collins, Harrison, Bumpus and Brackenridge. But out of 28, only 13 are still in the program(!). That 2004 class is this year’s true senior class.
  3. 2005 – 21 signees, but only 10 are left. This is the biggest failure of any of them. Just 10 players left from a class signed two-plus years ago? BRUTAL.

Withers also points out the dreadful special teams – zero touchbacks this year, while the rest of the Pac-10 has 34. I was touting Drew Dunning’s excellence for bailing us out, time and again, and a huge part of our successful run (does anyone shudder at the thought of trotting Romeen out there, trying to make field goals against USC in that amazing 2002 game?? How frustrating would that have been??). Did you know that WSU kickers are 34 for 60 since Dunning graduated!?!? DOH.

This is the most powerful statement yet: “So of the 65 players added from 2003-05, only 30 remain. Of those who left, 12 were JC recruits who yielded mixed results, leaving 23 who simply washed out of the program.”

We’re a program that’s traditionally thin anyway, even under Price. But to have less than 50% of the players you signed from 2003-2005 that are still even on the roster?? Is there any doubt now as to why we are where we are!??

We are exhibit A of why recruiting makes you – or breaks you. I challenge anyone to argue against this point. Before you want to throw Brink under the bus, yet again, for “just not being clutch” or whatever else you can come up with, you must consider that less than half the players signed from 2003-2005 are even in the program.