Archive for the ‘Travis Long’ Category

Longball’s Afternoon Practice Report

August 14, 2009

Hello again everyone. I’m a little late getting you my notes from afternoon practice so I apologize. I did see some interesting stuff and snapped a few pictures to share, so better late than never, here we go…

Under gray skies and occasional light showers the veterans had a spirited practice Thursday afternoon. I got to the practice field as the guys were just starting to trickle out of the locker room for stretches. I was anxious to see all this new beef I’d been hearing about. Honestly, we still look a little bit small for a PAC-10 team, but if you look closely there is a difference from last season and even the Spring. Notably Kevin Kooyman stood out immediately. He’s always been a bit of a string bean, but no more. By far the biggest difference between the team I saw today and the team I saw last summer was way, WAY fewer guys sitting out practice. Last year it seemed there were more guys loafing around in those walking boots then actually practicing. Today I only saw one…

That is wide receiver Johnny Forzani. He is an intriguing prospect coming out of the Calgary Stampeders youth organization (Canadian teams have those I guess?) and is supposed to be quite the speedster. As you can see he wasn’t moving too fast today. Apparently this is nothing major, just soreness in a surgically repaired foot. They were also being cautious and resting a couple other guys who had off season surgeries including Bernard Wolfgramm and Myron Beck, but for the most part everyone was participating. What a difference a year makes.

Read on for more….

As you may have heard, two true freshman have been participating in afternoon practice with the veterans. Gino Simone, the all world receiver from Skyline and Travis Long, the man-child defensive end from Gonzaga Prep were both on hand. Here is Gino (1) stretching before practice with NCAA 400 meter hurdle national champ, Jeshua Anderson (85).


One player who returned to practice today after sitting out yesterday with a hip pointer was Apple cup hero Jared Karstetter (84), seen here with Kevin Lopina (9).

I’m not sure if it was a last minute decision, but when he ran onto the field the receivers and QB’s got excited, welcoming him back with a burst of applause.

It was clear watching the offense go through their plays that they have a much better grasp of things than they did at this time last year. Last summer the coaches spent a lot of time shoving guys into the right places, basically directing traffic, but this year, with the notable exception of Simone who is still learning the formations, everything was much more fluid. Most of what I saw from the coaches was fine tuning and pushing the tempo. If you’re like me, you were probably frustrated by the pedestrian pace of our no-huddle offense last year (the few games we actually ran it). But I’m hopeful from what I saw Thursday afternoon that we’ll be able to step up the pace a bit more.

You may have gotten the idea from some of my posts and comments that I am a big fan of Joe Eppele. When you see this team in person, he is without a doubt the biggest, strongest looking guy we have and I was excited to see him in the mix for a starting spot this year. Here is big #67, who doesn’t look to carry an ounce of body fat on his over 300 lb frame.

I took this picture to show how much he stood out amongst the other hosses on the team, but depth perception and my photography skills being what they are, you may be asking… who is #75? He looks like a behemuth! Well he is. That is redshirt frosh Tyson Pencer, who like Eppele, hails from British Columbia and is one of the growing number of guys who make us look like a PAC-10 football team.

In the picture above you see the coaches have laid foam pads about 3 yards apart on the turf. This set up was for a drill that was my favorite part of the day. As Vince highlighted in his report, this is a drill borrowed from Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma. An offensive lineman and defender faced each other between the pads with a QB and/or running back behind the O lineman. The idea was for the O lineman to open a hole for the running back to get around the defender within the tight confines between the pads. Basically, it was demolition derby.

There were some big collisions, the most notable I saw was when Joe Eppele lined up against Andy Mattingly. It was a pretty one sided affair as Eppele completely bulldozed Mattingly to an explosion of cheers from his cohorts on the offense. Also of note was true frosh Travis Long completely blowing up the O linemen he was up against and the running back in a single big hit. It is easy to see why this young man may see the field right away!

The other big moment of the afternoon was a long touchdown run in scrimmage from Logwone Mitz. He made a great cut when a hole opened off tackle left and was through it like a laser and out in the open where no one would catch him. As Grippi noted he got some nice blocks from his receivers, but from my vantage point all I could see was pure explosiveness. He looked like Shaumbe in the snow. Know what I mean, Coug fans?

Well that is all I have for now. I have a lot more I want to see and share with you in the coming days so stay tuned to this station and I’ll be back with more. Until then…

GO COUGS!

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Louis Bland – A New Hope?

August 13, 2009


First of all, outstanding post-practice reports from Sir Vincent Grippi. Get ’em here, here and here. Cougfan as well is spreading the info, with a free article to boot (!) in their chat with coach Wulff, as well as quotes from Louis Bland and Andy Mattingly.

Sounds like a busy day, splitting the practices between the rookies in the AM and mostly vets in the PM. And there’s good tidbits to devour throughout all the coverage. But the best news, at least from where I sit? LOUIS BLAND, per the Cougfan story:

“We’re more united as a defense,” outside linebacker Louis Bland said. “Last year, it seemed when times got hard, we laid down a little bit.

“Right now, we’re not backing down from anything.”

Bland has been slowed by a left knee sprain suffered during spring practice, but he saw his most extensive action of camp on Wednesday. He joined the starters in a practice that involved only the No. 1 and 2 offenses and defenses.

I think I’ll be ready for the first game,” Bland said.

The part about Bland saying he thinks he’ll be ready for the first game, yeah, I gave it some bold text. Now, Grippi doused the excitement a bit, with a quote from Wulff saying how Bland isn’t quite 100% and still speculated that he may not be ready for the opener. But you can’t help but love to hear some good injury news on such a vital part of the defense!

We can’t say enough about Bland, after a breakthrough frosh season last year, playing his heart out as a 205-lb outside linebacker in his first NCAA action. That picture above, Bland hitting Toby Gerhart with basically his face, just speaks volumes about the kid. But to see that he’s up over 220 lbs now, and running with the one’s during some hard-hitting practice this afternoon? Very, very good news for a defense trying to rebuild it’s image.

Also some good stuff on the rookies who stood out, including QB Jeff Tuel, WR Gino Simone and DE Travis Long. Simone and Long participated in the veterans practice, while Grippi reported that Tuel had thrown pretty well, even in the rain, and there were some drops due to his “fastball”.

Anyway, I know I/we have been cool to the idea of Tuel actually playing this year…but…well, have you seen what’s going on at USC? With Aaron Corp suffering an injury that is going to keep him down for a few weeks, true frosh Matt Barkley is taking the reins, at least for now. That’s right, a true frosh QB. Clearly Barkley is on another level, I mean we’re talking about the TOP GUN coming into NCAA football this year. He’s ultra-elite, and was projected to at least battle Corp for the job anyway. Tuel, I think everyone agreed, should be redshirting….but….IF he shows a lot, should he….aw, never mind. Redshirt the kid, let him get his feet on the ground, and we’ll see what happens next year.

Look for a Longball recap of practice in the coming days. As always, GO COUGS!


The Magnificent Front Seven? Or Something Else Entirely?

July 28, 2009


Time to glance at the defensive front of our beloved Cougs. But instead of doing just the D-line or just the linebackers, I thought what the heck, do the entire front seven. And for good reason, I guess. I mean really, both sets of positions rely heavily on each other for success. The linebackers rely on the defensive line to plug up holes and/or occupy blockers long enough to fly to the ball and make plays. And the d-line, if they do their job? They still need competent, strong-tackling linebackers who are capable of getting to the ball and making the play. Both positions need each other, and together they complete the heart of any defense. They are almost one with each other, one feeding off the other’s success. But will it be a “Magnificent Seven” up front? Or something else entirely?? Let’s see…

First of all, it better be said now, and let’s just get this out of the way – the defense was abysmal last year. I mean how else do you explain the 43.9 points per game allowed, 118th in the country? The 247.6 rushing yards per game allowed, 119th in the country? Hey, passing defense wasn’t too bad, at 195.8 yards per game allowed, or 44th in the country. But let’s be honest, I mean the team was buried so deep and so early that many games saw teams doing nothing but student-body-right/student-body-left for half of their possessions. USC even took a knee at the 15-yard line of WSU before the half…..things were THAT bad.

I don’t think any Coug fan who watched them all season would argue against that statement, and many inside the WSU program would probably agree. Of course there were many circumstances as to why they were so bad, such as a madly ineffective offense, injuries, suspensions, blah blah BLEH! The list is too long to accurately point out every single thing that was wrong, so, you get the gist. In a nutshell, what could go wrong, did go wrong in ’08.

So let’s get to it. We’ll start from the inside out, meaning defensive tackles, defensive ends, and then the linebackers.

D-tackle rotation:
Some starting combo of Bernard Wolfgramm, Toby Turpin and Josh Luapo. If Wolfgramm is healthy, he will start alongside Turpin to form a thick, talented interior. Wolfgramm is pushing 290 lbs on his 6-3 frame, while Turpin checks in at 6-4, 285. The buzz from last year was that Wolfgramm was the best defensive lineman on the team, and Turpin wasn’t far behind. But even as injuries and other off-the-field issues hurt last year’s defensive line, Wulff resisted the urge to burn Wolfgramm’s redshirt. And now that move, hopefully, will pay off!


Other unknown or relatively unproven backups are (potentially) Dan Spitz, Justin Clayton and Anthony Laurenzi.

D-Tackle analysis: Starting to see a little depth develop here. Contrast these guys with what you saw for most of ’08, and it’s a whole different world inside. Wolfgramm redshirted, and Luapo didn’t even enroll until January of ’09, following the gray shirt route. And Turpin came on strong at the end of the year, but he didn’t really play until the last month of the season.


All that said, ’09 could still see this group as not-yet-ready for prime time. While Wolfgramm redshirted last year, and it’s great that he did so well and all that. But we’re talking about practice. PRACTICE!

Seriously though, he still hasn’t had a snap of PAC-10 football. And he had a balky shoulder that kept him out for some action this spring, so who knows what kind of shape he’ll be in by the opener. I know I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for how he does in August camp. While Luapo is big and all that, a fire-hydrant type at 6-0, 325 lb, like Wolfgramm, he hasn’t seen any PAC-10 action either.

Defensive Ends: Kevin Kooyman and Jesse Feagin are projected starters.

Defensive end analysis: Hmmm. Well, we like Kooyman. He has had some injury issues over the years, and started seven games last year. Kooyman is good-sized at 6-6, around 250, but isn’t exactly hell on wheels in terms of getting up field and rushing the passer. He is more of your all-around type of defensive end who isn’t a huge playmaker, with 31 tackles and one sack last year. It’s hard to believe he’s already a senior isn’t it? His career has absolutely flown by. He was regarded as one of the top recruits in the state when he came on board under Doba and company, regarded as a good guy, and last year, there was considerable buzz that he was set for a big ’08 season. It just never happened. He is the undisputed leader up front this season, and here’s hoping he goes out with a bang in ’09.

Feagin is another interesting case. Reportedly adding 16 lbs of muscle in the off-season, now near 270 lbs, he could make an impact right away. There is always some speculation that with the added weight, he could slide inside on passing/nickel situations, as a smaller pass-rushing defensive tackle. But it’s likely he’ll be at the top of the depth chart, opposite Kooyman as a starting defensive end. Feagin, like Kooyman, is also a senior. He played sparingly as a JC transfer in ’07, just three tackles in nine total games, and then missed last year due to academics. We’ve heard good things about Feagin over the last two+ years, so now we will find out what he’s really got in the tank.

As for backups, I would speculate heading into camp that Casey Hamlett, the transfer from Western, and Adam Coerper, the redshirt frosh who was the scout team defensive player of the year last year, will be the first d-ends off the bench. Hamlett was profiled in the spring as to opening some eyes with his high-energy approach. The opportunity is right there in front of him, and to go from playing at Western WA to being a regular in the defensive end rotation on a BCS school in one year has to get his heart racing! Coerper, meanwhile, is another kid on the rise, a youngster who has drawn praise since he arrived in Pullman. One of those nice, athletic frames at 6-4, 250, in the versatile mold who could play tight end or defensive end, the redshirt frosh has a real shot at regular playing time.

For a real young sleeper/long shot for ’09, Travis Long must get mentioned here. Long was one of the top recruits signed in February, and while he hasn’t yet put on the pads, there are some that believe he could see action as a true frosh. Long is, yet again, another one of those tall (6-4), athletic build-type kids at 245 pounds who can play tight-end or defensive end. He projects more at defensive end at this level, so, it’s at least possible he’ll open enough eyes in August to potentially get on the field in September.

Sadly, this is where we must mention Cory Mackay. Mackay had a big spring on the field, and was looking like he was headed for a lot of PT this fall. Then the terrible car accident a few months ago, and his life has changed for the foreseeable future. I would encourage you all to go check out the Cory Mackay fund group at Facebook, which has now grown to over 1500 members. They have done some good fund-raisers, such as car washes and even a hair-cutting service for donations, and the news has been positive there. Still, he has a long road ahead, so all our thoughts and prayers go out to Cory Mackay and family.

OK, that’s it for the d-line. Now, the linebackers.

Starters: You can book Andy Mattingly at strongside linebacker and Louis Bland at the weakside position, provided they are healthy? Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Mike Ledgerwood will battle for the inside. As for backups, we would do a lot worse than Myron Beck. Nine starts last year at strongside backer, now pushed to backup status with the Mattingly move back from defensive end. Hallston Higgins is in there as well, likely backing up Bland at the weakside.


Mattingly on one side and Bland on the other could be one of the best OLB tandems in recent times for the Cougs. They are both recognized as two of the best players on the defense, and it will be interesting to say the least at the idea of seeing them both starting from day one. However, injuries area already an issue here, as Cougfan broke a story the other day that said Bland is still nursing a bum knee, to the point that it could cause him to miss the season opener (damn). And Mattingly missed time this spring, and now has a lot to prove as he moves back to linebacker after a failed move to defensive end last year.

This is it for Mattingly, a player two years ago some pegged as a can’t miss star at linebacker. I include myself in that group who thought he was going to be the “real thing”, but last year was a loss on many levels. They finally moved him back to linebacker at the tail end of the season, and the defense overall did perform better vs. ASU, UW and Hawaii to close out ’08. Most of all, Mattingly simply looked more comfortable, almost like going home again, and should have a nice finishing kick to his up-and-down career at the strong-side position. Bland, if he can keep that knee right, looks like an absolute player on the rise. Sized like a strong safety at 5-10, 205, Bland has the heart of a lion and hits like a truck. 55 tackles, nine for loss as a true frosh last year in nine starts had him on some frosh All-American teams. The kid is a real bulldog and should be a strong leader for years to come.

The youthful match-up at middle linebacker is going to be something to watch. Mike Ledgerwood played in 10 games last year, and logged 14 tackles with 2.5 for loss in limited time behind Greg Trent. We like the looks of Ledgerwood, a solid 6-0, 225, and appears to be another young player on the rise. But Hoffman-Ellis is going to give him everything he can handle inside. The JC transfer who arrived last year, he and Ledgerwood are going to be in for a real fight for the honor in replacing Greg Trent in the middle.

As for some younger breakthroughs, it’s hard to say. Maybe a super-strong Darren Markle will emerge in the middle? Markle is a high school weight-lifting legend, with a 605-lb squat video making the Youtube rounds. 605 lbs!?!? That’s ridiculous strength. I would imagine trying to move him out of the middle is akin to trying to take down the Martin Stadium goal posts, complete with cement reinforcements. Good luck.

It is a younger group of linebackers, no question, and losing Greg Trent, Cory Evans and Kendrick Dunn thins out the depth. But if they can stay relatively healthy, they will be fine. And of course, the better the play is in front of them along the line, the better this group will do overall.

As an overall, I would say this group of front seven is in much better shape than last year. In ’08, they were too young, too light, and too few in numbers to compete against BCS talent. While six of the top eight projected in the two-deeps at defensive line are new faces for ’09, normally that isn’t a recipe for success. But I think this is a unique situation. Last year they had lost Andy Roof before the season started, so backups like Matt Eichelberger were thrust to the forefront. The personnel just wasn’t up to the challenge. Now, there is talent that is new, sure, but still it’s talent that has been on campus and in the system for a full season up until now. Bernard Wolfgramm, Jesse Feagin, both guys who should start, both guys who red-shirted last year, both older guys who have had that initial year to get used to everything. So while they are new, they aren’t exactly nervous true frosh who are overmatched from the beginning.

The best news around is that Wulff continues to recruit the big, lean frames out of high school and then have them grow and mature in the strength program, some of whom will ultimately end up on defense. It’s the old Mike Price philosophy – recruit speed and athleticism on defense, and let them develop and grow up in the program. And build it for speed, from the “outside-in”. So safeties become outside linebackers, outside linebackers become middle linebackers, middle linebackers become defensive ends, and defensive ends move inside to defensive tackle. All in a natural progression as their bodies add strength and “the right kind of weight”.

The downside to this approach, well, it’s a strategy for the long haul, not the quick fix. No 6-4, 325-lb SEC-style behemoths are walking through the Bohler Gym doors, ready to start from the day they arrive. Obviously Josh Luapo is the exception to this rule. But fear not. This developmental approach will start to bear fruit, and I bet we start seeing some of the changes this year, but really witness the evolution in 2010. Just not yet.

At linebacker, the loss of Trent and all those tackles will hurt. But moving Andy Mattingly back there gives the defense an entirely different personality. He is their big, experienced playmaker who gave the defense some extra energy when he first started getting regular PT over the last half of 2007. And it will be great to see Louis Bland take the field after his initial learning season is now out of the way. Instead of trying to survive, now we can see him attack and lead a little bit more?

Most of all, both units are going to need the other to up their game in ’09. The defensive line is going to have to do a better job of putting pressure on the opponent’s passing game by applying a consistent rush, and of course, plug up holes and occupy some space up front. But that’s just half the battle. The linebackers are going to have to play fast and physical, and take advantage of what the defensive line can give them, which is an opportunity to make plays.

So, will it work? Is the front seven in better shape in ’09 vs. last year? Can they not just survive, but thrive? What do YOU think?

That’s it for now. Enjoy your morning, and as always, GO COUGS!

And So it Begins…

February 4, 2009

Super Sunday or, EH?; Best of Lists Continue

February 1, 2009


Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Ready to watch Pittsburgh and Arizona settle things on the field? And as a Seahawks fan, this is a tough one, and a question that has been sportstalk-fodder the last two weeks – who do YOU root for today? Do you root for your divisional rival in Arizona, a team that was a complete joke until just a few years ago, often times compared to the LA Clippers in terms of losing as well as ownership ineptness? But as Hooty wrote recently, do you really want to see the Arizona Cardinals with a Lombardi trophy before our beloved Seahawks??

Meanwhile, as Matt Hasselbeck said in a radio interview this week, how can Seahawks fans root for Darth Vader in the Pittsburgh Steelers? I stumbled upon the 2006 NFL Films production of the Seahawks – Steelers Super Bowl last night on ESPN2, and about 30 seconds was all I could stomach before flipping it off. I forgot about how sour that game tasted.

Besides, there isn’t a rooting interest from a WSU angle, as neither roster has a WSU player to be found, not even on practice squads or injured reserve. So it might be a weird feeling today.

But whatever. Enjoy the unofficial national holiday today, wherever you are.

Anyway, with signing day nearly upon us, some more “best of the west” recruiting lists have hit cyberspace. Where does WSU fit with these new lists? How about the “other” BCS school in the state?

Leading off with the good news, Scout.com has released their final Best 150 in the West list. Good news because WSU weighs in with ten recruits on this list, good for third in the PAC-10 behind UCLA and USC, seven of which are in the top 100.

Gino Simone – 44
Darren Markle – 57
Travis Long – 70
Arthur Burns – 84
Nolan Washington – 89
Jamal Atofau – 97
Chris Mastin – 100
Anthony Carpenter – 117
Jeff Tuel – 137
Andre Barrington – 141

As Scout.com says, all are three-star players, except for Simone’s four star rating.

I think this list says it all. Not so much that we’re getting the best of the best talent ala USC. But it speaks to the depth of this class and the potential it has to really build a strong foundation going forward. Getting seven of the top 100 alone speaks volumes for the kind of progress Wulff and the staff are making out on the trail. And the high-character stories on a lot of these kids is probably the best thing of all.

UW landed seven verbals on the list, but not a single one in the top 100. The highest-rated kid is none other than Desmond Trufant, coming in at 108.

Moving on, the News Tribune has their 2008-09 Western 100 out today. As the TNT says:

The Western 100 are the top 100 high school football recruits in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), as selected by The News Tribune, which polled college coaches and various media outlets.

WSU finished with only THREE players on this list – Gino Simone, Darren Markle and Travis Long. Quite a difference compared to Scout.com. Washington? Um, zero. Even in a transition year with the new coaching staff, a zero? Really? I don’t remember the last time they didn’t even have one player in the top 100 in the western states.

The TNT also had this comp article with Wulff and Sarkisian. It’s a good look at the different states of the recruiting process for both coaching staffs. Wulff’s staff appears to have their footing, while Sarkisian is still scrambling to cobble something together before Wednesday.

One thing I found interesting about Sarkisian in that article is the idea of them selling the players on playing in the NFL. That somehow his system is going to prepare them for playing in the league, better than the other schools around. That’s an easy thing for him to sit in living rooms and tout all the players he’s helped coach up to play on Sundays…..while wearing a USC sweatsuit. Will he be able to say the same thing after a few years in Seattle? We’ll see. But somehow I doubt he’s going to have the same success in getting kids into the league…ya THINK?

Now I don’t want to sit here and tout a whopping three players for WSU either. While we do believe this WSU class is looking strong in terms of overall depth, filled with high character, high-ceiling types, it’s safe to say we still have a ways to go before we are challenging the upper half of the conference. But it’s been preached since Wulff was introduced in December, and that is that this thing is going to take a while to build. As Wulff himself said all season long, we have to build layers upon layers upon layers of depth, so you aren’t forced to throw the young out into the wild. But I am also confident in saying that IF Wulff can sign at least two more recruiting classes like this one, the ideal program Wulff is shooting for will be much closer to reality.

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

Wulff Throwing Strikes with Recruiting Pitch?

December 28, 2008

First off, happy holidays to y’all. Hope you are safe and warm, and were able to spend some quality time with the loved ones. We’re finally getting some melting snow around here, and the roads are getting better by the day. Snow is nice to look at, but I think I speak for all western Washingtonians when I say ENOUGH ALREADY.

On to the football front. Another couple of days, some more good news from the recruiting trail.

A quick rundown: Earlier in the week, G-Prep’s Travis Long committed to the Cougs. Long was rumored to be a strong Crimson “lean” for several months, and he finally pulled the trigger on X-mas day. Long fits the mold of the kids Paul Wulff and company are currently seeking in their linemen-types. You know, the lean, 6-5, 250-lb kids who have the right kind of body type and athleticism? Big, wide frames where they can add the “right” kind of weight over time? Long projects to be a defensive end, but already at 6-5, 244, who knows where he’ll end up. Maybe even a play-making defensive tackle, ala another LONG who came before him??

OK, that’s a HUGE stretch at this point. Rien Long won the Outland trophy for gawdsakes. But what the heck, this is the season for stuff like this.

Oh, and there’s some tape on Long at ESPN, which you can check out here.

Then we had Gino Simone re-upping his commitment to the Cougs yesterday. While the article is premium at Cougfan, there was this piece by Howie Stalwick of the Kitsap Sun. Simone is now firmly in the “commit” category, upgraded from his “soft verbal” earlier this year. Simone is on the record as saying WSU “felt like home”, so you have to like the odds of seeing his name on a letter of intent in early February?

But it’s not over yet with Simone. Kim Grinolds of Dawgman.com is still holding out hope of some kind that Simone will become a Husky, saying that if Simone takes a trip to UW in January, anything can happen. However, consider the source. Last spring Mr. Grinolds predicted Tony Bennett would take the Indiana job, then when that failed to materialize, he virtually guaranteed he would take the LSU job. So there. Besides, if/when Simone actually comes to WSU, they’ll be quick to point out that Simone wasn’t big enough or fast enough, and they didn’t want him anyway, and OH yes, it’s a “down” year in Washington anyway……Again, consider the source.

Back to this football deal for a moment. The thing to take from the article from Howie Stalwick isn’t just that Simone has re-committed to WSU. But the quotes from the story aren’t from Simone or his family. They are from Skyline QB Jake Heaps and his mother, Patty:

When Wulff was hired last December, the Cougars had three verbal commitments. Scouting services generally rank WSU recruiting classes quite low, but Scout.com currently ranks WSU 41st in the nation and fifth in the Pac-10.

“Some people don’t know why some of these kids are going to WSU,” said Patty Heaps, Jake’s mother. “I think they’re developing a culture that is incredibly personable.”

Mrs. Heaps said she has been particularly impressed with the fact that WSU coaches send hand-written notes to recruits.

“He (Jake) gets several a week,” Mrs. Heaps said.

Further down in the story, Heaps himself said he is “definitely” considering scholarship offers from WSU and Washington, though he calls himself a “Husky fan.” He also expressed concern about the recent struggles of the Huskies and Cougars.

Now, let’s not get carried away here. Jake Heaps has 18 scholarship offers RIGHT NOW, ranging from Tennessee to LSU to Notre Dame to BYU, and of course, UW and WSU. But I think it is safe to assume that Jake Heaps is NOT going to come to WSU. I think we know that. But what is impressive to me are the quotes from the Heaps family about Wulff, and how they go about this whole recruiting thing.

Hand-written notes on a weekly basis? Developing an incredibly personable culture? All from a guy in Paul Wulff who has walked the walk? A guy who has fought adversity in his personal and professional life, and has persevered along the way? A coach and leader who will see to it that these kids will get an education, stay out of trouble and play at a BCS school? That pitch sure sounds good to me. And it’s sounding good in the most important area of all – in living rooms and the ears of recruits, all across the state.

So far, this recruiting class is nothing short of impressive. When you consider that WSU classes are generally rated pretty far down the list, to be in the middle of the road in the PAC-10 rankings right now, coming off a season that was 2008? What MORE can you ask for as a Coug fan than what they are doing right now?

It’s true what Wulff said from earlier in the year, on his weekly radio shows and in print. NOBODY is going to outwork these guys in recruiting. And that hard work is paying off. They know they have to keep their energy levels up and have to outwork the next guy for talent. And that, Cougar Nation, bodes well for getting this thing back on track. The work ethic, the energy, the desire to turn over rocks and find those sleepers or diamonds-in-the-rough types, that kind of thing is what made WSU a strong program at the start of the decade. The road is a long one to get back to respectability, but you have to like where this thing is headed.

ENJOY YOUR SUNDAY, and GO COUGS!

Who is Your "Must Have" For This Year’s Class?

December 17, 2008

So there has been a lot of recruiting news of late (’tis the season). Of course they are only verbal commitments until they sign on the dotted line, but it is hard not to curb a little enthusiasm? The latest news has coach Wulff landing a commit from a big-play safety in CA of the 3-star variety, who sounds like a solid kid all the way around (check Cougfan for more).

I heard from a source who follows high school football closely in the state, and he was very impressed with what our coaches have done thus far. This source is big into UW, but he has an open mind when evaluating prospects. He had very good things to say about our top commits and still can’t believe it as to how Wulff is doing it coming off a 2-win season.

I think the reality is they are doing a strong job in the living room and with the state’s high school coaches, an underrated aspect of recruiting. They are selling a unified message of a strong, structured system, a good education, a chance to play early at a BCS school and most of all, to be a part of the foundation of the turnaround of the program.

And you can’t forget the journey of Paul Wulff. He has been through some incredibly tough, character-building experiences in his life. Nothing was ever just given to him, and he has had to go out and get everything he has achieved. He is the genuine article, and what you see is what you get. No phony BS or empty promises here. How can a parent or coach not respect the path he has traveled and at least listen to what he has to say?

It’s not a typo or misprint. This class is shaping up to be one of the highest rated in school history.

THAT said, looking at the current commits (and you can see the link on the right to the current commits) plus some other rumored commits on the way (Travis Long of G-Prep?), who do YOU consider your “must have” of this year’s class?