Archive for the ‘WSU Cougars Football’ Category

April 2009… What a Month!

May 6, 2009

Good morning Coug Nation. Longball here, and it’s time for me to check in.

Whew, was that one of the craziest months in the history of Cougar sports, or what? From being unceremoniously dumped by our super sexy basketball coach, to charging into 2nd place in the PAC-10 baseball standings, then almost losing home Apple Cups for the next 6 years, then getting the apple Cup back, then the talk of getting kicked out of the PAC- 10 (WTF?), then securing a humdinger of a basketball recruiting class that has visions of rafter banners dancing in our heads… it has been the Montezuma’s Revenge of emotional roller coasters. So as the 2009 school year draws to a close, where do we stand? From where I’m sitting the dust has yet to settle on what may be one of the most interesting eras in Cougar sports history. Lets take it sport by sport…

BASKETBALL

The month began with the news that Tony Bennett was leaving us… for Virginia. Huh? Really? I was absolutely floored. It HAD to be an April Fool’s joke and I read the now infamous 5 pillars over and over to reassure myself that it was just not possible.

As it turned out the 5 pillars were a total load of bull and our handsome prince rode off to a much richer kingdom. My family and friends witnessed what can only be described as a full on emotional breakdown by yours truly.

Why the breakdown? A little background; One of the most scarring moments of my youth was the departure of Kelvin Sampson, who took the high flying sophomore-to-be Nate Erdmann and super recruit Ernie Abercrombie to Oklahoma with him. It was devastating, and the beginning of our descent into the bottomless pit the Bennett family eventually dug us out of. It would be difficult to exaggerate how close my friends and I were to those Sampson era teams. We were in the first few rows for EVERY game. We played pickup games with the Coug players up at the gyms (this was before the new Rec Center). In our high school AV class we made “I Want to be Like Ike” t-shirts for Ike Fontaine and wore them to every game. We were practically married to cougar hoops. I can’t say for sure if any of us cried when Sampson left, but I also can’t say that we didn’t.

Fast forward to April, 2009… As the Bennett news broke I waited for the cascade of bad news that would surely follow. Players would transfer, recruits would de-commit, we would hire some nobody from nowhere… I knew the drill. But something entirely different happened. It turned out our AD had a strong connection to the wiz who had been surprising everybody at Portland State the last 2 years. Ken Bone came on board and from that point on it has been all good news.

Not only did we keep all our critical recruits, we added a stand out point guard who was being recruited by, wait for it… Oregon, UCLA and MEMPHIS!! We also retained an assistant, Ben Johnson, whose leadership has been one of the cornerstones of our recent success. By all measures our hoops program is actually in better shape today than it was on April 1. Amazing.

While it remains to be seen what a team composed almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores can do in the PAC-10 next year, all indications point to an upward trajectory for Coug hoops in the coming years.


FOOTBALL


On the gridiron we are still deep in the midst of a major rebuilding effort. Literally every level of our program is being rebuilt, from the culture in the locker room, to the bodies on the field, and of course the field itself as we scratch and claw our way towards the remaining two phases of the stadium upgrade in the middle of a global economic meltdown.

As our boys were grinding their way through Spring camp we were blind sided by news that the Apple Cup, or as some know it “the only game that really matters”, was going to be moved to Seattle full time. Like most of you I received this news with a combination of dizziness, nausea and that strange discomforting sensation that shoots up your spine and is distributed to all your organs like a million white hot pokers when you get kicked in the balls. Then, I read about why we were doing this. We were poor. Poor like the stories our grandparents tell us about walking 15 miles to school in a blizzard with burlap sacks for shoes and a baked potato in their pocket to keep their hands warm and then eat for lunch. If the PAC-10 was an elementary school classroom we would be THAT kid. You know the one… sitting in the back, with hand-me-down everything, dirt on his face, trying to cheat off Stanford’s test. Just like “That Kid”, we seemed destined for expulsion.

In light of this realization, my shock and dismay over the decision to move the Apple Cup to Quest suddenly turned to relief. I was thrilled that we found such an easy revenue stream to help pay the bills so we could come through these trying times unscathed. Moreover, while the Cougar nation whaled in righteous indignation at the perceived slight of playing the game in Seattle, I marveled at our good fortune that the Huskies had agreed to a deal which clearly benefited us WAY more than them. Of course, the Dawgs soon realized this themselves, and in a last ditch attempt to get a deal that didn’t totally screw their season ticket holders blind, they effectively torpedoed the whole thing by asking for a 60/40 ticket split (and rumored to be even more, such as 80/20). Sterk chose to not be lynched by the crimson mob and wisely backed away from the table.

So where does that leave us? Off the field, we are still dirt poor and any future phases of our stadium upgrade are a pipe dream until we get some serious support from the very loud, but equally miserly Cougar faithful. As we have had clearly explained to us now by Mr. Sterk, continuing to play in a high school stadium does not bode well for our long term hopes of remaining in the PAC-10. So there you have it Cougs. The Apple Cup is back in Pullman, it just may be an out-of-conference game some day.

Meanwhile, on the field we have at least one more PAC-10 season ahead of us. So far I am very encouraged by the culture change taking place on and off the field. However this is a team that still fails the eye test. While we are making great strides in the weight room we still do not look like a PAC-10 team, especially on the lines. For the most part our big guys are fat guys with too few exceptions. If you want to see a PAC-10 body type, check out Joe Eppele.

Now THAT is more of what our linemen should look like. I am very excited to see CPW’s first true recruiting class show up for Fall camp. From all indications we will immediately look a lot more like a BCS conference team. One unit we have that most certainly passes the eye test… our running back corps. How on earth did we assemble this posse? While my expectations for the coming season couldn’t quite be described as “modest”, I still look forward to seeing some Cougar football this year that is actually watchable. If Bud Light has drinkability, I predict this year’s Cougars will have watchability. Mark my words.

BASEBALL


A lot of folks round here seem to have joined the Cougar nation upon their recent matriculation to WSU, so I must inform you that there once was a time when the ONLY sport we Cougs could hang our hat on was baseball. For decades we were a baseball school, in fact. There used to be this strange thing called the PAC-10 North that had Gonzaga and Portland State and I think Cheney High School in it and the Cougs won it every year. We were a pipeline to MLB including Ken Phelps, Aaron Seeley, Scott Hatterburg, John Olerud, Mike Kincaid and even Jim Rome’s childhood hero, Ron Cey. I know, Ron f-ing Cey was a Coug! That’s pretty damn cool.

Well it seems the glory has returned to Bailey-Brayton field. Coach Marbut has the Cougs playing great ball and they stand alone in 2nd place in the PAC-10. We are well positioned to make our first post season appearance on the diamond in a very long time and I’m sure Bobo Brayton couldn’t be more proud. But like all news this April, our success on the diamond is a silver lining that comes with its own gray cloud. There is a lot of speculation (and thankfully so far it is only speculation) that Baseball is one of the programs on the potential chopping block as WSU athletics looks to make some deep cuts. That would be an unbearable shame. Baseball is one of our few sports that actually has a winning tradition and right now we have a team we can really be proud of. As the season winds down I urge each of you to grab a Ferdinand’s ice cream, head over to Bailey-Brayton and take in a ball game. Bring the kids, its the easiest sporting event to get some quality face time with Butch.

Overall, my outlook on the future of Cougar Athletics is optimistic. There is major cause for worry on the $$$$ front, but it cannot be denied that despite everything each program is moving in the right direction. Heck, we own the Apple Cup. Lets not forget to savor that at least once a day. With that, I leave you all with some photos that surely would have won the contest had us blogsters been allowed to enter…

This is Amieable and Longball before the Apple Cup.

…and after.


You gotta hand it to her, she ain’t no bandwagon fan. In a year like the Dawgs just had she put on her purple and braved the hostiles in Martin Stadium, only to get her heart broken. Don’t worry, babe, in the coming years I’m sure you’ll get yours.

But, in the meantime, and as always… Go Cougs!

Does Past EWU Struggle Offer Hope for WSU?

December 21, 2008


This just in – it’s snowing. Seriously. We’re in the Mill Creek area and we must have close to a foot of snow on the ground. I know that’s about HALF of what in the Inland Empire residents are dealing with. Heck, a foot of snow is an afternoon in Spokane these days. So wherever you are, keep warm, drive safely, happy holidays, blah blah blah.

I’m happy to report that I made it home on Friday after a week-long business trip down south. Had I tried to fly yesterday? Forget it. At least 50 flights were canceled in and out of Sea-Tac by Alaska Airlines alone, and several reports now say that passengers scheduled to leave Saturday won’t be able to leave until Monday at the earliest. Ever try to sleep in an airport? Brutal.

Anywho, since the football news has slowed to a mere trickle – at best – these days, the posting around here has lightened up. No bowl game to hype or over-analyze, so this is a “dead” period of football news. Knowing all that, we’ll step outside the box from time to time, just to keep things interesting (or even relevant?). But with the year winding down and recruiting nearing the home stretch, what better time to start thinking about 2009?

Now, sorry, but this isn’t any type of full blown 2009 preview. It’s simply too early to do something like that, and the reasons are many. We don’t know what the recruiting class will officially be until February, and which, if any, new recruits will see the field next year. Maybe there will be some JC guys that Wulff will have designs on redshirting, but will have such an impact in practices that they will force their way into the action? I know it’s doubtful, and the strategy of not playing the kids early is what builds depth over the long haul. But will there be newfound pressure to start winning games? Will the pressure cause Wulff to burn a redshirt or two earlier than anticipated?

If you know me from this blog, you know I’ve been stumping for patience. We all believe there is a real plan in place to turn this sucker around, and they gave us a blip of hope at the end of 2008. But ask yourself this……what if 2009 starts out like most of 2008? What if the improvement shown towards the end of ’08 was simply a mirage and things bottom out again early in 2009? Wulff could plan for the future, but he might not be around to enjoy the fruit harvested from the blood, sweat and tears he is pouring into this thing NOW. There will be at least some pressure to start getting positive results on the field, not just what happens off it.

Meanwhile, who among us can honestly say who is going to be the QB next season? Spring ball is going to be very important in trying to figure it all out. And that most important position will likely linger deep into fall camp, given the Lobbestael knee injury and how things progress there. Will young Levenseller tear it up in the spring and cement his spot as the guy? Will Lopina take some big strides? Will Lobbestael make the most of his opportunity in August, coming off the knee injury?

Finally, at last check we don’t even have a 2009 SCHEDULE yet! At least it hasn’t been finalized, although we hear that is coming soon.

So it’s too early to go all crystal ball on things. The race to be first in this information age is filled with inaccuracies and wild predictions, so why not wait to see how things settle before throwing things against the wall? It would all be guesses, at best, right now.

So instead of looking at depth charts from the last month of the season and trying to figure out what we’ll look like next September, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at coach Wulff’s record at EWU, and see if there is anything we can glob onto in regards to what we might look like next year. I’m not exactly talking about personnel, but what types of trends did Wulff have in his full eight seasons at EWU? When you think about it, that’s a good chunk of time at any stop in a coaching career. What can we take from his experiences and try to apply to our Cougs in ’09?

We all know his record – 54-40, including a 54-30 record against “like” competition (I-AA FCS teams, not FBS – BCS teams). Big Sky coach of the year in 2001, 2004 and 2005. A few league titles, some playoff berths, etc. But we know all that already. What I was looking for was something relevant to what we JUST WENT THROUGH in 2008. Did this same kind of thing happen to Wulff at EWU, where an entire season just went to hell in a handbasket? And if so, how did it happen? And most importantly, what happened the following season?

Guess what? I found something. And that something is 2006, and subsequently what happened in 2007. You know what else? It’s pretty promising when you look at the big picture.

First, 2006. EWU was coming off a strong 2005 season, where they tied for the league title at 5-2 in the Big Sky. The offense in 2005 was excellent, averaging 478 yards and 35 points per game, including an amazing 342 yards per game through the air. In fact, the pass in 2005 was so successful that they threw the ball 63.5% of the time, on their way to their second consecutive playoff berth. QB Erik Meyer was fantastic as a senior, winning the Walter Payton Award at QB, otherwise known as the I-AA version of the Heisman Trophy.

Meyer would throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 td’s that final year. Yes, things were good in 2005.

But 2006 was another story. Just six offensive starters back on offense, and no experience at QB. The job was given to frosh QB Matt Nichols, who struggled mightily to grasp the new offense. Nichols would complete just 55% of his passes, not too terrible, but with an awful 8 TD/17 INT ratio. The offense overall sputtered to the tune of 310 yards per game, down from the high of 478 the year before, and just 19.5 points per game, down from the 35 points per game in 2005. EWU was throwing it well over 60% of the time for several seasons, but the passing game was so bad that they “dumbed down” the playbook to where they had a 53-47 run/pass ratio. They reeled in the offense behind a young QB trying to figure it out, and they paid the price. Likewise, the team struggled to a 3-8 record, Wulff’s first (and only) losing season at EWU. It was a HUGE fall from grace.

Now look at WSU in 2008, and how that team compared to the 2007 version. It’s not pretty. You’ve been warned….

In 2008, the WSU offense returned – you guessed it – six starters. They started over with an almost entirely new coaching staff, but the QB situation was literally ground zero. Gary Rogers was the only QB with any semblance of PT, and he had only attempted 52 passes in his first three seasons.

And here are the numbers. They certainly don’t lie, do they?

Points per game: 12.7 in 2008, compared to 25.7 in 2007.
Passing yards per game: 146 yards per game in 2008, compared to (gulp) 319 ypg in 2007!
Rushing yards per game: 95.1 yards per game in 2008, compared to 115.7 ypg in 2007.
Total offense: 241.1 yards per game in 2008, compared to 435.3 ypg in 2007!

Talk about a drop-off. This is like going from Mt. Everest to sea level….or better yet, Husky Stadium.

We don’t need to fully rehash 2008, you all lived through it and know what happened. But the fall from offensive excellence was startling…and I didn’t even mention the minus-25 turnover ratio, worst in the country. But do you see where I’m going with this?

Now let’s look at what happened with EWU in 2007.

First of all, the record. They improved from a 3-8 season in 2006 to 9-4 in 2007. They made it to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, losing on the road to Appalachian State 38-35, a team that would go on to win the whole thing. Just a huge uptick in overall performance.

But the real story is the improvement on offense. In the second year in the system for QB Matt Nichols, the Eagles returned eight starters on O. They improved by over 14 points per game (19.5 to 33.6) and 150 total yards per game (310 to 462), leading the Big Sky in scoring AND total offense! Nichols was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, throwing for an impressive 3700+ yards and a spectacular 34-9 TD/INT ratio. He completed 63.6% of his pass attempts, and hey, he was even the number-two rusher on the team with 392 net yards.

Along with the improved QB play out of Nichols came a much better turnover ratio as well. They were a +2 in their losing season of 2006, but improved to a +12 in 2007. A lot of that improvement can be laid right at the feet of Nichols, who became an outstanding, efficient, effective QB in the Todd Sturdy offense.

So there you have it. Wulff and staff have been through this before. Young QB with very little returning talent after losing an all-time senior QB, dumbing down the playbook, and basically taking major lumps. EWU ’06 sounds a heck of a lot like WSU ’08. But the best news of all is that it turned around quickly the following season, and in a pretty big way as well.

Wulff has said all along that they believe they will be a much better team in 2009. Key redshirts whom they refused to play in a transition year will now see the field in important areas next year. James Montgomery and Brandon Jones, the transfers from Cal, will see the field and should be a big part of the running game and secondary respectively. The system will have been in place for a complete season, so there shouldn’t be nearly the bumps in the road for these guys to figure out what is expected of them under the new regime. They will (hopefully) open up that playbook to the full Todd Sturdy offense, something we are all still dying to see for a full season. The QB’s, whoever it turns out to be, will have a base of experience to build from the 2008 season, no matter how limited that time might have been. And most of all, the players will now know what it will take to succeed in the program under Wulff’s system. From spring practices to fall camp, to the weight room, training table and classroom, there are no more uncertainties or unknowns. Everyone is accountable, and they know what is expected by their coaches.

So what do YOU think about all this? Will we see a strong turnaround in year two? There is at least something to look back at in regards to Wulff, and how his team has responded to a terrible, lesson-learning season. Will we see the improvement we are hoping for? Was the end of 2008 something to believe in?

That’s about it for today. ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR WEEKEND, and most of all, GO COUGS!

Brinkhater and Beavs Bite It

November 30, 2008


Tonight, the Beavs lost their token chance at the Rose Bowl and Brinkhater lost his perfect season of Cougar prognostications, as the Cougs turned in a frustrating 24-10 defeat.

Overall, the defense looked quite inspired and Levy showed in my book that he is the man of the future. IF you saw the kid run and saw his arm strength, you know that he HAS to be the guy moving forward. He really does have the stuff to develop into a fine winning Pac-10 QB.

Here’s what I saw via the online streaming option from the island:

  • Turpin had a really nice sack on Alexander late in the 4th where he blew off the center and guard and then chased and caught Alexander on the sideline. Very impressive.
  • The D actually looked really good. We obviously still have problems in the secondary, but the linebackers in particular looked really fast and we shot the gaps well.
  • We had a cool (almost) 3-8 look on defense in the second half where we were stunting guys all over the place. We were fast and aggressive and were actually quite fun to watch.
  • I think we’ll really miss Trent at times next year, but watching Bland and Mattingly yesterday was quite exciting.
  • That said, the offense still lacks so much imagination although there were a lot of missed opportunities. Levy has the happiest of happy feet right now, but as I noted on the post, he has good Pac-10 speed for the position and has the type of arm strength that Brinkhater has been dreaming of for the last five years.

In reference to someone’s comments tonight, we DID have a chance to win that game. Levy missed Gibson by 7 inches for six in the 3rd on a go pattern. We missed recovering a fumble on a punt that would have made it a 7 point game late, and Levy overshot Norrell on a surefire touch late in the game.

Plus, Giles’ fumble following the blocked FG was beyond ridiculous.

Final notes: Tardy again ran like a champ–really, really hard. With a healthy Ivory, Mitz, and Montgomery entering the fold, expect more ball control next year. That said, if you saw the action on the play action with Levy in the game, it makes you wonder what could have been.

You can all be proud of the effort they put into the contest. In the end, they bought in.

Kudos to the defensive coaching staff for bringing the boys along in the last three games.


The offense, meanwhile, needs a whole lot of work.

Thanks for sticking with us through this season.

Last Call for Seniors

November 29, 2008

Hoping for TV coverage of the game tonight? If you are on the islands you are set, but you are out of luck if you are in the greater 48. What’s weird is how ESPN had the game on it’s schedule as part of the ESPN Game Plan. It was listed all week as one of the options…..until yesterday. SEE!?!?

However there is a streaming option via the web, if you feel so inclined. It’s showing as available tonight via something called Oceanic-Time Warner, an outfit that streams UH games. Tonight’s game is listed at $12.56, not totally unreasonable.

Now for the bad news. It’s not exactly a slam-dunk that you will be able to get the game, even on the web. From someone named “RosiesBoy” on Cougfan, some valuable information has been passed on:

I think some people who are planning on buying that stream might be setting themselves up for disappointment. There have been at least two games with problems this year, one meant both the island and mainland feeds on cable and internet pay per view customers missed the entire 1st quarter. The company refused to refund the 10,000 customers who were affected in that instance and said they weren’t responsible since the overload on the system was caused by the Fresno State fans.

Oceanic claimed no fault because the outage “was on the Fresno side of the ledger,” vice president and operations manager Norman Santos said. “Our position is we delivered substantially the whole game,” Santos added. “We controlled what we could. If we’re looking at the end of the game it’s a whole different scenario. That would have resonated.”

“The only thing off the table is a full refund,” said McNamara.

http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:5AhDNqKcTGYJ: www.starbulletin.com/columnists/davereardon/200810 07_oceanics_answer_not_our_fault.html+hawaii+footb all+streaming+requirements+oceanic&hl=en&c t=clnk&cd=8&gl=us

Another PPV problem: Associate athletic director John McNamara said a resolution has been reached to compensate PPV purchasers for the problem at the beginning of today’s telecast that blacked out the first four minutes of the UH football game against New Mexico State.UPDATE: McNamara said purchasers will be refunded 1/12 of what they paid for today’s game via credit. No calls required.

http://blogs.starbulletin.com/uhsportsextra/anothe r-ppv-problem/

So, if you DO decide to fork over the cash for the feed, just be prepared in case something doesn’t go quite as planned.

On the game tonight, whether you watch it, listen to it or follow it online, one thing lost in this bad season is that this is the end for some pretty good seniors. Greg Trent has been playing regularly since early in 2004, taking over for an injured Will Derting in the fourth game that year. After some serious growing pains, he evolved into a pretty good tackler, albeit a bit undersized in the middle. We’ll never forget how hard Trent played, no matter the situation.

But the biggest “headline” senior has to be Brandon Gibson. In what was regarded as a real boost to the team last year, Gibson decided to return to WSU after being informed he was a sure 2nd-day NFL draft pick (rumors had him pegged for the 4th or 5th round). It’s easy to forget how big Gibson was in 2007. He led the PAC-10 in receiving yards per game (107.3) and had a team-high 1180 yards, as well as nine TD’s. This year it’s been a different story:

2007:
Catches: 67
Yards: 1180
TD: 9
100-yard games: 6, including the last 4 of 2007.

2008:
Catches: 56
Yards: 655
TD: 2
100-yard games: 1

It obviously hasn’t gone as planned for Gibby, for one reason or another. I think back to the very first game of the year and wonder if things could have been different? You don’t want to over-react to how things go early in a season, but the team showed some fight vs. Okie State, even with some horrible special teams play. They never gave up and rallied for a couple of scores in the third quarter to make it somewhat interesting. But then there were those drops.

Gibson had at least one deep ball that was flat-out dropped, and another that he probably could have had. Both catches could have changed that game. And who knows how his season could have gone from there? Maybe it helps loosen up defenses, knowing they have to respect the deep ball from Gary Rogers to Brandon Gibson? Maybe Gibson’s confidence gets even better and he uses that opener as a springboard into 2008? Instead it’s been one frustrating week after another.

That said, it’s hard to fault Gibson for 2008. We saw FIVE different QB’s play for WSU this season – Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael, JT Levenseller and Dan Wagner – after basically one guy started for 3 1/2 seasons. So how could anyone develop any continuity? Besides, several WSU receivers opposite Gibson were hurt from the get-go, like Jeshua Anderson, or others were far too young to have any impact, like Jared Karstetter or Kevin Norrell. And you can’t forget tight end Devin Frischknecht and his bum ankle. Frischknecht was set up to have a big senior year, at least I sure thought so, after showing some real upside at the end of last year. He had a huge Apple Cup in 2007, five catches for 88 yards and two TD’s, and you could see that he might have been a big boost to the passing game this year. But it just wasn’t to be.

The best news for Gibson is that he’s now the leading WR in school history, passing Jason Hill’s career yardage record. So even with a tough final act in 2008, he will still have a secure place atop the WSU record book. Here’s hoping that Gibson has one last big performance tonight to cap off an excellent four years at WSU!

ENJOY THE GAME tonight, and GO COUGS!

Eye Witness Report: Longball Visits Fall Camp

August 6, 2008

Greetings Cougar Nation!

Since I live in Pullman, the center of the WSU Football universe, the good folks here at the WSU Football Blog have asked me to provide some eye-witness reports of the action taking place as the Cougs kick off Fall camp. I’ll be their boots on the ground, as it were, and I’ll do my best to make sure that Coug fans in Yakima, Bozeman, San Antonio, Baghdad and anywhere else the Crimson faithful have settled get the up close and personal Coug news they crave. I’m glad to be of service and as my first order of business I trekked up to campus with my coffee and camera for the morning practice. Here’s what I saw…

I am sure most of you have been following the stadium construction here, but I thought I’d share what I saw today as I made my way to the practice field. First of all…


Huh? Who hired these guys? Maybe the Vandals pay their rent for using our stadium in cement. After the whole Big Papi jerseygate in the new Yankee Stadium, I think someone should check this pour for shenanigans.

Moving on, I am sure you are all excited about our giant new video screen, and while I promise you that pictures do it no justice, its the best I can do…

The entire red area is the screen, but you won’t understand how big and beautiful it really is until you see it in person. As you can see to the left the Cougs were assembling for their morning drills so I made my way down to the field to see who was knockin’ heads this morning.

Above you see CPW and Coach Sturdy guiding the QBs and RBs through some drills.

I was disappointed to see that Rogers and Lopina weren’t out for the morning practice. It was definitely not the A squad, but a few notables were there. Number 8 is Lobbestael (not 12 as some rosters have him) and also of note in this picture is 22, Chantz Staden. He is the smaller, quicker, scat type back as advertised, but he is solidly built and looks to be strong for a smaller back, much like J-Smooth and Jerome Harrison were. As you can see they’re not in pads, so I didn’t get to observe him in a full contact situation. However, they did line up for some run plays against the D and he showed he can beat our backers to the outside. My first impression of Mr. Staden was a good one and I’ll keep my eye on him throughout camp.

Above is a nice moment for the Cougar family scrap book. The gentleman in the foreground is Orville Sears who made the short trip from the family ranch on the Johnson Road to watch his son, co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears (background) leading the DBs through their drills. Jody and his older brother Cotton are both Pullman High grads, local rodeo legends and former Cougar wide receivers. No doubt Orville is proud of his boy and as Coug fans we all hope he can help turn our defense into the bloodthirsty wrecking crew we used to be so proud of.

For Mr. McBoob, the fat guys…

Much to my delight they got together for some light scrimmaging so I could observe some matchups. In the middle is my main man, Toby Turpin, 90. More on him in a moment.

One guy I was on the lookout for was Bernard Wolfgramm, 99. You can easily spot him above sporting the Don Sasa/King Kongaika hairstyle. He faced double teams most of the time and was able to hold his ground, not getting pushed off the line. He did a workmanlike job of keeping the middle clogged. He held his own in there, but didn’t show me a whole lot, though I do dig the hair. As a contrast, when my main man Toby Turpin was in, he was splitting the double teams, getting his big old paws into the offensive backfield and generally raising hell. Just to the right of Wolfgramm above you see Staden, 22, who is about to bust one around the edge.

A closer look at Mr. Wolfgramm…

Of course any time you are watching your own defense and offense against each other every positive play for one side bodes poorly for the other. So while you are thrilled to see a D-tackle wreak havoc in the offensive back field, or a RB break off a big run, you worry that what you are really seeing is a vulnerability in your offensive line, or a weakness in your rush defense. What I did observe that looked good for both sides was energy and an emphasis on hustle and effort that the players have been alluding to. There was constant yelling from the coaching staff, imploring the guys to go 100% all the time. Like I said, this was not the A squad, but they still looked good. I’ll hope to catch this afternoon’s practice as well and bring you some images of some of our big guns.

Until then, Go Cougs!

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

August 6, 2008

The first day of practices are in the books, so we’ll get right to it with some linkage:

First of all, tempo. It’s a common theme this year, something that we’ve been hearing time and again in describing the differences with the new regime. But what does it mean? Basically, we are going to play FAST on offense this year. Not out of control fast, ala LoyalaMarymount of the ’90’s, chucking up shots 5 seconds into the shot clock every possession. But we will be quicker on offense. The no-huddle speaks to that. And so far, the players are already feeling it just one day into the new era. As Howie Stalwick reported yesterday, things are different according to Dwight Tardy, Brandon Gibson and Devin Giles:

“I think they are more intense, more strict,” junior running back Dwight Tardy said. “They expect more from us.

“It seems like they expect us to be more like men. Like, ‘Grow up already.’ I think last year, (the old coaching staff) just kind of let us slide with a lot of stuff.”

Senior wide receiver Brandon Gibson said differences in the two coaching staffs have “definitely” caught the attention of players.

“I’m not saying last year (the coaches) weren’t upbeat, but these guys, they’re anxious,” Gibson said. “They’re anxious to get everything going.

“They want to prove that we’re ready and that they’re worthy.”

“I like (the new coaching staff) better,” junior cornerback Devin Giles said. “They teach us a lot of things. It’s very intense; no walking around, no nothing.”

So make no mistake about it – this is a new deal all the way around. And the message is being sent loud and clear from day one, in that either you get on board and understand what it is going to take to get things turned around, or we will move on without you.

One common theme you hear from the Mike-Holmgren Seahawks is tempo, tempo, tempo. The Hawks west-coast offense is at it’s best when they are simply moving quicker. Quicker to the huddle, quicker to the line of scrimmage, quicker off the ball. It’s getting in that rhythm, and an attack, attack, attack mentality instead of slowly lumbering around and reacting to what you see and hoping it works out. It’s getting AFTER it, instead of being passive. How can you not like that?? But you can’t just wake up on Saturday morning, gameday, and say “Ok, we’re going to be faster today”. If you want to play that way on gameday, you have to practice that way during the week. And that’s exactly what we are seeing now.

There was some not-so-good news on the player front. Some guys are recovering from injuries, including starting punter Reid Forrest, coming off ankle surgery. Forrest cracked a bone in his ankle in July and that led to the surgery (there’s your “mystery” ankle injury that we heard about). Forrest was on crutches and in a walking boot at practice. Wulff told the Seattle Times that there was a chance Forrest could be ready for the start of the season, so we’ll see. Markes Dawes is trying to come back for one more year, but is still recovering from shoulder surgery and isn’t quite ready for action. On the academic front, apparently there are a couple of casualties after all. DE Jesse Feagin is going to redshirt due to academics, and unfortunately, D-tackle Josh Luapo couldn’t enroll and will likely not show up in Pullman until January. With the d-tackle depth thin as it is, not having Luapo in the mix could hurt down the line, but we’ll see how things develop there.

Good write-up by Todd Miles of the TNT on Dwight Tardy’s recovery from knee surgery. It sounds as though the progress has been pretty remarkable for a guy who just had surgery just about 10 months ago. How good is his progress? So good that he wasn’t even wearing a knee brace at practice(!), something that surprised Steve Broussard. , but so far, so good:

“First day was great. It was like being a kid again,” he said boastfully, with a smile to back it up. “No aches and pains. After practice, it was a little sore, but nothing ice can’t handle.”

A cool thing to come of this is that Tardy used the new underwater treadmills that were purchased a few years ago for the athletic department, and that sounds like it really helped his recovery. They don’t give that type of equipment away on the corner with a FREE sign, so nice to see the money for that stuff was well spent. But Tardy isn’t all the way back, according to Bruiser:

“We did a couple of drills today, and he was dragging (the knee),” Broussard said. “As we move forward with it, we’ll see how he does with certain movements, and how he becomes comfortable with it.”

Tardy’s knee and how he responds to the daily pounding of practice is certainly going to be a big thing to watch the rest of the month.

Finally, some really great video over at the Spokesman, recapping day one. Good highlights and comments from players and Wulff. It’s a must-see for what turned out to be a nice start to the new era.

Enjoy your Wednesday, and as always, GO COUGS!

It’s Time

August 5, 2008

Welcome to a new era of WSU Football! Paul Wulff’s lads hit it hard today, with morning and afternoon sessions, and the official “flipping of the program” begins. We’ll stay on top of things for the first stages of the new era, as things will get pretty interesting beginning today. As Wulff talked about at media day, the days of two-a-day practices are gone, but the WSU coaches will be doing double-shifts early to get the new system in place. The morning practice will be for the top of the depth chart, then the rest will practice in the afternoon. As Wulff has said repeatedly, everything is new and the more reps every player on the roster can get, the better. August 30th is going to be here before you know it, so every productive minute in practice, the better!

The fall release is here, including updated depth charts for fall camp. Not some huge surprises, but there are a few worthy of attention:

  • Jeshua Anderson is listed as a starter. OK, not that big of a surprise, but given his off-season track commitments, you have to wonder if he’ll be behind early on. As a true sophomore with just 12 catches last year, Anderson is still ahead of senior Benny Ward.
  • Daniel Blackledge, another true sophomore, is also a starter at flanker. Blackledge had a grand total of 24 yards last year. Here is where you see some depth issues, as Michael Willis is the backup, and Keith Rosenberg 3rd string. Neither guy played a snap last year.
  • As our own Hooty reported here, the offensive line looks not only stacked for today, but for tomorrow as well. Just two starters are seniors, yet there is a lot of experience back in guys like Kenny Alfred and Andrew Roxas. Just looking at the o-line depth chart, you can see why people are excited about how we will look up front for the next several years.
  • Tardy is the starter at running back, ahead of Chris Ivory as the primary backup. You know those two will share the load, so being listed as the starter might not really mean a whole lot. Still, Tardy is just what, 10 months removed from a serious knee injury, so we’ll see how things look now that practice is finally here. No mention of JC transfer Chance Staden on the depth chart. Staden was highly regarded coming in last year, but while he is on the official roster, he’s not on the depth chart among the running backs.
  • There are co-starters listed at kicker, with Wade Penner OR Nico Grasu, the JC transfer with serious leg strength and especially good on kickoffs. That will be a battle to watch and I bet we don’t know who wins the job until the last week of camp.
  • On defense, an area of concern we touched on last week are the d-tackles. A’i Ahmu and Matt Eichelberger are the starters. Toby Turpin is one backup, but Andy Roof is listed as the other.
  • Nowhere to be found on the depth chart for the defensive line? JC tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo. Merely an oversight, or something more?? Wolfgramm and Luapo are both on the official roster, but surprisingly are not on the depth chart. Some publications have projected Wolfgramm as not only a regular, but even possibly a starter by the opener. We’ll see how that goes.
  • The secondary looks about how we thought it would. The position changes are official between Chima Nwachukwu and Alfonso Jackson. Chima is now the starter at strong safety, Jackson the starter at the right corner spot. Xavier Hicks is listed as the starter at free safety, which we know will be a problem for the first few games of the year due to suspension. JC transfer Easton Johnson is listed as his backup and will likely elevate to starter by the opener.
  • Redshirt frosh Tyrone Justin and sophomore Daniel Blackledge are listed as punt-returners. I know there was at least some thought that maybe Gibson would get a look back there, but given his likely heavy workload this year, it probably isn’t a good idea after all. However, Gibson and Chris Ivory are listed as kickoff returners. Interesting.

So there you have it, the beginning of a new era. It’s going to be a fun ride, and I can’t wait to see how things shake out this month. How will Rogers look running the new offense? Will Kevin Lopina push him, as has been hinted by Wulff that Rogers is the starter but Lopina could play? Will the young wideouts opposite Gibson be ready for prime time? Can they help carry the load and pick up the slack after losing Michael Bumpus, Jed Collins and Charles Dillon? How will the new faces on defense factor in? Will the JC guys be ready to help immediately? How will Mattingly take to the new position at defensive end? The buzz is that he could just explode out on the edge, but will he take to the new spot right away or will it take a month of game action to figure it out? How will the secondary do with the position changes, plus the suspension of Hicks? Stay tuned!

The 2K Decade – How the Pac-10 Has Fared

August 1, 2008

There were some interesting comments to come out of our own Rooster’s picks from Monday. Misguided as some of them were, as the muscle-bound anonymous was out to hate on us, well, someone brought up a good point in taking a look at how the NW schools have done since Y2K. I took a look at the conference beginning with the 2000 season, and thought the numbers were not only interesting, but deserving of it’s own post. So here goes:

Here’s all 10 teams in the conference starting from Y2K (neutral site records includes bowl games and non-traditional home sites for either team):

1) USC: 81-21 overall – 41-8 at home, 33-11 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites. No surprise here. An amazing string of at least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. What was interesting was that they started out 5-7 and 6-6 for the first two years, yet have lost just eight games over the last six seasons. The perception has been that it’s USC and then everyone else fighting for second place. Hard to argue against that in any way, shape or form when you look at the numbers!

2) Oregon: 67-32 overall – 39-12 at home, 25-16 away, 3-4 in neutral sites. A rough 2004 season where they went 5-6 is the only non-winning season in the decade. An impressive 25-8 non-conference record, and not just against Cupcake State either, as the Quack Attack hasn’t shied away from scheduling an “A” game. And the Autzen Stadium home-field advantage is strong as advertised. 39-12 is nothing to sneeze at. I was impressed with their road record, and their conference record was strong at 42-24, including three seasons of 7-1 (2000, 2001 and 2005).

3) Oregon State: 63-36 overall – 38-11 at home, 20-24 on the road, 5-1 in neutral sites. The surprise obviously is how good they have been the last eight seasons. You can also see how strong the Reser Stadium advantage really is. Remember, prior to the 1999 season, Oregon State had a 28-year streak of LOSING seasons. While Dennis Erickson gets a lot of credit for turning things around, you cannot help but be impressed by the work of Mike Riley. Erickson initially won with many of the players Riley recruited, and since Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in ’05). A huge tip of the cap toward the plucky Beavs. They should be proud of the program they have become.

4) UCLA: 56-43 – 35-14 at home, 19-24 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites. While people love to rip on the Bruins and their fall from the elite, well, it’s not THAT bad. Just two losing seasons, and both were 6-7 affairs (2007 and 2003). Still, aside from their 2005 10-2 breakthrough, they’ve hovered just above the .500 mark. The home record is pretty impressive, and even though they’ve gone just 13-13 the last two seasons, they have gone 10-3 at home. Only one losing season at home, 2-4 in 2002, they’ve won 16 of their last 19 games in the Rose Bowl.

5) ASU: 56-43 – 37-16 at home, 17-23 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites. I guess the big surprise to me was the road record. I knew they were good at home, and if you’ve been to a game in Tempe before you know that they do have a strong home-field advantage. But I didn’t realize they were six games under .500 on the road the last eight seasons. Similar to UCLA, they have at least had two big breakthrough seasons, 9-3 in 2004 and 10-3 in 2007. Only two losing seasons, 5-7 in ’03 and 4-7 in ’01, but otherwise they’ve hung in at the .500 mark. Interesting flip in their conference record, where they are just 31-35, yet out of conference, 25-8.

6) WSU: 54-41 – 24-20 at home, 23-19 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites (including 5-1 in Seattle). We know all too well the story here. An unprecedented three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from 2001 through 2003, but it’s been a bowl-less drought ever since. 2006 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart due to injuries and finished with bitter 6-6 pill that really began the Doba Must Go talk. I thought the road record was interesting, a better mark that Oregon State, ASU, UCLA and Cal. But just 24-20 at home kind of sucks doesn’t it? The trip to Pullman is a bitch, and the small stadium can be as loud as any other Pac-10 venue when it’s packed due to how close the fans are to the action, but to be just 4 above .500 isn’t good enough. Maybe that will change with Wulff.

7) CAL: 54-44 – 30-18 at home, 20-24 on the road, 4-2 in neutral sites. Cal has recovered nicely from a disaster to start the decade, where they went 3-8 in 2000 and a brutal 1-10 in 2001 (where have you gone, Tom Holmoe??). Last year’s fade is on everyone’s brain, but Cal has still won at least seven games since 2002. Interesting was their conference record, just 32-34, but an impressive 22-10 OOC.

8) UW: 44-52 – 29-22 at home, 14-27 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites. This is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams, with UW at 10 fewer wins than WSU and Cal. Even eight games under .500, they are still seven games over .500 at home. But the home field clearly isn’t what it used to be. And the road record is rough. The thing is, UW started out hot this decade, rolling to 11-1 in 2000 and then it was 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and 6-6 in 2003. The bottom fell out in 2004, a 1-10 campaign considered by many the worst UW team in school history. The 2004 season was the first non-winning season in 27 years, but it’s been tough to climb out of the hole, now four straight losing seasons.

9) Stanford: 34-57 – 19-29 at home, 15-27 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford with 10 fewer wins than 8th place UW. Just one winning season, a 9-3 campaign in 2001, Ty Willie’s last in Palo Alto. The worst was 2006, a 1-11 season considered not only the worst Stanford team in school history, but many rate it as one of the worst Pac-10 teams ever. And talk about no home-field advantage – they are just 3-16 in their last 19 home games. WOW that’s bad.

10) Arizona: 33-59 – 20-32 at home, 13-27 on the road (no neutral site games). I was surprised they were behind Stanford, but, when you consider AZ has been bowl-less since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, well, I guess it makes sense. Included in their record is an abysmal 19-47 record against the conference (WOW), but 14-12 outside the PAC. Their worst showing was 2003, where they finished 2-10, nearly had a player revolt against John Mackovic, and were actually outgained in conference play by 144 yards per game. AZ actually went 4-2 at home last year, the first time this decade they’ve had a winning home slate.

So there you have it, the conference since the new millennium. While the top three should hold firm in USC, Oregon and probably Oregon State, there could be a lot of movement from the rest of the teams as we play out the decade. And aside from USC’s domination in every way, shape and form, what do you think have been the biggest storylines so far? I would put Oregon State’s arrival as a legit bowl team as a big story. And sorry UW fans, but your fall from grace this decade has to be acknowledged. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Don’t forget the Paul Wulff chat today at 11 AM.

And what do you know, today is 8/1. Are we really starting the season at the end of THIS month? Back-to-school ads already appearing in newspapers and TV? Where did the summer go??

AND AS ALWAYS, HAPPY FRIDAY TO Y’ALL, AND GO COUGS!

If We Aren’t the Spread….

July 28, 2008

Then what are we??

Coach Wulff made waves last week at the snooze-fest known as media day (and let’s face it, there wasn’t a whole lot of compelling stuff to come out of last Thursday, was there? Team looks good, worked hard all off-season, so-and-so is coming back from injury, blah blah blah). But the most talked-about nugget from Wulff was the mention that we aren’t exactly a spread offense, but more a shotgun offense but with multiple looks, including the QB under center.

One of the most hailed things to come out of Wulff when he took the job was that he was installing a no-huddle, shotgun, spread offense. At least that’s what everyone heard when he took the job….or was it?

The reality is, when Wulff took the job and was at the podium, he said no-huddle, he said shotgun, but he never actually spoke the words “spread”. Why? Because his offense isn’t the true definition of what that offense really is regarded around the NCAA landscape these days. A lot of people, including myself, instantly thought spread when we heard no-huddle shotgun, but that doesn’t exactly fit what many people define a spread offense.

To see where I’m going with this, it’s important to at least acknowledge what the hell the spread offense actually is defined these days. For a lot of teams out there have adopted different strategies and labeled it a form of the spread offense. Loosely put, the spread is basically “spreading” out your skill position players, getting them in one-on-one situations with the defense and getting your play-makers out in space. The general idea, offensively, is to create favorable match-ups. Spread out the defense, hit the mismatch and have some fun. That’s what we see all over the country, and it’s done in a variety of ways.

Texas Tech and Arizona have their version of the offense, where they aren’t shy about at least chucking it 50 times a game. The run has very little to do with what they are trying to accomplish. But West Virginia calls itself the spread, yet they do it in a much more of a running style designed around the QB’s legs. Kansas is in the shotgun read-option offense and was much more balanced in their scheme last year, as was Oklahoma State, where they strive for the 50-50 balance of run-to-pass ratio.

But I think what Wulff is getting at in terms of “don’t call it the spread” is that we aren’t going to be exclusively a spread, READ-OPTION offense that is all the rage right now. Don’t think West Virginia or Okie State or even Oregon when you think our offense this year, because that isn’t what we are going to see.

To keep it simple, a key idea of the spread read-option is to start the offensive play with the QB in a “read option” mode. The QB has a running back with him in the shotgun, gets the snap, and immediately keys on the defensive end on the side of the field where the running back has set up. Then the play goes from there based on what the defensive end is doing. If the end charges hard upfield, the QB can fake the hand-off and keep it himself (we saw a lot of this out of Jake Locker and UW last year in the Apple Cup, and you see it all the time with Tim Tebow at Florida). But if the d-end stays home, then the QB can choose to hand the ball off to the back and the play just goes from there. Or, the QB can fake the hand-off, and pull it out of there and throw the ball.

The trick here though is that it isn’t the old wishbone option offense we used to see out of Oregon State, Oklahoma, or even the Rypien-Porter-Mayes offense of days gone by. Instead of everyone bunched up at the line and sometimes three backs in the backfield, it’s a modern flare to it with WR’s from sideline to sideline. The extra dimension of throwing the ball to multiple WR’s is a big part of what the offense can do, making it a complete headache to defend beyond the old-school option.

The best example you will ever find is what Oregon did to UW last year. Dennis Dixon was in the zone that day, as the Duck O went for an unreal 465 yards RUSHING, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 62 total rushing attempts. It was a clinic. In the shotgun, Dixon would get the snap and make his read. Either hand it to Stewart, keep the ball himself, or, uh-oh, he could pull it out of there and throw it to WR’s running wide open, all game long. UW’s EJ Savannah said after the game that not only could they not attack the Ducks and they were on their heels all game long, but half the time they had trouble figuring out who even had the football. It was a sight to behold.


Why profile this? Because this is NOT exactly the new WSU offense. Don’t picture Gary Rogers doing things that Dennis Dixon did in that clip. This is an example of what is really thought of as the spread, read-option offense that is the rage today. But will we show some of the same sort of things? Occasionally, yes, we’ll do some things that look like the read-option. But it is not exclusively the read-option spread compared to what others are running.

As you can see in the following clips in a game between EWU and BYU last year, you begin to understand what Wulff was getting at by describing the multiple approach. There are plays that show EWU doing all sorts of different things. Shotgun with read-option fakes or handoffs, yes, absolutely. But we also see the QB under center with one back, sometimes with double-tight ends, WR motion, the whole thing. There is even a play where the WR goes in motion and takes a handoff from the QB at around the 5:18 mark of the tape (might we see that out of Gibson this year??).

In the second half, you see more of the same, with more shotgun formations with two backs and some more WR motion. And as a bonus, if you like games played in the snow? Check out things beginning at the 6-minute mark. BRRRRRR!

I guess the point of all this is to understand what people think of as the spread, and what we are actually going to see. With Wulff and Todd Sturdy and the rest, anything and everything goes. As Wulff and Sturdy have said all along, expect a balanced attack out of a no-huddle scheme, with multiple formations. In the end, it will not be predictable, it will not be stale, and I think we can all be assured that it is going to be very entertaining to watch!

Now will it work? Hard to say. The no-huddle, multiple attack sounds good, but, we’re not the first team in the Pac-10 to do it. Oregon for example runs a lot of no-huddle. So while the Pac-10 will be seeing some things that are fresh from WSU as we distance ourselves from the Erickson-Price one-back attack, it won’t be as if we are doing things that nobody has ever seen before. And you can have the greatest offensive scheme of all-time, but, if you don’t have the playmakers to go with it???……Well, you know.

Not a whole lot happening in Cougar Nation this week. It should be pretty quiet, but of course, things get rolling next week. We’ll stay on top of the news, and our own Rooster might have something coming in the next few days, but this is another quiet time. Enjoy your Monday, and as always, GO COUGS.

Pac-10 Media Day Musings

July 25, 2008

Hey, did you hear that USC is #1, but we’re #10!?!
Uh, dude….#10 in the CONFERENCE.

Well, what do you know. USC #1? WSU #10? We call that a shocker (/sarcasm).

Anywho, lots of obvious fall-out from yesterday’s media day festivities, so, we’ll sift through it all and spin it in a Coug way for you…..

First, the results:

Points are on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale, with total points in parentheses. First place votes are also listed:

USC (38 first-place votes)…389
Arizona State…330
Oregon…295
California (1)…274
UCLA… 204
Oregon State…192
Arizona…185
Washington… 139
Stanford…76
Washington State…61

Gasp. Yep, that’s dead last alright. Some really quick thoughts for me were who the heck voted Cal a #1 vote? Bay area writers, looking in your direction…..ASU is a strong #2, and Oregon is right there at #3. I was also surprised at where UCLA was placed. Fifth after all those preseason injuries and attrition to the offensive line?? Fifth?? Oregon State 6th is about right, and even though they have lost so much on paper, you can almost see it coming that Riley is going to squeeze every ounce he can out of those kids. But I don’t know about Arizona at #7. That seems a little low. When you break down the points, you can see they weren’t that far behind the Beavs for #6. But there was a big drop down to UW, Stanford and of course, WSU. Funny thing – check out this year’s Lindy’s preseason mag. 1-10, the results are EXACTLY the same as the Pac-10 media guys. Any coincidence that some of the writers of Lindy’s also happen to be Pac-10 beat writers as well? Nah….

For an overview straight outta ESPN, check out the video:

So should we just not show up? Is it time to just lay down, ring the bell that the sky has yes, begun falling, and that’s all she wrote? Time to embrace our alien captors, and the like? Of COURSE NOT! For the media day is, simply, what it is. It’s a poll of Pac-10 writers in terms of where they think the teams will finish, 1-10. And while they have usually been correct, they are not always right. In fact, the Pac-10 media poll has only predicted the top team 25 out of 47 total attempts. Is that all that impressive? That isn’t picking the top two or three in the correct order, that’s just picking the champion. It’s better than 50%, but still, not exactly stellar in a run-off-to-Vegas-and-throw-down-the-mortgage way. And did you know that in 1997 WSU was picked seventh, and 2001, WSU was picked NINTH? We know what happened in 1997, the first Rose Bowl bid since the 1930 season, and in 2001 Gesser and company broke through in a major way to a 10-win, Sun Bowl winning season. So who the hell knows. But that said, there are some things to take from media day.

Wulff had some good things to say, spinning things in a positive light and that they are mainly just happy to get the season going after a draining off-season. There are a ton of links out there, and you know where to find them. But don’t take my word for it. Coach Paul joined KJR’s Ian Furness AND, get this – Jason Gesser stopped by the KJR studios and joined in on the conversation. It’s a really good listen, so, click here and give it a shot. Note – give it a chance to load in your browser window, because it is worth it. Nice to hear Gesser, and again, Wulff had some good tidbits for your listening pleasure.

First, Wulff mentioned again about how the team will go out of it’s way to get the ball to Brandon Gibson. They want to move him around and make it difficult for the opposition to focus in on just #4. In February at the football dinner in Seattle, Wulff slipped it into his stage time that they were looking to do all sorts of things to get him the football, including an off the cuff remark about “even handing him the ball”. Hmm. You can just envision Gibson doing a ton of motion before the snap, just to cause a little havoc or confusion on the defense, but might he get handoffs out of the motion?? Maybe that’s a big part of Gibson’s decision to return to the program. I know he spoke with Ted Miller the other day and said he needed to work on some things before he goes pro, but, maybe another angle are the kinds of things Wulff, Todd Sturdy and Mike Levensellar are scheming right now to get him to have one of those all-WORLD type senior years?

It also sounds promising in regards to Dwight Tardy and, hopefully, Chris Ivory. While I don’t think we envision true superstar ability in a Bo-Jackson type for either guy, as a two-headed monster they could be pretty good.

Wulff also mentioned the transfers in Ashley Jean-Jacques, Trever Mooney and in a bit of a mild surprise, WR Greg Walker. We knew about Jean-Jacques and Mooney, but, Walker wasn’t one we heard about. Walker was a sophomore WR with decent size (6-3, 175) and I thought he might be in the mix this year for some solid PT, but oh well. Also interesting about Andy Roof, in that the team has done their part in his punishment, but it’s all up to the school at this point. Given our lack of depth at the D-tackle spot, while Roof wouldn’t likely be a star or anything, he sure could be a big body up front to help keep the interior o-linemen off our linebackers! We do have some JC linemen in Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Juapo coming in to help out inside, but, as we know that first month of so of JC guys trying to break in can be a real eye-opener. So we’ll see.

Finally, Wulff made it clear that our offense shouldn’t be lumped into the “spread” offenses that we see all over the country. Yes, we’ll be in the shotgun the majority of the time out of the no-huddle, but, we will have many different, multiple looks with the QB under center. We are not an official spread offense. We’ll see how it all looks once the season arrives, but it sounds like an offense that is going to be all over the board in terms of what opposing defenses will see on a weekly basis. Being a “moving target” is a good thing, and hey, why not give the other guys something new to think about? I know from some of the EWU game tape I watched from last year via Comcast On-Demand, I saw nothing but shotgun, no-huddle. So maybe it was just a deal where the match-ups and tempo was so good that they stuck with it, but, it also sounds like things will be pretty flexible offensively.

That’s about it from a WSU perspective. Again, media day is what it is. Take it with a boulder-sized grain of salt. For the beauty of it all is that, as always, the season isn’t over in July. Things will once again be settled on the field.

Moving on, some quick items:

Thanks to our Cougar gal-pal Michelle for the link to the scoreboard web-cam. Have you see the progress? We’ve added an image from the webcam to the top of the site, so refresh your screen for the latest update. Here’s a shot from how it looks on a glorious Friday morning in Pullman:

Starting to look like a scoreboard isn’t it? While we aren’t in a contest with Oregon State or Oregon to see “who’s is bigger”, well, our scoreboard will be just fine, thanks.

Finally, geek-alert – Have ya seen the new Batman?

We ventured out among the sweaty summer masses and caught it on Sunday.

But in a word: WOW. I know, I know, this is coming from someone who loved Batman Begins, and I had way-too-high expectations for this one….but I have to say it matched the hype, and then some. The reviews are right, it’s an amazing movie. Bale’s Batman is great, but Ledger, jeez. What a fantastic portrayal of the tortured, out-of-control maniac. He played it perfectly too. Not too much in a Jim Carrey, rapid-fire, in your face way of let’s throw 1,000 jokes against the wall and see if any of them stick. Not over-crazy, yet not understated either. You actually think he’s this character, you are never exactly sure what he’s going to do next, and you never find a “roll your eyes” cheesy, overdone moment with him.

Words can’t do it justice, so just do yourself a favor and go see it. While it’s hard to say if he’ll win the Oscar, it would be borderline-insane if Ledger isn’t at least nominated for the role. And what a damn shame we’ll never get to see him do it again, because he does leave you wanting much, much more.

ENJOY YOUR FRIDAY!