Archive for the ‘WSU Fall Practice’ Category

Eyewitness Report: Longball Observes a Sudden Outbreak of Violence on the Palouse!

August 9, 2008
Autumn is my favorite season on the Palouse and no matter what the calendar says I can tell you it has officially arrived. I know this because today, over the chirping of the birds and the gentle rustling of the breeze blowing through the leaves I heard that telltale sound that heralds the arrival of Fall…

That’s right Crimson Nation, Cougar football is BACK. This morning the boys put on full pads for the first time this season and got after it. Having learned from my mistakes I made sure I had plenty of juice for my camera and came away with some good images of the morning’s action on Rogers Field. There was a lot to see, so today I promise less jibber-jabber from yours truly, and more pictures of your 2008 Washington State Cougars in action.

I witnessed two spirited scrimmages today with skelly and other drills in between. You may have heard that there were some scuffles in the last few practices and today was no different. Below you see a couple of the guys continuing to tangle well after the whistle had blown…

Now some of you may find this worrisome, but I assure you this is a good thing. Football is a violent sport and between the snap and the whistle these guys are mortal enemies. That kind of intense aggression can’t always be switched off with the sound of a whistle so it inevitably spills over into shoving matches like this. Of course we don’t want this kind of stuff costing us yards and downs in a real game, but the coaches have plenty of time to instill that game day discipline in these guys. In the meantime it just shows that the passion and competitiveness we need are there, and those things are much harder to coach.

I was pleased that the scrimmage seemed pretty balanced, with both the Defense and Offense making their fair share of plays. to illustrate this, here are a few images from the intense battle between our receivers and defensive backs…

Above you see Brandon Gibson, 4, running after the catch and just look at that separation from the defender. Not too long after that he hauls in a score…

That’s just Brandon being Brandon. But he’s not QB Gary Roger’s only weapon by any stretch. Here is the resurgent and potentially electrifying Michael Willis, 3, also getting great seperation…

…and moments later, hauling in a score of his own.

But don’t worry, while it may look our defensive backfield is getting beat like a drum, they weren’t hanging their heads at all. Rather, they just tightened their chin straps and made a few plays of their own. Here is Devin Giles, 32, about to step in front of a diving Anthony Houston, 88, to make a difficult pick on this ball…

The offense responded, showing off another one of its many promising weapons as tight end Devin Frischknecht, 80, breaks into the open…

But it wasn’t all wide open spaces for the big tight end. Here you see him sloooooooowly picking himself off the turf after getting leveled by Myron Beck, 13.

Hits like that are exactly what I like to see from our DBs and Myron Beck looks to me like a bona fide assassin in our secondary. To Frischknecht’s credit, he did hang onto the ball and after regaining his breath let out a Braveheart yell, got back on his feet and ran off the field. Just great stuff all around.

We also run the ball sometimes, and as you can see below running back Dwight Tardy, 31, is wearing no protection on his surgically repaired knee.

Tardy ran hard today and continues to look good. That’s newcomer Chantz Staden, 22, behind him who with his helmet off looks like a mini-Steven Jackson. Promising young running back Marcus Richmond, 20, showed off his speed, finding his way round the end of the 2nd string Defense for a TD.

Not to be outdone, below, backup QB Kevin Lopina, 19, finds running room up the middle on a designed QB sneak.

But the defense came to play too. Below they celebrate after recovering a Greg Trent forced fumble…

Gotta love the defensive coaches getting into the celebration. Is that coach Akey circa 2003?

Now as Coug fans we are all programmed to worry about our offense’s effectiveness in short yardage situations, especially on the goal line. Here we see the 1st team Offense punching the ball into the end zone from just a yard out.

Of course it remains to be seen if we can pull this off in a real game.

Another area of concern for most Coug fans is what is usually called the “kicking game”, but for us recently has been more of a “shanking game”. Aww the life of a kicker…

This is where they hang out for most of the practice, shootin the breeze, stayin loose until suddenly, after HOURS of not really pedaling at all on those bikes, they are called to action! This year, the brave souls that will face off against those pesky uprights are incumbent Wade Penner, 35, and new comer Nico Grasu, 29.

And here is Penner…

…shanking one to the right. And for good measure, here is Grasu…

…shanking one to the left.

Hey, I can’t bring you only good news. Heck, if there was only good news we wouldn’t be the Cougs, would we? On a brighter note, on the very last play of the practice Penner booted a beautiful kick through the uprights from pretty far out (I have no depth perception, but I think it was 40+ yards at least).

Now for the impact rookie watch… you may have heard some buzz about freshman wideout, Jared Karstetter, 84. Here he is running down a ball that is just out of his reach…

He had a case of the dropsies in drills today, but overall it is apparent what the buzz is about. He has great size and athleticism, and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

Now I would be remiss (and a disgrace to my Alma mater) if I didn’t highlight another exciting rookie, freshman QB and Pullman High’s own JT Levenseller, 5 (yes, coach Levenseller’s son). Here JT stands and delivers…

JT may not have the size to be a full time QB, but he is a great athlete and tenacious competitor. I would not be surprised at all to see him on the field some day, perhaps as a slot receiver, or even a defensive back. Meanwhile, in spite of any doubts I might have, he is working hard to be our QB of the future and Pullman Greyhounds everywhere are cheering him on. Go Get ‘Em JT!!

Now some of you may be asking, “Where’s the beef, Longball?” I hear you loud and clear. Stay tuned for more pictures of the BIG boys on the line going head to head in a clash of titans this morning. So check in later for that and, as always…

Go Cougs!

Eye Witness Report: Longball Goes Star Gazing at Afternoon Practice

August 7, 2008
Well, you can never have enough AA batteries. I braved the 98 degree heat to watch the A squad in their afternoon practice yesterday, only to have my camera die on me before I could get any really good pics. Cougar Nation, I have let you down. It was a rookie mistake I wont make again, you can count on it!
While the images aren’t what I hoped for, I still have plenty to report. For instance, did I mention it was hot? Some of us observers were better prepared than others, as you can see Orville has switched to the cowboy hat since the morning session…

Good thinkin, Orville.

So without my own defense against the merciless sun I made my way round the field and got a few shots off before the camera went kaput. I am sure we are all concerned about Dwight Tardy’s progress on his surgically repaired knee and I headed straight for the running backs. Coach Broussard was putting them through the paces, yelling, “Trust your feet, eyes up! Don’t look at your feet! Why are you looking at your *&^%$ing feet?! Eyes up!” and so on. Sounds good to me. As they lined up for drills you can see Tardy, 31, in the back with his neoprene knee brace pulled down.

I took this as a good sign that he felt confident without it. He seemed to pay a lot of attention to how the knee felt after each burst of activity, but I never saw him labor, or limp at all and he looked just as sharp and confident as the other backs in their drills. Oh yeah, and he was the only one keeping his “&*^%$ing eyes up”, as coach Broussard was imploring them to do.

With a healthy Tardy and an elligible Ivory, I am really excited about this unit as a whole. Seeing these guys up close and personal did nothing to change that. The helmets-only look is not very flattering, they look like a bunch of bobble heads. But regardless these guys still passed the eye test, or the airport test, as it is commonly called these days.

I am sure many of you are also anxious to hear how Mr. Speedypants, Jeshua Anderson looks. Well, talk about passing the airport test, yowzah!

As you can see in the photo above captured with a special high speed lense, he wears number 85, but you usually just see a white streak. Anderson’s athleticism is in the realm of freakish and I got to see him pull off one particularly great grab, leaping over a defender for a Rogers thrown ball that looked like it was going to sail through one of the CUB windows. More than once I saw defenders simply pull him to the ground as he made his first move on them and it was obvious they were about to get clowned. I would like to see him continue to get stronger, and fight through a lot of that grabbing and holding like Brandon Gibson does, but he is definately bulked up from last year. He was a little gimpy after contact and while I never want to call a player’s toughness into question based on skelly drills, I do worry if he is a bit fragile. As Coug fans we are used to being one injury away from disaster, so its always on my mind.

The receivers are another unit where I honestly believe, crimson tinted shades aside, we are just loaded. We all know what Brandon Gibson does to defenses and the reemergence of Michael Willis so far as been a sight to behold. Two other guys that really stand out when you watch practice are Benny Ward, 15 and Anthony Houton, 88. They both have great size and athleticism and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of them really emerge as a weapon this year.

As for the rest of the offense, I didn’t get any really good captures, but below you can see Rogers lining up behind center for some skelly against the starting backers and DBs.

Both Rogers, 17 and Lopina, 9 look the part, but it is clear they bring different things to the table and the coaches are going to play to their strengths. You see Lopina run a lot more designed QB runs and option plays, but he still throws a nice ball. It looks like shotgun is going to be our bread and butter this year and the drills include practicing hand-offs in shotgun with the coaches throwing intentionally bad snaps. I didn’t get to see too much of the offensive line, so I will watch more closely in the coming days.

Now some of you (Ptown) have reminded us in the comments that we don’t play in the WAC and defense matters too. Well I agree, and I was very curious to see one defensive unit in particular, our defensive line.

That my friends is a buffet’s worst nightmare. As you can see, big number 74, Andy Roof is practicing and no indication yet that he wont play. To his right are Eichelberger, 77 and Ahmu, 92, two seniors we are counting on to have solid and healthy campaigns in ’08. Clearly neither of them spent the offseason competing to be America’s Biggest Loser. Look at Andy Mattingly, 45. I cannot believe that guy was a linebacker! He looks D-end all the way to me. Just coming into the picture on the left is Kevin Kooyman, 93 who, together with man-child Mattingly off the other end, could be a huge problem for opposing QBs this year. Don’t fret (yet) folks. This unit has some promise. In no-pads action it’s hard to get a good read on them, but they’ll be strapping on the armor soon and we’ll get a better idea how they’ll be. With Mattingly, Kooyman, Mullinex, and Graise as our D-ends, I think its safe to say our concerns are at the tackle position. Sounds like a job for my main man, Toby Turpin!

I wasn’t able to give our backers and DBs the attention they deserve, so I’ll try to get a read on them in future practices and scrimmages. One guy that did stand out to me was Devin Giles. He has good size and I was surprised he wasn’t on the depth chart. They are going hard all day, every day against the likes of Brandon Gibson and Jeshua Anderson, so I am confident they are learning fast and will be ready.

That’s all for now folks! I wont be able to make it to the helmets and pads practice today, but I plan on being there tomorrow and this weekend so I can bring you more reports from the ground. Until then…

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!