Archive for the ‘Zack Williams’ Category

Who’s Going to Block?

July 20, 2009


Happy Monday Coug Nation. Hope you all enjoyed a sunny, relaxing July weekend. But don’t get TOO relaxed….training camp is coming, now just what, three+ weeks away? Time sure is flying by.

First of all, one last quickie on “lil’ Romeo” Pellum. We apologize if the untrustworthy part of the headline on Friday was misinterpreted by any of you. It could be a bit misleading, or even thought of as calling the coaches out as not being trustworthy, etc. Or, it could even be taken as giving too much credence to Pellum and what he thinks of the WSU program. None of these things were the intent. And to make things worse, we heard a few things about Romeo over the weekend that, uh, let’s just say him leaving Pullman is the best thing for everyone. But it’s over and done with, and we all will now move on.

That said, it’s still a slow time in the Coug universe. So we’ll plow ahead with a peek at the O-line for ’09, WSU Football Blog style.

First of all, the ’08 line was, well, battered. How’s that? Battered to the extent of a seemingly never-ending shuffle of linemen, in and out of the lineup. All told the offensive line started eight different combinations last year, with players in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis. The good news is that some young players got their feet wet, and, towards the end of the season anyway, things started to settle down. The last three games of the year saw the exact same starting five up front, and even all in their regular positions! How about that!? But it was THAT fluid up front.

With that revolving door came the best teacher of all – in-game experience – but it also came at a steep price. We saw the beatings that the QB’s took last year, where Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina, and Marshall Lobbestael all dealt with major pain. Of course, Rogers and Lobbestael were knocked out for the season, while Lopina missed several games in the middle of the year with the vertebrae fractures.


Even Dan Wagner, the fourth QB, was hobbled a bit later in the year, and although J.T. Levenseller barely played, HE TOO was beat up when he was in there! All told, the WSU QB’s ate it to the tune of 42 sacks (PAC-10 worst), plus numerous hits on the QB that might not go down in the stat book. It was a group that was trying to learn new schemes, from new coaches, with new players in and out. Doesn’t exactly add up to success, does it?

But that’s ’08, and it’s in the rear-view mirror (thank God). Time to look forward to a new era. And there is, potentially, some positions to feel really good about. Live in the past, stay in the past, right? So let’s see how the ’09 line might look….

Projected starters:

LEFT TACKLE: Steven Ayers – Sophomore

Decent size for tackle at 6-4, now up to 315 lbs, the sophomore-to-be should be a mainstay on the line for the next several seasons. He played in eleven games last year as a red-shirt frosh, including five starts, shuffling between guard and tackle. He played more guard than anything last year, in fact he had just one start at tackle for the entire season. So, starting left tackle will be a new deal for Ayers. Of course, brand new left tackles can make people nervous, you know, with the whole protect-the-QB-blindside stuff? But Ayers has that rookie season out of the way and sounds as if he’ll be ready for the challenge.

LEFT Guard: Zack Williams – Junior

Originally thought of as a potential heir-apparent to Vaughn Lesuma at left tackle, instead Williams will roll with the starters at left guard. Williams has been regarded as one of the most talented linemen on the team since he set foot in Pullman for his redshirt season last year, and was often mentioned by Wulff during radio shows and interviews that Williams looks like he could be a real player. He’s also mentioned as having a real tough streak to him, something this offensive line could really use in bunches right now. It will be awfully interesting to see how Williams does out of the chute. Not your typical JC transfer in that he actually has a red-shirt season at WSU under his belt, but still, this will be his first BCS action of his career. It’s one thing to do it in practice, but let’s hope his early buzz continues into September, and beyond.

CENTER: Kenny Alfred – Senior


The best lineman on the team, heck, probably the best player on offense to line up next year, Alfred has it all. Smarts (All-Academic team), experience (32 career starts coming into ’09), and toughness(winner of the Mike Utley lineman of the year award last year), he’s pretty much everything WSU could hope for at center.

He’s been pegged as being a good one since he first came to Pullman under Bill Doba’s watch, who once predicted Alfred would be a four-year starter back in ’05. And here we are. He’s on all the pre-season watch lists for offensive linemen, and rightfully so. A little worrisome is the hip injury that forced him to miss the entire spring practice session, but word is he is A-OK and will be ready to go next month. As center is really the quarterback of the offensive line, there is very little doubt that Alfred is the one guy they need to have out there on a weekly basis.

RIGHT GUARD: B.J. Guerra – Sophomore

Guerra has been up-and-down a bit, hasn’t he? Thrown to the wolves in ’07, he held his own as a backup, and then saw a lot of action last year, starting five games. Those five starts included the last three games of the year, when the WSU line had the same starting five for three consecutive games, the longest stretch of the season where the same five started a game. Originally a d-tackle when he came to WSU, he was switched over to the offense his red-shirt season and hasn’t looked back. He’s got some size (6-3, 311) and a little nastiness to him, a quality needed for this group.

RIGHT TACKLE: Micah Hannam – Junior

Similar to Alfred, Hannam is the other leader up front. Another brainy guy, named to an All-Academic team in each of the last two years, Hannam has some major experience as well. He has now started 25 consecutive games, all at right tackle. While not your NFL prototype tackle at 6-4, 284, he’s still strong and moves pretty well. Also like Alfred, Hannam missed all of spring drills due to injury, but, everything sounds good for the start of camp.

BACKUPS:

The backup offensive tackles will likely be Joe Eppele and Tyson Pencer. Both are enormous Canadians, hailing from the great white north province of British Columbia.


Eppele’s at 6-8, 306 and Pencer at 6-6, 297. But they are green, Eppele with two starts, Pencer with none as he is just coming off his red-shirt frosh season this year. Eppele is another smarty pants, placing on the second-team All-Academic PAC-10 squad for two straight years. While he only started two games last year, he did see action in 10 games total.

Inside, you will likely find Brian Danaher and Andrew Roxas as the backup guards. Danaher is a lunchpail-n-hardhat type, not a spectacular athlete but gives you all he’s got. He’s perfectly slated as a backup, but he still started EIGHT games last year. That’s some good experience to have in there, and he’ll be ready when called upon. Andrew Roxas, like Danaher, is also experienced, starting eight games himself last year. Roxas made a name for himself in 2007, when he stepped in as a frosh and started for the injured Kenny Alfred vs. UCLA. The result was a 27-7 victory at home that saw the Cougs run for 274 yards on the day, by far the season high in ’07.

Roxas has basically been a backup at center and guard ever since, and that’s where he’ll open up ’09.

So that’s a look at the starters, plus some key backups. Now here’s something else to think about – remember that NO HUDDLE OFFENSE we heard so much about when Wulff was hired?!? No? Neither do I. That’s because we barely saw the thing after the first game of the year. Once the injuries started to mount, forget it. But it wasn’t anybody’s fault, really. The whole idea was just too much, too soon, for everyone on offense to handle. But not anymore. It’s been said repeatedly that 2009 will see the “real” WSU/Todd Sturdy offense, and that involves a fast-paced, no-huddle scheme that is aggressive from the get-go. Now that we’ve seen a season in the books for all these guys involved, all in this new scheme, we’ll finally get a chance to see the real deal. Will the no-huddle give everyone a chance to show what they can really do? Is the O-line up to the task? The beauty is that we are going to find out!

So what do you think of the O-line? It looks pretty good…today…on paper. But we’re still quite a ways away from Stanford on 9/5.

That’s about it for a Monday. Enjoy heading back to the grind, and as always, GO COUGS!

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Reason For Hope?

March 24, 2009


So spring ball is set to begin Thursday, and everyone appears excited to wash the feeling of ’08 right off their dirty, smelly bodies. And for good reason. But it’s a new season, with new faces, and the hope of all hopes that the ugliness of last year is just that – left to linger where it belongs.

But ask yourself this….have you prepared yourself for the idea that what happened last year just MIGHT carry over into 2009? What if we see this team talk of change and overall improvement all spring and throughout fall camp, then gets drilled by the usual round of injuries, a few suspensions, and they still haven’t figured out how to win? What if they get blown out to open the season vs. Stanford? Even though last season was a three-month extended scene of crawling through a tunnel of sewage, what if THEY NEVER GOT OUTTA SHAWSHANK??

Look, last year was tough on everyone – fans, alums, bloggers, your general ticket-buying public. I don’t need to tell you that. It is hard to imagine a worse season, in terms of blowouts, poor health, and just some lousy football that is so painful to relive that we won’t even bother….unless of course you are Ty Willingham…..but I digress. But seriously, how accepting will you be if you have to witness frustrating losses, week after week, in 2009? Are you “out” as a Coug fan, ready to start up firewulff.com, tear up your season tickets and rail against it all on this here site? Or will you ride out the storm, hoping coach Wulff can navigate this thing home and turn the program into another Oregon State?

Not to get all GLOOM here. I mean hey, it’s SPRING! The thaw is officially upon us. It’s light until after 7 PM. MLB’s opening day is just a few weeks away. And every college football program in America is undefeated right now. There IS always hope!

So to get us started for spring, here’s three new faces to be excited about for 2009, WSU Football Blog style…OK, actually four new faces to get excited about, two of which are playing the same position….but you get the idea. And we’ll look at other things this week, but this is a good place to start.

EXCITED ABOUT NEW FACES

It was said repeatedly for much of 2008 – especially towards the end of the year – and that is there is talent here that isn’t even playing, and according to coach Wulff, “We will be instantly be a better football team the moment the 2008 season ends.” But is he right?

Well, yes, probably. There are some big-time new faces who will be on the field this year, faces we have only heard about. But keep your eyes open and ears perked this spring for running back James Montgomery, offensive tackle Zach Williams, and D-linemen Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo.

1) First of all, Montgomery. A fabulously talented young back with moves and speed, Montgomery is a big-time talent. With injuries and other issues haunting Chris Ivory, and Dwight Tardy a solid-if-unspectacular ball carrier lacking that extra burst of speed, Montgomery’s skills should be a delightful fit into OC Todd Sturdy’s offense.

Montgomery, you may remember, was once the subject of a heated recruiting battle between UW and Cal, where the kid ultimately chose Berkeley. But there were rumors back in the day that Montgomery actually liked WSU quite a bit.


Montgomery played in every one of Cal’s games as a frosh in 2007, and even in limited time, still averaged almost five yards per carry (4.8). The future looked bright, but also crowded in Cal’s talented backfield. Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen ring a bell? Those two form the young two-headed running back monster for Cal and they aren’t leaving anytime soon. Combined with some personal issues, Montgomery made the move to Pullman. After practicing and sitting out all of last year, he’s finally ready to make his mark. Don’t be surprised if he works his way to the top of the depth chart by the end of spring or at the latest, the conclusion of fall camp.

2) Zack Williams (or “Zach”, or even Zachary) has been impressing folks since his first practice in Pullman. While not a prototype NFL-type tackle, he does have decent size at 6-4, 300. Regarded by many who’ve spied him as the most talented lineman in the program, he was often mentioned as also being the best one on the team…and that was LAST YEAR, just as a scout team guy during his redshirt season.


Given the upcoming full spring and fall practice sessions where he will now “run with the ones”, he should slide right into the vacated left tackle spot from the departed big fella/quote machine, Vaughn Lesuma. A redshirt junior, Williams will start and should be a fixture on the line for his few seasons of eligibility.

3) Finally, Wolfgramm and Luapo might be the two biggest keys to any hope of an ’09 turnaround. Recall a season ago – if you dare – and what do you remember from the Cougar D? Not good, is it? Obviously the conference-worst turnover margin had smething to do with the weekly thrashings. However, I don’t know about you, but the ease in which opposing offenses waltzed up and down the field on a weekly basis was alarming at best, absolutely BRUTAL at worst. The Cal game or Oregon game, I mean turnovers or not, either team could have skipped the whole huddle thing and simply yelled “OK, WE ARE RUNNING IT AGAIN!” And there was absolutely nothing the defense could do about it.

Now things did get a little better later in the season, once the switch to the 3-4 defense was complete, combined with a return to health from Toby Turpin, a welcome playmaker at nose tackle. But I even go back to the Okie State game and watching big Matt Eichelberger getting his 320 lbs driven 5 yards off the ball repeatedly, and you knew that was going to be a long, long season!

Adding Bernard Wolfgamm and Josh Luapo, both JC transfers who have some girth and ability behind them, will go a long way to shoring up the defensive front. Wolfgamm is the smaller of the two, coming in at 6-3, 275, but he’s regarded as a real playmaker up front. Look for him to slide between tackle and end, depending on the scheme or situation. But Wolfgramm will be on the field as much as possible.


Meanwhile Luapo is more of your traditional tackle in the run-stuffing mode, at 6-0, close to 300. He just enrolled in January, so he has a lot of road to cover in a short period of time. But one could expect he will either start at one tackle in the 4-3, or be a huge part of the rotation in the 3-4 to keep the bodies fresh up front.

Keep your eyes and ears open for how these guys do this spring. Their performances could be the difference between a huge step towards respectability….or a huge step towards the hot seat for coach Wulff.

Oh yeah, and thanks for the Facebook friend stuff. Some of you have become friends, and that’s cool. You are welcome to sign on, as we will keep the Facebook site updated every time a post hits here on the blog. Plus some other stuff as the season approaches. Check out the Facebook “badge” on the right sidebar for a link to our page.

Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!