GREAT Read on Cory Mackay

August 7, 2009

Bravo to Bud Withers of the Seattle Times for an outstanding article tonight on Cory Mackay, the injured Coug trying to get back to a normal life. If you haven’t checked it out or heard about it yet, give it a go here.

Also remember to frequent the Cory Mackay Fund Facebook page. We are huge fans of Cory Mackay, and hope his spirits can remain high on this journey back from a very difficult spot. GO Cory Mackay, and GO COUGS!

Wulff Speaks on State of the Program

August 6, 2009

Good morning Cougs. Hope you are all enjoying the cooling off period we are experiencing in the beautiful pacific northwest. It’s only creeping into the 70’s now, quite a difference from last week’s triple-digit scorchers.

Lost in all the previews and such this time of year, none other than Paul Wulff hopped on KJR with Mitch Levy for an interview on Tuesday. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out here.

It is a good listen if you have the seven or so minutes to give it a go. Wulff is candid, speaking on a variety of things. And say what we will about KJR from time to time (and we say a lot), after all they are the UW flagship station. But Mitch Levy is one of the best in the biz in terms of handling player and coach interviews. He isn’t shy about asking some sticky subjects, and always does what he can to kind of peel back the layers and get some of these guys to open up a bit more than the norm.

Wulff touches on the usual things we’ve heard before – the players weren’t physically ready for PAC-10 play, changing the culture, surprised at the lack of nutrition and eating right, etc. Things we’ve been hearing for the last year-plus.

But he also hits on a few other things that I haven’t heard from him, such as some deeper self-evaluation for himself and the staff. He said things like “As a coaching staff, maybe we went too fast last year and didn’t take into account what our players were capable of handling mentally and physically. Looking back, maybe we should have slowed down on some things.” He also spoke on the state of the program when he arrived, saying there “were things spiraling out of control and the program was in a tailspin when we arrived. There were situations happening on the inside that people didn’t hear about but the changes we made were necessary”.

He also said he’s been doing a lot of reading about certain things this year, things like change. He’s found that it’s easy to just make change, but the reality is that people really won’t fully change for maybe a couple of years. This isn’t the NFL where you can go out and sign free agents to fill holes. Instead you have to go out, recruit players and build them into what you want them to become. And that takes time. Not only is it about recruiting the players that fit what you want to do, but you ALSO have to get the current crop of players to embrace the changes. Again, it all takes time.

He also lists some quickie things to be excited about (you mean there’s something to be excited about??), including:

Defense – We will be mentally stronger and clearly a more physical football team on defense. When asked about Andy Mattingly, Wulff says could be an NFL player, depending on his season and how he fits with some teams on the next level, but he needs to have a great year.

Personally I’m a big fan of Mattingly. The glimpses he showed in ’07 are that of an impact, game-changing linebacker who can be a real headache for opposing teams to deal with. Now that he’s back at his natural position, and it’s his senior year, I feel like he’s on the cusp of going out with a bang.

He also spoke about Chima Nwachukwu and Brandon Jones in the secondary, and says Jones will open a lot of eyes this year.

Offense – o-line should be much improved, and there is solid depth there and at running game. He’s also excited about the QB and passing game, with a lot of youth at WR but some game experience now. Special teams will be improved as there is more depth this year, plus both kicker and punter are returning. EVERY AREA will be much improved.

We’ve touched on this in the past as well, but we’re talking about young kids. Sure, they are resilient and often times just need some strong leadership to steer them in the right direction. But I don’t think we, on the outside looking in, can fully know what last season must have been like with the vast differences between the two coaching staffs. That shock to the system was probably a big part of why they hit rock-bottom last year. But they are going in the right direction.

Looking around, Buster Sports has a list of the Top-10 PAC-10 QB’s for ‘09. Guess which team didn’t have a player listed??

UW blogger John Berkowitz takes a quick look at WSU, and basically declares UW will kick our asses in November, and doesn’t see WSU winning a single game. I hesitated to even link to it, but you may want to check it out. Of course, his crystal ball has got his own UW in bowl contention in ’09. The same UW team that failed to win a game last year and was actually worse that WSU. So if you do click over, just know that going in.

ESPN dropped their list of the top 150 recruits in the country. No, no WSU commits on the list. In fact, very few PAC-10 teams actually have players in the top 150, with just NINE commitments right now. But it’s still just August, and a lot of undecideds are on the list.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Thursday, and GO COUGS!

Season Forecast: HOPE or NOPE?

August 5, 2009

Hello followers. Hope you all are having a great week.

Well, as promised, here is my annual take on the upcoming 2009-10 Cougar Football season.

Unfortunately for me (and for you by extension), my entire rant was pretty much gobbled up by Lucas’ comment last Friday, as well as Theodore Miller’s attempt at Crystal Ball Gazing on Monday.

In any case, as I looked through the schedule and weighed our strengths (cough!) and weaknesses (cough! cough!), one thing became increasingly striking: This is the first Cougar Football season that I can remember where there is not one “gimme” on the schedule. In other words, this season carries the possibility for an O-fer.

As a consequence, as we gaze forward into the upcoming slate of games, I have divided our potential fortunes into one of two categories: Games in which we have “hope” and those that we do not. In the latter case, I label those games in the following way:


Read on…

Sept 5. Stanford. As we have noted several times on this blog, the Trees represent a team that we think could do some big things this season. For that reason, if we were to play Stanford after the first weekend, this game would unquestionably be in the “Nope” column. But, alas, it is the first game for both teams.

As we know, Stanford has possible issues at Quarterback–particularly in the season’s early stages. Moreover, as we saw last year in our opener against a FAR superior Clay Bennett State University squad, talent gaps can often be severely masked in a first game–particularly when the underdog is at home. In addition, if you can think back to the CBSU game, I encourage you all to remember the Okie State defensive line grabbing their knee-pads in the third quarter due to being so darn GASSED by our no-huddle offense (and hell, we weren’t even moving the ball very well).

So, it really isn’t much of a stretch to imagine a scenario in which we put 8 or 9 in the box, send Mattingly and crew on a bunch of early stunts, their QB gets no rhythm and maybe gets rattled, we get up by a score or two early and hang on for dear life. Mind you, I see a close third quarter game turning into a 38-13 laugher for them (just like last year against CBSU). But, if we stay healthy through training camp, this one is a slight possibility. HOPE.

Sept 12. Hawaii (@Seattle). As our last game of the year showed, and their bowl game with ND demonstrated MIGHTILY, the Rainbows were just not very good last year. To top off matters, they figure to be considerably worse on both sides of the ball this year. This game, in no uncertain terms, figures to be one of two MUST wins for us as the season moves forward. That said, playing these boys the week after a tough training camp and difficult opener against the Trees makes this one anything but a gimme. But anyway you cut it, if this ain’t HOPE, I don’t know what hope is.

Sept 19. SMU For this game, the question is not whether or not we can or should beat a totally hapless run-shoot-punt SMU team at home in the season’s third game, the question is whether or not we can beat them in the event that we have a bad showing the week before in Seattle. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out. HOPE.

Sept 26. @USC This game represents a Pac-10 football version of what happens when the freshman/JV all-stars take on the varsity. You know you are going to get killed, but can you show that you have ANY promise for making the varsity in the future? The goal for this game: 21 points and 350 yards of total offense. This is a glorified practice game–for them. NOPE.

Oct 3. @ Oregon I want you all to know that I have been in serious negotiations with Facebook to see if there’s a way to use e-mail records to block any Oregon Duck fan from being able to access this blog within six weeks of this slaughter fest. Ducks will make the three year running total in the series about 245-31. Have I mentioned lately that we beat them THREE TIMES last year in basketball? NOPE.

Oct 10. Arizona State (Homecoming) So, we enter the ASU game having lost our previous two Pac-10 games by a total of about 90-28. ASU in the meantime will have taken a nice week off watching how HORRIBLE we are on tape.

Thankfully, ASU isn’t as good as they think they are. In addition to being overconfident about how horrible we look, they’ll also forget that they never play very well in Pullman–even in early October. They’ll also forget that when everyone else was up 56-0 at half last year, they had us down by only a couple of touchdowns. This one has upset special written all over it. HOPE.

Oct 17. Bye The only question about this week is whether or not any kids get suspended for partying after a homecoming win. We all should be quite worried about this one. HOPE.

Oct 24. @CAL Sometimes your Best isn’t good enough. But in the case of CAL, it certainly is. NOPE.

Oct 31. @ND (San Antonio). There are two possibilities for ND for this game. The first is that the Irish have already lost 4 or more games. In that case, the world is calling for Charlie Weis’ head and the Irish enter this game in shambles.

The other possibility is that they enter this game with only ONE or no losses following a great game and moral victory over their Touchdown Jesus counterparts, Boston College. I expect ND to carry a near top 10 ranking into this game while their fans are singing BCS tunes all the way down the river walk on Friday night. In either case, the end of October marks the first of what are often called “Separation Saturdays” in College Football. Every year, there are a couple of upsets that the national media would NEVER muster up before hand.

Now for us, you can bank that Wulff and company have had their eyes set on this game as a potential “splash maker” for the program, so not only will our boys be ready, but my sense is that we already have a pretty detailed game plan dialed up even before the season starts. Moreover, if ND thinks that we will fear their junk after having already played USC, Oregon, and CAL (all) on the road, then they have another thing coming. Finally, you want a recipe for an upset? Try games where the underdog has a running game that won’t let the favorite’s offense get on the field after they fall behind. Sound familiar? HOPE.

Nov. 7 @Arizona So, the Mildcats are free from Willy T. And who knows, it may make them struggle. Problem is, this is November, and by the time this game rolls around that Desert Swarm will be amped up and ready to go–not to mention what a dude named Grigsby will bring to the table. NOPE.

Nov. 14 UCLA. Bad team, bad quarterback, impotent offense, and a Walker-less defense (why is nobody talking about THAT loss?). Plus, they never play well in Pullman. Tricky Ricky has our number, but not without 4,000 yard passers who double as underachievers. HOPE.

Nov. 21 Oregon State If this game were played on the Blue Turf or any place east of the Mississippi and before September 20th, this might be a game we could conceivably steal. Unfortunately, for this weekend, Pullman is going to double as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. NOPE.

Nov. 28. @Washington The Battle of Attrition: Part Deux. Will we be the walking wounded by then? Will we have established ourselves offensively and have players left on the field to prove it? Will Locker be standing? More the point: Will Jake the Snake find any semblance of touch in hitting wide-outs over the middle? This game could be a hot contest, or an exercise in really knocking the hope and spirits out of either program–both of which could be experiencing catastrophic seasons that neither can afford. HOPE.

End result: 4-8. We beat the Bows, the Stangs, ASU, and UCLA–meaning that we win 4 out of the 7 games where it is conceivable that we COULD win (that means, my max for this team is 7 games–and that’s if we catch lightning in a bottle for an entire season). The swing game is Hawaii: win that game and the season has possibility for respectability and progress. Lose that game and we will be looking at 0-2 wins for the season which will be TOUGH to swallow. For that reason, I am not sure I will be able to even remotely enjoy this year until Qwest field delivers a 18-17 sneaker on September 12th.

Have a great rest of your week, and to all, “Coug-De-L’Amor.

Young Secondary a Primary Concern?

August 4, 2009

Good morning Coug Nation. Hope all is well in your corner of the world. As you may or may not be aware/care, we’ve looked at the ’09 Cougs among the positional previews, and so far, so good. Now we come to the last group to check out, and that is the secondary.

Err…maybe not. Some of you already saw it, but, WSU has put out their own pre-camp depth chart, complete with an analysis of the candidates to start at each position. And new and improved, NOW WITH comments from coach Wulff! It’s a really good read, so if you haven’t already clicked over, check it out.

That said, we’ll still weigh in and offer up our own opinions. Hey, we’re a blog. It’s what we do. So let’s scan the secondary, and see if things are going to be better in ’09? Or, are we doomed for more struggles in the last line of defense? Let’s see….

To get the obligatory “2008 was a disaster” out of the way, yeah, the secondary had their issues too. But it’s not as bad as you might think, at least on paper anyway. They finished 6th in the PAC-10 in passing yards allowed per game, just a couple of yards per game more than 5th place Cal. But they gave up the 3rd-most TD passes in the conference(22), and at 7.8 yards per attempt, were just ahead of UW for ninth place.

While this isn’t good, well, I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the secondary. The sack totals were really down, just 16 as a team, tied with UW for dead LAST in the conference. Can’t get any pressure on the QB, give him time to set up, make a ham sandwich, and still deliver the ball wherever he wants? Not good. And then you consider the lack of takeaways, where the Cougs averaged one takeaway a game (13 for the entire season), and you can see it wasn’t exactly an opportunistic group.

Wow, 16 sacks and 13 takeaways for an entire 13-game season. Just thinking back to the early part of the decade, WSU’s defenses used to pride themselves on two things – SACKS AND TAKEAWAYS! Think about that great run from ’01 – ’03. In ’01, they had 40 sacks and grabbed 26 INT’s, second only to Miami in the country. In ’02, they had a school-record 55 sacks(!), and led the PAC-10 in rushing defense. In ’03, Doba’s boys led the nation in takeaways (48), tops in fumble recoveries (24) and second in interceptions (24). They were also in the top 10 in rushing defense and pass-efficiency defense.

So you can just take a peek back into our own history to remember and realize how important sacks and picks are to a defense, hell, to an entire football team overall. And the Coug D in ’08 didn’t do much sacking or taking away of the football!

The lack of pressure up front really trickled down. Even the best defensive backs in the country can only be expected to hang with the coverage for four or five seconds, but after that, even the best are going to give up plays. It’s the nature of the beast, but the secondary without a pass rush really has no chance to thrive…let alone survive.

Obviously the numbers can sure be skewed, too, can’t they? For example, Oregon gave up nearly 1,000 MORE passing yards on the ’08 season than WSU, and they surrendered 25 TD passes, the worst in the conference. In fact, Oregon gave up 270 yards per game in the air, also worst in the entire PAC-10! Not what you would assume, just thinking of their strong pass-rushers like Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu, and a stacked secondary with Jairus Byrd, Patrick Chung, Walter Thurmand III, etc. But as you know, Oregon won 10 games last year and were Holiday Bowl champs. So, trying to swallow the entire stack o’ pure passing D stats and justifying things isn’t the best route to go. Just look at WSU’s rushing defense, or lack thereof, and you can see there’s always two sides to the argument. The Cougs, after all, allowed SEVEN opponents last year to rush for at least 317 yards a game! Why should the opponent do anything but run the heck out of the ball, especially when staked to early lead after early lead?

Anyway, that was last year. Let’s just leave it where it belongs. There was a problem. But it’s gone. And there’s nothing we can do about it….

Starters: Aire Justin (soph) and Brandon Jones (redshirt junior).
Key backups: Daniel Simmons(redshirt frosh), Anthony Hayward (redshirt frosh), Anthony Houston (junior, switched from WR last couple of years), Shane Thomas (junior).
New faces: Nolan Washington, Anthony Carpenter.

Analysis: Well, right off the top a pair of experienced starters – Devin Giles and Romeo Pellum – are gone. We won’t rehash all that. But clearly the door is wide-flipping-open for any of these youngsters to run right through. Justin (previously known as Tyrone) got a lot of PT last year, six starts plus other action. Justin’s on the light side at 156 pounds on a 5-11 frame, but he did alright in his first shot at playing time as a red-shirt frosh last season. His three pass-breakups are the most among all the returning players contending at corner…..but that’s because, uh, NOBODY else in the mix for cornerback besides Justin actually played a single down of football last year! Brandon Jones has PAC-10 experience, playing in 12 games from his ’07 season at CAL, but that’s about it. Everyone else is brand new to this caliber of play, coming off redshirt seasons or even true frosh right out of high school in Carpenter and Washington.

I guess the corners are similar to what we saw along the defensive line – the faces are new, but, it might not be too big of an issue since the newest kids may be better/more talented than those they are replacing anyway? We won’t really know until things get serious, but it’s an awfully young group of corners. While the PAC-10 might not be what it once was in the air-it-out department, the lack of game experience could be an issue out of the chute. I know, for example, SMU wasn’t very good last year, nor are they thought of as any type of breakthrough candidate for the upcoming season. But they throw the heck out of the ball in that June Jones run-n-shoot, and you better believe these inexperienced corners are going to be tested.

Now, Wulff did mention when talking about the corners that Chima Nwachukwu has some starting experience at the position, and could possibly move back there this year if necessary. I guess it wouldn’t be a shock to see Chima slide over if some of the young guys aren’t quite ready, or we see some injuries pile up.

I know a lot of people really like Nolan Washington, the true frosh. A highly rated kid coming out of Kennedy high school, the early buzz on what he could become has been extremely positive.

You hate to throw out any type of expectation for true frosh, but this could be a different story. He was labeled “a divison I prospect with outstanding speed and great instincts” by the Seattle Times, and it isn’t a stretch to think he could see some early PT. You would hope a talented true frosh like Washington could redshirt that first year, then you cut him loose in 2010, but his performance in camp and the subsequent performances of those in front of him may dictate that he see the field this year.

Starters: Xavier Hicks (senior) at strong safety, Chima Nwachukwu (junior) at free safety.
Key Backups: Tyree Toomer (soph), Jay Matthews (redshirt frosh) at strong safety; Eric Block (redshirt soph) and Leandre Daniels (redshirt frosh) at free safety.
Newcomers: Jamal Atofau, Casey Locker

This area looks pretty strong. Hicks is set for his senior year, and maybe this is the season it all comes together for him. Big hitter and the leading returning defensive player on the entire team in terms of tackles (78), interceptions (2) and pass breakups (5), this is it for Hicks. There never has been much doubt that the kid could play the position. We all remember the de-cleater vs. UCLA where he absolutely destroyed WR Brandon Breazell over the middle….

He has a nose for the ball, and even in just three starts back in ’07 he logged 60 tackles primarily as a backup. That’s taking advantage of limited playing time and making the most of it, no question. Nothing else to really say about his off-the-field stuff, so we’ll leave it at that. They MUST get a huge season out of Hicks – HUGE – to have a respectable defense. Every good secondary needs an intimidating presence of sorts, someone to set the tone with aggression and strike a little fear for those who dare to venture over the middle. Hicks has that ability.

Chima is an interesting player. I still can’t believe he’s only a junior, as he’s been starting since he arrived in Pullman. He already has 25 starts under his belt and he’s still got a couple of years of eligibility left! Smart, strong, and not afraid to get his hands dirty with 57 tackles last year, he will be a crucial piece for the entire secondary. It’s not too crazy to say that the combo of Hicks and Nwachukwu could be one of the best safety duo’s we’ve had in some time, and maybe one of the better sets in the conference?

Eric Block is a guy to keep an eye on. Especially if Chima has to slide over to corner to provide some veteran experience and leadership, but Block, if healthy, could be a rising member of the secondary. Just a redshirt sophomore coming into this year, he’s dealt with some injuries and illness in his time in Pullman, but it sounds as though he’s ready to go. As to the other new faces, I would bet Wulff has designs on redshirting both Atofau and Locker if he can help it. There is depth at the safety spots, but with Hicks graduating after this season, it would be wise to preserve some future eligibility on the talented youngsters. Let’s hope they aren’t forced to play out of desperation.

That’s it for the secondary, and our ’09 pre-camp positional previews are now complete. I hope you enjoyed them. After all those smelly spring fishwraps, it was fun to kind of dig in and see how things are looking for the crimson and gray lads, right on the eve of camp.

I have to admit, overall, I’m encouraged and excited to see what happens next week. We’ve heard so much about the improvement in size and strength, all the gains made by so many, all that noise. They should be a much better equipped football team to handle the rigors of the PAC-10. Look for some first-hand coverage of fall camp from our own Longball in the weeks ahead. Here’s hoping for a productive, HEALTHY, high-energy month of practices, and a mentally and physically prepared football team ready to hit Stanford with all they have on 9/5.

Enjoy your day, and GO COUGS!

Stadium Update (Really!)

August 3, 2009

Hello followers. Hope you all had a very calming and relaxing weekend.

Well, as brother Sean alluded to last week, I’ve been in deep conversation with the WSU Athletic Department over the past week or so about our campaign to help raise money for Martin Stadium. (This truly is not a joke!)

And here is the latest news:

First of all, many of the fine details of the overall effort are still being worked out, and for that reason, I really can’t give you all any specifics about the ins and outs of the whole deal.

What I can tell you is that the campaign is going to be much bigger and much more central to the overall Stadim development plan than we could have ever realized when we launched the idea of a campaign earlier in the year. In fact, the effort portends to be so big, that I am giving our brethren at the Athletic Department, four solid Carma Chameleons for all of their work and vision in putting this whole thing together!

I can also tell you that REAL time line for the launch of this campaign is the first two weeks in September.

With that in mind, we have two requests of the faithful over the coming weeks (again, this is NOT a joke):

1) Take some real time with your family members and business partners and budget out what you can give to this campaign. We want to make an early splash to generate publicity with the media, so please be ready to give whatever you can in the campaign’s early days.

2) Start to identify people who have not yet frequented the WSU sports blogosphere who might be willing to get involved. Currently, we think we have about 700 who frequent this blog regularly. Out of this 700, we’d like to generate anywhere from two to three thousand donors for the effort. Translation: that means that each of us is responsible for getting three or four others on board with us.

So, over the coming weeks, get your contact lists together. In no uncertain terms, we all have a chance to make history here. Lets makes sure we take advantage of the opportunity to move our university and football program into the 21st Century!

Now, onto football….

Followers, as training camp nears, I wanted to take a moment to talk about our beloved position of Quarterback. And believe me, I’d like to approach this subject with a bit more maturity than I did when I had a different incarnation.

So, with that in mind, I want you all to know that I am going to broach the issue of Kevin Lopina DIRECTLY only one time this season: Today.

As those who followed this blog during the Alex Brink era know, I was much too quick and harsh to blame Alex for all of the things that he couldn’t do on the football field. And that was a big mistake on my part. Instead, I should have blamed the coaches, and not Alex, for not recognizing that other options needed to be explored sooner-rather-than-later in order for us to shake our losing ways. So, I want to be particularly sensitive in how I approach the possibility of another QB controversy that again could threaten the welfare of our beloved program.

Anyhow, where Kevin is concerned, I have been FEVERISHLY researching stats that WSU and the Pac-10 keep on quarterbacks in order to find Kevin’s current place in both Cougar and Pac-10 Lore. And, while I did not find what I was looking for (they don’t keep much on futility), I am also pretty confident in saying that through his 8 starts last year, a solid case has to be made that Kevin Lopina is on track to be the worst quarterback with a near season’s worth of starts in Pac-10 history.

Now, before this turns any more negative about Kevin, there are two really big things that I want everyone to remember about Good Ole Number Nine.

1) Kevin led the good ship “Don’t Quit” last year when everyone else on the team and university was driving out of town. IF this program ever gets turned around, Kevin Lopina will be known as one of the principle leaders who made the program’s return happen.

2) After exhibiting one of the single WORST performances of any quarterback in Apple Cup history, Lopina nutted up BIG TIME on that last drive to save the game, the season, and possibly the program.

Seriously all, think about it: What would we all be talking about right now if Lopina hadn’t come through in that game? Would ANYONE who even sniffs this Blog pick us higher than 10th if we had finished last year 1-12? Would we have lost most of our incoming recruiting class??

So, Kevin, Fans and Supporters of Kevin, and others in the Kevin Cosmos, please know that on one hand, your back is totally covered on this blog. And for that, four Carma Chameleons for you, my brother.

At the same time, the sample size is large enough to know that Kevin doesn’t have the goods to be a good Pac-10 Quarterback. And, while I sense that the coaching staff would suggest that Kevin does a good job now of making reads and not turning the ball over, I am also pretty certain that “not turning the ball over” also means not trying to make a whole lot of plays (e.g. LOSING). Furthermore, when you’re trying to hit a WR on a 10yard “in” and he runs a 12 yard out–well, it doesn’t really matter much how talented you are, does it? And trust me, faithful, we’re going to see a lot of W-T-F routes run by our WRs in the first six weeks.

In short, as we all head toward the start of Fall Camp, it is important to remind ourselves about what this season is about:

1a) Improvement
1b) Improvement that leads directly to having a real shot at winning NEXT year.

Because Kevin is a senior, there’s not much that he can do as a starter to contribute to 1b–at least in my book. So, with that in mind, let me say the following for the first and last time this year:

1) Kevin should not start
2) We will not win more than one game if Kevin starts
3) We will not build for the future if Kevin starts
4) Wulff will find himself unneccesarily with VERY unstable job security at the end of the year if Kevin starts.

So, given the above four parts of the Sutra’s “Number 9 Axiom”, I have 100% convinced myself that because the above seems so completely obvious to me and the rest of the universe, Kevin will NOT play much this year.

Consequently, as you all read my predictions and opinions for our team this year, please know that #9 is not figuring into my plans or visions for our beloved team.

With that all in mind, please stay tuned tomorrow for a great DB preview by Sean and then I’ll have Lucas’ takes on the upcoming schedule and season on Wednesday.

And to all, a harty “Coug-De-L’Amor.”

-Osho Rojo

1000th Post Commemerative Edition

July 31, 2009

Today marks the 1000th post of the WSU Football Blog. This post also coincides with the Blog’s 5th year anniversary.

To cap off July sweeps month for Sports Blogs, Victory Bell sat down with the four primary “Blogfathers” Sean, Tad, Shane, and Michael to talk about the blog, its past, and future directions.

VB: Gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

BlogFathers: Absolutely.

VB: First off, tell me about your respective roles on the Blog? Sean, we’ll start with you and then follow with Tad, Shane, and then Michael.

Sean: I more or less handle the daily grind. I have made the blogging “experience” part of my morning routine, early in the day before things get moving in a typical day. But let me back up a bit.

For a quick background, we started this thing in September of 2004 as a way to duck the corporate e-mail police. Michael, Rooster and myself were burning up the e-mail servers with long, drawn-out diatribes about the Cougs. Obviously we should have been working, and we were only doing it during downtime/lunch/whatever. Blogs were still pretty new, I mean this was five years ago. But I had heard about it, and thought hey, what better way for us to communicate about the Cougs than a dedicated “web log”, or blog? That way we post something, then the others can jump in and comment, etc, etc, etc. And it just went from there. Unfortunately Rooster has kind of dropped off the grid, so to speak, and has moved on to other things. But he definitely should get a mention as being one of the first to get it off the ground. We love Rooster and hope some day we will see him again around here.

Anyway, as busy as we all are with our careers, wives, kids, friends, et al, I still seem to find the time for this blog. But it’s all about priorities and finding the energy to do your hobby, and that’s what this is. It’s fun, for the most part, and I want to write about what I love, and that’s this football program….and other stuff….but mainly the football program. I guess it’s true what they say, that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you really don’t want to do something, you’ll find an excuse. So here we are.

Tad: The older I get, the less time I spend analyzing, over-analyzing and worrying about my favorite sports teams – Cougs included. On top of that, I just don’t have the time or energy to spend churning out blog entries every other day. So where does that leave me? If the blog were a hot dog, I’m the little bits of ground-up pig tripe floating around in the real meat.

Shane: I feel I bring the unique perspective of a Pullman “towney”. While most Coug fans started bleeding crimson sometime around or just after matriculating WSU, I was born into Cougness. Growing up here, the Cougars weren’t distant, almost imaginary people like other sports stars on TV. They were at the grocery store, or coaching our little league team, going to our church, or visiting our cafeteria to talk to us about staying in school and keeping off drugs. We played pick-up games with them at the gyms and they were easy to find after games for autographs, or just a high five. When my friends and I talk about the Cougs we use words like “we”, “our”, “us”, because we feel that closely attached to whatever is taking place on the field, or court that week. My posts don’t have statistical, or deeply analytical information, but they do provide an expert take on the visceral Gameday experience and a complete lack of objectivity.

Michael: On every Rolling Stones record, there are two or three songs that are sung by Keith Richards.

Now granted, those who have heard those songs know that Keith can’t sing a lick and most of the time, the songs really suck as a consequence. But, what those songs do accomplish is that they provide a change of pace to the rest of the stuff that Mick does which is really great. And, every once in a while, Keith hits a home run. And when he does, those albums move from being good to stinking terrific.

VB: So what are you saying?

Michael: I aspire to be the Keith Richards of this blog.

VB: What work have you liked the most from your fellow Blogfathers?

Sean: I have several examples, but here’s just a few.

I enjoyed our “Football Friday, only on Thursday” posts from last year. Probably WAY too long and drawn out, but still, fun to go back and read those things. Some pretty good calls, all the way around, and some funny stuff as well. And I love the documented fact that we hung right with Ted Miller, Bob Condotta and Grippi-Mania on picking PAC-10 games. BH and I, we were literally within a game or two of the experts. Maybe it’s time to open up shop on a gambling website? Sutra’s Five-Star picks of “Lock-Tober”?

I will never forget the moment we were first linked to by Teddy Miller, who even said we were “way more creative and entertaining than our generic name”, or something like that.

I remember Longball’s first post, and what a thrill I got just reading his humorous, personable style, and all with describing the sights and sounds of Pullman with training camp underway. What a cool moment! I knew he “got it” with his picture of an Idaho Vandals cement truck working on the stadium renovation to lead off the post. Shane, Pullman “townie” or not, you are money, and the more you can do, the better.

I loved Hooty’s Apple Cup post, complete with pics and video. One of the best with his video of the game-winner, and hearing him giggle like a schoolgirl, yelling “get out there!” to all the fans storming the field. But his story of the bozo climbing the new Coug statue and him pummeling the guy in front of his kids was fantastic. Hooty, you bring a quality and edge that completes the whole thing. Here’s hoping you continue to give us what you can, when you can.

I will never forget the laugh-out-loud moments when BH was putting up the election posts last year! Absolutely brilliant. And when Sir Grippi acknowledged that he won the made-up, phony, ridiculous campaign, well, that made it all worthwhile. Those posts from last fall are some of the funniest, well-written blog postings I have ever seen, ANYWHERE!

Speaking of BH, I remember being angry when he first called himself “Brinkhater”. I thought that was so terrible, but then it suddenly grew on me. He was the perfect antagonist/villian we could hope for, and it was great while it lasted. And while I would love some brink-like passing numbers out of our current QB’s, I have to admit BH was right. He didn’t hate Alex, not at all. He hated the situation more than anything else, and the reality is that for the majority of the time, the one-back offense needs the superhero QB to make it go (Gesser is an exception, but such a winner that he fits in his own category). Even with a Jerome-Harrison-led 1900 rushing yards in ’05, the team still went 1-7 in the conference. It really was about the QB. So, to BH, I have to say that as much as I cringed when I saw that name, I also have to admit it….he was right.

VB: Wow, that made a drunken Michael seem pithy.

Tad: Well, it pains me to say it, but I think I am also going to talk about Michael/Brinkhater/Coug-A-Sutra/Osho-No-No whatever-his-name is.

I hate saying it because it makes me feel old – but I met Mike 20 years ago. 1989 was so long ago that the fashion styles are starting to make a comeback now – so it was kinda like 2009 except that the girls today dress way sluttier and everyone over the age of 15 has a tattoo. In 1989 only bikers and sailors had tattoos. Bikers, sailors…and Mike, that is. This was no cute little tattoo that could be hidden under a sock, either. It was a big, hunkin’ dagger through a rose – there may even be a skull involved (my memory isn’t what it used to be) – right on the outside of his shoulder! 20 years later, I can finally admit it…I was jealous of that tattoo.

I always thought I concealed my jealousy over Mike’s sweet tat pretty well but then a few years ago, I found out otherwise. I didn’t even know that the WSU Football Blog existed until one day when I got an e-mail from Hawk asking if I was the guy who’d been harassing Mike with comments on the blog. Apparently someone had been giving him a bad time for a few weeks and clearly knew Mike based on some of the details in the comments. Despite the fact that I had some killer tats of my own by then, I was being wrongly accused.

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
~William Shakespeare, Othello

(I have no idea what that means but it sounds like it might be appropriate here…)

So, that was my introduction to the blog and although it wasn’t me that was getting under Mike’s skin then, I still enjoy taking some good-natured jabs at my old buddy now and then.

What most of you probably don’t realize is that Mike is WAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY smarter than you. It’s OK – he’s smarter than me too. I’m good with that. When we flame his posts, it’s not that we don’t agree with him – it’s that we don’t understand him. He speaks right over the top of our pointy, little heads. That’s what I love about him. $10 bucks says he’s the only one reading this that truly understands that Shakespeare quote. In fact, he probably already knew it and has used it in the course of normal conversation with his super-smart friends.

Anyway – keep doing what you do, Mike. It seems to really confuse and piss people off.

Shane: You know, I have to single out Hooty for a couple posts that tugged on my crimson heart strings. Last season he did a game day experience post that included his trip from Cheney to Pullman down Highway 27, including stops in the local village taverns along the way, like Grumpy’s in Garfield. I hope it encouraged our readers to make the Palouse part of their gameday experience. Get off the beaten track and see what’s cookin (or being poured). You may be surprised what you find. I also think his recent post about his mom’s illness and the amazing support and inspiration his family has received from Mike Utley was one of the great posts this blog has ever had. It is just another example of how the cougs aren’t just heroes we worship from afar, but real people who are part of our community.

Michael: Whether you’re starting a company, a blog, or sports franchise, you’ve gotta have a star. And clearly, Sean is our 1-4 star and starter. And when you think about what you want in your star, you want (a) Passion for the game; (b) A strong work ethic; (c) Natural ability; and (d) The ability to make those around him better. In my view, Sean has made this blog special because he basically fulfills all of the above–although I think that myself and Hooty may make fulfilling (d) an impossibility for just about anyone.

In terms of Sean’s specific work, the Spring Fishwrap series I think is legendary, I really do. I would much rather read his stuff then Athlon. I also think the radio show recaps have always been a really special feature, especially for those non-townies that don’t have access to it. But, as Andy Katz says, it all is really about the “Body of Work” and Sean’s is better than anyone who has NO firsthand access to primary sources. He’s remarkable.

VB: As the 2009-2010 Cougar Sports season approaches, what aspects of the WSU Football Blog are you most looking forward to?

Sean: I look forward to helping take the blog to new, exciting places. OK, not really. Just pushing the envelope a little bit, maybe right up to the line, but not crossing it. I seriously, seriously hope that the product is better to write about. Last year, let’s face it, was tough on everyone. The demoralizing losses took their toll, from coaches, players, fans and bloggers alike. I really believe that the worst is behind us, and one day we’ll look back at ’08 with a “WOW WERE WE BAD!” once we get some success in the coming years!

But also trying to keep up the general theme around here, and that is this – DON’T TAKE THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY! I can’t say that enough. Some of the “hate” comments and e-mails I see, some of you just don’t quite get what it is we do.

First of all, we love this stuff, otherwise we wouldn’t have ever cranked out 1000 posts. We like to think we know a little bit about what it is we see, and we read up and watch pretty much everything. But we are quick to laugh at ourselves and each other just as much as we laugh at everyone else. And this is a game played by kids, not anything more than that. So while the team has been down in the dumps, hard as it may be at times, just enjoy it for what it is. Yes, it’s fine to demand greatness and expect a return to the winning side of the ledger more times than not. It’s part of your right, as a member of the ticket-buying public, to make your voices heard. But hey, win or lose, you can still have some pops with your friends at a tailgate or The Coug or wherever else you may venture on a yet another wonderful Pullman gameday experience!

That’s what being a Coug is all about. No, not the losing. I mean honestly, the program is right at or near the .500 mark all-time, with some fantastic high’s and poopy-island lows. But there’s a bonding experience of simply being a Coug that brings us all together. We bicker and fight, but we understand each other, for we have been through so much as a fan base. It’s something you can’t even describe, but rather a general sense of understanding and belonging that you have with fellow Cougs. We “get” each other. So please, no matter how bleak things have been, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s never that bad.

Tad: The number one thing I’m looking forward to, is more than two football victories. It’s not easy trying to make chicken salad every week, if you know what I mean…

I’m also looking forward to meeting some more of the regular blog visitors. (Keep your eye out for details on the first-ever WSU Football Blog Tailgate Party this fall! With maybe even FREE Natural Light and hot dogs!)

When I was a kid, the first album I ever bought with my own money was KISS Alive II. I loved the fact that KISS was part sideshow, part rock-stars. They were more than just four guys in a band. The makeup and costumes gave them an undeniable aura that no other band has ever been able to achieve. There was a mystery about them.

That mystery was dashed away when KISS took off the makeup on MTV with the release of the “Lick it Up” album. The last few months on the blog have kind of reminded me of that. When the blog was started, we all used aliases to hide our real identities. Despite the fact that we still use them, there’s no secret to who we really are anymore. The good news for you, is that none of us are as ugly as Gene Simmons, so we hope to meet some of you this fall. We can always use more drinkin’ buddies.

Shane: I look forward to coach Wulff and the boys making some huge strides this year and picking up a few unexpected wins that finally chase the anonymous haters in our comments thread back to the holes they crawled out of. I also look forward to Coug-a-Sutra taking over the prediction duties and using his infinite wisdom and total consciousness to achieve the impossible… a perfect record through football, basketball and baseball seasons.

Michael: A job. Seriously, this coming year is such a HUGE transition year for cougar sports. I am looking forward to the slight possibility of a surprise season from the Football team–which will get better and better if they can nab a couple of early wins–and I am really looking forward to blogging about the basketball team and the new look that Bone brings to that crew–plus the new recruits should be exciting.

VB: Thank you, gentlemen.

Blogfathers: Thank you, Victory.

Pac-10 Pre-Season Predictions

July 30, 2009

Hello Followers. Well, since today is Media Day for the wonderful Pacific 10 Conference, it is time to follow our annual tradition of providing you with how each of the Blogfathers see the Pac-10 playing out this year.

Mind you, these are only pre-camp predictions. We will have a full run-down with detailed conference and non-conference records as September 5th draws near….

So Here….We….Go.

Sean Hawkins:
1. Cal
2. USC
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. Oregon State
6. Arizona
8. ASU
9. UW

Remarks: Alright, I am stepping out on the ledge here, and yes, Cal is my choice for PAC-10 champion. Why? Well, several reasons. But I’m hanging my hat on 1) seriously strong, deep, effective running game, 2) supremely talented offensive and defensive lines, 3) a veteran QB in Riley, who, while not great, will be good enough to not screw it up, but most of all, 4) a REALLY good defense full of size and speed. Even with the loss of some top tacklers at linebacker, Cal’s still returning eight starters, plus a defensive front might be the best it’s ever been under Jeff Tedford’s tenure in Berkeley. We know DC Bob Gregory is the current king of stopping the spread offense, so they should handle the quack attack’s bells-n-whistles (as they always do). Plus they get USC at home. They won’t be perfect, but to me, they have the “look” this year.

Now, the king ain’t totally dead. USC is still going to steamroll folks, with layers and layers of five-star talent that comes at you in droves. They have 3rd-stringers who will probably make an NFL roster someday. But remember, USC for all their greatness has had only two undefeated PAC-10 seasons during this breathtaking ownage of the PAC since the turn of the century. They lost at least one PAC-10 game in six of the last eight seasons, and in ’06 and ’07, they lost two conference games (and those were still really good, Rosebowl champion USC teams!). This time the inexperienced QB stubs his toe a couple of times, and unlike Oregon State unable to close the deal last year, Cal will not only beat USC, but win enough of the other ones to claim the title.

Oregon has a sexy, trendy feel about them this year, and I bet a lot of people will pick them. The schedule sets up great, as USC and Cal both come to Eugene, and over the last quarter of the season last year, they were dynamite when Jeremiah Masoli took over the QB spot. But they’ve lost their best pass-rusher and really one of the all-timers in Nick Reed, plus some key players in the secondary with Patrick Chung and Jarius Byrd both moving on. Oregon will hang a ton of points on the board, but the D won’t be quite good enough to win the conference.

As for a darkhorse, I LOVE Stanford. It may be a bit spotty early, but Andrew Luck is going to be a big-time QB and everyone will be talking about him by the end of the season. They play a tough, physical, no-nonsense brand of football and will hit you in the mouth from kick-off to kneel down. Next to USC and probably Cal, Stanford will be the most physical team in the conference this year.

And finally, the back end of the conference should remain the same. But I will contend that both Washington schools will be much better than their ’08 counterparts. UW, if they keep Locker healthy, will be in a lot of games. He still has work to do as a west coast offense passer, and I am not sold on the offensive line nor the pedestrian weapons he will have at his disposal. And no, I am not drinking the Sark Juice just yet, but they will take some real strides this year (yes, it hurts to write that). They will get off to a rough start with that first month, and whether a UW homer will admit it or not, there is always a bit of an adjustment period with a new coach/staff. It might not be pretty. But I do believe they will be on the upswing by the end of ’09, and ’10 could see a real move up the ladder.

And our Cougs could, potentially, be the most improved team in the whole damn conference, but the record won’t reflect it. We will see a bigger, stronger, tougher football team that will take care of the football in ways that won’t even resemble ’08’s turnover-fest. But it won’t be enough to climb out of the cellar. Depth will rear it’s hideous head, as it always seems to do in the most inopportune times, and we still aren’t deep enough to overcome the inevitable hits to the depth chart. The in-conference schedule is as tough as I can remember, playing the best of the best on the road (USC, Cal, Oregon), plus the Apple Cup in Seattle and Notre Dame in San Antonio in a game that will feel like a road trip in every way possible.

I apologize, Coug Nation, for the non-homerish pick. But fear not. Better days are coming.


1. USC
2. Cal
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. OSU
6. ASU
7. WSU
8. UA
9. UW
10. UCLA

Remarks: No way am I picking against USC until someone proves that it is actually possible to dethrone them with Carrol at the helm. However, this may be the swan song of their dominant run as the NCAA prepares to move in with a wrecking ball. WSU in the #7 spot is nothing but pure, crimson tinted optimism on steroids. I dread a 10th place finish, but from what I’ve seen, heard and read this team is moving dramatically in the right direction. Of course, I may have a totally different perspective after Fall camp. I expect UW to get a Sark bump with Locker back. But I doubt they start playing up to all those stars that Fetters and company dumped on them when they committed to the Dawgs. I would love to see Harbaugh make a run at a title this year, of course after a little set-back/wake up call on the Palouse September 5.

Hooty McBoob:
1. Cougs (Duh)
2. OSU (I predicted their upset over USC last year. Just so you know…)
3. USC (A third place conference finish and Sun Bowl victory in a “re-building year” – how novel.)
4. Cal (They still have that Best kid, right?)
5. UO (The Phightin’ Phils will start slowly and phinish strong. This message has been brought to you by Nike.)
6. Stanford (Tough to overcome the demoralizing opening week loss to the Mighty Cougs.)
7. ASU (I couldn’t name a single player on this team so don’t quote me on this.)
8. UA (The veins in Stoops’ neck will explode during the 2nd quarter of their 3rd game, throwing the program into disarray.)
9. UCLA (I see a second-half flop as clear as the mole on Hermie’s chin.)
10. uw (Duh)

Remarks: I really don’t pay enough attention to the other programs in the Pac-10 to speak to them with even the slightest bit of authority, but as for the Evergreen State, you can bet the farm on these predictions:

Cougs go worst to first and blow out Northwestern in the Rose Bowl, earning them 23 seconds of airtime on ESPN and a #24 BCS ranking.

While leaning on his trusty crutches on the sideline of another WSU Apple Cup victory, jake locker wishes he had signed a MLB contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.


T1. Oregon
3. Oregon State
T4. Stanford
T4. California
6. Arizona
T7. Washington State
T7. Washigton
T7. Arizona State

Remarks: First of all, I love the idea that we could have a four way tie for last place in the conference that a) make us finish 7th and b) allows me to win my bet with Ted Miller while we still bring up the conference’s rear (winning on a technicality is STILL winning, you know).

Its a tough race to call this year as all of the teams top and bottom have serious questionmarks. My deal is simple: IF USC or Ohio State had the type of skill position guys Oregon (RB/QB) has returning, they’d be picked to win the conference. So, this is a put-up or shut-up year for the Quackers this year because if they have the depth they say they have amassed over the years, then I think they beat USC at home and win the tie breaker as a result since both teams will have one conference L.

With regards to the others, well, I just see so much separation between the top half and the bottom half of the conference this year. And, the way that the schedule breaks, I see two conference wins being a real possibility for all of those lower division teams–although I think AZ is the most likely of those to surprise in a positive way. They are also the only team out of the bottom five that I think can become bowl eligible. But his year in particular, INJURIES or lack thereof in the pre-season will mean a whole lot–especially for the Washington schools who need just about everything to go right in order to have anything better than a 1-3 win season.

Feel free to give us your pre-season conference picks so we can look back as the season rolls along.

Vince Grippi for US Senate?

July 29, 2009

Hello Followers. I trust that you are having another pleasant week—the last week in the month that precedes the hallowed start of Cougar Football!

That said, while I know that it is only July of 2009, I felt it important and timely to let you know that my channels have been strongly signaling that none other than Sir Vincent Grippi, the 2008 Washington State Sportswriter of the Year, is actively setting himself up to challenge Patty Murray, the two-term Democratic senator from the State of Washington in her re-election bid in 2010.

In case you haven’t noticed through the Cosmos or through your own secular points of communication, Grippi has been sending out numerous “feelers” to the political establishment by drastically changing his overall phraseology on his now world famous blog, Sportslink.

Apparently, Grippi’s sudden change in blogiconaclastic tone has created quite a stir for insiders operating both inside and (paradoxically) outside the beltway of Washington, DC. As David Gergen of Harvard University communicated to me recently: “One of the things we always look for at the early stages of the campaign is a switch in self-referral from the first person singular directly to the third person, a la Robert Dole.”

(Said Gergen some more)“But what is particularly interesting and fascinating about Grippi’s approach is that he appears to be trying to bridge the first and third person by referring to himself in the global collective (i.e., “we” or “us”) as a way of bringing to light all activity that could be relevant to a broad-scale, grassroots campaign. I mean, have you seen Grippi’s Twitter page recently? It’s electric!”

While Grippi’s incessant use of the words “we” and “us” to describe ostensibly singular journalistic endeavors is peculiar (for recent examples, see here, here, and here), additional signals of a budding Grippi megalomania are becoming increasingly apparent. For instance, there have been numerous reports from my sources that Grippi has been photographed and videotaped on several occasions doing shirtless sit-ups in the Spokesman’s newsroom while shouting “Who’s the T-O of this town, suckas?” to interns and other staffers who pass by.

Meanwhile, other reports have linked Grippi to the increasingly puzzling, consistent, and irritating emergence of “Kick me if you want Vince to Run for Senate in 2010” signs that are frequently attached to the backside of fellow Spokesman reporter Greg Lee.

Needless to say, Sir Vincent, even though it’s a small state and an even smaller Cougar community, “WE” at the WSU Football Blog COMPLETELY endorse your run against Murray in 2010. For all that you do, Vince, here’s four Carma Chameleons for you, our brother……..

And to the rest of the true and unbridled faithful, I bid a hearty “Coug-De-L’Amor” to all of you.

-Osho Rojo

The Magnificent Front Seven? Or Something Else Entirely?

July 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Potter and the Curse of the Forbidden Scribe

July 27, 2009

Hello Followers. I hope that you all had a fun, fanciful, and spiritual weekend.

Speaking of which, have you all seen the newest and latest Harry Potter movie?

Well, if you’re like the thousands of other followers in that Pu ram of mine, the plot twists of the current film have created much anticipation for what happens in subsequent episodes of what I call the “Hogwart Follies.”

So, in order to appease the faithful (and your many secular and unbridled needs to know what happens next in the series), I conducted a bit of me own research. And here is what I found:

According to the London Tea and Crumpet Dispatch, the final episode of the Potter series is thrilling, shocking and disturbing–all at the same time.

Apparently, following the death of Albus “Troy” Percival Dumbledore, Potter and his cosmic knaves become spiritually lost during their hunt for Voldemort’s sinister seven relics.

Amidst their loss of faith and direction, the evil Lord Voldemort tricks the group into submission, captures a drunken Potter, and then encases him alongside his well-known Slytherin nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

According to the LTCD, the evil dark lord then casts his penultimate spell on both Potter and Malfoy in a manner that combines the two young lads into one singular supervillain WARLORD that eventually rules the free and spirit worlds alike.

The visage and result of that creation:

Bob Condotta.

From being widely known and heralded as the greatest to ever come out of WSU (e.g. the journalistic “chosen one” of Washington State University), Mr. Condotta of the Seattle Times has recently shown once again that he is continuing to fall deeper and deeper into the dark side of the dreaded infidel-Defeateds.

Need evidence? Before the season even begins for the dreaded Defeateds, B.C. has shown his Voldemortean zeal in predicting that the LINE of the Apple Cup will be UW plus 11—six weeks before the season even begins.

Brother Bob, the line isn’t going to be eleven. And, while I truly love and admire you and your work in so many ways, I cannot believe how much you’ve turned (You think the UW will win by more than eleven???????). For that, only one Carma Chameleon for you, my fellow summer wanderer.

May this year find new hope and a renewed sense of Cougar Carma for you, BC.

And to the rest of the true and unbridled faithful, I bid a hearty “Coug-De-L’Amor.”

Osho Rojo