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Weekly Release Shows More of the Same?

DogpileonGerhart

Good morning Coug Nation.  Still rubbing the sleep out of your eyes at the end of a long holiday weekend?  Hope you all had a good one, but it’s back to reality today.  Time to jump back in, so here we go.

One quick item – we updated the photo gallery with some pictures from the weekend.  Once again, we had a great time and it was a lot of fun.  Check it out off the Gallery menu item above.

This week’s release is up on the official website.  The depth chart  is on page seven, and there are a few notable items, including:

1) Louis Bland is officially listed as the starting middle linebacker.  I guess week one was good enough with Louis in the middle to climb past Alex Hoffman-Ellis, and he appears to be set for the middle.  Bland’s 10 tackles led the team, and he looked great coming off the injuries that limited him this summer.  Now listed at 221 pounds and looking thicker than ever, let’s hope this works out.  Normally a 221-lb middle linebacker isn’t a great thing, but if he has the speed of a defensive back?  We already know he’s physical enough for the middle, but if he can run, he’s a real asset on a defense that needs speed in the worst way.

2) The QB’s are still listed as “or”, with Lopina and Lobbestael co-starters.  I guess we’ll get more details when Wulff speaks after practice today, and/or on the radio show, but we shouldn’t be shocked if it’s more of the same this week as both guys will get their reps.  I know the whole situation is causing a stir, as the two-QB system is prone to do, but from where many of us sit today, Lopina looked like the guy.  The entire offense clicked with him in the lineup, running and passing, and the stats back that up.  Granted they went away from the run for a lot of Lobbestael’s game action in the second half as the deficit grew, but things just appeared more confident and fluid with Lopina under center.

But the fact that Lopina hasn’t been proclaimed the absolute starter yet makes you wonder if there are still other things coaches are looking at.  Maybe they want to see one more game before they finalize things, after the game-one yips are out of the way?  Maybe they are approaching the first three games as the audition, then they’ll decide on a regular guy going into USC on 9/26?  Maybe they are waiting for it to click with Marshall and want to give him the chance to do it in the games?  Whatever the reason, this is the situation the coaches have decided to go with for now, so, here we are.

3) Jeshua Anderson is still the starter at the “X” receiver position.  Anderson was a little disappointing if you want to know the truth, just one catch for nine yards from the fastest offensive player on the team.  I don’t know if he’s still not 100% healthy, but he didn’t look real smooth running his routes.  Kevin Norrell wasn’t even suited up due to the flu, but hopefully that’s a thing of the past.  Norrell is listed as the backup to Anderson, and I would bet we’ll see a lot of Norrell this week.  He is yet another player that, even in his jersey and sweats and standing around during warmups, looks bigger than last year.  He had an excellent fall camp and his return could give the passing game an even bigger boost this week.

4) The starting O-line is the exact same as last week.  Why point that out?  Because over half the games in 2008 saw some different combination of offensive linemen in the lineup!  While they didn’t exactly dominate Stanford’s defensive line, and looked a little shaky at times in the passing game, they looked very good as a unit in the run game in the early going.  With Hawai’i’s losses on the defensive side of the ball, and the only starter up front from 2008 battling a knee injury in John Fonoti, well, the opportunity to establish the line of scrimmage from beginning to end is right there in front of them.

That’s the most notable items from the depth chart.  Read on for more….

In other stuff, the Cougs picked up a couple of verbal commits from a slew of weekend visitorsDeone Buccanon, a safety, and Asanta Cleveland, a tight end, both commited to WSU after enjoying their visit to Pullman.  Of course, as Grippi pointed out on Sunday, the verbal commitment is just the engagement.  The wedding is in February’s signing day, so we won’t get too excited right now.

One thing to really look at going forward, as these verbal commits start to add up for this year’s class?  Speed.  Look at the 40-times.  Look and see if they have been part of the track team, stuff like that.  Because it was said over the weekend, and I’ll say it again today – this team needs SPEED, especially on defense!  They need defensive tackles who can penetrate and rush the passer on passing downs, using their quickness and speed to make plays.  They need defensive ends who can fly up the field and cause havoc, even if they are undersized, in the D.D. Acholonu/Isaac Brown mold from the early part of the decade.  They need outside linebackers who run like defensive backs and absolutely sprint to the football every single play.  They need burners in the secondary who can turn and run with any wide receiver in the conference.  For it’s speed that they lack, and it’s speed that they need, if they ever hope to compete for an upper-division finish.

The coaches can teach nutrition, weight training and fundamentals all they want.  They can mold young men to be great students and leaders on the hill.  But after watching some of the Florida State – Miami game last night, and then looking at the kind of speed and athletes those programs can trot out on defense?  Folks, we are LIGHT YEARS away from that level.  I know it’s a different world down in Florida, and the athletes they have access to is something they can only dream about in these parts.  But it wasn’t too long ago that WSU did, in fact, have athletes like that would could run and hit and play as fast as any team in the country.

I hope coach Wulff and the rest of the staff can get back to emulating Mike Price’s strategy, which was to put their best, fastest athletes on defense and let them run wild.  I know we didn’t have a great defense every year under Price, but speed was always a strategy he employed, no matter what.  He emulated Dennis Erickson’s approach of taking high school safeties who could really run and putting them at linebacker, high school linebackers become defensive ends, defensive ends become defensive tackles, etc, but they always tried to get the kids who could run.  Maybe step one in the Wulff plan was to get the kids to understand how to gain the right kind of weight, getting bigger and stronger, and now step two will be to somehow get them faster?  I don’t know what the answer is with the existing talent on the roster, but speed has to be a big priority going forward.

The Cougs are NOT favored this week, believe it or not.  Hawai’i is a 2-point favorite right now, based on the latest read of the line.  Do you know the last time WSU was favored to win a game?  Portland State last year.  It’s been a while.  As Sutra has been quick to point out in his weekend comments/post, these next two games, boy, does WSU need to win them or what?  Hawai’i and SMU were both underwhelming to say the least to get their season started, as the Warriors had to come back to beat Central Arkansas in Honolulu, scoring a TD with 1:22 left to win.  Hawai’i dominated the stats, outgaining Central Ark 415-270, but the Warriors gave it away four times while taking it back just once.  Finish minus-3 in the turnover ratio, and games can take on a different feel!  Meanwhile SMU allowed 460 yards to Stephen F Austin, including 391 passing yards, in their 31-23 win.  SMU trailed into the fourth quarter, before taking the lead with seven minutes left to go in the game.

Not to be disrespectful towards Hawai’i or SMU, but these next two games, WSU could be favorites once the action gets underway (if the Hawai’i line keeps moving towards WSU).  They NEED TO WIN THESE NEXT TWO GAMES.  Period.

That’s about it for today.  Enjoy your Tuesday, and GO COUGS!

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