Happy Monday Cougar Fans!
So there are many traits that I inherited from my mother, and one of those is being a “worry wort.” Today, I want to look at some things heading into the 2011 football season that have me worried about our Cougs!
Read on for my thoughts.
1) Defensive Line: I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but we all know how terrible we have been the last three years against the run. Stopping the run starts with the three or four guys holding down the defensive line. Travis Long returns, coming off the edge, but hasn’t played since the Apple Cup. Brandon Rankin showed flashes of brilliance last year, but he too is coming off a nasty leg injury during Spring Ball. One of the most surprising breakthroughs in the spring was the play of DT Anthony Laurenzi. From what I saw at the Crimson & Gray Game, this young man looks like a legitimate Pac 12 DT, and his play during the game backed that impression up. He was always in the mix and his long arms allowed him to alter a few passes. Juco transfer Ian Knight also turned quite a few heads this spring and I think he will start at DE opposite Long. Behind Laurenzi, Rankin, and Long, we are extremely inexperienced. Steven Hoffart, Justin Mann, Justin Clayton all saw snaps in 2010, and will be joined by RS Fr Toni Pole, RS So Jordan Pu’u Robinson, and Freshmen Xavier Cooper, Demetrius Cherry, Brandon Davis and T.J. Poloai.
If these guys can prevent opposing OL from getting to the second and third levels, our Linebackers are good enough to stop the run. If the unit improves under new DL Coach Todd Howard, even slightly, look for opponents to be held well under the 6+ YPC we yielded in 2010. Howard’s resume is pretty impressive!
“Prior to arriving in Pullman, Howard spent five seasons as the defensive line coach/associate head coach, defense at UCLA. There he coached All-Americans Justin Hickman and Brian Price, the latter earning 2009 Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. This past season he mentored true freshmen Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, both earning 2010 All-Pac-10 Freshmen honors from Rivals.com.”
2) Jeff Tuel’s Health: In 2010, the OL yielded something like 54 sacks, and I believe Jeff was the vicitim on 48 of those! If Tuel wasn’t as fleet footed as he is, that number easily could have been over 65! Standing next to Tuel at A Night With Cougar Football, this is clearly not the young man that was under Center last fall. He has added on the weight and clearly looks like a Pac 12 QB.
I firmly believe the OL will be greatly improved in year two under the tutledge of Steve Morton, but if Jeff is the victim of poor OL play and misses significant playing time to injury, I am terrified at the thought of Marshall or RS Fr Conner Halliday running our offense. I am basing this a bit off of their performances in the Crimson and Gray Game, but maybe they would have looked better playing with the 1st string. Tuel is clearly the leader of our team, and losing him would do significant damage to our psyche in 2011!
3) Running Back Depth: Logwone Mitz and Rickey Galvin our very likely to be our platoon out of the backfield this fall, but behind them, nothing is proven. Well, Galvin hasn’t proved anything himself, but the hype on this kid is 100% for real. Seeing him play a few months ago, gave me a clear indication that he has what it takes to be a legitimate Pac 12 RB. Carl Winston and Arthur Burns are the only other scholarship RBs on our depth chart with experience, but saying they are unproven commodities is an understatement! Hopefully these four can hold up nicely and Marcus Mason can use 2011 to get acclimated and add some much needed bulk to his diminutive frame. I would be very surprised if Wulff & Co. don’t look to add atleast two RBs in the 2012 class.
4) Replacing Reid: It’s not a good thing when the most consistent player on your team the last four seasons is your Punter. That statement isn’t a knock on the rest of the team, but just the cold hard truth. Replacing one of the all-time greats in WSU history will be no easy task. RS Sr Dan Wagner appears firmly entrenched as our Punter and his performance at the Crimson & Gray Game was one to forget. Wulff is standing by his man and extremely confident in Wagner, however, until he proves otherwise, I am worried about his ability. Field position is probably the most underrated aspect of any game, and if the Cougs want to get out of the cellar, Wagner will need to help us out when the offense stalls.
5) Learning to Win: Winning games seems like such a simple concept, and recently I looked at why a fast start, with our favorable non-conference schedule is important. Teams must learn how to win and the core of our 2011 squad has truly only won three games at WSU, and getting come gimmes early on is the best thing our team could face. Being ahead in the 3rd and 4th Quarters, against Idaho State and UNLV, while not a given, is the likely scenario. All of the practice reps in the world cannot replace the feeling of having a game all wrapped up, an by the time we roll into San Diego in mid September, these guys should know what it feels like to be playing with a lead in the second half.
Well, now that you know what is keeping me up at night, what is keeping you awake? Have a great day!