Updates, updates, updates

Good to be back! Loved the week at the most beautiful lake place in America, Hill’s Resort at Priest Lake. Rooster, if you are reading this (do you still read this?) you know what I’m talking about. We’re thinking of teaming up with Talarico’s next year and going up the same week as they are, and maybe you guys too? We’ll figure it out, but it could be a great time. Lawson, a week up in Idaho on the beach is a lot of fun with the family, any interest for next summer???

www.hillsresort.com

On to other stuff:

1) Cougs get a steak-eater commit up front, and he’s no dummy:

Micah Hannam, 6-5, 265 o-lineman from Gig Harbor committed to the Cougs last week. Hannam chose WSU over heavy interest from Cal, Washington and Stanford. All invited him for official visits, but he said he knew WSU was “right.” He had also heard from most of the Pac-10, Northwestern, Utah, Nebraska and some Ivy League schools. Hannam has started since he was a sophomore, going up against some of the best the state had to offer including freshman Cougar OL Kenny Alfred. Hannam was named second team all-league by The Seattle Times last season, despite Peninsula struggling through a 1-9 record.He had an exceptional four-day camp at WSU back in June, taking home co-MVP honors for offensive lineman.He has a frame that will support added strength and muscle, and he’s attacking the weight room this offseason, recently breaking his own power clean mark at Peninsula with a lift of 320 pounds.Along with a quick pair of feet, he’s a cerebral player out on the gridiron, something Yarno covets in an offensive lineman. Those smarts certainly also extend to the classroom, where Hannam projects as a full qualifier with a 3.96 GPA and an SAT score of 1790 (out of the new 2400 scale).

A solid engineering program was critical to Hannam’s decision in choosing Washington State. He said while he loves football, education is the most important consideration.“I like building things,” says Hannam. “And I like physics…I want to get a scholarship so I can go to college, I don’t want to go to college just so I can play football,” he said.

Currently he has a 1-star rating, but that doesn’t mean he’s horrible. It just means that he hasn’t been fully evaluated yet, but will soon. He’s been on the Cougs radar since February.

2) I like Brink, and today, more than ever! Here’s why:

17 of 29 for 230 yards and 3 TD’s and 2 int’s isn’t the greatest line in the world, but when you consider at least 4 of those passes were flat-out drops, including two TD’s, well, it makes you wonder what things could have looked like. Also, he was a lousy 8-for-18 at the half, so, doing the math, that’s 9-for-11 in the second half. He shook off the bad second quarter and threw some terrific balls in the second half, including both TD’s to Hill that were ON THE MONEY. You have to flat-out love that he recovered so well, and didn’t feel sorry for himself and pout. He made whatever adjustments he needed to make at the half, and came out hot. Remember the Colorado game last year? What was the biggest thing that Rosie and Levy said last year? Swogger was feeling sorry for himself, was complaining about the drops, etc. I don’t want to trash Swoggs, he’s a good kid and has a great arm, but there is a difference here.

In the bigger picture? Think about this in regards to Brink’s overall improvement:

In his last 3 starts of 2004, Brink went 52 for 88, at 59.1 percent, with 661 yards and 4 TD’s and 1 INT. The Cougs were 2-1 in those 3 starts, with the loss coming at ASU in which the team was overmatched in nearly every phase of the game. Combined with the first start of 2005, suddenly Brink looks like this:

69 for 117 (58.9%) for 891 yards, 7 TD’s and 3 INT. The Cougs are 3-1 in his last 4 starts.

Sure, the yards aren’t too huge over a 4-game span. TD’s are nice and all that, but the biggest thing of Brink’s stats in the last 4 games?? The completion percentage of basically 59%. On the surface it’s nice, but it doesn’t seem all that great, right? Well, wrong. In the HISTORY OF WSU FOOTBALL (get this), Brink’s 59% completion rate would be 2nd ALL-TIME! Think about that – 59% would be only behind Rosie’s 60.1%. The most productive QB in WSU history in terms of passing yards, TD’s, etc, Gesser, his best season ever? 58%.

Consider also the lousy start Brink got off to last year vs. both the Beavs and USC, well, he has really improved in a very short time. In fact last week was only Brink’s 6th career start, so he is really still a pup! He’s a bigger, stronger pup than he was last year, but he’s still learning.

The best thing to think about is not only the improvement, but remember we have talked about how traditionally in this offense it takes a QB at least a full season of “the real thing” before the QB actually gets it? That sets up nicely for the OSU game, as that would be 8 starts under his belt plus other playing opportunities last year so it’s almost a full season by then. Plus he has a chance at redemption for what happened in his first start last year (15-for-41 for 201 yards in a bad loss, back in the homeland, just yuck). On the other side, look at Swogger’s 6 starts from last year – 47% passing is pretty lousy, even with a lot of drops that’s not good, and as Michael has said, in an offense where the short pass sets up the run, the 59% is crucial to moving the team. Today I am more convinced than ever that this is Alex Brink’s team, and barring injury, the short-lived Swogger era is officially over.

3) In watching the video highlights over on the official site, I’m feeling better about the Idaho game. The final margin of 12 points isn’t too exciting, but remember, for most of the 4th it was a 38-19 blowout and as Doba said, his entire 2nd string on D and most on O got to play an entire quarter, which will help down the line as injuries start to show up. Further, the talent level of Idaho has improved greatly in just 1 year. Again, as Doba said, they are bigger and stronger and faster than they were a year ago. Holt hit the JC ranks hard in recruiting and there were a lot of new faces.

The best news though? We are SO BIG PLAY it’s amazing! Harrison proved it last year, but every time he touches the ball he has a chance to take it to the house. Hill is a homerun threat on every deep ball. Bumpus can turn a 5-yard slant into a 25-yard gain, plus you have to hold your breath on every punt return (fumble or TD??). The weapons on this team, offensively, to bottom, might be the most explosive in team history. I’m very serious in saying that! The season has a long way to go, and 1997’s offense was scary with the fab 5 plus Michael Black and Leaf throwing 34 TD’s in 11 games, but this team’s skill positions are every bit as big play as 1997.

Also, really, what does WSU really have to gain in playing Idaho?? They are our friends across the border, and we really don’t want to beat their brains in. Sure, they want to beat us, but they are friends too (given that they refused to send Nevada game film is great!). Do you think the Coug players get sky-high to drill them? I think deep down they just look at it as a glorified scrimmage, where they know no matter what they will absolutely win the game, and it’s a chance to get the bugs out in a glorified dress-rehearsel for the rest of the season. Think of the sloppy play of guys like Hill, who never had a drops problem last year but in this game, geez! That’s all mental. The intensity wasn’t really there either on defense, but that will change. On the bright side, they did out-gain them 430+ to 260+ in total yards, so that’s a nice difference.

Finally, think big-picture here. In years past, we’ve looked great against Idaho (49-8 last year, up 42-0 in the 3rd quarter) and had a bad season (5-6), yet in 2003, we struggled against them before putting them away (10-0 at the half, 25-0 final score) and went on to win 10 games and beat the #4 team in the nation in the Holiday bowl! So you just cannot get too high or too low over a win over Idaho early in the year, as it really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what to expect.

Just think, we could be Oklahoma right now, already putting in their hotshot QB recruit, Bomar, after a disaster upset loss at home. Tennessee has been picked to play in the Rose Bowl yet they had to hang on 17-10 over UAB! Auburn scheduled a middle-of-the-road BCS team, Georgia Tech, and LOST AT HOME! UW had a 17-6 lead and Air Force buried on their own 1-yard line in the 4th quarter, yet let up and the Falcons came back to break their hearts. See, it really could be worse!

4) For the rest of year? I am in the 8-3/7-4 mold right now, but to me, this week’s game holds the keys to the season. IF Brink comes out strong, Harrison gets his 100+ and the D plays well, we’re set for 8-3 at least (4-4 in conference). If we lose this game? The pressure will increase greatly, not for Grambling obviously, but that OSU game becomes a must-win! I’m siding with Doba and feeling that 2006 will be a very special 9/10 win team next year, but I think this year, the focus must be to get back to a bowl game, period.

Think about the rest of the schedule – right now, as it was in the preseason, it’s obvious that USC is still a monster. Plus, I also believe that ASU and Oregon are in a fight for second place, clearly better than our beloved Cougs, and I even give the Ducks a legit shot at beating USC at Autzen. (Then again, watching Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, WOW. Leinart is so frickin’ good it’s staggering, and those WR’s will all play on Sundays. Sporting News ran a story that speculates that after Leinart wins the Heisman for the 2nd time and national title for the 3rd time in a row, he will not only go down as the greatest NCAA QB in the modern era, he might be considered the greatest NCAA player of all-time! If he’s not the greatest, he is certainly right there.)

Being realistic, even though we get the Devils and Ducks in Pullman, well, I’m calling losses in both of those games. I know, the games are in November and the crowd will be jacked up, etc, but those teams are just better than us. Oregon is sick offensively, I mean Clemens is becoming one hell of a QB, plus their weapons are just amazing. By the way, a kid that had 10 catches for them vs. Houston? James Finley. Why does that name ring a bell? He’s a kid we wrote about a few months ago that was down to WSU and Oregon after he failed to qualify at USC last year, and chose the Ducks at the last minute. BIG-TIME talent and we will regret not getting him. Oh yeah, the kid that we were drooling over, J-Stewart? 5 carries, 47 yards, and as shown on ESPN, he had one carry where he had 25 yards AFTER CONTACT where he literally had 3 guys hanging on to him for 20 yards! DAMN IT DAMON! 🙂

Plus the USC loss, that’s 3 L’s I’m putting in ink. Then think about road games at Corvallis, where we haven’t won since 1996, at Cal which is really hard to call today, and at Seattle, where like it or not, UW is going to probably win 5 games, at least!?!? Obviously we have a long way to go, but man, it looks like it’s going to be a long, tough season.

I’ll post the games of the week with my picks tomorrow. Lawson or Rooster, just respond in comments your picks and we’ll go from there.