Dog Days of Spring Ball Starting to Settle in?

I guess it happens every August during fall camp, where players reach just about the midway point of a grueling stretch of practices and things start to drag a bit.  It’s pretty natural/normal, and that’s fine.  But it seems like it always happens right smack dab in the middle of a stretch of practices, from mid-August last year to, well, mid-spring ball now?

From the recaps from yesterday’s day 7 of spring ball, it sounds like things are starting to get a little chippy?  Per Cougfan, yesterday resembled something out of WWE in terms of the “skirmishes” and such, as spring ball hit just about the middle of the 15-practice schedule.  HOWEVER, maybe it’s just a little different this year?   Maybe this isn’t your typical dog days scenario?

In years past, we always got those reports where players started to drag, or wear down, or just kind of lose a little pep in their step right about now.  But from the reports from yesterday, it’s more like the dragging has turned instead to players getting after each other, big-time.  Maybe that’s the biggest difference we are seeing with this new staff, where the coaches are pushing, pushing, pushing all the time to get them to run through a wall with very little let-up?  The Spokesman’s latest recap details the up-tick in intensity:

Few could have watched Thursday’s practice and questioned whether the Cougars had any desire. During the team period, a scuffle seemed to break out every couple of plays, one of the most physical practices of the spring also turning into one of the most competitive.

Amongst us commoners, I guess you can look at it as being just about halfway through that long run/bike ride/workout/whatever.  Where you have been at it for a bit, you have exerted a lot of energy, you are feeling pretty good but you also know you have worked pretty hard.  Suddenly you realize you are only HALFWAY there!?  At that point you have to make a decision – it’s all about digging down and finding that second kick…..or, you slow to a walk and just quit.  These guys seem to be pushing through it, and that is very, very encouraging to say the least. 

I remember Tony Bennett several years ago talking in a radio interview about the culture change that they had to implement, and how hard it was at first on the basketball players.  But not necessarily on the coaches per se, but how hard it was on the players and getting them to accept that they can, in fact, do more than they think. 

It’s like we all have a built-in barrier to what we believe we are capable of, such as running a set number of miles every couple of days and staying at that plateau, or even like being stuck in a rut of 3 sets, 10 reps of weights per body part.  How do you break through and make the jump from, say, 4 miles, to 5, 6, or even more than that?  How to you decide to go from 3 sets to 4, or even 5 sets and more reps?? 

Now obviously it’s different for you and me, average Joe’s just scratching and surviving.  We exercise for the heart and mind and the whole “healthy” experience, but we aren’t necessarily training to suit up and throw our bodies around every Saturday!  But to get elite athletes to understand that they CAN do more than they think, to get them to believe that when they feel like they just can’t go any further, to in fact take another step!?  It’s a whole different deal, and that was the hardest thing according to Bennett.  Getting them to break down that wall when they never have done it before, and more so, already convinced that they can’t do it is a huge challenge for any coach.

And yeah, I know it’s just spring ball.  We’re only 7 practices in for the Leach era.  Yes, we’re excited about what lies ahead, and all reports from people in and around the program say this is a whole new level.  There is promise with the returning talent and how they will fit in to these new schemes.  The stadium is rising in the background, while Leach walks the practice fields.  It’s exciting to be a Coug right now, for there is serious hope for what is yet to come.  And you know what?  It’s OK to be excited right now!  After the 40 losses the last four years, and all that is moving in the right direction now, go ahead and let yourself be “jacked and pumped”.  The naysayers will try to piss in your Cheerios, if they haven’t already done so, but don’t let it bother you.  Enjoy this moment, and be optimistic where this thing is headed!

Read on…..

OK, ALL THAT SAID, just how good (or bad?) is the WSU head coaching job?  If you read this, well, at least we’re not dead LAST in the Pac-12!…..well, we’re tied for 11th with our ugly cousins from Oregon State, but still. 

I honestly don’t know how to take something like that.  Of COURSE we’re not happy about it, I mean why would we be?  But from the outside looking in, a head coaching job in Pullman doesn’t sound all that great.  That said, when you peel away the layers and look at what’s happening, WSU looks pretty good.  Consider:

1) An AD and President committed to getting a winning product on the field. 

2) Major stadium renovation happening, all part of a huge change in facilities and rebranding across the board.

3) A seat at the table in the Pac-12, quickly becoming a major force in the NCAA football landscape.

4) And if it was really that bad, would Mike Leach have taken the job?

But when you look at the list of schools in the Pac-12, where would you rank WSU?  Is WSU a better job than Cal?  Arizona?  Utah?  Colorado?  Hmmmm.

Finally, the great ESPN blog has a look at possible surprise teams in 2012.  Kevin Gemmell went with Utah, while Teddy Football went with Cal.  They now have a poll, where you can pick from five different teams…..no, WSU is not on the list.

I think the question isn’t “WTF!?!?!”  But instead it’s “what constitues a surprise team”??  This was the criteria, as set forth by the ESPN Pac-12 blogging duo:

Which team possibly might shock the world? Which team could break up this apparently preordained marriage at the top of the conference, one reportedly written in gold leaf onto the granite facade of Mount Rushmore?

Fair enough.  When put that way, I guess WSU shouldn’t even be a poll selection…..right??  I mean we’re excited and all that, but are we walking around talking Pac-12 title!?  Maybe at the spring game we’ll be beyond drunk on “Leach Lemonade” or whatever they are calling it, and we’ll be chanting “ROSE BOWL!” by the 3rd quarter.  But realistic expectations in year one aren’t exactly revolving around BCS bowl talk.

All for now.  Enjoy your Friday, and of course, GO COUGS!

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