“Here it comes, Jared….wait, who are you again?”
Good morning and Happy Hump Day, Cougs! You’ll have to forgive me if I become incoherent at any point this week. I’ve come down with a serious case of CBI Fever. Symptoms include spontaneously making “Three Goggles” Abe Lodwick-style, getting super stressed out about ultimately meaningless things and watching HDNet. I’ll try to get through today’s post before the fever completely takes over. As I’m sure you’re obsessively well aware, our gridiron Cougs are now a week deep into Spring practices and just four (3.5) short weeks away from the Crimson and Gray game. Thanks to the efforts of Christian Caple at the Spokesman, the WSU Athletic Department and Cougfanin particular, there is no shortage of content to be found on how things are coming along over at Rogers Field. Reading through all those tea leaves, I’ve come up with four takeaways from Washington State football spring practice. So without further ado, here are four takeaways from Washington State football spring practice. Hmmm…maybe that sentence was actually just further ado. Oh well. Let’s do this.
1. Mike Leach Rulz
I know, I know. I’m not exactly breaking new ground here, but since when have I done that? The new head man has been every bit as advertised through his first few practices. The Air Raid offense has proven to be extremely effective and therefore seems extremely complex, but the beauty of it seems to be in its simplicity. If it’s possible to know less than nothing about something, I know less than nothing about what it takes to install a football offense at any level. Based on my experience with various playbooks on EA Sports games, though, it always struck me as a fairly complicated process. When Mike Leach is running the show, it apparently takes just a matter of hours. After one practice, he was saying one-third of the offense was installed. Another third was taken care of in practice two and it didn’t quite get finished in practice three, but figured to be installed by the fourth and just tweaked from there. That’s awesome. In the interest of moving, I don’t want to get too much into comparing the new staff to the last one, but if you laid out that same installation timetable, but you replaced the word “practice” with “season”, you’d have the Todd Sturdy plan. From a football perspective, then, the outlook seems positive. With Mike Leach, you just get the sense that every single thing that happens with the team, from Midnight Maneuvers to the way practices are run, to the sand pit, is done with a specific purpose in mind. From a personality perspective, you just couldn’t ask for anything more. I’ve never been more excited to watch clips of a coach talking after a practice because you just never know when he’ll let out a gem like, “As we’re going up College Hill, shoot there’s mini skirts and hot pants everywhere. So I ask her, ‘what’s the temperature?” I go, ‘It’s gotta be pretty warm out there, huh?’ Thirty-seven degrees! thirty-seven degrees!” I love this guy. Also, I love Pullman. And hot pants. And people who say, “hot pants”.
2. Breakout Player
We all had our guesses as to which player that was either a newcomer or previously had a limited role that would having a coming out party during this camp. In fact, some of us had eight guesses. You could have spotted me 40 guesses and I probably still wouldn’t have gotten to, “You know, I think Andrei Lintz is going to play a big role in this offense and really make some plays for us this season.” Nothing against Lintz, as we’ve heard for a while he’s an excellent athlete for a dude his size, but he has eight career catches. Not only that, there didn’t seem to be many among us who saw much of a place in the Air Raid for tight ends. As it turns out, Mike Leach and his crew appear to have developed a healthy man-crush on Mr. Lintz and can’t wait to find ways to try to create mismatches with him. Good on you, Andrei. If there is anything that can be done to make opposing defenses worry even a little bit more about facing us, I’m all for it.
If there is one word that can summarize the action so far, it would have to be “fast”. The installation, as I mentioned, has been fast. Virtually every practice recap I’ve read makes note of how brisk the pace is. The wide receiver group might enjoy a little reprieve from all this fast since pretty much all they do at practice is run, just like Coach leach said they would. Mike Breske may not have all his pieces in exactly the right place yet, but based on quotes from defensive players, he’s at least got them playing – you guessed it, fast. It’s safe to say the Cougs won’t be the most talented team in the Pac 12 next season, but at the very least, I think opponents will start to go into games with us thinking, “Aww man not these sumbitches. I’m gonna be running all damn day against these guys.”
4. Position Battles
It’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too early to start getting into the depth chart, especially since the group that is out there now is far from the full team that will be at Leach’s disposal in the fall. With injured players returning and freshmen coming in, August is really a better time to start getting into exactly how the two-deeps look. That said, there are a few spots worth tracking from the outset. Oh who am I kidding? There is exactly one position on everyone’s mind: quarterback. I still think it’s a little silly that the QB1 spot is considered up-for-grabs. This would have been a ridiculous notion last offseason, but Connor Halliday did have a remarkable game-and-a-half, so here we are. We’re still a couple weeks away from even being at a point where there would be consideration to name a starter according to Leach, but he did say that if he did have to name a starter right now, it would be Jeff Tuel. So there you go. This is ultimately a good problem to have, but I still expect Tuel to tighten his grip on the starting spot as the next few weeks play out.
That’s it for now. I can’t wait to see how the rest of spring ball unfolds and really can’t wait to see it with my own four eyes at Joe Albi on April 21. I also can’t wait to see if Abe Lodwick can keep his remarkable run going and close his career with a CBI Championship. If nothing else, I want to see how a teamgoes about celebrating a CBI Championship. Winning game 1 led to a natural celebration with the ZZU Cru, especially with how it ended, but what happens if we win game 2 tonight? Will they just fall into the usual handshake line and head to the trophy ceremony? I really have no idea how this works, but I’m strangely eager to find out.