COUGARS • UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.
We have a couple items for you, including a short feature on Myron Beck and an advance on tomorrow's basketball game. Also, there are some notes from Paul Wulff's press conference. Read on.
• We went over the roster today at practice and counted 32 players not practicing from either an injury, sickness or an academic-related reason (an occasional redshirting freshmen will skip practice once a week or so and spend the time in tutoring). Of those 32, 14 either started a game this season or would have if they had not been injured before the season. Just passing that along. ... Some of those not going today included quarterback Jeff Tuel, who Paul Wulff said was still a "game-time" decision, safety Chima Nwachukwu and tight end Tony Thompson, both listed as very questionable by Wulff. ... With the Bruins' decision to start 6-foot, 235-pound sophomore running back Derrick Coleman, Wulff was asked if he expected UCLA to try to jam it down the Cougars' throats. He said yes, in that, looking at how much trouble the defense has stopping the running game, why wouldn't a team try to do that? He also said that doesn't preclude them from throwing the ball as well. ... Despite the injury news, there is something that will happen for the first time since the Hawaii game. WSU will start the offensive line it went into the season expecting to play. Steven Ayers will be the left tackle, Zack Williams, left guard, Kenny Alfred, center, B.J. Guerra, right guard and Micah Hannam, right tackle. ... With Nico Grasu also "very questionable" according to Wulff, Pat Rooney will be called on to kick again. ... Jay Matthews will play, but the safety's left shoulder will be strapped up. ... When asked if he had made changes in personnel on the special teams, Wulff's reply was simple. "We would if we had anybody." UPDATE: UW announced this afternoon the Apple Cup will start at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 28 and be televised by FSN.
• Now here's is the unedited version of the story ...
PULLMAN – Myron Beck may never be Washington State University's fastest or biggest player.
He may never be a guy who other teams game plans around.
He may never be WSU's most valuable player ... wait, that's wrong. He already has been.
Beck, a 6-foot, 209-pound junior, earned the Cougars' defensive MVP award last week against Arizona, not because he excelled at one position but because he was key at two.
Beck's not the Cougars' biggest linebacker or their fastest safety, but he does play both, each week answering the call to fill whichever breach appears in WSU's injury-riddled defense.
"It's not hard at all," Beck will tell you, despite all evidence to the contrary.
This week, Beck will play some Will, or weakside linebacker, and some strong safety, teaming with freshman Jay Matthews to fill the gap left by usual starter Chima Nwachukwu's sprained ankle.
"It's a lot harder to do than people think," said co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball, who also coaches the safeties. "When you are playing Will and safety, they are sort of interchangeable.
"But as far as reads and keys, they are quite a bit different."
Beck, who attended Seattle's Ingraham High along with receiver Jeffrey Solomon then spent two years at Glendale College in California, finds that aspect of the challenge actually the easiest.
"In our defense, you've got to know everything, because you don't know what's going to happen on any given day," he said. "If you know the defense inside out, you can play any position on the field.
"When you watch film and you know the defense, you just take notes on everything during the meetings, so it's not hard at all."
Beck, playing mostly at linebacker this season, has 25 tackles and two interceptions – including one he returned 67 yards for a late score in the win Southern Methodist.
Last year, playing safety early and linebacker late, he finished with 34. But he also missed the final four games with a back injury, which made off-season surgery necessary.
Ticketed to play linebacker this year, Beck tried to put on weight during his rehabilitation.
"I was fresh off (back) surgery, but I tried to get as big as I could," he said. "I gained 10 extra pounds, so, ya, I bulked up. Got stronger, got a lot stronger actually."
Beck also has mental strength, according to coach Paul Wulff.
"He's a very mature guy," Wulff said. "He's battled the whole back issue, having back surgery. To do what he can do, and he's still not 100 percent, he's very, very valuable for us."
Even if he couldn't play a lot of positions.
"He's a great kid," Ball said. "He's somebody, if your son ends up being like Myron Beck, you would be pretty proud of him."
• And here's the short basketball advance ...
PULLMAN – The Washington State University Cougars will open the 2009-10 season tonight at Beasley Coliseum with a familiar non-conference foe.
For the second consecutive season, WSU will open with Mississippi Valley State, a Southwestern Athletic Conference school that travels to the West Coast often.
The Delta Devils (3-19 last season) not only open their season with WSU tonight, but will travel to Spokane for a Saturday game vs. Gonzaga. They will return west in December to face Oregon and Oregon State.
WSU, who routed the Devils last season 76-25 and 71-26 the year before, are coming off a 73-51 exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State College last Monday.
Klay Thompson led WSU (17-16 last season) with 19 points while DeAngelo Casto added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Tonight's game will also be coach Ken Bone's WSU debut.
• That's it for now. We'll be back in the morning as usual. Until then …