My ears are still hurting. Read the rest of the link and you'll know why. We have some notes from today's short practice and the unedited version of our story that will appear in tomorrow's S-R. Read on.
• The reason my ears are hurting? To simulate the Autzen Stadium experience, the Cougar offense worked in Martin Stadium today with crowd noise blaring from the loud speaker system. Wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller, or "The Maestro" as he should now be known, seemed to be in charge of signaling the booth to raise or lower the decibels. He looked like a conductor at times, hence the nickname. By the way, if the Cougars handle the noise well, they should thank The Who. The noise came from a live album because you could hear the first couple notes of "Baba O'Riley" over the incredibly loud crowd noise before it cycled back to the beginning. ...
• Coach Paul Wulff held his usual Thursday afternoon conference call before practice and let everyone know about a couple lineup changes. We've mentioned this week that guard Brian Danaher hasn't been practicing after suffering a concussion against USC. Well, he's out for Oregon. That means true freshman Alex Reitnouer, who grayshirted last year, will start at left guard and junior Joe Eppele will be at left guard. We knew before that Zack Williams (high ankle sprain), B.J. Guerra (knee) and Steven Ayers (ankle) would be out, but Danaher is new. Williams tried to go some Wednesday but just didn't have the mobility, so he'll try to be back next week against Arizona State. Ayers and Guerra won't be back until after the bye week. With Tyson Pencer, whose first start was against USC, and Reitnouer starting, the Cougars will have two freshmen on the left side of line. ... Wulff also said the decision has been made to play freshman running back Carl Winston. ... Wulff talked about freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel's week of practice, saying he's had a good week. He knows that Tuel will be tested to the upmost this weekend and that's OK. "It's invaluable experience going forward," Wulff said. ... With all those freshmen playing, Wulff said there has been concerted effort made this week to keep things simple enough for the youngsters to be able to execute. ... Before we leave the offense, we wanted to pass along the news Kenny Alfred was nominated for another award. The senior from Gig Harbor is one of 154 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy (which used to be known as the Draddy Trophy). Some call it the academic Heisman.
• The worst piece of news Wulff dropped concerned senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman. Kooyman tried to practice this week, couldn't and Wulff said there's a chance he could miss the rest of the season. If that's the case, he would be eligible for a medical redshirt year after playing just one game. Kooyman never redshirted. ... The two captains for Saturday will be Micah Hannum and Alex Hoffman-Ellis. ... If anything happens to one of the starting offensive linemen, senior Reed Lesuma is the next man up. He would play guard and, if a tackle were hurt, one of the guards would slide outside.
• Here's the unedited version of our story for tomorrow's S-R ...
PULLMAN – Carson York grew up a Cougar fan.
In fact, the last time he saw Washington State play Oregon was in 2001, when the Ducks were en route to an 11-1 season and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Oregon won 24-17 that day in Martin Stadium, handing WSU its first loss in a 10-2 season.
"I was cheering for the Cougars pretty hard then," said York, who helped Lake City High in Coeur d'Alene to a 2006 Idaho State 5A football title.
He won't be Saturday, when York will experience another WSU/Oregon matchup. Only this time he'll be a lot closer to the action as it unfolds at Autzen Stadium. He'll be playing left guard for the Ducks.
"I think it will be kind of fun," he said. "It will be my first time experiencing this.
"My whole life I was a giant Cougar fan. It's a little special for me to get to play them now."
He and C.E. Kaiser, a 2006 graduate of Central Valley High, will hold down two spots on Oregon's offensive line, a group that was much maligned after the team's 19-8 loss at Boise State to open the season.
But it's also a group that's turned its season around. Just like the 3-1 Ducks.
"I thought our O-line every week has progressed," Oregon first-year head coach Chip Kelly said. "The challenge for those guys right now, I told them, is how do we progress to week five. There's a whole lot of things we need to continue to work on."
York, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound redshirt freshman, and Kaiser, the right tackle, have started every game this year.
"We have things in common and we talk about places back home," York said of Kaiser. "I think our whole offensive line is pretty tight, as far as being pretty good friends."
So how did the two of them get away from Washington State?
"I grew up a huge Cougar fan, watching (Jason) Gesser and those guys, and (Ryan) Leaf," York said. "You should have seen me the day they offered me. I was pretty excited. Truthfully, I almost committed then."
But he didn't. And after examining other schools, the journalism major decided on Oregon.
"When I looked around a little more and saw there were other options, I ended up coming here," he said. "But Washington State always has a special place (for) me ... and I like to see them do well too still."
Kaiser, unavailable for comment this week, wasn't as highly recruited as York. In fact, the 6-4, 300-pounder's first offer came from Eastern Washington, at that time coached by Paul Wulff.
"Oregon came in and that was kind of the end of it," said Wulff, now in his second year at WSU. "I thought he had the potential (to play in the Pac-10) but I wouldn't say I was 100 percent convinced at the time."
Not many were, including the Cougars. But the Ducks saw a player with a big upside.
"Oregon was always high on him," said Kaiser's high school coach, Rick Giampietri. "They projected a lot of improvement for him. ... When he first went down there, he said 'coach, the first two weeks I never hit anybody,' they were so much quicker than he was used to."
York saw the same potential the Oregon coaches had – and even earlier.
"We went to a camp at Central Valley once when, I think I was a sophomore, so he was a junior," he recalled. "All I remember was a huge monster of a person tearing everyone apart. That was C.E."
After his encounter on the field with the Cougars, York doesn't just share his feelings with the media. He's part of the horde.
York is writing a journal this year for the Oregonian newspaper, putting his college major to work even before he leaves Eugene.
"It's fun, as long as we win," York said. "It's kind of nice to have a voice and get some things out there you think people should know about as far as what goes on behind the scenes."
• Some info from York that didn't get into the story needs to be mentioned here. ... York played his high school football for Lake City coach Van Troxel, one of the better prep coaches in the area. He understands how lucky he is to have played there, saying he sent Troxel a thank you letter when he started at Oregon, because York knew he wouldn't have reached that level without Troxel's help. He compared him to another dad. ... The Lake City practices, York said, were run in a similar fashion to Oregon's, giving him a leg up on other players who didn't have that type of coaching. ... I had to ask a couple of questions, including why he wanted to major in journalism. He explained he's interested in the advertising side of the business. ... Then I asked about Byron Hout, the former Lake City teammate who was involved in the messiness after Oregon's loss at Boise State. York said he's been asked about that a lot, and that he believes Hout is the same type of guy he was at Lake City, an overachiever who plays with high energy and intensity. It's the only way he knows how to play, according to York, and that's tough to turn off right after the game. He also admires Hout's abilities, though they never made contact during the game. At Lake City, York said, "he got the best of me more than I got the best of him."
• That's got to be it for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow. Until then …