COUGARS • UPDATED: 10 A.M.
Two days into camp and it's obvious this Washington State football team is better than its counterparts from the past two years. It's bigger in spots it needs to be bigger. It's stronger in spots it needs to be stronger. It's faster most everywhere. But all that comes with a caveat. A big one. Read on for that and links.
• Washington State: Yes, anybody who has been on the practice field for the last three seasons would be lying if they didn't say this is the best group Paul Wulff has been able to produce. But what does that mean, really? The first team was a collection of players who fit better in Bill Doba's system, a transitional group that had lost one of the better quarterback's in school history, lacked players who fit Wulff's style of play and posted a truly awful season saved in part by a double-overtime Apple Cup win. Last year's squad was better, though younger, and still struggled to compete, stymied by a lack of depth and experience. The losses, though closer, wore down everyone as the season progressed. Which brings us to now. After just two practices some things are obvious. The younger players are a year older, helping to bridge that experience gap that was so wide last season. There are new, athletic recruits in key spots. Depth is improved. But ... ya, there are a lot of "buts". ... This team is still young. The new recruits have yet to compete at the major college level and despite how good they look in practice, that's a whole different animal. The improved depth? No matter what, that's a good thing. Yet I'm sure there's not a coach on the field that would rather not have to call on it. A season with hardly any injuries would be greatly appreciated as there is still a good-sized gap between 1 and 2 on the depth chart in a lot of spots. And there are still questions to be answered, players who must step up on the offensive line, at linebacker, on special teams, before breathing is easier in the Bohler offices. ... So how will this team do? Compared to the ones that immediately preceded it, better. It should be able to compete for a longer time (in individual games and over the course of the season), which was Wulff's stated goal the entire offseason. As for winning consistently, no matter what happens in the next few weeks, that goal will be tougher. It still could be just outside their grasp and more than likely a year away, when quarterback Jeff Tuel is an upperclassman, the offensive line has had a chance to meld, the young receivers are older, the defense adds even more speed and the depth blossoms on special teams. ... For now, improvement has been relative. Yes, it's out there on spiffed up Rogers Field. But no one will know for sure how much has been made until late in the evening on Sept. 4. ... OK, after playing Debbie Downer, we can get on to the morning links. ... We had the raw version of our story and some other notes on the blog last night. Here's how it appeared in the paper this morning (it also ran in the Seattle Times). ... We talked about Blackledge's catches, a couple of which can be seen here on the Cougar football blog. ... As for anything else, all the other eyeball accounts are behind firewalls, so I can't link them. Sorry. ... By the way, if you are over on the rainy side, I'm supposed to be on with Jason Puckett of KJR either today or tomorrow. We got bumped yesterday when the Mariners fired Don Wakamatsu. I'll let you know the schedule when I know. UPDATE: We're going to be on the show at 2:38 this afternoon.
• Around the Pac-10: So who is the conference's top defender? ESPN.com's Ted Miller has his choice. ... He also has his conference power rankings. ... Washington: The Huskies opened practice with optimism running high (Bob Condotta has more here). ... Desmond Trufant is feeling better. ... Oregon State: Is there ever anything but a great first day? ... OK, Jacquizz Rodgers thought so. ... Oregon: If the Ducks can answer the question at quarterback, the Pac-10 race might be over before it starts. ... They have also added size – and speed – to the secondary. ... The first day was dominated by a good vibe, according to George Schroeder. ... Cal: Good news on the injury front for the Bears. Left tackle Matt Summers-Gavin's knee is only sprained. ... Stanford: Who will replace Toby Gerhart? The candidates lined up and went at it Monday. ... Jim Harbaugh thinks it's about time football got going. ... USC: It was picture day for the Trojans, so nothing on the field, but news happened. ... The freshmen believe they have a good chance of playing, a lot. ... A defensive scheme change puts more pressure on cornerback Shareece Wright. ... Baseball coach Chad Kreuter was fired by new AD Pat Haden, though he was supposedly told last month he would be back. ... UCLA: Will this be the Bruins' breakout season? Rick Neuheisel wants nothing less. ... For that to happen, quarterback Kevin Prince needs to be improved. ... Arizona State: The Sun Devils' running backs have speed. They at least have that going for them. ... A practice report out of Tempe. ... Arizona: And a practice report out of Tucson.
• That's it for this morning, except for one basketball note. Boise State was able to grab a big-bodied freshman late to bolster its frontcourt. It's news because he said he was also considering WSU. ... We'll be back after practice with a summary of the day's events and our story. Until then ...