A quick post for tonight, but it is filled with notes and news. And our look at the special teams. Read on.
• Coach Paul Wulff was not a happy camper after practice, saying the Cougars didn’t have the best practice and they need to respond better to the adverse conditions – it was about 95 degrees in Pullman Wednesday. After all, he pointed out, they could find the same conditions in Stillwater in about 10 days. … Washington State will hold its final full-contact scrimmage Thursday evening in Martin Stadium. It’s like a mini-game with the players starting to get ready at 5:30 with typical pregame work, then the scrimmage starting at 7. There will be eight-minute quarters, special team work, officials, clocks, two-minute, everything you see in a game except it will be compressed. … Want to know the injury news? Well, let see. Cornerback Nolan Washington tried to go, got about 40 minutes in, then had to sit out the rest. It’s a hip, but it seems to be day-to-day. Jared Byers sat out with turf toe, which seems to be the injury de jour. LeAndre Daniels had his neck examined this afternoon, the results of which were not available. Gino Simone is still out with the hamstring, as is Aire Justin. Dan Spitz was on the bike, but did some exercises that would lead one to believe he’ll be back at practice soon. Kristoff Williams is still out with the turf toe. … Some news on touted junior college defensive lineman Al Lapuaho, who committed to WSU this summer. He’s not coming. He’s back at Snow, where he’ll play his sophomore year. NCAA clearance was going so slowly, Lapuaho made the decision to return to Utah and play the year. We’ll see if he comes back in the spring. … Finally, the practice ended with the Cougars in Martin Stadium scrimmaging with the loudspeaker system blaring out crowd noise – I think it’s from a Who concert, possibly the beginning of “Baba O’Riley” I believe. Jeff Tuel didn’t let the noise bother him on two long pass completions to Jeffrey Solomon, but overall the defense got the better of it, including back-to-back sacks of Tuel in one stretch.
• Here is the unedited version of our special teams preview that will appear in tomorrow’s S-R …
PULLMAN – Reid Forrest has had one of the better college football careers among this year’s Washington State University seniors.
One of the busiest as well. And the most expensive.
Forrest has been the Cougars punter the past three years. He’s been called on to perform that duty 209 times, third most in WSU history and only 46 behind Kyle Basler’s school record.
His punts, combined, have traveled nearly five miles and have stayed in the air more than 15 minutes.
By the end of this season he’ll hold WSU career marks in total punts and punting yardage. He’s killed 46 punts inside the 20 in his career, not Kyle Basler-esque – Basler had 76 in his four years in Pullman – but still an impressive total.
Forrest is, simply put, the best at his position among the Cougars.
And possibly the most overlooked.
Despite his 43.2-yard average, 18 inside the 20 and at least a dozen more attempts than anyone in the conference last season, Forrest was only an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection.
Still, not too shabby for a wanna-be wide receiver who came to Pullman from Ephrata High in 2006 hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father Jim, a Cougar tight end in the early 1970s. But then coach Bill Doba saw the younger Forrest’s future diverging to another path.
And that’s where the expense comes in.
“Coach Doba sent me down to (freelance kicking coach) Chris Sailer,” said Forrest of the summer after his freshman year. “He said, ‘here’s a guy you need to go see, go see him this summer, learn how to punt.’
“So coach gave me his name, I flew (to California) and basically started from scratch.”
It was the first of 10 trips Forrest and his family has paid for to improve his craft.
It’s worked, as he’s improved his average (from 40.5 as a freshman to 43.2 last year) and hang time each year. But it’s been expensive for a guy who also paid his way to WSU the first two years. He estimates the camps have cost more than $5,000.
But there may be a long-term payoff.
“He’s got a chance to play at the next level,” said WSU first-year coach Dave Ungerer, who has coached special teams around the nation for more than two decades. “He’s got a really strong leg, good hang time and he’s a really good athlete. Those are things they look for.”
Like many colleges, WSU doesn’t have anyone dedicated to coaching punting or kicking, so Forrest and the kickers, senior Nico Grasu and freshman Andrew Furney, have to hone their craft in the offseason, then help each other stay in the groove during the year.
“You basically get all your work done then,” Forrest said, “with coaches you fly out and go see and pay out of your own pocket. You keep your eyes and ears open during those camps, take good notes and bring as many drills back with you as you can.
“And then it just becomes a habit you have to have once the season starts.”
Forrest’s spot is secure, but Grasu and Furney, the walk-on from Burlington, Wash., who tied the state record with 14 field goals last season, are battling for the place kicking duties.
“They’re going back-and-forth,” Ungerer said. “I think Nico for sure will be the kickoff guy and by the end of this week we’ll kind of decide, because they’re pretty close in the field goal competition.
“It’s been a good, healthy competition.”
Grasu, the hero of the 2008 Apple Cup, has the experience, which may give him the edge early on, but Furney has shown a strong, accurate leg in camp.
The Cougars are also set at long snapper, where reliable senior Zach Enyeart is holding down the position for the fourth consecutive season.
The return spots are still undecided, Ungerer said, but with WSU opening on the road in a hostile environment, experience will be crucial.
Senior Chantz Staden, who set WSU records in kickoff returns (43) and yardage (970) before his 2008 season ended in a major knee injury, looks to be the main kickoff return threat again.
(Height, weight, year and 2009 starts in parentheses)
Reid Forrest (6-1, 181, RS Sr., 12)
Dan Wagner (6-foot, 207, RS Jr., 0)
Nico Grasu (6-1, 235, Sr., 8)
Andrew Furney (5-10, 217, Fr., dnp)
Zach Enyeart (6-1, 264, RS Sr., 12)
Chantz Staden (5-10, 205, RS Sr., dnp)
Carl Winston (5-8, 197, So., 0)
Rickey Galvin (5-8, 162, Fr., dnp)
Nolan Washington* (5-11, 180, RS Fr., dnp)
* Currently injured
• That’s all for tonight. If you missed it, we put up a short on the WSU basketball schedule. You can access it here. We’ll be back tomorrow with more links. Until then …