There is something on the field at Washington State this week that I haven't seen in a while. If you want to know what it is, and if you want to see our story for tomorrow's S-R, you have to read on.
• No, I'm not going to tell you what 'it" is just yet. First you are going to have to wade through my notes. ... Wednesday's practice, the last this week in full pads, was filled with a lot of popping. As in, the pads were popping. The hitting was taken up a notch, even though the offense and the defense didn't square off in a full-on scrimmage. The drills were filled with pops. The special team sessions were filled with pops. And the scout team sessions were filled with pops. Hitting was the order of the day. ... If you're wondering what scout team players are already starting to stand out, I'll give you two names from the defensive side of the ball, the area I focused on today. The offensive scout players who shined were quarterback Connor Halliday and receiver Blair Bomber. Halliday showed off his release and arm on multiple occasions, finding seams in the defense to hit receivers – not that they were all caught. Bomber, the speedy receiver from Lynden, caught his share, however, including a couple it didn't look as if he would catch. ... Despite the hitting, there were no new injuries, though Gino Simone's hamstring was a little sore and Tyson Pencer sat out for the second day for what coach Paul Wulff termed a groin problem. Pencer said he would make the trip and could play if needed. ... Wulff said cornerback Nolan Washington, who missed some time with a hip flexor, has shown enough in practice that he should start Saturday, with Anthony Carpenter backing him up. Daniel Simmons will hold down the other side with Aire Justin the fourth corner. ... It doesn't look as if freshman defensive tackle Toni Pole will be able to make the trip as he rode the bike for much of practice. ... OK, want to know what the something is? It is confidence. I'm surprised how many of the Cougars feel they are going to surprise people this year. The last couple seasons, the words were mouthed at times but it was obvious no one really believed it. I'm not Dr. Cal Lightman, but I do know when kids are blustering and when they believe something. This group believes what they are saying more than the last two squads did.
• Here's an unedited version of our story for tomorrow's S-R on the two quarterbacks that will square off Saturday.
PULLMAN – They both threw high-velocity fastballs. But those heaters ended up headed in different directions.
Brandon Weeden's led him into the grow-up-fast world of minor league baseball, a playground of pressure he experienced for five years. Jeff Tuel's was put away in high school, giving him more time to develop as a football player.
And, despite a seven-year difference in age, their paths converge Saturday, as both will be holding down the most critical position in college football.
They'll be the starting quarterbacks for their schools, Weeden making his first for Oklahoma State and Tuel, younger but more experienced, his sixth for WSU.
How they got to this point is a study in priorities.
Weeden made his last start at quarterback in late 2001, leading Edmond's Santa Fe High against traditional Tulsa power Jenks in a state semifinal. Santa Fe lost. Six months later he was in Florida, an 18-year-old second-round draft pick pitching for the New York Yankees' Gulf Coast League team.
"It made me grow up extremely quickly," Weeden said.
The next year he was living on Staten Island, a starting pitcher in short season A ball for the Yankees and a Manhattan visitor at every opportunity.
"It was probably the (most fun) time I've ever had playing baseball," he said. "Being in New York, playing for the Yankees, they had a great following, a packed house every night.
"I spent a lot of time over in the city on off days or if we wanted to do something at night, usually we would go over to the city."
But after two more years in Columbus, Georgia – "That was a lot more like Oklahoma," Weeden said – and another at High Desert outside Victorville, Calif., Weeden decided it was time to give football a shot.
In June of 2007, he walked on at Oklahoma State. And, at 23, began life as a college freshman.
"I never took any classes in the offseason," he said. "I was a true freshman that first year. I was more worried about getting back in the classroom than anything, as far as going to class every day. Some of my friends had already graduated and they told horror stories as far as the school stuff.
"But it's actually been very simple. I found out real quick all you have to do is go to class."
He also found out he could play quarterback a little bit. Last season, he got on the field for the first time and, in a game at Colorado, helped spark the Cowboys to a 31-28 comeback win. But senior Zac Robinson, injured that day, returned and Weeden went back to waiting his turn.
That comes Saturday.
"Last year, you went into the games hoping but not knowing if you were going to play," the redshirt junior said. "This year I have to prepare seven days a week like I'm the guy. I have to be focused more on what we're trying to achieve as a team."
Though he's not football experienced, he has life experience. And he believes that transfers. Especially in game-planning.
"We get a feel for what the defense is trying to do to us, plan accordingly and make adjustments as needed," Weeden said. "It's very similar to prior to pitching a baseball game."
Tuel hasn't ridden buses through the South or taken the train in the city, but he has started five major college football games. And those five starts last year as an 18-year-old true freshman mean a lot.
"I can't image how mature I'll be at (Weeden's) age," he said. "I feel like over the past year I've matured in so many areas of the game."
Asked to name one word that captures that maturity, Tuel threw out a few before finally settling on confidence.
"It's tough to capture it in one word because there is so many things you can learn from playing," he said, "but confidence is definitely a big one."
Tuel's confidence shows each day in practice, as his misses, like a good pitcher, aren't in place that can hurt him. Instead of trying to force a fastball into the middle, Tuel will throw the ball away outside, confident the next down will be better.
Saturday Tuel will take that experience into Boone Pickens Stadium and try to steal a win from Weeden and the Cowboys. His counterpart, of course, will be trying to do the same thing.
And, despite their different life experiences, they have the same goal, even if their frame of reference is different.
"I feel like I'm going to pitch a game every seven days," Weeden said. "You get all this hype and buildup for one game and you have to go out and have fun and enjoy it on Saturdays."
"I like to have fun out here," Tuel added. "Goofing, dancing, laughing, whatever it is. When you over think things, you get out of your game and really restrict your abilities. If you can come out here, just have fun and treat it like it's a pickup game from when you were a little kid is when you play your best."
Comparing the quarterbacks
QB Age G PA PC TDs Int. Yds.
Weeden 26 4 27 16 4 1 256
Tuel 19 6 121 71 6 1 789
• That's all for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with our usual post. Until then ...