It's Sunday morning and we're still not back at practice, so we're going to delve into a couple important areas, eligibility and progress. If such things sound interesting to you, read on.
• Washington State: We'll start with eligibility, in the news today because of the limbo status of Alex Mitchell and Rahmel Dockery, two WSU freshmen who want to get on the football field. As of this morning, they have been accepted by the school but the NCAA Eligibilty Center (the old clearinghouse) – the final arbiter of these things – has not notified WSU they are eligible to compete. So where do they stand? Before we go there, here's some background. It is possible for an athlete not cleared by the NCAA to still enroll in a school (though they can't accept scholarship money), practice with the team and attend class full-time, all with the expectation he is going to be ruled eligible. But if that expectation is not met, if the Eligibilty Center rules the athlete ineligible, bad things happen, especially in the Pac-12. The conference rules are strict in this situation. Not only is the athlete never eligible to play for the institution that pushed the envelope and enrolled them, they are ineligible to ever compete for a Pac-12 school. In other words, Player A starts at USC, enrolls full-time, hits the field, is found to be ineligible for whatever reason, heads to a JC, works their tail off, gets his AA, satisfies the Eligibilty Center and now, older, wiser and eligible, wants to attend Arizona. Too bad. They would have to go somewhere outside the conference. Now there are some exceptions based on the NCAA definitions of a recruited or non-recruited athlete, but we're not going there because they don't apply. If Player A is 100 percent convinced the clearance will come through, he or she can enroll full-time and practice for a grace period. If the clearance comes through, they are that far ahead. But why do that? As outlined above, that way is fraught with danger if eligibility is denied. Yet, there are still options. They enroll, pay their way, take only enough classes to be designated a part-time student (OK under Pac-12 rules), audit a couple other classes and watch practice until the clearance arrives. When it does, they add the extra classes, the school repays them for their costs and they hit the practice field. So how does this apply to Dockery and Mitchell? As I write this, neither have their final NCAA clearance according to WSU. And until they do, they won't be participating in practice. Why take a chance with their future? If clearance comes through by Tuesday (there is no practice Monday because it's the first day of school) you'll see them hitting. If not, they'll be watching. ... On to the next subject. Where are the Cougars two weeks into preseason camp? Pretty far along as far as I can tell. The offense is sharp, mainly because Jeff Tuel has hit the ground with both feet moving like a guy in a Saturday morning cartoon. The junior quarterback is throwing the ball with accuracy, seeing the open man, making the right reads in the running game and, when things break down, making plays with his feet. In other words, playing at an exceptional level. His confidence and decision-making ability also means the offensive line doesn't have to be perfect on every play, they just have to be passable. And that's usually the case. The defense is improving, mainly because the new guys, whether they are the JC defensive linemen or freshmen linebackers, have brought an element of quickness and/or speed sorely needed on that side of the ball. As these guys feel more comfortable, they react quicker and play faster. It's a unit that, if it stays healthy, should improve as the season goes on. Finally, the special teams, which we wrote about today in this S-R story, are getting a lot of practice time. Whether the special teams will excel, that's hard to tell because there is no way to measure their progress until the real games start. But besides the yet-to-be-tested specialists, the group as whole seems to be benefiting from the increased depth throughout the team. ... As for links, we don't have any more WSU ones we could find today.
• Around the Pac-12: The two newest members of the conference are quite a bit different. ... Washington: The Huskies scrimmaged Saturday and coach Steve Sarkisian wasn't all that happy. ... They certainly aren't the 1991 team as of yet. ... Oregon State: The third-string QB plays the No. 1 role at practice. ... Oregon: The big news out of Eugene was of a player not there, Lache Seastrunk. The guy at the heart of the Willie Lyles situation has decided to transfer, which means the Oregon fans have turned on him. ... California: We have a basketball story for the Bears. ... Stanford: The running game is deep. ... Colorado: The Buffs' quarterback is finally comfortable. ... Utah: With Jordan Wynn in charge, the Utes offense shined. ... Dale Murphy's son is the Utes tight end. ... USC: A little late on this, but the Trojans' basketball team suffered a big loss on their foreign tour. ... UCLA: The Bruins played it close to the vest Saturday. ... Arizona State: Brock Osweiler seems to be in total control while running the Sun Devils offense. ... Arizona: A freshman running back can't be hidden anymore.
• That's all for this morning. We'll be back as events warrant. Until then ...