A GRIP ON SPORTS
We have a goal with this feature every morning. We want it on the web by 9 a.m. But about eight, nine hours ago, we weren't even sure we would have it all this morning. Not with the way we were feeling. But like the mailman, the show must go on (mixed metaphors are useful on a snowy day and, yes, it is snowing here in Spokane and in most of the rest of the area), so here it is. Read on.
• After traveling down to Pullman yesterday to do some interviews, talk to a Washington State sports management and communications class and watch a bit of spring football practice, we headed back up U.S. Highway 195, reveling in the sunshine and warmth. Before we left Pullman, however, we stopped at one of the famous food joints (it shall remain nameless) for a bite of the town's culinary culture. It might have been a mistake. At least it seemed like it around midnight when we awoke with flu-like symptoms (other to say that we also were sweating and shivering, we'll leave it at that). For the next few hours we were unable to sleep, finally crashing early in the morning. Getting up and writing this post was the furthest thing from my mind. But like Jeff Tuel against Idaho State, after a lot of fluids and a few hours of bed rest, we have arisen and are able to get some words down on the computer. I hope I don't suffer a season-ending injury while doing it.
• A lot has been coming out of Pullman concerning the new regime and how practice is run and yes, there are changes. There is no longer a clock that counts down the time left in each session. The clock is now in Mike Leach's head and he decides when each section of practice is over, relaying that information to the person who sets off the air horn. And there is more sprinting, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But other than that – and the hulking shadow of the new Martin Stadium premium seating building – the practice seemed pretty familiar to me. Sure, the faces among the coaches have changed, their emphasis is different and there have been tweaks to the drills (for example, there is a lot more passing drills taking place on the offensive side), but it is spring football and the players who are on the practice field are, for the most part, the same ones who were there last fall. Jeff Tuel may have thinned a bit in the lower body (all the running?) but he still delivers a nice ball to the receivers. The offensive and defensive lines are still a work in progress (just like last year) and still lack athletic depth. There are still a handful of players riding exercise bikes or doing drills on the side, trying to rehabilitate injuries. And there still is a strong group of receivers who are going to be a bit (I was going to use a one-word term here but decided it might get me in trouble) tough to cover this season, especially running Leach's scheme. Come fall, when the new players are mixed in – believe me, a lot of them will have to play – then things might take on a markedly different look. But for now, despite the dark screen around the practice field, the sights are remarkably similar. Except for a couple things. The guy wearing 17 on defense and the one in 84 on offense are jarring. No more Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Jared Karstetter, two guys who stood out the past few years.
• Washington State: Chatted with Christian Caple for quite a while yesterday and tried to take credit for the nice weather. No one was buying it. However, I do want to point out, it was in the mid-60s yesterday – when I was there – and in the low 30s today – when I am not. Just saying. … Christian had his practice report up yesterday evening and follows that with his morning post and a story on kicker Mike Bowlin, who took a roundabout journey to Pullman. … Christian will have a live chat today at noon, so ask him as many questions as you can possibly think of. … Texas authorities have questions for Ryan Leaf. … Which Washington State player has the biggest shoes to fill?
• Gonzaga: The baseball team hosted WSU last night – remember, that was our one day of spring – and won, 9-3. … The Gonzaga women will have a lot of questions heading into next season, as Jessica Brown writes, but that's nothing new. … Thinking about next basketball season already? Jon Wilner has his first top 25 and the Gonzaga men are in it.
• Eastern Washington: The Eagles kicked off spring football yesterday and Jim Allen was there. He filed this story and added this blog post with news about another coaching hire. … As expected, Weber State's Damian Lilliard is leaving for the NBA with a year of eligibility remaining.
• Chiefs: John Blanchette talked with Spokane goalie Eric Williams for this column. Williams was in the net for the Chiefs four wins over Vancouver.
• Shock: Spokane made it official yesterday, signing quarterback Kyle Rowley for the third time.
• Preps: Soccer is tough to play when the fields are under water, but area teams have been finding a way. Jim has the story in his weekly notebook. Water wings for the forwards? … With the nice weather, Gonzaga Prep hosted Ferris in a baseball doubleheader. The Pups won both well-pitched games. Mike Vlahovich has the coverage.
• Mariners: There is always on-the-field news this time of year as the M's played their penultimate spring training game with the Rockies, losing 9-8 as they made five errors. None of those errors, however, were as big as the one the organization made recently when it sent a letter to interested parties basically saying another sports facility in the Sodo area would be a mistake. Geoff Baker has some thoughts on why the organization took such a short-sighted view and risked the wrath of the Seattle sports fan. … The M's made a roster change yesterday but still have more to make before re-starting the season Friday. … Carlos Peguero has been given another shot. … Today is the perfect day to read this book.
• Seahawks: OK, the Seahawks and Nike combined to give Seattle the only truly new look uniform as the apparel giant takes over the NFL. We get that. We also understand why it's big news. But what we don't understand is why it overshadows the news David Hawthorne is leaving the Hawks for New Orleans. It's David Hawthorne man. He's huge.
• Yes, it's opening day in major league baseball. It's snowing here. Seems a bit incongruous. Until later …