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Optimism reigns on the first day

A GRIP ON SPORTS

As Washington State begins its 2013 football season with training camp, I'm sure there is a lot of traffic on the Internet concerning the site for the first 10 days of practice: A middle school in Lewiston. Huskies, Ducks, Beavers and other assorted Pac-12 alums must be having fun with that. But Mike Leach doesn't care. Read on.


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• One thing I've learned in the past 20 months. Mike Leach doesn't give a rat's behind about what others think of his program. It's his way or hit U.S. Highway 195. Comments about the Cougars? No big deal. Heck, he'll use terms like zombies to describe his players, so what can anyone else say that will bother him? It's an endearing quality for Cougar Nation. For now. We're still in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Year two. Optimism still reigns (and we'll get back to that soon). If past history is any judge, that glow will last much of this year, even if the Cougars fail to win more than a handful of games. Leach's track record coupled with recent past failures within the program should serve to deflect criticism for the next 12 games or so. But thoughts like that are for down the road. As camp began yesterday in Lewiston, the focus was on the positive, as it is every year. Heck, the Cougars could win the Pac-12 … well, that's probably too optimistic for even folks wearing Crimson-colored glasses. But WSU could go bowling this season if everything breaks right. At least that's how just about every Coug fan sees it this morning. Last week I asked a poll question on where readers felt the Cougars would finish in the Pac-12 North. Remember, the division contains the No. 3 (Oregon) and No. 4 (Stanford) teams in the nation, along with seemingly rebuilt Washington and usually tough Oregon State. Then there is California, under new management but a program that has had WSU's number the past few years. Still, a plurality of those answering the question – more than one-third – had WSU finishing fourth, two spots above the media poll. But what really shocked me is almost a quarter of the respondents thought Washington State would finish in the top three. Really? That's a little more optimistic than I expected. I was thinking about 10 percent would see this as a season for the ages. After all, to finish in the top three, the Cougars would probably have to win six of their nine conference games. Being that they are playing Oregon on the road and Stanford in Seattle, even the most die-hard fan would have to see those as pretty certain defeats. An upset in either game would, from this vantage point, rank right up there with the most unexpected in school history. Which means WSU would either have to win three of four at USC, California, Arizona and Washington plus be perfect at home to finish 6-3. That seems like a pretty tough task for Leach's team considering the holes that must be filled on both sides of the ball. But then again, it's not as if the coach or his players really care what we – or anyone for that matter – think. 

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• WSU: Christian Caple was in Lewiston yesterday for the first day of camp and filed more words than there have been Cougar games over the years. Not only did he have a story in today's S-R, he also filled up the blog with video from the practice, a lengthy summary of what went on and quotes from Leach afterward. He also has a blog post this morning. … It's Saturday so we can pass along ESPN.com's mailbag. … Norm Chow has fired his offensive coordinator at Hawaii, a guy with a pretty familiar name.

• Preps: Former Central Valley High kicker Mike Hollis, who also kicked at Idaho and in the NFL for years, is back in town for a camp. Greg Lee caught up with him and filed this story.

• Indians: It was wet at Avista Stadium last night, what with all the rain Friday, but it didn't seem to slow the Salem-Keiser offense. The Volcanoes got past the Indians 5-2. Chris Derrick has the game story and a blog post.

• Mariners: The road trip to Boston and Baltimore is lining up to be the M's death knoll on the season. They lost for the fourth consecutive time on the trip last night as Aaron Harang and Brandon Maurer were belted around in an 11-8 defeat. … Tom Wilhelmsen (pictured) is out as the M's closer once again, even though he didn't appear in that role in Thursday's meltdown, coming in with no save on the line. … If it isn't the offense letting down Felix Hernandez, it's the bullpen.

• Sounders: We're not going to get too excited just yet, but if ESPN is reporting it, it has to be official, right? Uh, no. But still, the worldwide leader reported yesterday Clint Dempsey (pictured), the best midfielder to ever wear a U.S. jersey, is headed to Seattle in an expensive blockbuster transfer. If it turns out to be true, it shows two things: The Sounders want to win and they are willing to spend money to make that happen. Kind of refreshing in Seattle, isn't it? … There is still today's game with Dallas to focus on. A win or tie would give the Sounders a franchise record.

• Seahawks: Sidney Rice's long-haul for medical treatment knocked Percy Harvin off the front pages today. … The defense dominated a sloppy offense in a scrimmage Friday. … The Hawks keeps adding players as they try to fill holes in the roster. … Leroy Hill got some good news yesterday.

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• Back in my old stomping grounds of Pullman today for a friend's wedding. Still trying to decide if I have to wear a tie. I'm thinking yes. Kim votes no. I think I will win this one. After all, if I'm over dressed, I can always take it off. Until later …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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