PULLMAN – Of course, there are the Cougars you’ve heard of: Gary Rogers, Brandon Gibson, A’i Ahmu, Dwight Tardy and Cory Evans. But there are new guys on this spring’s Washington State football roster.
And Washington State’s new football coaching staff knows as much about the veterans as they do the rookies.
“Everybody has a fresh new start,” said Myron Beck, a new defensive back who transferred from Glendale (Ariz.) College. “I believe that that was a lot of help for me, coming in as a new guy. The coaches don’t have their favorite guys.”
The redshirt sophomore is competing for a starting slot, just like everyone else on the football team this spring. The only difference is he’s a new face, trying to earn everyone’s respect at the same time.
He’s already on the way to earning respect from his coaches. Secondary coach Chris Ball said Beck is “doing really well” and is in the mix – like most of the Cougars – for the starting slot at his position.
“I didn’t know hardly anything about any of these kids, and he has really worked hard,” Ball said of Beck. “He cares, he’s passionate about football, he’s thrilled to death about being here.”
Beck is one of two transfers about whom head coach Paul Wulff is excited. The other is defensive back Easton Johnson, now out with a stress fracture in his forearm, who Wulff said is “excellent.”
Johnson and Beck turned heads during winter conditioning, and continue to do so during spring practice. That’s a good thing on a team that has little depth at many positions.
“The one thing we have right now on this football team is opportunity for a lot of players out there,” Wulff said. “There are a lot of open positions, and those guys are taking advantage of that. They’ve both done a nice job working hard, and every day they’re getting a little bit better.
“And ultimately those two guys are going to help this football team.”
Then there’s walk-on Patrick Rooney, known to some of the Cougars at practice Tuesday simply as No. 99. The transfer from El Camino College in El Segundo, Calif., tried out for the kicker position last year, and made the team this year, special teams coach Steve Broussard said.
In the final few minutes of practice, it was time for the kickers to show their stuff to the rest of the Cougars.
When Rooney split the uprights from about 40 yards back, he earned some accolades from his new teammates.
“Nice goin’, Gretzky!” one player shouted.
Rooney has a strong leg and his kicks have good height, Broussard said. All three of the kickers – Rooney, Wade Penner and Matt Myers – are showing progress, he said. Occasionally, backup quarterback Dan Wagner has tried out his leg.
“We’re going to have our hands full as far as making a decision what to do with all those guys,” Broussard said.
Meanwhile, Broussard is running out of running backs. Tardy is out with a knee injury, but will be next season’s starter if he’s healthy. Christopher Ivory had a rushing TD at Friday’s scrimmage, but didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday so he can focus on academics.
Logwone Mitz hurt his toe during the scrimmage after his 46-yard touchdown run, and Marcus Richmond has a hamstring injury.
“We’re kind of slim right now. We gotta work with what we got,” Broussard said. “You’d like to have a little bit better rotation.”
The Cougars are halfway through what Wulff has said is their most important week of practice, and they have five more practices before the Crimson and Gray game April 12.
Redshirt junior quarterback Kevin Lopina took the second-most snaps behind expected starter Rogers. But asked whether Lopina was shaping up to be the Cougars’ No. 2 quarterback, Wulff said the coaches still are not thinking in terms of starters and non-starters. … Romeo Pellum, a sophomore, had a high-profile day at practice, returning punts, breaking up a pass and snagging an interception. … Newcomer J.T. Levenseller, a gray-shirt QB (and also wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller’s son), is coming along “OK,” according to Wulff.