PULLMAN – It ain’t over yet. No, not even when Washington State spring football practice ends next week. The Cougars will need to keep practicing on their own.
At least the coaches hope they will.
“We’re not in a position to not do everything we need to do to better ourselves,” WSU head coach Paul Wulff said. “We’re not good enough yet, we’re not talented enough yet to take any shortcuts.”
But the coaches can’t – per NCAA regulations – require or even encourage the Cougars to practice on their own this summer, assistant head coach Chris Ball said. It’s something the athletes have to do on their own.
That is up in the air.
“I think it’s in the cards,” Wulff said. “We can talk it, but talk’s cheap. Whether they do it is the other thing. I believe that they can do it. I believe there’s enough leadership on this football team for them to do what’s right.”
But why is it so important?
The Cougars have 15 practices this spring – 11 of which are already over – to get used to eight new coaches, fill positions vacated by last season’s seniors, learn a new offensive strategy, learn a new defensive strategy, master new plays, adopt a new playing pace and get used to a new starting quarterback.
Sound impossible with just four practices left this spring and a couple of dozen in the fall?
It just might be, and that’s why the coaches want the Cougars to take the initiative this summer and practice.
“They need to dedicate themselves, to be as big and strong as they possibly can, and they need to work on the football side of things,” Wulff said. “It’s a commitment to doing it four or five times a week.”
The coaches, except for strength trainers, can’t work with the players until practice starts in August, Ball said. So the players have to organize their own practices and do their own drills.
“They’ve worked hard up until now. It would be a shame to shut her down until August,” Ball said about practice. “Every great team does it, and every great team needs it. I mean, it’s just part of the summer workouts.”
It’s even more important because of how many players have been sidelined this spring with injuries, Wulff said.
On Thursday, 15 players watched their teammates run through drills.
Four of them were running backs, an especially thin position this spring.
“It’s tough to improve as fast we want to when we’re missing a lot of players,” Wulff said. “I mean, there’s a lot of players hurt, players not practicing. It’s kind of not allowing us to grow as fast as we’d like to grow right now.
“But there are parts that are definitely getting back together. We just have not pulled them all together yet as a unit, on either side of the ball, to truly function at the level we’re going to need to.”
So, even if the players take it upon themselves to practice this summer, will the Cougars be ready to play once August rolls around?
“We’ll find out,” Wulff laughed. “I think there’s enough time. I really think – if these guys do it right – I really think we could be a good football team. I really do. A very competitive team.”