PULLMAN – If spring is the season of new, the first day of Washington State University spring football fit right in.
New faces. New paces. New muscle. New hustle.
“We were in good enough shape to run around and practice throughout the whole practice at a good enough tempo,” said WSU coach Paul Wulff after the Cougars’ 2-hour, 30-minute workout under cloudy skies on Rogers Field. “Obviously, when you’re teaching a lot of these guys a second time, it’s a lot easier … and things are a lot more crisp and it clicks a lot quicker.”
The Cougars began their journey back from a 1-11 season with 33 players who started at least one game last season, but it was three new faces that garnered the most attention.
Offensive linemen Wade Jacobson and David Gonzalez, both of whom played in the California junior college ranks last season, and defensive lineman Brandon Rankin, one year removed from the same system, showed flashes of why the Cougars’ staff is so high on them.
But every bit of Thursday’s practice in helmets, shirts and shorts was new to them.
“It was faster than what I was thinking, but I’m getting back into the hang of,” said the 6-foot-5, 271-pound Rankin, who sat out last season getting his academics in order. “The practice tempo, everything is just a little quicker than junior college.
“(The players) are about the same size, a little bit stronger,” he added after scrimmage situations at end – his JC position – and tackle. “I’m going to need to gain some weight since I’m playing some tackle now.”
The tempo was also new to right tackle Gonzalez (6-6, 281) and left tackle Jacobson (6-6, 307), though Jacobson, who played at Gavilan CC, expressed his infatuation.
“I loved it,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow. “There’s no slacking off, there’s no nothing. Everything’s at full speed. They say we’re going helmets and that’s it. And yet everyone is still playing like there are shoulder pads on.”
“It’s game tempo all the time,” Gonzalez said. “It’s full speed every down. Every time you put your hand on the ground, you’re going at it with somebody.”
Rankin showed an explosion off the ball that was missing up front the past two years, getting into gaps and disrupting the offensive flow. Jacobson brought a cowboy mentality to the offensive line, mixing it up with redshirt freshman defensive end Jordan Pu’u Robinson on three different occasions.
“It’s just the way I was brought up, living on a ranch,” Jacobson said, smiling. “My old high school had a lot of military around and we had fights all the time.”
Wulff, who spent the first day split between offense, defense and the many special team sessions, was not displeased with his first impressions.
“The little we got to watch, they definitely fit right in,” he said. “There’s no question with more practice time, between now and the season, they have a great opportunity to make a difference for this football team.”