Coug football gets Florida infusion
Spring football practice starts Monday with three Florida high school seniors getting head start
PULLMAN – Spring is the season of new.
So is spring football.
Washington State holds the first of its 15 spring practices Monday afternoon on Rogers Field with two new assistant coaches, returning players sporting new muscles, a trio of junior college transfers and, for the first time, three high school seniors.
It’s not a new phenomenon, high school seniors graduating early and hightailing to the college in time for a semester of class work and spring football. But it is new for Washington State.
When Florida imports Henry Eaddy, Isiah Myers and Darryl Monroe take the practice field, they will hold the distinction of being WSU’s first early arriving prep players.
“It just seems like everybody wants to speed everything up nowadays,” said coach Paul Wulff, who expressed some ambivalence about the practice.
However, he understands and accepts the change. With some caveats.
“The ones who are mature enough to have their grades in order and can truly graduate by December of their senior year, that shows a certain level of maturity,” Wulff said. “If they want to do that, I’m in favor of it, because, as a coach, we want them here through spring ball, absolutely.
“But I would never push for a kid to do it. It has to be 100 percent their want-to.”
Such was the case here. For the trio, it was a decision made long ago.
“I basically just said my junior year was my senior year,” said the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Eaddy, a wide receiver. “This is one of the dreams I’ve had since I was a little kid, to play college football.
“If it’s a dream, then why not pursue it? You can get that headstart and have a better opportunity.”
“Nowadays if you can go early, you go early,” echoed Myers, Eaddy’s high school teammate at Orlando’s Olympia High and a 6-foot, 170-pound receiver. “Everybody wants to get a head start, get ahead of the (other) incoming freshmen.
“Everybody’s doing it.”
If WSU was going to catch up to 21st Century enrollment practices, it’s no surprise it is with three kids from Florida, heart of Southeastern Conference country. The conference may not have invented the process, but future Heisman winner Tim Tebow’s early entrance to Florida in 2006 really put the practice on the front-burner.
“The South is much more into this,” Wulff said. “They start them young, that’s part of it.”
The three new Cougars attended two high schools – Monroe (6-1, 215) was the middle linebacker for state big-school runner-up Dr. Phillips in Orlando – but played on a 7-on-7 team together in the summer, along with Apopka High’s Spencer Waseem, who will enroll in the fall.
Having a support group in place has helped the three get through the cold Pullman winter – none had ever seen it snow before – and the lack of their favorite food.
“Nice fried chicken,” Eaddy said.
“I knew that was coming,” Myers said, laughing.
But still, they have each other.
“You don’t feel so alone when you come,” Monroe said. “It’s like a piece from back home came with you.”
Now the three will spread out on the field and try to earn playing time in the fall. The chance to play right away was a big card played by defensive coordinator Chris Ball, a former Alabama assistant, when he came recruiting last year.
“Coach Ball was a big part of me being here,” Monroe said. “I kind of bit what he was selling. After I came on my two visits it was hard not to believe what he was selling.”
And the distance didn’t hurt either.
“I actually like how far away it was,” Myers said. “I didn’t want to stay too close to Florida because I wanted to explore. Being on the other side of the country was a plus.”
However, the Cougars’ 2-10 record last season did cause some second thoughts.
“I really didn’t think too much about it, then my dad brought it up to me,” said Monroe, whose high school team won 14 times last year before losing the state title game. “Every team I played for we had winning seasons. He asked me how I was going to be able to adjust if we have a losing season because I am so competitive.
“I just put that behind me. Not every kid gets a chance to play Division I college football, Pac-12 football. I thought if I’m that competitive, then we just have to make a turnaround.”
On Monday, the three will get a chance to help start that. Five months before their freshman classmates.
Which also means missing some things like the prom, graduation, the senior all-nighter. And the girl left behind.
“I have a girlfriend,” Eaddy said. “She understands.”
“Obviously, she’s mad about the situation, but we’ll work through it,” he said.