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There was a time when the Texas coaches thought Connor Brewer could carry the Longhorn's weighty legacy. That the high school All-American had the talent and poise to start at quarterback for one of the country's most prestigious programs. So too, the LSU coaches once thought Jerrard Randall could steer the Tigers in their ongoing quest for national championships, or at least contribute as a wide receiver.
As a fresh-faced high school graduate Jesse Scroggins took his quarterbacking talents to USC, dreaming of ruling the west coast at a school where seemingly every starter is an automatic NFL draftee.
Rocky starts deferred those dreams of glory for all three signal callers, and each made their way to the University of Arizona to play for Rich Rodriguez. One of the talent quarterbacks will emerge as the starter, unless of course redshirt freshman Anu Solomon wins the job as the only quarterback on the Wildcats roster who signed with UA out of high school.
At media days Rodriguez refused to hint who was ahead in the quarterback competition, which he said could continue even past the first game of the season.
We'll take a look at the rest of the Wildcats after the jump.
The Washington State football team didn't just get a football operations building out of all that construction going on by Rogers Field last year. The Cougars also found a new August home in Lewiston, Idaho. Because WSU's practice fields were temporarily unavailable the Cougars spent part of fall camp at Sacajawea Middle School and the coaches liked the experience so much they'll be there even longer this season, from Aug. 2-13, before returning to Pullman to get ready for the season-opener against Rutgers.
Last year the Cougars went 6-7 and played in their first bowl game since 2003.
Washington State also appears to have found their kicker of the future in Petaluma, California's Matt Abramo, who announced his intentions to become a Cougar last night. Abrama told Britton Ransford of WazzuWatch.com (pay article) that he also holds scholarship offers from Air Force and San Jose State, and says he can punt if needed.
If that's not enough WSU news from yesterday for you, how about this? Pullman finally got another Taco Bell yesterday, and she's a beaut.
And on the 8th day God created the Pullman Taco Bell, and it was good. pic.twitter.com/4g9H5pGyT1— Scott Niebuhr (@NiebuhrFever) July 25, 2014
Merrily, the 2013 Cougars rolled through their first four games, emerging from the season's first chunk of games 3-1 with a surprising win over. Mike Leach's offense had started to match the hype, putting up 90 points in wins over Southern Utah and Idaho after some early hiccups.
But Washington State fans expected to score points – Leach had had been received in Pullman as an offensive rainmaker, and not a cheap one. The welcome surprise was the Cougars defense that had given up just 17 total points in the previous three games, including a single touchdown on the road at No. 25 USC.
The WSU Football team was rolling, on a three-game winning streak and with one of its tougher conference games already happily in the rearview mirror. Not even running into the wall of muscle and discipline that is the Stanford football team could put a damper Cougar fans' spirits, or so they thought.
Washington State football coach Mike Leach likes to exercise. He walks to work every day, and can often be spotted on one of his various constitutionals around Pullman.
So it makes sense why he spends his downtime in the offseason in Florida's Key West. Not only can he bike wherever he pleases, but with a dress code is apparently a little looser than that of a starched-collar town like Pullman, it's easy to show off the results of that hard work.
Dominic Davis wasn't the only recruit to declare his intentions to play in the crimson and gray yesterday. According to Britton Ransford of Wazzuwatch.com, 6-foot-6, 307 pound offensive lineman Cedric Bigge-Duren also plans to play his college ball at Washington State.
Despite his size, Bigge-Duren appears to be flying a bit under the radar. Unrated by Rivals.com and ESPN, the Oceanside, California lineman says he was offered scholarships by Nevada and San Jose State in addition to WSU. He'll be the second Oceanside High product on the Cougars offensive line, joining redshirt sophomore Eduardo Middleton.
From Hollywood — Bronzed from the sun and with A-list actors and actresses (depending on your preference) hanging from both arms, the Pac-12 media members emerged victorious from the first of the Pac-12's twain media days armed with a season's worth of sumptuous story lines and juicy anecdotes.
OK, so most of us are simply hot, whiny and secure in the knowledge that this was not the first college football offseason ever in which the players shrank. But there were some good stories to come out of Wednesday's session and I've collected a number of them here, starting with my own, after the jump.
The Pac-12 is holding its annual gathering of coaches, players and reporters tomorrow and Thursday. Media Day (or Media Days, in this case) is a nice chance of us reporters to speak with coaches and players from different schools and send back a few stories and notebooks for you all to peruse.
More importantly, however, it signals the end of the offseason. You will start to see a lot more Washington State football news around here, and not all of it recruiting. We'll get back in the swing of things with our morning links, and keep an eye out for some live chats.
While the offseason was slow, there were some NCAA and WSU developments that will have an impact on the upcoming months. In case you have been hibernating since the end of last football season and are just now leaving your man, woman or bear-cave, follow the jump to see what you missed.
Will Stanford's reign of terror ever end? It was one thing when you could count on cutting down the Tree's football team every year. Then it didn't matter that the fans in Palo Alto drove the nicest cars, had the best jobs, won nearly every Olympic sport and had a beautiful campus, to boot. Their football team sucked. John Elway never played in a bowl game.
But the Cardinal just played in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Losing one of the NFL's best coaches, Jim Harbaugh, and one of its best young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, barely registered.
Stanford is now one of the elite teams in college football, competes for a championship every season, and shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, they lost some notable players this offseason, including defensive stalwarts such as Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner and Ed Reynolds. The offense took some hits, too, losing leading rusher Tyler Gaffney and All-American guard David Yankey.
But Stanford has proved it can handle losses in the past, and has enough sustained football success that it can use it can recruit against anyone in the country. And while its academic standards give it a limited pool of talent from which to choose, the players who can get into Stanford are the most likely to value its reputation.
Follow the jump for our 2014 Stanford preview.
Washington State QB Tyler Bruggman is transferring out of the program, a source tells @WazzuWatch.— Britton Ransford (@bkransford) July 13, 2014
Tyler Bruggman has become the second quarterback to transfer from the Washington State football program this offseason, according to a report on Twitter from WazzuWatch.com's Britton Ransford. I have not yet confirmed the report. Bruggman was the first major quarterback signed by coach Mike Leach at WSU, and it was widely assumed that he would take over as the starter when Connor Halliday graduates.
Even the transfer of backup quarterback Austin Apodaca was supposed to break up the logjam at quarterback and pave the way for Bruggman to back up Halliday next season. But Bruggman did not look ready this spring and former walk-on Luke Falk played well enough to at least create a controversy if not take the No. 2 spot outright. Both Bruggman and Falk redshirted as freshmen last season.
If Bruggman is indeed leaving the program it leaves he Cougars membrane-thin behind Halliday, a fifth-year senior, with just Falk and incoming freshman Peyton Bender as scholarship quarterbacks.
(Sorry today's installment is a little late in the day. I'm out of town and don't always have the best internet access. – Jacob)
There is something pure about a 0-12 record in college football. Well, purely pathetic. There are so many opportunities for a major college team to pick up a win or two over glorified NAIA teams that most of the worst teams skate by and are merely remembered as appallingly bad, if they are remembered at all.
But to reach true infamy, a team needs to catch all the bad breaks. Key players need to be injured, questionable flags need to be thrown, a schedule can't have any games that are too easy and at the end of it the coach probably wishes he could have a few calls back.
Achieving an “imperfect season” puts a major conference team in rarified air, truly. Recently, it probably means you're the Duke Blue Devils, a program that managed to do it in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2006. Prior to that, South Carolina pulled it off in 1999, Illinois went winless in 1997 and Kansas State didn't win a game in 1987 or '88.
Don't forget – as if any of you could – that the purple people eaters from the wet side of the state had 12 long bus rides home in 2008.
So when looking ahead to Washington State's game against California next season, remember that the Golden Bears were just a 37-30 home victory over Portland State from entering the Pantheon of Pitiful.
Follow the jump for our Cal preview.
D.J. Shelton's willingness to rebound and ability to hit the occasional 3-pointer made him a valuable player for Washington State during his three years in Pullman. While the Cougars did not find much success while Shelton was in school, he still has a chance to be remembered among a select group of former players who found success in the pros.
While Shelton went unselected in last week's NBA draft, he will have a shot to impress professional teams while playing for Atlanta in the NBA summer league. The league's regular season runs from July 11-15 with playoffs running from July 16-21. If you have NBA TV, or sign up here for $15, you can likely watch Shelton play alongside fellow Atlanta rookie Adreian Payne, who the Hawks made the 15th pick in the draft after watching him score 41 points against Delaware in Spokane.
In other WSU news …
— CBS takes a look at which Cougars have NFL prospects.
— Deone Bucannon is already impressing in Arizona.
— SLAM magazine has a profile of incoming WSU basketball player Trevor Dunbar.
— The ESPN Pac-12 blog has a Q&A with special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Russell.
Adam Gorney reported on Twitter that Darrien Molton, a cornerback from Temecula, California has decided to play football at Washington State. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound cornerback plays for Chapparal High. Rivals.com rates him as a three-star cornerback and he claims scholarship offers from California, Colorado, Duke and Utah.
Below is a video of Molton's defensive highlights.
Monday fast forward: Utah
In Mike Leach's two full seasons as the Washington State football coach, no Pac-12 opponent has been as consistently memorable as Utah. In Leach's first season the Cougars were embarrassed 49-6 in Rice-Eccles Stadium, the sixth loss in an eventual eight-game losing streak. Leach was so unhappy with the Cougars' effort in the game that he made the unusual move of sending the entire offensive and defensive lines to speak to the media as units after the game.
The postgame setting following last year's win over the Utes in Pullman could not have provided a starker juxtaposition as fans stormed the field when the Cougars attained bowl eligibility for the first time since 2006.
In Leach's third year the Utah game likely won't have such an immediate reaction due to it being just the fifth game of the season, but it is a winnable game on the road against a well-coached opponent and should prove to be very important in the long term.
Well. I've committed to play for the cougars. #Wazzu— Jeff Pollard (@jpollard43) June 26, 2014
Ernie Kent has yet to coach a basketball game for Washington State but he's already made headway among recruits who won't be on campus until the season after next, receiving a verbal commitment from forward Jeff Pollard, a member of the class of 2015 who announced his decision with the above tweet.
Braulio Perez of Cougfan.com spoke with Pollard ($), and the 6-8, 215 pound forward from Bountiful, Utah seems to value defense, telling Perez that it is the strongest part of his game. Southern Utah had reportedly also offered Pollard a scholarship and he told Perez that he was also being recruit by Weber State and the University of Portland.
(Our series previewing the 2014 WSU football schedule continues with Oregon)
A game against Oregon, the fastest, most efficient bully in college football, can quickly get out of hand. Washington State learned that last year when a commendable 34-24 halftime deficit turned into a 24-point blowout in less than six minutes. The Cougars scored the game's final two touchdowns in the 62-38 loss, which really upset UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti for about a day.
Still, it would be a mistake to write-off the Cougars in their Pac-12 opener against the Ducks. For some reason, UO has had some motivation problems lately and struggles to give its best in games that are not being played on the biggest of stages.
Its Rose Bowl hopes were dashed last season after a pretty pedestrian Arizona team dominated the Ducks offensively and defensively. They lost 42-16! So there really is no reason WSU – or anyone else – should feel like they can't beat the Ducks at home. Because for whatever reason the Pac-12's best team just can't always seem to stay focused.
Follow the jump for the rest of our look at WSU's fourth opponent.
“Do not pay attention to recruiting, for that way madness lies.” Williams Shakespeare spoke those words, or ought to have, anyways, because the twists and turns involved with populating a college football roster are enough to drive Poor Tom sane. Britton Ransford of WazzuWatch.com reported ($) last night that Chandler Leniu is headed to Pullman to enroll at Washington State. Leniu had declared his intentions to join the Cougars last year but ended up signing a letter of intent with California.
Bruce Feldman confirmed Ransford's report and added that Leniu will be eligible to play immediately, if that's what the WSU coaches want. Leniu appears to be around 6-foot, 220 pounds or so and is expected to play linebacker at WSU. He was pretty highly regarded out of high school, in fact he's WSU's best recruit in the 2014 class according to the recruiting sites.
Where to start with this one? When Washington State upended USC a week before the Southern Utah game, it effectively guaranteed a 3-1 start to the season. Following tough road games at Auburn and USC, the Cougars finished out the first third of their schedule with gimmes against Southern Utah and Idaho.
The Cougars were expected to win this one, their home opener, and win big. So they did, pretty easily. The offense piled up some impressive statistics, but it was the defense that turned some heads, allowing just one touchdown for the second consecutive week.
Follow the jump to find out what happened.
Washington State linebacker Ivan McLennan was arrested on Sunday for unlawful handling of weapons capable of producing bodily harm after pointing a nonlethal Airsoft pellet gun at a student.
We have more information on his arrest after the jump.
Many fans agree that in today's college football world that the “A-B-C” tiered method is the best way to handle the out of conference schedule. The idea is that a team should schedule one “A” game against a marquee opponent, preferably one it can beat but enough of a challenge to give the fans a memorable win over a respected team they rarely get to see.
The “B” team should be winnable – two losses out of conference is a pretty bad start to the season – but interesting enough to make season tickets a little more enticing. A “C” is a body bag game — some small school gets a large down payment for its season expenses in exchange for getting butchered by a bigger school that gets to let its backups shine for one game.
While its debatable which team is the “A” and which is the “B” in Washington State's 2014 schedule – Nevada and Rutgers are honestly both B's – there is no question that Portland State is the “C.”
Yes, teams like Appalachian State and Eastern Washington have beaten bigger, badder schools recently, but those schools were among the best in the FCS and had some legitimate NFL talent fall into their laps. Even then, they needed almost everything to break their way to pull off the upsets.
Sure, if the Cougars come out half asleep and completely dismissive of their opponent than the Vikings might get in the end zone a few too many times for comfort.
But don't stress, WSU will win this game.
Follow the jump for more on WSU's third opponent.
Photo courtesy of Washington State Athletics
Washington State finally announced that new FieldTurf will be installed at Martin Stadium, including crimson end zones that some fans have been hoping for. The school also released the above image of what the field is expected to look like when it is completed in late July.
“What began in 2011 with the construction of the premium seating addition at Martin Stadium, to the recently completed Cougar Football Complex, the football facilities at Washington State University have experienced a major facelift,” athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. “The final touches to this three-year transformation are new playing surfaces on both Martin Stadium and the Rogers Practice Field, which is now in full swing.”
Moos has previously hinted that any unused funds from the Football Operations Building project would be put toward aesthetic upgrades to Martin Stadium. In the press release it sounds like they have enough money left over to make a couple other changes, although it remains to be seen what those are.
“With the new FieldTurf installed, and some additional cosmetic improvements, alumni, fans, recruits, coaches and student-athletes will be watching and playing college football in a first class venue in one of the most unique settings in the country.”
The presidents and chancellors from Pac-12 schools have concluded their summer meetings and released a statement today emphasizing their push for NCAA reforms, which they outlined in this earlier letter, expanded the Student-Athlete Health Initiative and announced an 11 a.m. television window for the Pac-12 Networks.
The press release from the Pac-12 is after the jump.
It was the first game of Washington State's best season in a decade, it was nearly the Cougars' most improbable upset, in hindsight, in at least that long. Auburn played in the BCS championship game last season, but its breathtaking run was almost undone from the start at home by an upstart team from the country's northwestern corner.
The muggy affair was a game of superlatives. Jeremiah Laufasa – since transferred to UTEP for want of a scholarship – scored two touchdowns. Auburn's Corey Grant rushed for 146 yards – twice as much as teammate Tre Mason, who was drafted 75th overall in the NFL draft.
Instead, Mason's impact was felt on a 100-yard second quarter kickoff return for a touchdown.
The WSU defense held Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall to 99 passing yards and just 10 completions in 19 attempts. Cougar counterpart Connor Halliday said afterward that, “If (Auburn) had a quarterback they'd be a top five team. They just don't have a guy that can throw it.”
They were bold words coming from Halliday, who threw three interceptions in the 31-24 loss, but they were prescient. Marshall was better after that first game and Auburn finished second in the AP rankings after a close loss to Florida State in the last championship game of the BCS era.
Follow the jump for more on WSU's 2013 season opener.
All-American, first round NFL draft pick, now Deone Bucannon is also a multi-millionaire after signing a four-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals that is worth $7,709,200 according to Ross Jones of FOX Sports. Nearly all of it, $6,237,946, is guaranteed.
Bucannon became the first player out of Washington State to be drafted in the NFL draft's first round in a decade when Arizona took him with the 27th overall pick. He was a four-year starter for the Cougars, leading the team in tackles and interceptions his senior year as WSU made its first bowl game since 2003.
(The young WSU offensive line will have a tough first test to stop Darius Hamilton. Photo: Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
We have not yet entered the dog days of summer but we're getting close with only a few Washington State athletes competing in the last remaining NCAA championships. To stave off the summer boredom – and supplement the yeoman's work Vince is doing to find something worth writing about every day – I'm going to start some new series on the blog to prepare for the upcoming football season.
We'll begin today with a Monday Preview, a weekly series of previews of WSU's upcoming opponents in the 2014 football season. Also keep an eye out for some Friday Flashbacks that use the supreme intelligence granted by hindsight to contextualize the 2013 season.
Without further ado, our Monday Preview of WSU's first opponent, Rutgers University, is after the jump.
Braulio Perez is reporting that Trevor Dunbar out of St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco has committed to play basketball for Ernie Kent at Washington State. The 5-foot-10 point guard looks pretty crafty in the above video and chose WSU over scholarship offers from Cal Poly, Montana State and others.
Dunbar told Perez that he was planning to visit St. John's as well but has decided to end his recruitment. The diminutive guard scored 40 points against Serra earlier this year. Here is a good article on WSU's newest guard.
The school hasn't acknowledged receiving a signed financial aid agreement from Dunbar yet, but we'll expect a comment from coach Kent when they do. The Cougars still have one more scholarship left to offer, but I would expect them to save it unless they find a big man who can contribute.
(Update: This blog was updated on Monday to reflect that, because the spring signing period is over, Dunbar won't sign a letter of intent with the Cougars, but instead a financial aid agreement. Thanks to Twitter user 7lCoug for catching that.)
The news that former Bruin Aaron Porter appears to be transferring to Washington State has been out for awhile but I'm just now getting to it after helping out with some preps coverage elsewhere. But in case you missed it this afternoon, WazzuWatch's Britton Ransford is reporting ($) that the former UCLA football player plans to enroll at WSU after attending Cerritos Community College this fall.
If and when Porter does enroll at WSU he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
We've got more on the alleged newest Cougar below the fold.
Did you, like many Coug fans (and reporters), complain last season about the seemingly endless parade of Washington State football game on odd days or at odd times that made it nigh impossible to cross the Cascades or hit a deadline? Do you still imagine college football as a Saturday afternoon pastime? Is paying for an extra night at a Pullman hotel on a game day weekend an inconvenience?
Good news! The Pac-12 announced its early television selections and commissioner Larry Scott has heard those Cougar cries, allowing young Cougar fans to catch the first half of the September 13 game against Portland State, which kicks off at 5 p.m., before heading to bed.
After that, it's going to get a little funky. WSU kicks off the season on August 28 with a “home game” against Rutgers at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. That's going to be played on a Thursday at 7 p.m. and televised on Fox Sports 1. The following Friday the Cougars will take on Nevada in Reno, at 7:30 p.m. to accommodate an ESPN broadcast.
The only other WSU game time that has been announced is the Cougars October 10 game at Stanford, also on a Friday, which kicks off at 6 p.m.
All other game times for the 2014 season will be announced six or 12 days in advance. Keep your nights open.
Washington State's football game at Nevada on Friday, September 5 at 7:30 p.m. will be televised on ESPN. The game was originally scheduled for the following Saturday, but was moved up one day to accommodate a nationally televised broadcast.
The game is WSU's second of the season and its first scheduled national broadcast. The Cougars played three games on ESPN last season, including the New Mexico Bowl, and two more on ESPNU.
Wayne Phipps will take over as the director of the cross country and track and field programs at Washington State. He comes to WSU after 19 years of coaching at Idaho, including four years as the director of cross country and track and field. He takes over for Rick Sloan, who is retiring after leading the Cougars for 32 years.
Phipps was named the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year this past season in men's indoor and outdoor track, as well as women's outdoor track. The Vandals have brought home nine WAC championships since 2010 In men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and men's and women's cross country.
“I am most happy to welcome Wayne to the Cougar family,” WSU athletic director Bill Moos said. “I have watched his good work from afar and have been impressed with not only his success in regards to competition but also how he has managed his program. I believe he is a great fit and I am excited for the future of our Cougar Track and Field programs.”
From Pullman — Hey there, it's been awhile. Spring sports are coming to a close and we spent this week wrapping up track and field with the Pac-12 championships, which were held in Pullman at Mooberry Track and Field Complex this year. Runners, jumpers, throwers and spectators braved the Sunday weather that was predicted by weather persons to be a storm of some rain and much lightning. There was a storm on Sunday, alright, a pollen storm, and the generic antihistamine I popped prior to the meet might as well have been jujubes.
In between sneezes I saw enough to write this recap. I also wrote a story from Saturday on WSU's high jump champion, Charlotte Muschamp, who hails from a tiny town in New Zealand that is close enough to Antarctica that she claims to have seen icebergs (“Ice cubes? The things from Titanic) float past. Muschamp's victory was one of few notable performances for the Cougars, and John Blanchette examines how WSU can get back to track and field dominance. Photojournalist Tyler Tjomsland has a gallery from the meet.
In men's basketball news, the Pac-12 got a little weaker and Gonzaga got a little stronger with the news that Byron Wesley is headed to Spokane. Today Oregon State may announce that it has finally found a basketball coach. Death, taxes and Washington crew winning.