PULLMAN – Even if there won’t be any kind of tangible reward waiting for them on Saturday, redshirting football players are required to put forth the same effort and log the same hours as their nonredshirting teammates.
And perpetually hearing their time will come doesn’t always provide the solace that it should.
Welcome to the past eight months of Lamonte McDougle’s life.
McDougle used a redshirt season in 2018 and played the waiting game that came with it, watching Washington State’s historic 11-win campaign from the sideline – and on his television set when the Cougars were on the road.
That can be an arduous period for any college football player – most of whom require a redshirt because they need the time to mature physically, or because an upperclassman with more experience has their position locked up for the time being.
“It sucked, but I just had to stay focused and keeping my mind on why I came here and my goals,” McDougle said Thursday after Washington State’s seventh spring practice, during his first formal interview as a Cougar football player. “And that’s kept me grounded.”
McDougle played so well his rookie season with the Mountaineers that ESPN.com selected the defensive lineman to its Freshman All-American team. He appeared in all 13 games, made 23 tackles, recorded four tackles for loss, had one sack, forced one fumble and recovered another.
The accolades and numbers should have been encouraging signals for McDougle’s sophomore season, but he felt restricted by the Mountaineers’ defensive schemes, which usually required him to take up space and didn’t offer much freedom to rush the passer.
On March 30, 2018, McDougle announced on Twitter that West Virginia had granted him permission to transfer. The Mountaineers wouldn’t allow him to move within the Big 12, and a list of WVU’s future nonconference foes were off-limits.
There was a good fit in the Pac-12, though.
“What initially made me leave West Virginia was I wasn’t really liking the formation we ran,” McDougle said. “It was a three-man front, and it was more of me just clogging up the middle, and I wanted to come somewhere where I could make more plays, and (WSU) was the best fit for me.”
The defensive tackle carried an offer from the Cougars from his days at Deerfield Beach High School in Florida, and leaving the East Coast for a remote college town in the Inland Northwest didn’t feel uncomfortable, because of McDougle’s prior relationship with WSU coach Mike Leach. His father, Stockar McDougle, played on Oklahoma’s offensive line in the late 1990s when Leach was an offensive coordinator for the Sooners.
“It’s always been like family here to me,” McDougle said, “so that was major in the decision.”
After spending one season as the headliner of WSU’s defensive scout team, McDougle looks to have the best odds of replacing Taylor Comfort at nose tackle. The Cougars knew he’d be an impact player on the defensive line in 2019, so McDougle occasionally got looks with the first team last year – and he regularly dominated O-line vs. D-line drills.
“He’s real quick in small spaces,” Leach said. “He’s got long arms for a guy his build. He’s got great leverage and he’s strong.”
Two of McDougle’s teammates – in separate interviews – had similar descriptions of the 6-foot, 295-pound defensive lineman following a practice earlier this week.
“Lamonte’s a beast,” WSU right tackle Abraham Lucas said. “You look at him, you’re kind of like, ‘OK, he’s short.’ Guy’s a freaking tank. He’s really strong, he’s got good hands. Definitely one of the more stronger, difficult guys to block – but it only makes us better.”
“He’s a beast,” linebacker Justus Rogers echoed. “He makes a lot of good plays you don’t expect sometimes. If he’s double-teamed, he’ll just casually spin out of it and make the play. He has really good instincts.”
McDougle is still learning Tracy Claeys’ system – one that puts a premium on speed and defensive line stemming/shifting – and Leach said while he’s “awfully tough to stop,” McDougle still “needs to push himself a little when he runs out of gas.”
All things that should come in time.
“I’m just honing in back on the basics,” McDougle said. “It’s nothing too crazy, just fundamentals and getting used to playing back in a speed stance, and I’m just learning.”
At least he knows he’s at the right place, even if it did take two tries.
Think McDougle loves being a Cougar? The tips of his hair are now colored crimson, and he’s taken a special liking to the tight-knit student community in Pullman.
“It’s similar in a lot of ways, but I feel like it’s closer here,” he said, comparing WSU to WVU. “People are definitely friendlier here, and Greek Row’s pretty cool, and I like that. The students are pretty cool here.”