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A Grip on Sports: Ron Stone Jr. and the WSU defense may be good enough to earn a nickname this season

Washington State Cougars defensive end Ron Stone Jr. (10) gestures to a teammate during a college football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Pullman, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars defensive end Ron Stone Jr. (10) gestures to a teammate during a college football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • This isn’t the normal Thursday in the Grippi household. But we will treat it that way here. And take of a spin around the sporting world dial.

•••••••

• How is it going down in Pullman? How is this as a measure: The Cougars have one player on Jon Wilner’s list of the top 10 Pac-12 players for the upcoming football season. It isn’t quarterback Cameron Ward. Nor is it a receiver or any other of the usual Air Raid – are we supposed to use the term “Coug Raid” these days instead? – offensive stars.

Nope. It is Ron Stone Jr. He’s listed eighth on Wilner’s list. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Washington State’s first-year head coach Jake Dickert is a defensive guy, but the Cougar defense has a chance to be really special. And Stone, who is difficult to block, is a big reason why. The entire front seven, where defenses build success, may be WSU’s strength.

What is this, the early-1990s again?

• How is it going in the quest to remake college sports? How is this as a measure: The USC football administration seems about ready to go to war with its fans and boosters about a newly formed name, image and likeness collective while the person who kickstarted the entire revolution is about ready to destroy UCLA for joining with the Trojans in abandoning the Pac-12.

In other words, just another Wednesday in the Golden State. We will say this. College athletics’ evolution will travel a rocky road. All revolutions do.

• How is it going over in Seattle? How is this as a measure: Carlos Santana is nearing the end of his illustrious career. But the veteran first baseman seems to have made it his mission to ensure the M’s break a two-decade playoff drought before he plays his last chord or two. (See what we did there? Santana has the same name as … ah, forget it.)

Just about every home run Santana’s hit since joining the M’s in late June has either given Seattle a victory or lifted them into a lead. Such was the case Wednesday as well against the Yankees. He hadn’t had a hit since launching a home run in New York a week ago. Seventeen at bats in the home stand, 17 outs. He stepped to the plate in the seventh inning, the M’s trailed 3-2, one out, Mitch Haniger at first.

Boom. The M’s led – and won – 4-3.

Of such moments are playoff runs made.

• How is it going in the Big Sky? How is this as a measure: Six conference football teams, from California to Montana, are ranked in the Stats Perform preseason Top 25.

Is that good?

About as good as the conference could expect. Montana and Montana State check in at three and four, respectively, Sacramento State is also in the top 10 (seventh) and Eastern holds the least-lucky spot (13th). Weber State is 20th and UC Davis earned the last place by two points over South Dakota, a former Big Sky member.

So, yes, it is good.

•••

WSU: Not every day of preseason camp has to be long and arduous. The Cougars had a light workout Wednesday and, of course, Colton Clark was there to document the action. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, we mentioned (and linked) Wilner’s player rankings in the Mercury News above. We do link the story again here. … A bad day in Montlake. Washington may have lost one of its better defensive linemen, Ulumoo Ale, to an injury. And yet, there is another Husky d-lineman happy to be back after an injury. … Is the NIL jackpot trickling down to places like Corvallis yet? … Construction continues on Oregon State’s remodel of Reser Stadium. … Speaking of rebuilds, there is one going on in the USC program. … Wednesday was a day of reflection at Oregon. … The job of Colorado’s new offensive coordinator is to build confidence. … Yes, Utah has a lot of experience. But the Utes have highly rated recruits as well. … UCLA dipped heavily into the transfer portal this offseason. … The NCAA isn’t even done doing its interviews with Arizona State yet. Justice delayed is justice denied, right?

EWU: We also mentioned the rankings earlier this week, though we weren’t about to skip over the S-R story on them. … Around the Big Sky, part of the reason Montana is highly rated is its roster upgrades. … Idaho State’s special teams should be better. …UC Davis has finished revamping its coaching staff.

Indians: In what has to be considered a pretty average year, Spokane isn’t out of the Northwest League playoff chase just yet. Dave Nichols has this coverage of last night’s 5-4 win at Hillsboro. … Dave also has a feature on Colin Simpson, who has picked up his production as he’s received more opportunities.

Boxing: Chauncy Welliver never fails to live up to his nickname. He’s always willing to hammer home his love for Spokane, and Hillyard in particular, whenever asked. Well, Saturday, Spokane showed the same respect right back, as mayor Nadine Woodward gave the Hillyard Hammer the key to the city. Charlotte McKinley has the story.

Mariners: Yes, the M’s won 4-3 yesterday, sending New York out of town with two losses in three games. Next up for Seattle is a lengthy road trip against teams further down in the standings. … With players getting healthy, some roster moves are going to have to be made. They started Wednesday with Kyle Lewis, the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year, one of those headed to Tacoma. … Questions about the Mariners? Here are some answers. … One might be just how far they can go this year. Here’s one guess.

Seahawks: The first preseason game is just around the corner. Alton Robinson will be playing and, in his own words, not trying to do too much. … Rashaad Penny will be there too, as the No. 1 running back. … Just how well are the Hawks’ draft picks doing? … A lot of alums have been hanging around.

Sounders: It hasn’t been the best year of Raul Ruidiaz’s career. But he had a highlight in the MLS all-star match with La Liga last night.

•••       

• In case you’re wondering why it is a big day in the Grippi household, it’s because Kim and I are celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary. It’s the traditional new-tires-and-wheels-for-the-truck anniversary as far as we can figure. Maybe not as flashy as the diamond or gold ones, but pretty exciting nonetheless. Until later …

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