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A Grip on Sports: Cameron Ward’s presence has solidified WSU’s quarterback situation – but not completely

Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) is interviewed by former WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf during the first half WSU’s spring Crimson and Grey game on Saturday Apr 23, 2022, Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) is interviewed by former WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf during the first half WSU’s spring Crimson and Grey game on Saturday Apr 23, 2022, Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Here it is, the last couple weeks of May and we are still discussing college football. OK, maybe you weren’t but we are. Mainly because football is king, even in Pac-12 country.

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• And the king of Pac-12 football writers, Jon Wilner, decided to use Monday to evaluate the state of the quarterback rooms around the conference. When we read his story in this morning’s Spokesman-Review, we immediately gravitated toward the Washington State rating.

The Cougars had moved up three spots, to seventh, since the last time Mercury New columnist had rated the quarterbacks, mainly because Wilner has become even more of a Cameron Ward believer.

“To say we’re bullish on Cam Ward’s first season in the conference is an understatement,” Wilner wrote. “He might develop into the best quarterback in the North and a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate.”

But Wilner is not just rating the starters. He’s rating the room, which includes depth. And he admits he doesn’t like Washington State’s. He sees it as problematic if something happens to the starter.

Which dovetails well into another story we read this morning. Former S-R WSU beat writer Christian Caple, writing for the Athletic these days, highlights a rebuilt offensive line as the biggest question the Cougars face. Will the group, which lost a lot, be able to protect Ward and allow him to do what he did last year for Incarnate Word?

It’s a good question. And one we will be asking not only in late May but mid-August, when preseason camp begins, as well.

• The basketball coach with more wins than anyone has earned in the Big Sky Conference is no longer in the conference.

Randy Rahe, who led Weber State to 316 wins in 16 years, retired Monday. His departure was as unexpected as it will be impactful. After all, Rahe is the only coach in the conference’s history to win more than 300 games and coach in 500. He won five titles, was named conference coach of the year a record four times and coached six MVPs. Oh, and not to be forgotten, he won 7 out of every 10 Big Sky games his teams played.

But at 61, Rahe decided he had been coaching college hoops long enough. It’s a decision a lot of older coaches are contemplating at the moment, what with the changes in the transfer and NIL rules. The game is changing off the court and not everyone is sure they want to stick around to see the outcome.

The Wildcats didn’t wait to replace Rahe, either. Eric Duft, who has been on the staff for a while, will move over a chair and lead one of the Big Sky’s most-dominant programs.

• Who is the Mariners’ ace right now? Is it reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, signed to a large contract in the offseason? Or is it veteran Marco Gonzales, the Gonzaga University alum?

Luke Arkins, a baseball writer with a good grasp of numbers, tweeted out yesterday a comparison of the two starting pitchers’ stats over the past four years. Surprisingly, the lefthanders’ numbers are almost exactly the same, including their age (30).

In some categories, mainly the ones in which overpowering stuff isn’t crucial, Gonzales is better. In others, like strikeout-related ones, Ray is better. But overall, it’s pretty much a wash.

As Arkins points out, the numbers are similar but the perceptions? They are not. It’s more a reflection on how the value of “stuff” has overtaken “command” in most baseball fans’ minds than it is a judgement of their abilities.

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WSU: We linked above the two main Washington State-related stories, Wilner’s piece on the conference’s quarterbacks and the Athletic looks at the questions each school faces in the lead-up to the fall. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, if you want to know how USC was able to highlight Lincoln Riley’s arrival on campus so successfully, don’t miss this story. … It looks as if Oregon State has another great tight end. … The same may be said about Oregon’s running back room. … In basketball news, Colorado rarely uses the JC ranks to bolster its roster but it is this year. … The proposed California law concerning player pay has serious potential to change college athletics.

Preps: The District 8 golf tournaments are underway as well as the State tournaments in Idaho. … Dave Nichols has a roundup of the other action on Monday.

Chiefs: The S-R’s latest local briefs column is dominated by award news related to the Chiefs.

Mariners: The M’s faced former teammate Yusei Kikuchi yesterday in Toronto and it didn’t go well. They lost 6-2. … We mentioned Robbie Ray above but we didn’t mention he’s not in Canada. It looks as if he and Drew Steckenrider are not vaccinated. … Questions? We can pass along some answers.

Seahawks: Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle will be the first Monday Night Football game of the year. The announcers are looking forward to it. … What will Earl Thomas’ legacy be now?

SuperSonics: Spencer Haywood has changed over the years. Matured as he’s aged. That’s obvious.

Golf: This year’s PGA Championship is shaping up to be a lot different than the others at Tulsa’s Southern Hills CC.

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• How’s the weather in Spokane? High 70s and sunny? What’s that you say? The area hasn’t seen a 70-degree high yet, the latest ever without a 70-degree day? Tell me why we left the beach again? Until later …

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