It takes a special coach to win in Pullman. Paul Wulff, after only a single season, has Coug supporters wondering if he was the right choice. After a 2-11 first campaign, Wulff is staring 0-12 in the face as we start 2009. Wulff was hired to bring stability and a fresh breath of air to the WSU program; however, the former Eastern head coach has had a string of disciplinary issues and plenty of attrition as players have been dismissed from the roster.
The offense, last in the Pac-10 total yards in 2008, has potential. With Coach Wulff introducing the no-huddle offense in 2009, senior quarterback Kevin Lopina is going to have be a much stronger presence this fall. Redshirt sophomore Marshall Lobbestael, overcoming a tumultuous off-season which included an arrest for public intoxication outside the Pulllman police station, isn't much of an option. The Cougs could use a blue chip QB in their 2010 recruiting class in the worst way.
At wide receiver, Jeshua Anderson is back and capable of making plays, but the Cougars don't have much overall talent at any of the receiving positions. Jared Karstetter and Kevin Norell will fill out the wings, with senior Michael Willis having left the squad.
The ground game features three capable backs in Dwight Tardy, Marcus Richmond, and Logwone Mitz. Cal transfer (and former Washington recruit) James Montgomery is eligible for the first time and should see plenty of action. Finally, Ivory Randle also returns from injury, adding depth to the rotation.
Like their Husky cousins, the Cougs are in need of some big improvement up front on the offensive line. Led by senior center Kenny Alfred, one of the country's best at his position, Wazzu has a strong anchor in the middle. Steve Ayers, Micah Hannum, BJ Guerra, and junior college transfer Zack Williams fill out the rest of the line, leaving many questions for the upcoming campaign regarding depth and overall quality.
The Washington State defense gave up an amazing 443.38 yards and allowed 570 points in 2008, more than any school in Division I history! Heading into 2009, unbelievably they may be even worse. The defensive line is highly suspect, with senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman as possibly the only player on the roster possessing the size and ability to consistently make plays. Junior end Jesse Feagin returns from a season away to flank Kooyman on the opposite side. Junior tackle Toby Turpin is the veteran on the defensive line, having played in 16 games and starting four in 2008. Joining Turpin at tackle is junior Bernard Wolfgramm, who is recovering from persistent back problems.
Undoubtedly, sophomore linebacker Louis Bland is the star of the defense. He started final nine games, finishing with 55 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and two sacks. Senior Andy Mattingly has returned to linebacker, taking better advantage of his size and speed, suiting him much better than as a defensive end. Sophomore Alex Hoffman-Ellis earned a starting postion this spring, with junior Myron Beck providing depth off the bench.
The Cougar defensive back situation is scary, with several prominent players having faced recent criminal situations. Romeo Pellum and Tyrone Justin are currently facing felony burglary charges, Tyree Toomer and LeAndre Daniels facing discipline over bike theft, Devin Giles dismissed for violations of team rules, and safety Xavier Hicks arrested for driving with a suspended license, on top of after other run-ins with the law (including putting rubbing alcohol in another player's contact lens case). Pellum, Justin, and Giles are off the team, while the other cases are pending.
Junior Brandon Jones, a Cal transfer who prepped at Seattle's O'Dea High School, will man one of the corner positions, with redshirt freshman Daniel Simmons the only other player with any experience to fill the opposite side. Junior safety Chima Nwachukwu is a stud with a solid future ahead of him; however, who he lines up with depends on who stays on the team or not. Hicks and Toomer are very good safeties but it remains to be seen what their availability will be.
Washington State is at the bottom of the BCS barrel right now. If you thought things were worse at Washington last season, you would be mistaken. The only way WSU is going to get better in the future is if they clean out their roster of criminals, establish a new culture, and recruit a bunch of new players. I don't see these guys winning a single game in 2009, and neither do many of the experts.
Paul Wulff hasn't amused anyone with the sanctions he was partly responsible for at Eastern, nor the continuous legal problems that have plagued the WSU football team. On top of that, people aren't sure he can effectively coach and gameplan at this level.
This one is easy and Washington will beat the Cougars handily. Washington has far more talent, depth, stability, and coaching acumen going on right now than WSU.