The Cougars mostly under Mike Price went to two Rose Bowls, a Holiday Bowl, and a Sun Bowl between 1997 and 2003. You can consider that the golden era of Cougar football. The wheels started coming off in 2002 when Price left WSU for Alabama. The popular Bill Doba led the team into a decline which resulted in him being replaced by Paul Wulff two seasons ago which has resulted in an even bigger decline.
Wulff is firmly on the hot seat after going 3-22 over his first two seasons. The Cougars haven't just lost football games they have just lost ugly. The team hasn't been competitive at all the past three seasons and the hope is they can show enough improvement to win 3-4 games to show that the program is headed in the right direction.
The non conference slate features road games against SMU and Oklahoma State. The Cougars face Montana State at home. WSU beat SMU at home last season so the possibility of a 2-1 start isn't out of the realm of possibility. Finding a couple more victories in the conference is going to be a challenge.
For WSU to have a chance of being at least entertaining this season sophomore QB Jeff Tuel has to develop into the type of guy who can spray the field with bullets. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury, he went 71-of-121 for 789 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. If he can stay healthy and consistent it will go a long way in determining if WSU can be competitive or at least entertaining in 2010.
The running game was wiped out by injury last season compounding the roulette wheel at the QB position. Sr Marcus Richmond and Sr James Montgomery are going to lead the WSU running game this season. Montgomery is coming back from a freak injury which almost cost him his leg. Montgomery needs to stay healthy if WSU is going to get anywhere on offense this season.
(Marcus Richmond will not be part of the rotation. He was a spot player and probably saw more time at FB than running back. He tore his Achilles tendon in spring so he most likely won’t be playing. The running backs will start off being led by Chance Staden, who sat out last year after tearing an ACL at the end of 2008. Jr. Logwone Mitz and So. Carl Winston will also be in the rotation. - edit from Selahcoug)
Jr Jared Karstetter, Sr Daniel Blackledge, and So Gino Simone return to give the Cougars an experienced and talented crew at WR. Karstetter pulled in 38 passed for 540 yards and six TD's in 2009. So Skyler Stormo should be the starter at TE.
Up front the Coug's only lose one starter but it just happened to be their best offensive lineman C Kenny Alfred. Jr Alex Rojas is slated to take over the center position from Alfred. Sr Zack Williams and Jr BJ Guerra will flank him inside. Sr Micah Hannam returns at RT and wil try to avoid the injury bug. Tyson Pencer is slated to take over at LT.
(At tackle, there will most likely be two JC transfers starting in Wade Jacobsen and David Gonzales. - edit from Selahcoug)
Washington State was terrible on defense in 2009. They ranked last in the country in total defense and allowed 38 points per game! That needs to start changing in 2010 if Paul Wulff plans to be around in 2011. The hope is that 2009 was not a lost year and the young players who gained experience will form a more competitive group this season.
DE So Travis Long is one of those guys who benefited from the experience. He started 12 games and made 47 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and 2 sacks. He has put on some size so he should be improved this season. Sr Kevin Kooyman lines up on the other side and had 6.5 sacks last season. Sr Bernard Wolfgramm and Dan Spitz will be holding down the middle. If this line stays healthy and develops some depth it could actually be pretty good.
(Wolfgramm will start on one side, but Dan Spitz is suspended until October. Spitz most likely would have been the first off of the bench though as JC transfer Brandon Rankin was running with the starters during spring. - edit from Selahcoug.)
Jr Alex Hoffman-Ellis will be working the weak side for the Cougars at linebacker. Jr Mike Ledgerwood will be taking over the middle. Sr Myron Beck and Jr Louis Bland will fight it out for SLB. Hoffman-Ellis led the Cougars in tackles last year with 85.
The Cougars defensive secondary was a sieve last season. Sr SS Chima Nwachuku is a four year stater who has played both corner and safety for WSU. So LeAndre Daniels is a good looking prospect who will step in at FS. Jr Aire Justin, So Terrance Hayward, and So Daniel Simmons are the leading contenders at CB.
Washington vs Washington State
The game is being played in Pullman so advantage Cougars. That may be the only advantage WSU has on paper over Washington except for the possibility of defensive end. That being said Apple Cups can go either way especially when the game is being played during a snowy day in Pullman.
Miracles can happen in this series but 2010 will not be the year. Washington beat these guys 30-0 last year at home and it hard to imagine the Huskies not sticking that many or more points on the Cougar defense in 2010. The only real question I have is if the Cougar offense be productive enough in 2010 to make this a game?