EDIT NUSS: Bumped because thank goodness someone around here wants to write about football.
Spring practices are about to get underway at WSU signaling the return of football. For some, this is a time of hope and optimism. For Cougar fans, this may be a time of panic and despair. The last season left a poor taste in most of our mouths and it's time to start fresh again, so let's take a look at what the Cougs need to accomplish during the Spring.
- Don't get hurt
- No, really, DON'T GET HURT
- Get more familiar with the schemes and playbook
You might notice that one and two tie in with each other. We've had a seemingly endless stream of bad news on the injury and attrition fronts lately in the program and I, for one, would like to see a healthy spring. Not only does staying healthy allow the players to use the practice time to its fullest and continue to progress, but it also allows them to start the season without any preexisting conditions that may nag them. Health is going to be absolutely key to being anything near respectable this year, especially considering we play 11 STRAIGHT GAMES.Position to watch: The offensive line. If you watched any Cougar football last year, you'd know just how poor the line was. There were two categories during the season in the league sacks category last year: those that had already played the Cougs and those that had not. Our offensive line suffered more injuries than I can count and just plain wasn't good. This year, the Cougs bring in two highly touted JC kids and will, in all likelyhood, be breaking in a new set of linemen. Kenny Alfred, the mainstay on the line, is gone, as are Joe Eppele and Brian Danaher, bringing up the need for depth and for the line to stay healthy. The OL also has a new coach in Steve Morton that will hopefully result in big gains among the line. We're going to need it if we want to at least be competitive and to keep from having to trot Dan Wagner out to hand the ball off.
Who to watch: You'll probably hear about gains made during the winter conditioning program and how the team is looking much more like a football team and that's good. The thing to look for, though, is how the younger guys are looking on the field. Lost in the shuffle has been that a good group of kids redshirted last year and should come in and make pushes to start. Guys like Nolan Washington, Brandon Rankin (who was a non-qual), and, my personal favorite, Darren Markle could very well decide how this team is going to look going forward. Watch out for some of these guys to come in and make an immediate impact.
There's your very brief overview of the Cougs going in to Spring practice. The goals should be similar to baseball's spring training: stay healthy and work to improve. The Cougs have a ton of work to do to climb out of the cellar and be competitive in the Pac-10. It isn't going to happen overnight and it's going to take hard work. Events like the offseason conditioning program and Spring practices are crucial to the development of this team. Enjoy the Spring practices, but do your best good luck dance and think non-injury related thoughts.