If you've ever wondered what Brian and I talk about when prying eyes aren't around, well, you're in luck! We were having a little conversation over email on Monday, and a thought hit me: We could turn this into a post.
So, here you go -- the quasi-random ramblings of a pair of CougCenter authors, starting with some thoughts on basketball recruiting and rolling into Jeff Tuel.
Brian: I'm not sure how WSU is going to pull in big-time basketball players -- guys who have serious professional aspirations right off the bat and are recruited heavily enough. Sure Bone has picked up more under-the-radar guys, but his goal seems to be trending towards finding a bunch of highly-touted athletes. And yet, Pullman simply doesn't have the resources available
And there's the problem, simply. WSU can't stack up to other areas in that regard. WSU might be a place a coach needs to recruit a certain player. Not into a system like Bennett's, mind you, but a certain type of player. A feeder, if you will. Right now, Bone's just kinda scatter-shot, and I'm not sure its going to work.
Jeff: That's funny. The location of Pullman means that's never, ever going to happen. And you're exactly right about Bone -- it seems like there's no rhyme or reason to what he's been doing, in terms of recruiting. I always said this class would be the first one where we'd be able to actually see some kind of plan .... maybe not?
Brian: There has to be an overall theme when recruiting players. It seems like that's why coaches struggle when moving from a small stage to a bigger stage. They get away from what got them there. It's something Bone should be establishing, but, like I said, its scatter-shot still.
It just seems like it takes a different kind of player to play in Pullman. Again, not a Bennett guy or system, but the player himself. You're not going to churn out NBA players.
Brock Motum is also bigger and has grown into his body. Maybe he'll surprise this year!
Jeff: I will be ecstatic if Motum turns into anything, but as I've said in the past, you should fall into a certain number of rebounds at 6-10. He might pick up a few more by being stronger, but he's never going to be a rebounder.
Seems like Bone just sort of kept his PSU philosophy of just grabbing talent wherever he could. I know some of that was being hamstrung by scholarships, but it seems like he didn't have a vision for what the program needed to be. And when you're not true to your vision (or don't have one), it's a huge problem.
Brian: I doubt Motum will turn into some great, or even good, rebounder. His post game, but there just isn't much in there for the team as a whole. Motum? Probably improved. But from there it's Charlie Enquist, D.J. Shelton and Abe Lodwick ...
And yes, it's the vision that gets me. There just isn't one. What are they? I can't answer that. I know Pete Carroll's book is some cheerleader stuff, but he's got a good point about developing a vision and philosophy, then taking that wherever you go. You are what you are. Dance with the girl that brought you - except Bone never quite had a girl. PSU is just different.
Shoot, look at Paul Wulff. Say what you will about the results or coaching aspect, but he is clearly dead set on his vision and his philosophy. It's in everything, from recruiting on.
I don't know much about the kid from Spokane that committed to Bone, but I wonder if that's the type of kid WSU should target. Chasing Seattle is fine, I guess, but there's some talent on the eastside.
Jeff: The thing that I learned about midmajors from doing the College Basketball Prospectus stuff this offseason is that it's basically one giant talent grab from wherever you can get it -- very few guys have the ability to patiently execute a philosophy because very few of the midmajor jobs have any kind of inherent value where you can actually build something. It was sort of shocking to see all the transfers involved at that level, both coming and going. I just wasn't aware.
The thing about Carroll's book is that it's nothing new. Every expert in organizational leadership will tell you the same thing. And I worry for Bone that he spent so long goofing around, trying to figure out what he wants, that it ends up biting him in the end. And it's exactly why I want Wulff to succeed so badly -- I think he absolutely has the right idea, he understands what it takes to sell Pullman, but it's going to take one more year I think for it to truly come to fruition.
Brian: That was what I was trying to point out earlier this year. I was fine with the scatter-shot approach when Bone was dealing with some of the limitations left behind, but I have no clue what he's trying to build. And I still don't - which makes me wonder if he does.
The vision stuff is why I spent 4,000 words on Wulff. I want him to succeed here because I do think he could, at least in theory, build the program the right way. He's done it so far, I'm just not sure if he'll get to see it through. I hope he does, but the outside pressures seem to keep building. Things take time here, and I'm astounded by some of the impatience and expectations.
The pieces are there for the football team. The depth is even there. The improvement is there, even if the on field performance varies. I can see it in practice. A bunch of kids that looked rag tag two years ago look and play like Pac-12 players. But they're still learning and growing.
That pick play still stands out to me. Burned one week, stick it the other. They just seem to learn something every week, and that only comes with time. Can't simulate it in practice and can't do it when teams are beating your brains in and scrimmaging you.
Jeff: Exactly. I tried to make that point on last week's podcast. Even if the improvement doesn't look linear, I think that has more to do with the opponents -- this team is making strides every week, and has been for two years now. I'd see the impatience if this was a senior laden group; that would mean looking at a potential step back next year from what was already mediocrity. But there is only one unit full of seniors, and even that one looks like some of the guys behind them might be even better, anyway.
I really hope they beat the heck out of Oregon State. That would do wonders.
Brian: People still look at results for improvement. I try to look at small snippets, moments, plays. What did they screw up in coverage? Where were the missed assignments? What have they cleaned up from week to week?
Some of it is mental, and there's little the coaching staff can do. Anthony Laurenzi talked about coming out of halftime flat the last three weeks. It's something the players have to learn.
The results may not be linear, but the small things are. See more in games and you're prepared for it. Everything starts to slow down as they build that memory. The "oh, I've seen this before" moments. Its part of the growth process.
I was debating this with Craig on Saturday. I thought people were going to look at the score, compare it to last year and think it was a step back. It wasn't necessarily some step forward, but it wasn't back either. Harbaugh, as much of a dick as he is, scrimmaged WSU last year, then let up - to the tune of 21 WSU points at the end. Stanford had to work for it a bit and took advantage of WSU's deficiencies this year. A gameplan! Teams didn't have to scheme much for WSU before. It was like playing an exhibition. Use stock plays, don't show a ton and still win by 40.
There were good things from Saturday and there were glaring weaknesses. But when the players - Tuel, Bucannon - say they'll learn, I tend to believe them now.
By the way, Tuel said it was good to face Stanford first. Figures that jolt will speed up his re-acclimation, because it's all downhill from here.
Jeff: That doesn't surprise me in the slightest about Tuel, by the way. There's something to be said for being thrown into the fire, and considering he was facing the Pac-12's best defense (by a long shot), he'll be better for it in the end. One weird thing I noticed was that when he received the snap, he didn't really bounce on his feet -- he sort of just stood there and made the throw. You know what I'm talking about?
Brian: He wasn't good on Saturday and he knows it. It was what I had in my head when I wrote that post when he was cleared. His throws were still high, which was to be expected, but he missed a ton of checks and protection changes. It didn't help that his line also missed keys like there was no tomorrow and the receivers couldn't catch.
Tuel's clock seemed to be off, too - which was also to be expected. He even said the game needs to slow down for him again, which only comes with seeing live action and reading defenses. He was missing reads pre-snap and it kind of set him up for failure.
And yeah, his footwork wasn't where it was last year. Not sure why on that one. He was a lot quieter, though. Probably just getting used to things again.
But there was no way he was going to succeed without the line being in the right protections and without having hots available. There was just no hot to throw to when Stanford brought pressure, and that's on him. It's a check he has to make.
Side note -- the concept of a hot is lost on many. They wonder why a throw goes short when it's actually the right play. Same with checks. I think most people would be amazed how many checks this offense uses. Wonder why the no huddle isn't so fast? Because almost every play is designed to show a snap with a hard count, then the play comes in.
Jeff: That's typical of most no-huddle attacks in college, though, including WSU. Many fans confuse it with a hurry-up, which isn't always the same thing. The no huddle is designed to gain a tactical advantage, rather than speed the game up, and I can't think of too many programs outside of Oregon that run the no huddle with the express purpose of speeding up the game. I sometimes question how much of a tactical advantage it really is when the defense can just change after you change, but it seems like WSU gives its QBs a lot of freedom to make the last change in the last few seconds at the line to get in just the right play. Tuel obviously wasn't ready to do that aspect of this very well on Saturday, something he'll certainly be better at on Saturday.
The thing with the footwork seemed intentional. It definitely piqued my interest. You look at a guy like Peyton Manning who's constantly bouncing on his toes, ready to set his feet in any direction they need to go so he can whip off a quick throw. And then you see Tuel, who looked like he was just throwing int he back yard on some throws. It just struck me as odd.
Brian: I don't know if Tuel was confident in what he was seeing. Instead, it seemed like he was just going with the play that came in from the sideline. So part of the missed calls may have just been Tuel dialing things back and using checks minimally.
I'm not sure if the footwork is new or what. Before Saturday, we'd only seen him throw twice against ISU. Don't know if that's something Sturdy worked with him on this summer, but he did seem a lot quieter. It was more noticeable off play fakes. He dipped his head to sell, then just kinda stand up straight and not move. Was interesting enough.
Brian's note: The discussion about basketball recruiting was sparked by a man much wiser than I and just kind of snowballed from there between Jeff and I. It's something I'd been thinking of forever, before I forgot basketball existed and shifted to football.