It's me again, looking for more comments, more debate, and generally more thoughts on where Cougar Football is headed. Last night I was able to attend the annual Night with Cougar Football party up in Spokane. I'm going to hit the high points and the things I thought were important; this is not a comprehensive recap of the class, or even necessarily what Paul Wulff thinks of it. If anything I want to get into more of where this program now stands, what our leadership is lobbying for moving forward, and what they are doing to rally the troops. Last night was a great time with a lot of great Cougs so lets get into what made it so great after the jump.
FIrst of all I would like to thank the people that put in all the hard work to put together such a great event. The video highlight reels put together for both the all-time great Cougar plays as well as the 2010 best of were spectacular. Further I would also like to thank everyone in the department that pulled me aside and asked how things were going. For those of you who don't know I've been trying to get into the Athletic Department for the better part of the last year and it says volumes about the Cougar family that so many people who maybe only know that much about me were so warm in welcoming me and caring and lending genuine words of support. Now that the thanks are out of the way lets get to the meat and potatoes of what was said and why we all need to be very excited for the coming years in Cougar Football.
Bill was the first to take the stage last night and his first talking points were on the Martin Stadium expansion and the proposed new Football Operations facility. The first thing I noticed was that when Bill got up on stage and spoke he did not say "We have received approval for the design phase of our expansion project" he simply stated "We have received approval for the stadium expansion and are moving forward with it as aggressively as we possibly can." If you have read my previous thoughts on Mr. Moos and how he tends to speak I do not believe this is an aberration. We've had multiple reports that it was only the design that has been approved, but to Bill Moos' way of thinking he's got the ball rolling and it can't be stopped. There was no hesitation, tentativeness, or anything else that would belie a possible hiccup in his plan. What's more is that as he spoke about Martin he said that with the planned time-line he would see to it that our stadium would be ready for us fans before the beginning of the 2012 season. He also said that the football operations building would be done about six months later. We have heard all of this before, but something else also became apparent, and that is why exactly the stadium expansion is in such a hurry.
"It will be ready for the first game of 2012 which marks the 40th Anniversary of Martin Stadium. I would know that because I won the first coin toss there."
Moos is planning on not only using the stadium as a tool to bring in new recruits, but to help celebrate the heritage and history of Cougar Football. This was a theme that was further elaborated on when Moos told everyone to mark their calendars for "Cougar Week" which is going to surround the announcement of the new Nike Uniforms on April 11th. He made it a point to say that the new uniforms will be something we can all be proud of as Cougars and that not only will we like the Crimson, but that there will be "One Crimson, One Gray, which my wife will appreciate when she goes to our closet." Perhaps the best part of his talks about uniforms were that we would have something distinct, but that the WSU Cougar logo, the Randall Johnson logo that all Cougars know and love will be featured prominently on every jersey the teams wear "as long as I am on this side of the grass." While he didn't elaborate to say if that meant it would be on the jerseys or the helmets, it's damn good to hear that our symbol that we all know and love and wave on Game day once a week will be front and center. Moos closed saying that as we move forward facilities will be our greatest tool in bringing and keeping talent in Pullman so we can all enjoy the success and pride we should have.
I have said it before and I will say it again; since the day Bill Moos came to campus to "feel out" how it could work he has brought a new fight and leadership style with him. He is unapologetic, energetic, and charismatic. Once he was done there was more than one hand that went to a credit card or a check book to pledge money to Athletics in a way that I never saw under Jim Sterk. That's not a slight against Sterk as much as it is complimentary of Mr. Moos, he brings out the pride and the dollars and that's a good thing. As a personal aside, I would also like to say that I got to speak briefly with Mr. Moos before he took to the stage and I plainly asked him what he thought about assertions that the Auburn game is a "body-bag" game. He was up-front in saying that it was taken with a financial motivation, but that he would not have signed off on the deal if he did not believe that by that time we could compete and win. He doesn't believe in "body-bag" (the implication alone seemed to bother him as much as the words Couging it) games as long as a team is competitive, so there you go, it's an opportunity not a surrender.
As with Bill I was able to speak with Coach Wulff before he took to the stage. I have to say that as a regular attendee of the Coach's Show and now this event I honestly don't understand the criticism of the man as being evasive to questions. If anything I think he might be a bit more awkward around donors than Price was, but that's okay because they're different people. I put the coach on the spot when I told him I have us at 8 or 9 wins this next year before the bowl game. While he wouldn't be baited into giving his over/under on the number of wins this team can pull off, he is confident when talking about next year. Both he and Mr. Moos were extremely excited to see what can happen if it all comes together with the experience coming back with more growth in the off season.
Coach Wulff took the stage to a nice round of applause from the crowd in attendance, which as announced by Moos was twice the size of last years crowd. That could be the Moos effect, there again it could be the effect of expectations rising. From what I gathered from the fine folks I got to talk to it was likely both, because Moos is a rock star and nobody in that room had anything other than a bowl game on their mind. As Coach Wulff took to the stage he said he got held up by his boss reminding him that the Cougars play both Auburn and Oregon in 2013 and that we are going to win both. Wulff didn't shy away from that assertion and immediately got down to business in talking about what he thought of the class and what he believes can happen moving into the future. As we had heard all week, he admitted that it's not a "sexy" class, but that it sets the stage for the next few years on both lines while also shoring up depth issues. Logwone Mitz was in attendance and Coach Wulff singled him out because he is one of only 6 players left in the program that was on the roster 3 years ago. He was highly complimentary of those 6 because they had made it through the turmoil, and turnover, and this year would see them rewarded for their leadership on field and off. After highlighting that 99 of the 105 players in the program are his guys he made no bones about it, he expects a bowl game this year and a damn good team. On a more personal note when I spoke with him I told him that I had predicted the Cougs in the Rose Bowl again in 2012 as well as them to win it. Wulff didn't back off from that either plainly saying "We'll have the talent and the experience to have a shot, we'll just have to put it all together."
I would also like to talk about some other things Wulff said during his time on stage. He took a piece of paper from his pocket that had a break down of star ratings for the 22 All Pac 10 First Team. He directly stated "I'm a stubborn man, but I know one thing I trust mine and my coaches evaluations of our players more than I ever will the "stars" system." His point was well taken as 1/3 of the roster were 0 stars which means they weren't even evaluated by recruiting services. Still, in his early comments on the star ratings as well as his praise for his coaches there was no sense that this is a man trying to save his job. While I have no doubt it weighs on his mind, it is not what is dictating what he does. Coach Wulff is a Coug through and through and he's doing all he can to build for long term sustained success. He was adamant that with facilities improvements the Cougs could not only go bowling every year and consistently compete for Pac 12 titles, but also legitimately be in the conversation for the National Title. In listening to him last night it became obvious that "I'm a stubborn man" might not just be words, but a credo he lives by because there was no one in that room that could convince him in any way that the Cougs can't get there and that he can be the man to get them there. I sincerely felt that after he spoke Paul Wulff, whether this whole thing works out this year or if he were to get fired will walk away from WSU a man with no regrets. I was already a fan and supporter, but after that I can say that aside from my own selfish yearning for a bowl game (we've never gotten there since I became a Coug in 2004) I really want the man to succeed because like Moos and myself and a few others I know he is an unapologetic believer in WSU, what makes it special, and that it can be at the top.
Bill Moos said that building a presence in Spokane is still something he's working on and that the bigger turnout this year is indicative of his success thus far in cultivating a larger interest. He also made sure to note that Cougar Week in April will be a big part of his push to grow the WSU brand and that when you watch the Super Bowl you need to use fourth down to go to the bathroom. He didn't elaborate on that, but did make it a point to say that a taste of the future of advertising and brand building will be showcased more than a few times during the commercial breaks. Keep your eyes peeled because if it's anything like the highlight reels assembled for last night our commercials are about to start kicking some serious ass. Finally he said that Cougs take care of each other and asked if we all saw the game on Sunday. According to Mr. Moos Coach Bone was sending a message to the Huskies something of a "This is what you get!" when you mess with our recruits. It was a nice rah rah message before bringing Wulff up and it got a good round of applause.
As far as the actual class goes Wulff went through it fairly quickly, there weren't any great surprises, but the highlights of some of our bigger boys were pretty crazy. Wendell Taiese only had two highlights but they were completely dominant. Admittedly he looks like a man among boys, but to be able to come out of his stance with the leverage and power he does was insanity and he pancaked a kid without moving his feet. Marcus Mason is also fast as all hell. I don't know what he's running from out there but if you had to name the crowd chasing him you could call them the defense. The explosiveness he showed, even in getting hit was pretty unbelievable and Coach Wulff likes his attitude on the field and off, he might just be the definition of under the radar. Wulff has been saying that he wants to redshirt some of the JCs they have and it sounds like he will. Only one of them is coming in with 2 to play 2 and he'll see the field, but if a player has 3 to play 2 they will redshirt unless they are too talented not to see the field. He said they loaded up because the line is going to be fairly senior heavy, especially on offense, this next year and they want to have some guys that won't need to grow physically as much as younger guys will. It allows them to continue to grow the young guys and transition into a better full cycle of high school talent moving forward.
I was able to speak with our Recruiting Coordinator Rich Rasmussen and new LB Coach Chris Tormey who just so happened to take a seat at my table. Coach Raz, as Tuel, Mitz, Washington, and Jacobsen all called him, was pretty darn happy about the group they got this year. He was extremely happy to have gotten in early on a number of these guys and to have had the Cougs stick with them from day 1 up to signing day. He said they won't give up on a kid unless he shuts down his own recruitment and it seems that with this class more than half of them have been hearing from WSU for a year or more. That's a lot of work with each kid, but it's getting the job done and setting us apart from other universities. As for Coach Tormey this was kind of like his first big welcome into the Cougar family and he was loving it. He's happy to be at WSU and looking forward to getting to work with the talented young group we have in place.
This was my first Night with Cougar Football that I've been able to attend and I can say with certainty that I'll be in attendance every year from here on out. It was a great celebration of Cougar Football and generally just a great time meeting a ton of fellow Cougs from all walks of life. There were some important things said, and I hopefully conveyed as much as possible here. If you haven't read it yet I would certainly encourage you to check out WSUfootballblog and read Longball's report. I had met him at one of the Coach's shows late last season and I was able to meet Amieable as well. It sounds like he might be moving on as grad school beckons for Amie. Hopefully he keeps writing as I've enjoyed his reports over the last few years. Once again, many thanks to the awesome Cougs I got to meet last night, and for the support from everyone that pulled me aside to say a few words. Good times are coming for Cougar nation.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Recs? Feel free to respond here, especially if you can attend any of the other 3 events like this through the next week or so. It's a damn good time, and there's a lot to talk about and I'd be lying if I said I don't want to keep at least a post or two in the rec'd posts part of the site. Help me score the hat-trick because it'd be awesome.