It's not a large group, but Saturday marks the end of the line for a handful of seniors who have seen it all and been through it all during their time at WSU. From the holdovers -- the Doba Five as Vince calls them -- to the players who arrived by way of a junior college and a small number of true seniors, this group
Looking up and down the roster this week, it was hard not to notice just how few seniors and fifth-year players there are. Some, like Jared Karstetter and B.J. Guerra, have been mainstays, contributing throughout their careers in a WSU uniform. Others are lesser known or have faded, but all stuck it out kept plodding away as the losses piled up.
For the most part, we know the individual accomplishments of this group of seniors. But covering games, I've gotten to know many of the departing seniors, speaking with them at various times over the course of the last two years. Instead of running down what they've done and how they've left their mark on the program, I'll share some of my own memories. I invite you to do the same.
In 2009, when Jeff Tuel took over as the Cougars' starting quarterback, I thought Marshall Lobbestael was on his way out. He had potential, it seemed, and had fought through a knee injury to get back on the field and compete for the starting role. I wouldn't have blamed him one bit if he sought an opportunity elsewhere.
Looking back, it shouldn't surprise me that Lobbestael stuck around, embracing the backup role while becoming somewhat of a mentor. Everyone that's come into contact with Lobbestael -- parents, coaches, teammates and the media -- says the same thing about him: he's simply a great person. It's not a front, an act or anything else, Lobbestael is that kind, team-player kind of person.
Oh, and there was that time he tackled a defensive lineman during a practice skirmish.
If words don't describe Lobbestael the person, here's the ultimate team player last Saturday.
Jared Karstetter has been Mr. Consistency for almost the entirety of his four-year career in Pullman, which made this season's struggle almost difficult to watch. For about four games, Karstetter battled through a case of the drops, which was so out of character for him it was shocking. I know for a fact he beat himself up after the loss to UCLA and worked his tail off afterwords to right the ship, even if his struggles continued for weeks.
Lobbestael and Karstetter have a routine that takes place after just about every practice. The whole team comes together to break it down, the position groups spread out on the field for one last short meeting and then a call comes up. "We need a ball" is the call, and Karstetter and Lobbestael are the culprits. After two-plus hours on the practice field, Karstetter would run routes and Lobbestael would throw, getting some extra work in. For those waiting for an interview, it was a bit of an inconvenience, but we all understood it was their thing.
Of course, as the weather turned cold and the snow came, the post-practice tradition seemed to fade, but we'll just assume they hit a maximum number of reps or something.
You want a model player for this year's class? It's probably Karstetter, the sure-handed, gloveless receiver from Spokane.
Alex Hoffman-Ellis was a favorite whipping boy around these parts prior to this year. His athleticism and speed were undeniable, but he always seemed to find himself a step out of position. That all changed this year as Hoffman-Ellis developed into the player we thought he could be.
I won't remember Hoffman-Ellis for his play on the field, though. Instead, it's his personality that always seems to shine through, making him a favorite interview for those who cover the team. He's the spokesman, the guy who candidly speaks his mind no matter the issue. In many ways, he's the heart of the defense.
I've never seen a player throw out a "wooooo" during an interview, but that's exactly what Hoffman-Ellis did after the first game of the season when describing his interception return for a touchdown, specifically Sekope Kaufusi's monster block. He's always got something to say, and odds are it's an entertaining something. He busts his ass every day, putting on his hard hat to go to work, but keeps it light off the field.
There are other seniors, including Logwone Mitz, B.J. Guerra, Andrew Roxas and Dan Wagner, but since Vince did such a good job with his roundtable, I'll just point you towards his blog. Beyond the names you know and see every Saturday, there are others, including Mike Ledgerwood and Anthony Martinez. And of course, there are the transfers, such as Isiah Barton, Brandon "Bubba" Rankin and David Gonzales, who have also made their own impact in a short time.
How will you remember this senior class? What were your favorite moments?