Ah, spring. A time when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of college aged men grunting and slamming into each other in pads. For 15 practices, college football players across the country will hit the field again as the annual ritual of spring football commences.
For fans, it can provide a more in-depth look at many programs compared to what you may get in the fall. For WSU fans, this is especially true, since the screws on media availability and watching practice are turned tight once school starts in August. In the spring, reporters are mingling, students and fans can watch scrimmages from the Martin Stadium stands, and we're all getting our first true look at some of last year's redshirting freshmen.
It's only natural to get excited. Hey, it's football! And WSU is coming off one hell of a 9-4 season. You've got every reason to be digesting each and every little tid bit of information and video. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone. So what I'm about to say is not just for you but it's also for me:
Don't get too excited about spring football.
Hell of a mood dampener, isn't it? That's not to say you shouldn't be following along with the work here at CougCenter and Jacob Thorpe at the Spokesman-Review. While it's always encouraging to see good performances from players at any time, spring ball isn't the time to drown yourself in "OHMYGOD, THIS TEAM IS GUNNA BE SICCCCCCK!" They still could be! But there are a few reasons to hold off on those feelings until at least the fall.
A good play for one guy is a bad one for another: Did you guys happen to catch James Williams' little okie doke from Tuesday's practice? If not, check it out:
James Williams (@boobiewilliams2) March 30, 2016
Pretty slick move right? Williams plants his foot for a nasty cut and gets straight up field for the easy touchdown. Great vision, great athleticism; an overall good run from the redshirt freshman. So who is the scout team scrub he ran by?
Shalom Luani. Oh.
So while we're busy praising Williams for his good run, Luani completely whiffed on a tackle he was in position to make. We obviously don't just take this play in a vacuum and say Luani isn't a good player because that would very obviously be wrong. Shalom Luani is, in fact, quite a good player. But if Luani had managed to wreck Williams in the backfield, we could be having the inverse discussion. Which leads me to another, similar point...
Sometimes the good plays come against scout team players: Garrett McBroom is probably going to need to contribute an awful lot this fall along the defensive line with the departure of Destiny Vaeao and Darryl Paulo. So watching McBroom do this to someone is awfully encouraging:
... until you remember the guy he almost bull rushes in Row A is Amosa Sakaria, an offensive lineman that spent last year redshirting. McGroom played nine games worth of full speed football (junior college level but still) last year while Sakaria hasn't played at honest-to-God game speed since high school. McBroom should be able to knock Sakaria flat on his keister and he damn near did.
Is it encouraging to see a guy who transferred in be so aggressive in practice and ready to smack someone in the mouth right now? You bet. But consider who he's smacking on the mouth and remember that he won't be facing anyone as far down the depth chart as Sakaria after Labor Day.
"Yeah, sure, why not? Put him over there.": Kyrin Priester moving down a letter in the receiving alphabet to Y? Sure, why not. Cedric Bigge-Duren at left tackle and guard? Sure, why not. Charleston White over to safety? Sure, why not.
Spring is the time to do these experiments if you're going to do them at all. Just ask Teondray Caldwell about how stupid it is to do it in the fall. But that's just what these are: experiments. Whether Priester stays inside or White sticks at safety is still a long way from being a sure thing so while it's certainly something to keep your eye on through the end of April, it's not worth getting worked up about until August.
Andrei Lintz: Remember this fella? He was a big bodied tight end who Leach heaped heavy praise on during his first spring with the team in 2012. Heck, look at what he told KJR about Lintz before spring practice had even finished:
We're gonna have him do all of it. We're gonna have the defense figure out whether or not they're gonna need to use a linebacker or a safety. It's like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. You know the really mean, greedy rich guy where somebody comes on his property and he says "release the hounds." And that's kinda what Andrei Lintz is. We're going to release the hounds.
We were all practically giddy about the possibilities a 6'5", 250 pound kid presented in Mike Leach's Air Raid system at the end of that April. So what did he do that fall?
Two catches, 14 yards.
Now sure, some of that over enthusiasm on Leach's part can be attributed to it being his very first spring with a team that had precisely none of his players on it. But if you need a good lesson about tempering expectations in spring, you probably won't find a better one than Lintz. His senior season, after languishing for most of his career, was expected to be a break out in a system where he could finally catch a lot of passes despite being a tight end but the production never materialized.
Lintz had a good spring in 2012 and, as I recall, had a decent fall as well. He then promptly disappeared once meaningful snaps were taken. So anytime coaches or players talk up a player that hasn't previously contributed as being a huge, impact guy in the fall, remember Andrei Lintz and try to keep your enthusiasm under control.
None of what I said should preclude you from following spring football as closely as you so choose. The various outlets (including this one, hi guys!) appreciate your readership to no end. But just try to keep these things in mind before you get too over the top excited about something. I'll do my best ... and will likely still fail.
See you guys in Spokane in a few weeks.