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Cougars open up a week of camp in Lewiston

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Valero Alamo Bowl - Iowa State v Washington State Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Good morning. For the seventh straight season, head coach Mike Leach took the Washington State Cougars football team to Lewiston for a portion of training camp. The Spokesman Review is in Lewiston as well, and is publishing some thorough practice reports. Sunday’s feature denoted the five most intriguing position battles taking place on the field, from quarterback to safety.

I won’t try and lift Theo Lawson’s breakdown, since he’s far closer to the situation than I am, but I will try and rank the position battles from most concerning to least concerning.

1) Strong Safety - Instead of four-year starter and prospective NFL player Jalen Thompson back there, WSU is left to choose between JuCo transfer Chad Davis and freshman Tyrese Ross to fill some big shoes. The good news is that both redshirted last season, so they’re not brand new to Tracy Claeys’ system. The bad news? Neither has played a down of major college football, and their free safety counterpart - presumably Bryce Beekman - hasn’t either.

DEFCON Level: 1

2) Middle Linebacker: Jalen Thompson’s departure is equalled or exceeded by that of the departed Peyton Pelluer. While Justus Rogers and Dillon Sherman are both experienced, it would be asking a lot for them to match Pelluer’s production and leadership.

DEFCON Level: 2

3) Quarterback: As with almost every team, but especially with a team that throws the ball almost all of the time, the quarterback battle is easily the most-watched competition. While Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley have loads of experience in the Air Raid, transfer Gage Gubrud likely has the most talent. Even though Leach’s system has largely been characterized as “plug and play” when it comes to QBs, there really is no overstating how critical good quarterback play is offensive success. As with most WSU followers, my presumption is that barring either injury or stellar play from one of the other seniors, Gubrud will take the first snap of the season.

DEFCON Level: 3

4) Nose Tackle: If you’ve followed football for a while, you’ve likely heard that mantra that good defenses are built from the middle outward. Well, we’ve covered the middle of the third level, the middle of the second level, and here we are at the middle of the first level. Kind of an odd pairing here, as there’s one guy (Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei) who has barely played football in his life and another guy (Lamonte McDougle) who hasn’t played in nearly two years. Hopefully they’re both so good that the coaches have a hard time deciding which one will start.

DEFCON Level: 3

“X” Receiver: This one is the odd man out amongst all five, because we know both players are pretty darn good, and they both have at least one year of Power Five football under their belts. Davontavean Martin started off hot last year, but his production tailed off down the stretch. Calvin Jackson, Jr. was the opposite, starting the season with only a few catches but heating up as the year went on. As Lawson notes, both guys will see plenty of snaps and targets, but it will be interesting to see how the competition for the most reps unfolds.

DEFCON Level: 5

While not a position battle, I’m curious to see how the shuffling on the left side of the offensive line plays out. You have to be pretty darn talented and agile to move from guard to tackle, and that’s just what Liam Ryan is trying to do.

The positive takeaway from all of this is that, unlike in years far past, the players competing for these positions are all pretty talented. Whereas it used to be these position battles would be won by the least crappy player, now they’ll likely be taken by the best player, if that makes any sense.

The weather in Lewiston is heating up along with the competition on the field, as highs for WSU’s time down south will hover around and over the 100 degree mark.

Football

Let’s go with some video first. As we were talking about in our Slack chat, there sure seems to be a lot of contact going on despite the lack of padding.

A closer look at five of the most competitive position battles at Washington State camp | The Spokesman-Review
We examine the competitions at quarterback, “X” wide receiver, nose tackle, “Mike” linebacker and strong safety, breaking down the contenders, explaining the competition and finally listing who we think will rise to the top of the depth chart at each spot.

Practice report from Day 2 of Washington State preseason camp: Junior college defensive backs make their mark | The Spokesman-Review
Roommate pairings are somewhat random, Will Rodgers III told reporters, and coaches like to place players with teammates they wouldn’t usually spend time with, or ones that don’t share the same position group.

Pac-12 training camp preview: North division breakdown
The most intriguing quarterback competition in the North resides in Pullman, where another transfer, Gage Gubrud from Eastern Washington, is competing for the starting job.

Coaches Poll: Breaking down the Top 25 teams in the preseason ranking
The Cougars might not match last year’s 11 wins, a program record, but this team is a lock for eight wins behind an offense bound to be as potent as any in the country.

This Week in Parenting

Like most kids with working parents, the boys attend day camp during the summer. When I picked them up on Friday, they showed me a cake they’d made that looked like a brain. On the drive home, the following conversation took place.

Mr. Enrique (the counselor who helped the kids make the cake) makes really cool cakes. He used to be a pastry chef at a really nice restaurant in Spain.

Oh, cool. Is Mr. Enrique an older guy?

Yeah, he’s like 20.

When it comes to your kids, it’s often the unintentional digs that cut the deepest.

EDIT: When I first drafted this story Sunday morning, I wasn’t going to mention the tragic massacre in El Paso. But then another one took place in Dayton, and I thought I’d get some stuff off my chest. The Dayton shooting in particular hits close to home, because Mrs. Kendall has a degree on her wall from UD, and she met her best friends there. I’ve been to the Oregon District more than once, and I’ve been there around the same time that the shooting started.

What does this have to do with parenting? I’m getting there. Despite the fact that school shootings - particularly Sandy Hook - have happened far too often, the horrific events never fully sunk in. For me, that changed with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. I lived in the Tampa suburbs, and my kids - kindergartener and fourth-grader at the time - went to a school that I always considered safe.

When the Parkland shooting occurred, their school reacted the way many others probably did, by holding an active shooter-type drill. We could debate the merits of those drills, and their effect on the psyches of young kids, but that isn’t really my goal here. The school was great about communicating their intentions, sending out voicemails and emails before and after the drill.

I have worked in jobs lately that don’t allow access to my phone, so it was in my car like normal when the drill occurred. When I finished work and got access to my phone, there was a voicemail waiting. I listened to it (via Bluetooth of course) as I left the parking lot. The principal said all the kids performed magnificently and the drill went as planned. That should be a good thing, right? I guess that depends on your perspective.

As I was listening to the message, I pulled over to the side of the road, and I cried. The thought of my boys, or any kids for that matter, being at risk while sitting in their classrooms broke me. If parenting were to be boiled down to one task, that task is that you will go the the ends of the earth to keep your children safe. Worst of all, for me anyway, is the idea that these young, innocent children die afraid.

From that day onward, any time I dropped them off at school I would watch them until they disappeared behind the school doors, and I would pray that it wasn’t the last time I’d see them alive.

The events of the last day bring those emotions rushing back. Innocent people shopping at the store never returned home. Young people enjoying a night out were suddenly lying dead and wounded on the sidewalk.

So I don’t care if this topic makes you uncomfortable. I don’t care if what I’m about to say offends you. I do care about the safety and wellbeing if my fellow humans.

When are we going to decide that enough is enough? When are we going to hold our elected officials accountable for their criminal inaction regarding how easy it is for nearly every American to get his (and it’s almost always “his”) hands on weapons that are designed to do one thing - kill as many people as possible?

When are we going to stop throwing up our hands, saying “well, there’s nothing that can be done”? We put a goddamn man on the moon before the calendar turned to 1970. We can launch a missile from Kansas, fly it over the North Pole, and stick the landing on a one meter square anywhere on the planet. But we can’t figure out how to stop people from shooting up a school/store/night club? Pardon my language, but that’s fucking bullshit.

I hear a lot about the need for better mental health counseling and treatment. Yes, that’s important. But you know what? There are lots of people in Canada and Europe and Asia and Australia with mental health problems, and yet the only place mass shootings happen regularly are here in the U.S. That is not a coincidence. I know I said it before but it bears repeating - until our politicians do something besides the perfunctory “thoughts and prayers” garbage, set aside their cowardice and take a stand for once, nothing is going to change.

And outside the mental wounds, lost lives and shattered families, that is the saddest thing of all.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: There’s a furniture store between work and home that doubles as a great place to get beer, mostly of Belgian origin. I stopped in this week, and for the first time in my memory they had a couple cases of Paix Dieu sitting there, in need of a home. Well find a home they did. Only brewed during the full moon, Paix Dieu is one of the best Belgian beers you will ever have. I have to get me one of those glasses.

15 best beer cities around the world | CNN Travel
The craft beer scene has taken over almost every inch of the globe, from Australia to Estonia and pretty much everywhere in between.

Non-Sports

Is Bruce Hay the Most Gullible Man in Cambridge?
A chance encounter left Harvard professor Bruce Hay homeless, out of work, and buried in litigation with Maria-Pia Shuman and Mischa Haider. A law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?