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Cougar Football 2021 is here!

Oregon State v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

It’s here. Finally, at long last, after what feels like an eternity, Cougar Football 2021 is here. Next Saturday night (or Sunday morning for some!) the Cougs will run out of the tunnel onto Gesa Field in front of thousands of fans, and it will feel awesome. One week from now, we will be breaking down things like how the starting QB - whomever that is! - looked, whether the new defensive line rotation held its ground for an entire game, and if the new Aussie punter lived up to the standard of legends like Forrest, Basler and Draguicevich. Although, we probably all hope that we never see the punter.

Yours truly will likely be wallowing in a first tranche of gambling debacles, but we’ll worry about that down the road. Back to the team on the field. As with just about any squad not named the Ohio State Buckeyes or Alabama Crimson Tide, the Cougars have a series of unknowns to address once the proverbial bullets start flying, and next Saturday will bring at least a partial answer. Principle among those questions, aside from the obvious QB1 situation, is the interior defensive line. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The group has a decent amount of size, but lacks experience outside Dallas Hobbs. The Ahmir/Amir twins will likely be depended upon to clog up the middle along with Hobbs, but it’ll be up to some heretofore unknowns to shore up the depth, such as senior (senior?) Antonio Pule. While I’m not at all familiar with Antonio, I’m semi-confident that if WSU is to win the Apple Cup this year it’ll be due to a bizarre play that ends with the ball in his hands. Call it a hunch.

Newly-minted Spokesman Review WSU beat writer Colton Clark wrote about all three levels of the WSU defense, and below are a few tidbits that stood out. We’ll start with that defensive line.

It was difficult to get a complete gauge on the position with limited full-speed drills at camp, but WSU’s quarterbacks had to deal with healthy pressure at times.

Dickert hopes to have six tackles ready to play by Saturday.

“We want to keep those guys fresh,” he said. “Until someone really stands out, we’ll try to do as much as we can packagewise, maybe get four defensive ends in at a time to pass rush. You’re gonna see a lot of people on our D-line playing, and I think that’s a good thing.

Four defensive ends rushing in a passing situation - at the expense of a possible push up the middle - seems uncomfortable. If Dickert finds four guys on the interior who are at least passable, this defense will be in decent shape. That’s because the guys playing on the edge, as well as those occupying the next two levels appear to have some pretty solid production and experience, as well as young potential.

“(We were) so used to having guys out, being short people, and now we’ve got so many people,” said Woods, one of the most prolific tacklers in WSU history.

Aside from another season from stalwart Jahad Woods, I’m pretty excited to see Travion Brown, Francisco Mauigoa and transfer Ben Wilson. It’ll be interesting to see how Dickert mixes and matches his defensive sets given that the base defense features only two traditional linebackers.

On the back end, we’ve certainly come a long way from “Hey running back Teondray Caldwell, have you ever tried playing safety?” Took all of one play to show how disastrous that was. Once again, one of the safety positions is in flux, but I’m confident that the talent is in a better place than it’s been in a while. I’m still curious as to how Daniel Isom garnered all-conference recognition last year, but hopefully he anchors the back end and lives up to the billing. WSU has several talented guys on the outside, and it seems they’re confident as well.

(Derrick) Langford, a third-year Cougar entering his first season as a full-time starter, has noticed at practice that the drop-off is limited when backup corners rotate in.

“I feel like the whole room is full of dogs,” he said. “You can call anybody’s name and they’ll come ready to play.”

The key with most teams that have tenuous depth, a lack of top end talent or both, will be limiting explosive plays. We all saw in 2019 how damaging it is when the opponent is ripping off yardage in huge chunks, so WSU needs to make opposing offenses earn yards and points. Do that, and the offense should (should!) be explosive enough to put WSU in position to win more than it loses. The great part is that in six days we will begin to find out just how good that defense can be.

Football

Washington State's defense to field deeper, veteran group | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State’s defenders probably feel like they shouldn’t be judged on last season’s limited four-game sample.

Saturday Night Five: Pac-12 plays defense with alliance strategy
Impressive as UCLA looked on the field, we cannot ignore the empty seats in the Rose Bowl. Certainly, the ESPN cameras and social media commentators did not ignore them.

Pac-12 deciding not to pursue expansion is latest body blow to Big 12
The Pac-12's decision to not expand comes as the latest blow to the uncertain sports future of Texas Tech and seven other schools in the Big 12.

Cougars in the NFL

Fair amount of news on this front! You’ve probably heard that the Jacksonville Jaguars named top pick Trevor Lawrence their starting quarterback this week, which hastened the departure of Gardner Minshew, who is probably better than at least five NFL starters. It’s curious that he went to Philadelphia, however, which seems fairly set at starter and backup. If they’re smart, the Eagles will dump washed-up Joe Flacco. The folks at Bleeding Green Nation seem to think the Eagles did well, with 76% of poll respondents rating the trade as an “A” or “B.”

Gardner Minshew trade: Eagles acquire Jaguars backup quarterback - Bleeding Green Nation
QB Factory strikes again.

Eagles trade for quarterback Gardner Minshew, send Jacksonville Jaguars conditional late-round draft pick
Minshew is a few days removed from officially being named the backup quarterback in Jacksonville behind Trevor Lawrence.

NFC East news: Eagles trade for QB Gardner Minshew, something the Dallas Cowboys should have done - Blogging The Boys
QB2 is still a concern in Dallas.

Elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers signed River Cracraft to a one-year deal, after apparently cutting him four days before. I did not know he’d been cut! Such is life in the NFL.

Former Washington State receiver River Cracraft signs with 49ers | The Spokesman-Review Former mainstay Washington State wide receiver River Cracraft signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.

Finally, Dezmon Patmon continues to shine for the Indianapolis Colts, making another weekly highlight reel-type catch.

Unfortunately, the Hurricane Ida forced the cancelation of the New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals game, so Easop Winston and Jalen Thompson will have to wait for another opportunity.

Soccer

Cougs win! It was a boatrace in Pullman, as the women’s soccer team hammered the EWU Eagles, 4-0. The Cougs travel to San Diego on Thursday to face the Aztecs.

Cougs Run Roughshod Over EWU - Washington State University Athletics
Putting to rest the questions about their finishing from a week prior, the Cougs exploded for three first half goals in the span of just just seven minutes to put the game to rest before the first half horn had a chance to sound.

This Week in Parenting

Big week, as school began and the Kendall house is now sheltering a teenager. He’s been begging me for a while now to let him take over this section, so since it’s his birthday I finally relented. Ladies and gentlemen, Jackson Kendall:

Hello everyone! So today is my birthday and my dad finally let me write something so this is awesome! Go Cougs!! With all that’s happened this week I really needed the weekend and what a weekend it was. On Saturday I volunteered to go and help make care packages for the Afghan refegees and it was fun! Then today we went and played laser tag with all of my friends! For all of you Bundesliga (I think thats how you spell it) fans, go Dortmund! So I don’t really know what to talk about so I am really winging it here uuuuuhhhhhhh, so how about those Cougars am I right! If you have been reading the recent “This Week in Parenting” I guess you could say we have been having fun for quite awhile. So that’s all for this year (unless you guys say something in the comment wink wink) Goodbye everyone! :-)

Pulitzer-worthy. Anyway, the best part about this was when the nine year-old found out that I was letting the older kid write, and he immediately started whining about it. In the interests of fairness, I told him that he could do the same thing on his birthday. “I don’t want to” was the response. Kids. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live with ‘em.

Non-Sports

‘The Temperature in Saigon Is 105 and Rising’ - POLITICO
What I learned about American power watching the U.S. leave Vietnam — and then Afghanistan decades later.

Missouri father, 7 kids get COVID, vaccinated mom healthy | The Kansas City Star
Ben Anderson of Cameron, Missouri, wasn’t anti-vaccine — he just didn’t have time to get the shot. Then he spent six weeks in the Research Medical Center ICU.