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2022 Cougar offense features more questions than answers

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Lots of potential, and lots of unknowns

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Hello! When we last saw our Washington State Cougars football team in action, they were leaving the field after a defeat in the Sun Bowl. We won’t see them again in any fashion until March/April when spring practices begin. The period between now and then is a decent chance to take stock of where the team stands, even though the roster could evolve by a fair amount in the interim.

That’s what the Spokesman Review’s Colton Clark is doing these days, having started on Saturday with the WSU offense. As usual, the Cougars have a fair amount of talent, especially at the skill positions. As usual, the Cougars lack the depth of talent that is almost always required to endure and succeed throughout a long football season.

Quarterback is the perfect example. While WSU signed Cameron Ward, one of the most highly sought-after QBs in the transfer portal, there is frighteningly little depth behind him. That is a contrast to what we got used to throughout the Leach era, when there was almost always a passable option behind the starter. An even more stark example is offensive line. While Leach tended to stack linemen in a way that almost guaranteed a few capable backups, WSU’s current situation at that position group is cause for a decent amount of anxiety, as you’ll read in Clark’s article.

The situation is less perilous at receiver, as the Cougs return a lot of potential, and a fair amount of production (on the outside at least). There was a decent amount of fear that freshman De’Zhaun Stribling would follow fellow Hawaiian Jayden de Laura out the door, but as of now at least, Stribling remains on the roster and a key piece of 2022’s outlook. The return of Nard Dog Bell on the inside, along with Joey Hobert and Lincoln Victor is a good place to start in the slots. And color me intrigued regarding how the Cougs look at tight end. Tight end!

While the second edition of National Signing Day takes place this week, it’s highly unlikely that WSU will sign anyone who can step in and protect Cam Ward immediately. One key time period in terms of shaping the 2022 roster will likely be in the days immediately following spring practices. That will be when players around the country have a better sense of where they sit on the depth chart, and the ones who aren’t where they think they should be will start exploring their options. I anticipate that Jake Dickert and company (especially Clay McGuire!) will be scouring the big spreadsheet around that time.

If the rules in 2022 remain the same as last year, players have until July 1 to announce intent to transfer in order to be eligible for next season.

Football

The Seattle Times published its annual Chips List recently. As per usual, WSU secured commitments from precisely zero in-state Blue Chips. This seems to be a light year in regards to the cream of the Washington crop, as only three players are listed in that category.

The Cougs did a little better in the next best category, as four Red Chip prospects will be headed to Pullman in the fall. Given the dearth of returning production at running back, WSU really needs Red Chipper Djouvensky Schlenbaker to contribute right away.

Chips List 2022: The top 100 high-school football prospects in Washington | The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times’ annual Chips List reveals the top football prospects in Washington state, as determined by High School Sports Coordinator Nathan Joyce with input from recruiting experts.

Quarterback and offensive line among top questions for Washington State's offense to answer this offseason | The Spokesman-Review
WSU football has entered a new era, and its fan base is wondering how it’ll turn out.

The rise of a quarterback enigma: Cameron Ward’s journey from zero-star prospect to FCS to Washington State – The Athletic ($)
This is the story behind Ward’s two recruitments: the one two years ago when nobody else wanted him and the one this winter that brought more options, more fame and more pressure.

Basketball

Big game on Sunday for the Cougs, as they sit in the same relative strata as the Colorado Buffaloes, at least standings-wise. All signs point to WSU having the advantage. In addition to the game being in Pullman, WSU sits at #45 in KenPom and #51 in NET, while the Buffs are #81/82. WSU is also a 5.5-point favorite.

Meanwhile, the Cougar women head west to take on Washington for the second time in just three days, aiming for a season sweep after their 60-56 victory on Friday. The women tip at noon PST on Pac-12 Washington, while the men’s game will be broadcast on FS1, beginning at 7 p.m.

Game day notes: CU Buffs seek regular season sweep of WSU Cougars – BuffZone
CU will attempt to make it two out of three on its week-long Pacific Northwest road trip while picking up another road that might dull some of the sting of an ugly loss at Washington on Thursday night.

This Week in Parenting

Team Kendall got some news recently, learning that the proverbial family truckster will be loading up this summer and heading west for our final assignment in the Air Force. Once again, we’re going back to the good ol’ Florida Panhandle. There was a chance that we’d simply head north a ways and end up in Belgium, but that didn’t come to pass. Once we found out our destination, the boys began talking about everything they’ve missed about the U.S.

So I had an idea, and instructed them both to write down the top five things they’re looking forward to back in the good ol’ U.S. of A., and five things they’ll miss about Europe. This was an iterative process because, as per usual, they initially penned incredibly broad answers in order to complete the task in as little time as possible. After much back-and-forth, here are their lists.

10 year-old will miss:

  • Traveling to different countries on long weekends
  • Baseball (when informed that baseball exists in the US, he added that he’d miss his current baseball team)
  • The food and culture in Italy
  • Friends he’s made here
  • Eating a food from charcuterie board and watching football on Sundays. (since football doesn’t come on until 7 p.m., charcuterie board + NFL Red Zone became a tradition this season)

13 year-old will miss:

  • Authentic German schnitzel and sausages, food from Poland and Lithuania (originally he simply wrote “food” because of course)
  • Traditions such as the town tractor parade and St. Nicholas Day. The latter takes place on December 6, when the kids leave their shoes outside over night, and they are filled with candy.
  • Friends from school and sports teams
  • Traveling to fun places like Italy, Belgium and Greece
  • Proximity to so many important historical sites

10 year-old looks forward to:

  • Restaurants (when informed that there are also restaurants in Europe, he narrowed it down to Chick-fil-A and Jersey Mike’s)
  • Being closer to family
  • Warmer weather
  • Making new friends
  • Everyone speaks English (we’ll try to avoid Louisiana I guess)

13 year-old looks forward to:

  • Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, Panda Express
  • The beach
  • Closer to family
  • Bigger house (over here, we chose a house with more modern amenities instead of a big house that’s old and heated by oil. Then again, we’ve just begun to look at home prices in the US. Yikes.)
  • Going to Blue Wahoos baseball games

Elsewhere, the Mighty Wolverines are 2-0! In a repeat of last week, we got out to a big lead (10-0 at halftime) only to let up in the second half. By the end of the third quarter, the score was even at 10. But then the Wolverines hit the gas once again, ending the game on a 10-2 run to win 20-12. The kiddo didn’t hit any shots - he did drill one after the whistle - but he did chalk up several steals. As far as the sock game, he still took home the top spot with the ode to Baby Yoda.

He also got his report card this week. The grades were pretty good, but the teacher comments included the phrase “refrain from excessive socializing.” That evidence would indicate that he is not his father’s son.

Book Club

I finally finished Lawrence in Arabia a couple weeks ago, after starting it in June. Turns out that a guy reads books with a lot more proficiency when he’s deployed to the Middle East than when he’s back home with family and work. The book was fascinating, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in world history. It is quite a thing to watch a few white guys divvy up a region in such a way so as to guarantee a century’s worth (at least) of bloody sectarian turmoil.

After that, I moved on to Wright Thompson’s Pappyland. As a fan of fine bourbon, who was lucky enough to find both 20 and 23-year Pappy Van Winkle (thank you, Cologne Marriott!), this was a compelling read. Thompson is a fabulously gifted writer, and he weaves the history of Pappy Van Winkle’s brand, his own family’s past and present, and southern culture in a mostly eloquent way. There are a few spots where the narrative seems forced, but for the most part it’s a good read, especially when he talks about how Julian Van Winkle pulled just about every lever imaginable to preserve and renew production of the world’s finest bourbon.

Now that the Master’s class (last one!) has started again, Book Club will once more be on hiatus.

Non-Sports

This first story should make you seethe with anger. The mayor and police chief are committing legalized larceny.

Police in this tiny Alabama town suck drivers into legal ‘black hole’ - al.com
The town of Brookside, Alabama holds municipal court once a month. The courtroom and the parking lot are packed with people. Police must direct traffic before the 1 p.m. court session starts.

Escape from QAnon: How Jan. 6 changed one person’s path
Unlike so many fellow conspiracy theorists, Justin would ultimately crawl out of the dark place his own mind had taken him. His first steps began at the U.S. Capitol.