Proving that football season is never that far away, WSU will open spring practices on March 24 and hold its annual spring football game on April 23 at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, the school announced today. Practices will conclude on April 26 with one final workout following the Crimson and Gray game.
The school did not announce a time for the game, nor did it announce the schedule for other practice days and times, although it is expected to do so sometime next month prior to March 24.
If you're a die-hard fan, spring practices can actually be a pretty fun way to get an up-close look at players. Granted, most people can't get there for the midweek practices (unless you're a student), but Saturdays typically feature scrimmages in Martin Stadium.
And then, of course, there's the Crimson and Gray game in Spokane, which I went to for the first time last year. It was a fun thing for me, since I don't often get to be surrounded by the warm, comforting embrace of a couple thousand Cougs over here on the west side of the state. The atmosphere is laid back, and it's just a fun celebration of WSU -- the players all hang out on the turf afterward for autographs and pictures.
It also should be one of the more fun games to watch in recent years; it wouldn't be surprising if it drew a pretty decent crowd, coming off the 9-4 season, and the program is deeper with quality talent than it has been in a decade, which should make the split squad nature of the game more competitive than it sometimes has been in the past.
And you might get to see the next big breakout star -- I remember watching Keith Harrington (pictured above) in the game last year and thinking "WHOA ... so that's the guy everyone has been talking about!" It also was the moment it was clear that Luke Falk was pretty far ahead of Peyton Bender and that Falk was almost certainly going to win the job again in the fall.
Who will be "that guy" in this year's spring game? On offense, I'll go with running back James Williams and quarterback Tyler Hilinski. You're already familiar with Williams' exploits on the practice squad last year, and I think Hilinski could make a push to move past Bender for the backup QB gig.
On defense, I'll go with Logan Tago. Yes, Tago played last year, but with our Rush backers Ivan McLennan and Kache Palacio graduating, as well as Jeremiah Allison, I think Tago has an excellent opportunity to make a huge impact somewhere in his second season.