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Hope for the Holidays!

Five reasons to be hopeful about WSU football.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The holiday season brings with it a sort of obligation for hope. I say sort of because like everyone, I’ve had a complicated history with hope. After all hope sometimes is for naught.

For instance, after a spring scrimmage in 2008, I gave a quote to a radio show that I was excited about our run game. We had a half dozen run plays go for 15+ yards in the scrimmage and I was sure that we were ready to run the ball for TDs that fall. “Be ready for an explosive run game!” I said exuberantly, or something to that effect. As many might remember, Coug fans did indeed need to be ready for some explosive run plays that fall, just not from our offense.

Hope turned to dust.

On the other side of the coin, in 2012 we hired Mike Leach. An ornery man who seemed entirely too big of a hire for Pullman to imagine. A huge swing by AD Bill Moos (whose WSU tenure is itself an interesting study of hope). If you’d ask me after his introductory press conference what I thought about the Leach hire, I’d have told you it was maybe the most important day in Cougar football history (barring the Rose Bowls of course).

Hope realized. Mostly.

So with the holidays here, a new head coach, early recruiting in the rearview, and a bowl game (hopefully?) ahead of us, we have a decision to make. Do we embrace hope, or do we shun it?

Well, I for one have decided to embrace it, because I figure if LaVar Ball can speak things into existence, maybe it has something to do with his time in Pullman.

Here are a few things to be hopeful about as we enjoy the holidays.

Travell Harris might stick around!

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of other Cougs got more postseason hardware, but for my money, Harris was the most fun to watch this year. His slippery routes and whiplash-inducing acceleration always made me chuckle with joy. I was sure he’d call it a career in Pullman and pursue a professional one. But unlike CouGreats Max Borghi, Abe Lucas, Jaylen Watson and others who are choosing to sit out the Sun Bowl in pursuit of the NFL, Harris has announced he is going to play, and in fact is considering another year in Pullman.

The thought of this brings me joy and is certainly something for Cougar faithful to be hopeful for. Perhaps it is the opportunity to play with Renard Bell again, or perhaps it’s the return of the Air Raid to the Palouse, or perhaps it’s something I can’t possibly know. Regardless, I’m exceedingly excited to watch him play this New Years Eve, and maybe one more season in crimson and grey!

We flipped a recruit from Oregon….and he plays TE?????

Oregon v Washington State
CouGreat Jed Collins (41), seen here celebrating with CouGreat Michael Bumpus, was a shining example of the kind of TE/H back player that seems to be headed back to the Palouse.

Andre Dollar was committed to Oregon, then Oregon lost a coach to the state of Florida (again), Coach Dickert hired an Air Raid friend to call the offense, and suddenly the TE with offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona State, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa State was headed to the Palouse.

But the Air Raid doesn’t use a tight end, why would he come here? Why would Dickert even recruit him? You might be asking yourself. Or me. Which is the same thing, as I can’t hear you.

Well turns out, *this* Air Raid uses a tight end. Also something called an H back, or even a sniffer.

Which leads me too….

Eric Morris is going to run our offense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Incarnate Word at North Texas Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Many Coug fans were understandably confused/concerned that Dickert decided not to retain OC Brian Smith, the man who oversaw the growth of Jayden de Laura for much of the season and called a very effective Run and Shoot offense that just conquered Montlake.

I suspect the hiring of former Texas Tech OC and Incarnate Word HC Eric Morris eased a lot of those concerns.

There is much to unpack with this hire, however, what is bringing me hope this holiday is that Morris brings with him the Air Raid offense, but with a twist. Namely, tight ends and H-backs, also known as sniffers (don’t ask me why, football terminology almost-always comes close to kinda-almost making perfect sense, just roll with it).

That excites me because TEs and sniffers mean that Morris is bringing a diverse rushing attack with him. Imagine if your pulling guard could run a 4.7 and occasionally run pass routes. That is what an H back is. Imagine a tackle who can double team on a power play, and then run a vertical on the next. That is what a TE is. The Mike Leach Air Raid was fun, but its rushing attack was not only rare; it was bland. TEs and sniffers means Morris plans on running for touchdowns, not just passing for them.

Half our new recruits are from Washington

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington
Will Coach Dickert win the state of Washington on and off the field?
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Not a lot has been said about Washington high school football, at least in comparison with traditional prep powerhouse states like California, Florida and Georgia. Accordingly, Mike Leach tended to ignore those that played it.

Coach Dickert has made it abundantly clear he disagrees with that sentiment, bringing in 5 of his 10 early signing day recruits from the state of Washington. Naysayers might argue the local flare is a knock on Dickert’s first class, as the best high school football — and the best high school football players — play somewhere else. I suspect that Graham-Kapowsin High School would beg to differ, as the Washington 4A state champs took down Georgia 7A state champs and national powerhouse Collins Hill last week.

Washington locals becoming the backbone of a great WSU football team? Yeah, I’d say that’s something worth hoping for, and GKHS’ win combined with my experience coaching two of those WA based recruits (Djouvensky Schlenbaker and Leyton Smithson) convinces me it’s something worthy of being hopeful about.

Daiyan Henly chose us!

Nevada v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Nevada transfer linebacker will be a sixth year senior and chose us over USC, Kansas State and UW.

Perhaps watching him make that choice with cake is the most hopeful note I can leave you on.

Cheers, Happy Holidays, and as always Go Cougs!

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