Way Too Early Look Ahead: Washington State

Is it ever to early to look ahead to next fall? PonyStampede.com doesn't think so! Over the next couple of weeks, we will be previewing SMU's fall opponents with the people that cover them. Today, we talk with CougFan.com Columnist Greg Witter about Washington State. Hear how the Cougars' spring practices went inside! If you don't have a premium membership, you are missing out!

2008 RECORD: 2-11 Overall 2008 PACIFIC-10: 1-8 (9th)

HEAD COACH: Paul Wulff, Washington State ‘90 (WSU: 2-11, second year; Career: 55-51, nine years)

LETTERMAN RETURNING: 41
LETTERMEN LOST: (19)


ALL-STAR CANDIDATES

ALL-PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE (Offense):

OL Kenny Alfred, 6-2, 300, #Sr., 3V, Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor)

ALL- PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE (Defense):

S Xavier Hicks, 6-0, 196, #Sr., 3V, Fullerton, Calif. (Fullerton)
LB Andy Mattingly, 6-4, 251, Sr., 3V, Spokane, Wash. (Mead)

ALL-PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE (Special Teams):

P Reid Forrest, 6-0, 183, #Jr., 2V, Ephrata, Wash. (Ephrata)


Last year was somewhat of a disappointing season for you guys. What was your overall impression of spring football?
"Well the number one impression is the mood and the play on the field was dramatically better than last spring. There is no question the players had a better grasp of the offense and the defense. The enthusiasm was very apparent. Last year, I think the coaching staff and the players were trying to figure out each other a bit. It just wasn't a crisp environment as it was this spring. Another thing, Washington State had twenty plus players who did not suit up because of injuries. The downsize was that a lot of talent didn't get their reps, the upside was a lot of young guys did get reps in spring drills."


It sounds like the defense was the spotlight in the spring game. Your defense held the offense to 250 yards. Where are you guys at right now on defense? Are you better pass defending team or run defending team?
"The defense right now can't help being dramatically improved from last season. I think they are going to be a much better pass defending team than against the run. They have some decent depth and experience in the secondary, and a lot of veteran depth at the linebacker spot. The defensive line is a little thin, but when the injury situation clears up, that will change of course."


Red-shirt senior Kevin Lupina had 11 interceptions last season with no touchdowns as one of your starters. How did his spring go, and is he the clear cut favorite to win the job this fall?
"No he is not the clear cut favorite. In fact, the quarterback situation is wide open going into the fall. Lupina was the number one man in the spring because his two competitors were hurt. Marshall Lobbestael, who will be a third year sophomore, injured his knee midway through last season. He was looking pretty sharp before he got injured. He got named Pac-10 player of the week after one performance. He got limited work in the spring and is way ahead of schedule. He will be 100% by August, so I would say he is the odds on favorite winner to be the starter."


At time, SMU had trouble shutting down good rushing attacks last season. I was reading that Dwight Tardy got about 50% of the carries last year. Do you expect his workload to go up with him being a senior now?
"The Washington State rushing attack is one of the bright spots this season. Tardy is finally fully recovered from a knee injury that he sustained in the 2007 season. He admittedly was not comfortable cutting, and making moves last season. He looked totally like a new back in spring. He was hitting the wholes hard, making nice cuts, he just looks great. He is totally recovered. Number two, we have a ton of depth behind him. All of them looked good in the spring, so I would say the running backs are one of the bright spots next fall."

Back in January I read an article on the Washington State Scout site said that they needed more SMUs on their schedule next year. Is that the attitude and the thoughts of the majority of Cougar fans on their upcoming game with SMU?
"I don't think it implied that it was an automatic victory. I think what they were implying was that instead of Notre Dame and Oklahoma State, let's get those kind of schools off and other schools on. It's not to be dismissive of SMU, but SMU is not Notre Dame. That was what the story was about."

PonyStampede.com will have much more with CougFan.com Columnist Greg Witter in the Hilltop Review later this weekend. Get Washington State fans' thoughts on June Jones, freshman to possibly look out for, and Greg's final score prediction.


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