COMMENTARY: Differences abound -- no, really!

SPOKANE -- The doubters will say it was only spring practice. Only a scrimmage. Only the starters playing against the reserves. You know what? The doubters have valid points. You know what else? Saturday's final spring scrimmage had a different feel, a different look, a different vibe than anything else during Paul Wulff's 3 1-2 years on the job.

The fans felt that way. The coaches felt that way. The players felt that way. So did this writer.

Doubters, prepare to change your way of thinking. The Cougars, finally, appear primed to make the move from pigskin hell to pigskin heaven.

"Man, the Cougs looked GREAT!" a fan said on his way out of Albi Stadium.

"I was really happy with what they did," Paul Wulff said.

"I'm really excited about our performance today," running back Rickey Galvin said. "That's only the beginning. It's only the spring, so I'm just waiting to see what the fall is going to be like, because it's going to be two times better."

If Washington State's first-team offense were to actually get two times better, Pac-12 officials might be forced to move the Cougars to the NFL.

Wulff did go to great lengths to point out that the No. 1 offense went up against a No. 2 defense that was crippled by injuries to several potential fall starters. A few players who may wind up being on the second- or even third-team defense lined up as starters Saturday.

That said, the speed and quickness on display at Albi was unlike anything WSU fans have seen in years.

Galvin, whose lack of size (he's listed at 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds) resulted in just three scholarship offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools, has the kind of moves and quicks that will make the very best of defenders look foolish at times -- and make Pac-12 schools lament not offering him.

"The running game is huge," junior quarterback Jeff Tuel. "It opens up the pass game. It's nice to have explosive guys like that with that speed that you can't find on every football team."

Galvin ran for 2,264 yards and 24 touchdowns his senior year of high school in Berkeley, Calif., but San Diego State and Utah State were the only FBS schools besides Washington State that offered him a scholarship. He can't wait to prove a whole bunch of people wrong.

"I got that a lot: ‘Rickey, you're a great back, but you could be too small. You could be too light,'" Galvin recalled. "I take that as a challenge. Size doesn't matter."

Well, it matters on the lines, and the Cougars have good size up front on both sides of the ball. It might be too early to get real excited about an offensive line that allowed a horrendous 51 sacks last year, but the group put together an impressive spring working against a defensive front seven that was admittedly missing some key players.

"That's the hardest working group (of offensive linemen) since I've been here," Tuel said. "The closest group."

"The offensive line put in a lot of hard work," Galvin agreed. "They're going to get success."

Few teams "get success" without a top quarterback, and Tuel -- a gifted passer and runner -- may be poised for an all-conference season. Second-team all-conference, anyway, since Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has all but been handed the Heisman Trophy already.

Wulff labeled Tuel the most valuable player of spring camp.

"Jeff's the leader of this team," Wulff said. "He's been solid, consistent, and he just keeps getting better."

"I feel the need to try to take over this team and lead this team and take us where we need to go," Tuel said. "If I need to push guys to do something, I'm going to push them. It's really been easy, because the team is so close. We're such a tight-knit team."

In recent years, what little success the Cougars have experienced has often been witnessed by disappointing home crowds. Judging from the enthusiastic response of 4,000-plus fans Saturday at Albi, fans are ready to jump back on board if the Cougars start winning. A relatively soft early schedule could speed the process.

"It's awesome; it's great," Tuel said about Saturday's crowd. "It just shows the strength of the family at WSU and the Cougars. We love our fans."

Tuel is confident the Cougars will give their fans more to love -- literally and figuratively -- after summer and fall workouts.

"We're going to lift (weights), and we're going to eat," Tuel said. "Then we're going to lift, and we're going to eat. Then we're going to lift some more.

"We need to gain weight, get bigger, stronger, faster."

Improvement in those areas has been made throughout Wulff's tenure. Not as much as Wulff or anyone else with a fondness for crimson would like, but improvement nonetheless.

Now, the Cougars need to make that improvement show up in the win column. Saturday's scrimmage was a good start.

"It helps a lot of people sleep at night on the coaching staff," Tuel said with a smile. "They're definitely happier. I hope the fans are a lot happier. It should be a real fun year for them as well."

Cougfan Top Stories