Wade Jacobson made 11 starts at offensive left guard last season as a junior transfer from California's Gavilan (junior) College. Talk about an education!
"Last year, every week, I'd keep reviewing," Jacobson said after Thursday night's scrimmage at Martin Stadium. "I was always re-learning everything. Trying to get the calls down, trying to learn the defenses.
"My head was (going) 100 miles an hour."
Once things slowed down in the off-season, the learning process for Jacobson gained speed.
"I got a whole winter under me, a whole other spring," he said. "I sunk my head into the (play)book this summer and winter.
"It's unbelievable. I can look at the defense, I know what to do. I know the (offensive) calls. And Morton (offensive line coach Steve Morton) has been helping us. He's putting a lot of stuff on the O-line's shoulders this year. We can change protections if we need to. We're a smarter O-line than we were last year."
One does not need to be all that smart to realize the offensive line must show significant improvement for the Cougars to make significant progress as a team. Washington State gave up 51 quarterback sacks last year (next to last in the Football Bowl Subdivision) and averaged just 91 rushing yards per game (fourth from last).
"We're glued like a family right now," Jacobson said, referring to the offensive line in particular. "Everyone feels comfortable in their position. It's like we're a bunch of twins.
We've got the calls down. We know each other. We're just gelling."
Jacobson, a 6-foot-6, 306-pound native of Hollister, Calif., likes to think he can help more than last year now that he is starting at right tackle.
"I love it!" the affable senior said with his customary level of enthusiasm. "It's so much better. I'd never played guard in my life until a week and a half, two weeks before the season started last year. I mean, don't get me wrong, guard was all right. With my long legs, I really didn't fit well. I just felt like my stance was awkward. I was a little too big for it. Going out to tackle, my pass set is a lot easier. I can move a lot better. I love hitting off the edge."
More than few folks thought WSU coach Paul Wulff was hitting off the edge when he suggested the Cougars – who have not had a winning season since 2003 – can challenge nationally ranked Oregon and Stanford for North Division honors in the first year of the Pacific-12 Conference.
Jacobson's reaction was predictable.
"Why not set our goals high? Why come out here and set our mind for the easiest?
"I mean, we're all in this just like Stanford and Oregon are. We can come out, we can win the North. We can beat Stanford, we can beat Oregon, or it can go the other way. Whatever team plays best that day is going to win."
Jacobson was quick to add, "We have to take it a game at a time. Yeah, we would love to go to a bowl game. Yeah, we'd love to win the championship. But we can't get in there if we don't go game by game and win the day."
Jacobson said a bigger, faster, better defense will help the Cougars win in 2011.
"The whole team is like that (improved)," Jacobson said. "We busted our butts in the gym this winter. Lovat (head football strength and conditioning coach Darin Lovat) had us grinding.
I mean, look at the charts. You'll see all the linemen jumped up 15, 20 pounds. Our strengths went up. We had a whole year of just rebuilding to turn our team around.
"We're so far better than we were last year. We can't wait until Sept. 3rd to show everyone."
The Cougars are favored by 27 ½ points next Saturday against visiting Idaho State (2 p.m., no television). WSU also figures to be favored at home the following week against UNLV, so the Cougars could start 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
"I know what you mean, but it's just something, we can't think like that," Jacobson said.
"If we just start thinking way in the future, it's going to screw us over. That's why I said we have to take it game by game and see where we go from there."
Still, Jacobson said a bowl game is definitely within reach.
"This," he said, "is our time."
OT WADE JACOBSON: This is our time
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