DAY 2 XTRA: Long adjusting to new position(s)

PULLMAN -- Travis Long turned down mighty Boise State four years ago to play football for struggling Washington State. New WSU linebackers coach Jeff Choate of course is now certain that Long made a brilliant decision, because he left Boise State this winter to coach linebackers at WSU. Just how badly did Boise State and Choate want Long to commit?

"There's probably not one player that we didn't get in the last six years while I was at Boise that we wanted as bad as Travis Long," Jeff Choate said after the Cougars held their second spring practice Saturday. "He wanted to be a Coug, and that was just the way it was going to be.

"He's a tremendous young man, a tremendous player, a good leader."

Long, a three-year starter at defensive end, has provided plenty of highlights during three lean seasons for the Cougars. WSU coaches like to think Long's best highlights are a few months away -- as they train him to be their "BUCK" linebacker, a hybrid position that mixes defensive end and outside linebacker responsibilities.

"That's the position we had in mind for him at Boise State," Choate said.

"I'm looking forward to it," Long said. "I've just got the learning curve still going."

More of Long's comments after Day 2:
But he played outside linebacker as a sophomore and junior at Spokane's Gonzaga Prep before moving to defensive end as a senior. The Cougars have switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme this year. (Note: Long, a strong pass rusher, is still expected to come off the edge with his hand down at times -- Breske told CF.C at a recruiting dinner Long could line up at both d-end and all four 'backer spots.)

"What Travis possesses is a lot of athleticism, a lot of leadership," new defensive coordinator Mike Breske said.

Breske loves to blitz and he envisions Long doing that from a variety of angles.

"We're going to blitz him, line stunt him," Breske said. "We're going to drop him in coverage ... we'll move him around. He's a guy that could up at inside linebacker (at times)."

The 6-foot-4 Long said he's dropped about six pounds from last year's listed weight of 256. Asked if he lost weight to gain speed to play linebacker, Long smiled.

"We kinda ran a lot during winter conditioning," he deadpanned.

Several WSU players said they ran far more this winter than ever before, and they've run constantly in the first two practices.

Breske and Choate are just two of the fiery, loud assistant coaches that new head coach Mike Leach hired. The volume has been cranked on full by the assistant coaches through two days of spring. And the language has been salty.

"I love their energy," Long said. "It brings a little more out of you as a player and a whole defensive unit."

Long said he hopes it will "add to my worth" as an NFL prospect to show scouts he can play defensive end and outside linebacker. Long's speed and mobility in open space have been impressive this week.

"I'm a little lighter," he said. "I kind of leaned out a little bit. I feel a lot stronger and still feel fast."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Some dead legs no doubt contributed to a drop in intensity from Thursday's first practice, but Choate was in no mood for excuses.

    "I didn't come here to lose ball games," Choate said. "I came here to win championships."

    Leach and Choate are colorful sorts who like to tell stories to get a point across. Choate had an interesting way of describing how important it is for players to be consistent with their play, effort and focus.

    "If you show up one day for work and you've got your Starbucks and everything's groovy, everyone knows what to expect," Choate said. "You don't have to worry about it.

    "The next day, you get up a little late, didn't have time to get your coffee, you're kinda grumpy. Well, no one wants to be around ya. Everyone wants to work with that guy that gets his coffee on time every day."

  • Marquess Wilson, WSU's star receiver, said the Cougars hope to "shock the world" by winning the Pac-12 championship and a bowl game.

    Wilson said WSU fans "should be real excited" to watch Leach's innovative offense.

    "There's a lot of opportunities for us to put points on the board," he said.

    Wilson said outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons is "teaching us a lot of new things with our hands, telling us to be violent."


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