1) Despite a dominating season where the Cougar defense forced 24 turnovers and keyed a late season turnaround, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is not going to rest on his laurels.
Standing on the sideline at Joe Albi I watched Grinch consistently teaching and motivating his defense, in particular the defensive backfield.
The development of that entire group has been astonishing over the last 18 months and it is entirely a credit to Grinch and his passion.
One instance in particular stands out from Saturday -- All-Pac-12 safety Shalom Luani was late on a rotation and allowed a big play down the field. Grinch promptly got on him, stressing the importance of doing his job and keying the quarterback. Luani came back almost immediately and made a great play intercepting a throw from backup QB Peyton Bender.
This instance illustrated to me how hungry Grinch and the rest of the defense are to finish what they started last season.
2) Speaking of laurels, Luke Falk is on a mission to gather some more.
As expected, he was sharp on Saturday, leading two touchdown drives including a nice 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.
But what impressed me most is that as he walked off the sideline the first thing he said to me was, “That was a little sloppy, we left too much out there.”
This is what I love about Falk - even after leading a touchdown drive he recognizes there is still room to grow and is going to constantly challenge himself to get there. More importantly, from my vantage point on the sideline, I was able to see his interaction with other offensive players. Without fail, he was always grabbing receivers after each series and talking about what had happened on the field.
This leadership from the star quarterback is going to be essential in keeping the Cougars on track heading into a season with so much hype.
3) The personnel for the Washington State football team is head and shoulders above what I have seen in past years.
Getting off the bus, this team is going to have a chance in every game on their schedule. Despite some concern about depth on the both lines I was incredibly impressed with the emergence of some of the young defensive lineman. With the leadership of d-line coach Joe Salave’a, this group is going to continue to be a strength.
At the skills positions, WSU has an embarrassment of riches. This is a huge testament to the coaching staff’s recruiting philosophy the past four years. Add to that the buy-in from the entire program to strength coach Jason Loscalzo’s offseason program and I find it very hard to believe that this team will get pushed around physically by any opponent on its schedule.
The Crimson and Gray Game certainly added to the feeling of optimism around the Washington State program. All the pieces are in the right place and now it is about execution.
My fears about a possible letdown were very much eased by what I saw in Spokane. The leadership around this team has them focused and in tune with the task at hand. Like everyone else, I am excited to see it all take shape starting on September 3 at Martin Stadium.
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