By the staff of Cougfan.com
Key to the season:
The second key to offensive success will be the health and maturity of the line. The hosses, led by Hunt and first-team All-Pac-10 guard Roche, continued to develop nicely in 2001 and figure to be a real force in 2002. They'll need to do a better job of handling the blitz, though, as the Cougar offense in the second half of '01 sputtered against a constant diet of full-blown pressure.
Keys to the season:
Special teams play was one big reason for the Cougars' turnaround 2001 season and many of the marquee guys are back for 2002. Chief among them are placekicker Drew Dunning and kick-off man Adam Holiday. Both were nothing less than outstanding in 2001, with Dunning breaking one of Jason Hanson's records on his way to first-team All-Pac-10 honors and Holiday booming something on the order of 30 kickoffs for touchbacks. Cox was steady as rain at punter in 2001 and will be missed, but there's no shortage of legs waiting to step up in 2002. A pair of redshirt freshmen --- Graham Siderious and walk-on Kyle Basler --- are the most likely successors. Moreover, tight end Mark Ahlberg was an accomplished prep punter and so are two members of the incoming class of freshmen: Carl Bonnell and Chris Jordan. The return-man situation is also solid with the likes of Collin Henderson, Erik Coleman and speed-merchant Curtis Nettles all back, and highly-touted JC transfer Sammy Moore en route. Long-snapping specialist Alex Johnson will need to be replaced.
The Cougars open at home with Nevada and Idaho and then head to Columbus for a showdown with Ohio State in Week 3 before returning home to take on Montana State. A 3-1 start is more than likely and 4-0 is a definite possibility. The Pac-10 season starts favorably, with struggling Cal on the road and then USC coming to Pullman. The Cougs then hit the road to Stanford and Arizona, but get one of the great scheduling breaks of the century, closing the Pac-10 season with three of four games at home. They get Arizona State, Oregon and Washington in Pullman. Only UCLA is on the road.
A bye is tentatively set for Week 8 ---- a potential stratagem that gives the Cougs a breather before closing the Pac-10 campaign with the Devils, Ducks, Dawgs and Bruins.
The Cougs are set to close out the regular season at Hawaii in a fitting tribute to Honolulu native Jason Gesser.
For the first of two straight seasons, the Cougars won't play Oregon State.
COUGAR OUTLOOK 2002
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