CF.C CHAT SUMMARY: Talkin' D with Robb Akey

WSU DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Robb Akey answered subscriber questions during a CF.C lunchtime chat session Wednesday. Among the topics covered were blitz packages, swagger, where hard hitting Michael Willis might line up, and breakout plays from guys like Matt Mullennix, Scott Davis and Mkristo Bruce. Here's a recap of all that, and much more.

NOTE: Mark your calendars for this upcoming Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. PT when Jeff McQuarrie, producer and director of an upcoming new 4-hour documentary on the colorful history Cougar Football scheduled for release later this year, will be answering questions in the CF.C chat room. McQuarrie has been working on the film for several years and along the way has talked to a Who's Who from the Cougar Nation including Keith Jackson, Drew Bledsoe, Marcus Trufant, Mike Utley, Steve Gleason and many, many more. Head to Legends of the Palouse for more info.

COUGFANcom: Welcome coach Akey! The coach's time is limited, so let's get this chat for CF.C members cranked up.
CoachAkey: Thank you. good to be here. Let's Go!

Crmsn12: Coach Akey, DE depth seems to be a little weak this year. Even with guys like Kooyman, Brooks, and Clevil coming in would you be looking for a talented JC player or two to provide additional depth in the next recruiting class?
CoachAkey: DE: In next recruiting class certainly going to look at that position. If we run across a guy that looks good right now we might add him to the mix. Coming into spring ball felt like we would be able to handle that position. Mkristo had a good season last year and will be a good player for us this fall. I felt like with Matt Mullennix, Michael Graise and Lance Broadus we could handle the other position. The positive was that Matt had a tremendous spring. The unfortunate this was Lance only got a few practices and Michael didn't get any this spring so that we could have speed at that position as well.

bamacoug2: Hey Coach, Greetings from south Alabama. We are all excited about the Auburn game this year. Can you tell us what steps you and the other coaches will take to get the Cougs ready for the heat, humidity and opposing crowd? Thanks and looking forward to next year.
CoachAkey: Auburn: We are looking forward to that game as well. We will see to it that we see more work in the heat of the day in their summer workouts and fall camp. Maybe a little more accustomed to playing in the heat. As for the humidity, we are going to turn the bubble into a steam room. The bubble and/or stadium speakers will be used to create stadium noise so we can practice in similar situations.

COUGFANcom: Coach, what's your assessment of the situation at corner.
CoachAkey: At Corner: It's still a work in progress. I feel like we will have it handled by the time we play our first ballgame. I thought Tyron Brackenridge did some good things during spring ball. Competition created during 2-a-days with four new corners coming to the mix we will be able to handle the depth.

COUGFANcom: Don't need to wait too long to give coach Akey time to answer. Fire away, ladies and gents.
COUGFANcom: Speaking of those two, Broadus and Graise, you love that speed rusher off the edge. Do you have a thought on how close Graise and Broadus getting to the point they'll earn rotational turns.
CoachAkey: I feel confident that they will. they both have to get healthy to do so. When we start camp if they are healthy we can get them the reps necessary to have them prepared to help us win.

RoseCityCoug: Coach, how optimistic are you that Pitoitua will be healthy and ready to join AJ in the trenches this fall?
CoachAkey: Ropati: I'm very optimistic that he will be healthy. We expect him to be ready to go for summer workouts.

IBC2991: Coach, is Michael Willis locked-in for playing-time after having such a strong Spring? Is he going to play SS or FS?
FlatlandCoug: Any thoughts about adding more nickel packages into the mix with Willis looking so good?
CoachAkey: Willis: Michael had a very productive spring and really showed up in the final two weeks of spring ball. If he continues to progress in this fashion you will certainly see him on the field. He will probably fit as a free safety and he certainly brings physicality to the game.

kjstoph1: Coach - Can you comment on where Andy Mattingly fits in next fall?
SCOTTCOUG: Where will Andy Mattingly play on defense? I think I speak for the rest of the group when I say we will be very excited to see him in a Cougar uniform.
CoachAkey: Mattingly: Andy will start with us as an outside linebacker and we are excited about his future as a Coug.

bigskycoug: Seems like you weren't able to be very aggressive last year with the you had personnel. Do you think we will see more blitzing and aggressive strategy this coming season or similar to last?
CoachAkey: We intend to be an aggressive defense. There is a fine line in what's too much and what's not enough. I felt like last season we had some coverage issues that made it hard for us to blitz the way would like to. With the additional cover people coming to our team, that might increase the opportunities to play nickel and combine zone blitz with man blitz.

Crmsn12: Coach, Is Courtney Williams going to be kept at CB with guys like Dawes, Walker, and Brian Williams arriving from the JC ranks and Maddox from the preps? Would a redshirt year benefit him?
MichaelP: Have you found a position for Courtney Williams? How has his development at CB gone? Will he see the field this year?
CoachAkey: Courtney will stay at corner and we will continue to give him the reps he needs to improve his game. He will determine where he falls in the depth chart and whether or not a redshirt will be advantageous or not.

COUGFANcom: Coach, what are some of the things you saw this spring that gave you optimism.
CoachAkey: On the second Friday of spring practices, I saw the confidence and the swagger start to come back into our defense. And it carried into the second scrimmage. With the people that had the opportunity to practice, I saw the improvement take place with individuals. I'm very excited about getting them all together and healthy in the fall and see what type of defense we can turn this into.

bamacoug2: Coach, What percentage of the team will be sticking around for summer voluntary workouts?
CoachAkey: Summer workouts: Indications are that they all intend to be here.

FlatlandCoug: Have you seen some guys step up this spring to provide on the field leadership late in games when the going gets tough. Losing WMD most of last year made that appear to be a big problem.
CoachAkey: Yes, Mkristo Bruce, Scott Davis, Tyron Brackenridge and possibly a few others. Even Michael Willis for a young kid.

COUGFANcom: Coach, what are your top priorities headed into fall camp?
CoachAkey: Priorities: No. 1, make sure everyone is stronger and faster than they have ever been. 2) Competing out the starting 11 and determining out how much depth we possess. 3) Making sure we build an 11 hat to the football, physical, fast-playing defense.

Crmsn12: Coach, what prompted you to move Stripling to MLB with Trent already established there?
CoachAkey: Stripling: We have two veterans at outside linebacker. the possibility that it might fit him a little better because we already have an idea how he can perform outside. And try to set the table if we need to roll guys around due to injury because we feel like Cory Evans is best suited to play outside.

RoseCityCoug: Coach, it seems like Alex Hamill is improving himself dramatically. What are your thoughts on Alex and the rest of the young backers like Brumfield and Stripling?
CoachAkey: Alex Hamill: Alex is working hard, making progress. We are working hard with him to make sure he stays healthy to see what kind of role he can play.

JMKCoug: Do you think Mullennix starting will help improve the pass rush this year, it looked like a strength for him last year?
CoachAkey: Mullennix: He had a great spring, performing very well right now and the entire front four needs to improve its pass rush production.

Crmsn12: Coach, was Coach Greene genuinely frustrated with his CB's this Spring or was he just trying to provide extra motivation for this group over the summer and into Fall?
CoachAkey: As I stated before the cornerback position is a work in progress. There was improvement made by the kids that had the opportunity to practice this spring. the kids that had the opportunities to practice should have the upper hand in executing our defense. The competition will remain open as we have four addition corners joining our team this summer. And the way they perform will determine who starts and what the depth chart is.

COUGFANcom: Coach, who were some of the guys that helped themselves this spring.
CoachAkey: Matt Mullennix had a great spring. Aaron Johnson improved and will continue to. Scott Davis and Steve Dildine and Mkristo Bruce obviously performed well. Cory Evans was making progress until he sprained his ankle. Husain Abdullah improved as a football player. Michael Willis is starting to play with confidence. Greg Trent got some greatly needed reps during the last two weeks of spring ball. Tyron Brackenridge helped himself in the way he performed.

MichaelP: Coach, any great worries about DT's Pitoitua and Ahmu coming back from injuries? Can you speak to the depth on the DL for this fall?
CoachAkey: Depth at DL: Ropati and A'I are scheduled to be fine and healthy by the time we get rolling. Always concerned about injuries because that has a great impact on every football team. Ropati's leg, the bone has healed fine and strong and A'Is broken foot should be ready for fall. The only sad thing is they didn't get to compete in spring ball.

bigskycoug: Haven't heard much about Lamar Brumfield since he came to Pullman. Will he play outside or inside? Where is he in the depth chart?
CoachAkey: Lamar will continue to progress and will will continue to coach him hard to do so. He's a great kid that is beginning to experience Pac-10 football.

KeenanCoug: Coach thanks for your time we are glad to have your knowledge and your intensity. On a side note, how is your golf game looking for this summer's alumni events around the state?
CoachAkey: My golf game is scattered and long.

CoachAkey: I think our offense has a great deal of weapons that are going to cause a lot of people a great deal of problems. I'm excited about what they are going to be able to do. But I am responsible for what we have to do to stop people.

IBC2991: Coach, I know its only one game on the schedule and its the last one in November at that, but WSU has a chance to make history this year. We have never beaten UW three years in a row; can you talk about how important that is to the team and the program?
CoachAkey: I regards to the Apple Cup, we are going to play the season one game at a time and do everything we can to win 11 games before we play the Apple Cup. But when it roles around I can promise you there will be nothing more important on the face of this earth then keeping the Apple cup trophy in Pullman.

COUGinrenton: How is Matt Eichelberger (sp?) coming along, how far is he from getting some PT?
CoachAkey: Matt progressed at the end of spring ball and had the opportunities for a great deal of reps due to our injury situation. Matt still has work to do and we will continue to work with him so he kind find a way to play a role for the Cougs and help us win.

CoachAkey: Freshman: Every freshman is given the opportunities to compete and we really let all of their play determine the depth chart. Two names that pop into my head would be Kerry Maddox and what Andy Mattingly might provide.

Crmsn12: Coach, are you still interested in a Head Coaching position and if so are you open to I-AA schools? If so, do you have your eye on any in particular?
CoachAkey: I would love to be a head coach one day when the opportunity is right. I will be honest that I-AA is (not) necessarily where I want to go. First and foremost (is) making sure that we play defense around here the way we are suppose to.

KeenanCoug: With the incoming class such as Mattingly, what do you do to give them a running start into the program? Anything you can do while they are still in H.S. and so close to Pullman?
CoachAkey: The NCAA has really put handcuffs on us as to how much we can do with new players. But Andy has had the opportunities to come down and see us practice during spring. He's close, he can.
CoachAkey: Finishing that thought, during the summer players can come and enroll in summer school to get a head start but there is something to be said for letting them finish being seniors and joining us when camp begins.

COUGinrenton: Danzy leaving came as a bit of a surprise considering all the hype surrounding his signing. Can you shed any light on that situation?
CoachAkey: Danzy: It's unfortunate all the hype that surrounded it and made it a more difficult situation for him to come in here with all the expectations that were placed on him by the outside world. It's unfortunate that it didn't work out and we wish nothing but the best for Shelton and his future.

JMKCoug: Sorry if this has already been covered since I got here late. I know Willis made several highlight hits during spring ball, but how has he come along as far as knowing the position?
CoachAkey: Willis: I know we have already talked about this, but the reason he showed up making some of those hits is because he developed a better understanding of the defense and I look forward to continued progress from that young man. he's working his tail off, he;s been a leader among our younger players, and he's excited as can be to be a Coug.

CoachAkey: Time for one more

COUGinrenton: I have a 5 year old who likes to collect signatures, your players have always been 100% gentlemen with him. Thanks.
CoachAkey: Tell your 5-year old that I look forward to coaching him one day. Thank you to the Cougar nation for having me today. You all are the best. Go Cougs!

COUGFANcom: Coach, without mentioning any specifics, any new wrinkles you and the staff plan on implementing over the coming months. Did the staff travel to any schools this winter to glean any new ideas like you've done in the past.
COUGFANcom: Coach, What's your vertical these days
CoachAkey: Every off season we take a close look at what we did and share ideas with coaches from other places. We did that again this offseason and are excited about what we are going to do with the defense this fall. By the way, there is a direct correlation to my vertical jump and the success we are having on the field.

NOTE: Mark your calendars for this upcoming Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. PT when Jeff McQuarrie, producer and director of an upcoming new 4-hour documentary on the colorful history Cougar Football scheduled for release later this year, will be answering questions in the CF.C chat room. McQuarrie has been working on the film for several years and along the way has talked to a Who's Who from the Cougar Nation including Keith Jackson, Drew Bledsoe, Marcus Trufant, Mike Utley, Steve Gleason and many, many more. Head to Legends of the Palouse for more info.

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