EXCLUSIVE: WSU on technology's leading edge

THE COUGARS don't face Auburn until Sept. 2 but quarterback Alex Brink has already spent hours squaring off against their linebackers, secondary and d-linemen. Thanks to a cutting-edge video simulator Washington State recently purchased, not only will WSU quarterbacks and starters take game planning to remarkable new levels, it's benefits will be realized by players up and down the depth chart.

How does it work?

Brink can call the play, break the huddle, come to the line of scrimmage and run the play, seeing his own team and the opposition lined in their real-life schemes. He can use the controller to point at a cornerback, for instance, and get immediate height, weight, speed, stats and other information.

The program is fully customizable, coach Bill Doba told Cougfan.com. It initially takes the company who manufactures the simulator days to implement the data and get it up and running. Opponents' rosters and depth charts are all fed in. No detail is left out -- from opponent coverages, personnel and speed, right down to where the stadium clock is located.

The quarterback has a couple seconds to correctly answer questions with the controller just like he would in an actual game as he comes to the line: Where's the strong safety? What are the first, second and third reads? What's the hot read?

The QB may have blitz coverage coming at him as the ball is snapped. They may be in their base or Cover-2 -- or just about anything else can be thrown at the quarterback. The Washington State quarterback will need to read the defense in real time and make the proper decisions, all against the ticking clock.

Washington State purchased the unit back in the spring. All of the Cougar quarterbacks have spent considerable time preparing on the unit over the offseason. But Washington State will have more than just their quarterbacks using the simulator this year.

The package Washington State purchased will benefit their quarterbacks, defensive backs and wide receivers -- from the starters on down. The unit comes with five laptops. "Homework assignments" will be emailed from Cougar coaches to the players -- Timm Rosenbach can call a play, pick the defense and send it to Brink. Ken Greene and Mike Levenseller can do the same for Tyron Brackenridge and Jason Hill. Cougar players can take the laptops with them on the road, continuing their preparation all through game week.

"We have it for the quarterbacks, defensive backs and wide receivers," said Doba. "There's a package for the defensive backs. They'll put all those guys in and the DBs will come in and use theirs. The receivers will use theirs also."

The simulator will also benefit Washington State recruiting -- how many prep players would rather learn an offense or defense the old fashioned way by burying their nose in the playbook vs. the chance to master it by playing a video game?

And one of the biggest advantages will be to those not starting. The backups now have a powerful tool they can use to spend quality time on game situations and decision making. It is nigh impossible to get enough practice minutes for backup quarterbacks, especially during Game Week -- the No. 1 priority then is to get the starters and rotation players the adequate number of turns and preparation.

But for quarterbacks like Gary Rogers, Arkelon Hall, Cole Morgan, Kevin Lopina, the time available for "practice" just increased exponentially. All can use The Sim to call the play, come up to the line of scrimmage, make the correct reads and properly execute the play. And then do it over and over again against virtually any defensive scheme.

"I think it will really be beneficial to our backup quarterbacks," said Doba. "Rogers, Morgan, Hall, they can look at a stadium view from above and see the coverage, and then he looks at the same numbers, same people as (the opponent.)"

The Cougs will have opponent data continually input and updated over the course of the season, eventually even printing out the defensive cards for the scout team.

While there naturally remains some work to do to get everything on every opponent in -- the Cougs don't square off against the UW in the Apple Cup until November -- once the data is in, the time savings to Cougar players and coaches will be considerable.

Washington State declined to give specifics on the system's cost but the three schools who used it last year, including Arizona State, have raved about the benefits of their investment. Ralph Friedgen at Maryland, who purchased it for this season, has said it will revolutionize the way his staff coaches the Terps' offense.

"It's quite expensive," said Doba, who laughed when asked if he had grabbed a controller and given it a whirl himself. "No, I've watched the kids do it. They've come in quite a bit."

They'll continue to, coach.

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