West Coast Media who cover the Pac-10 have picked Washington State to finish No. 8 in the conference, ahead of only Washington and Stanford. Bill Doba and crew will be hoping for a result similar to 1997, 2001 or 2003, or to pull off a double-double with the Cougar hoops team.
The Cougs were picked to finish No. 7 in '97 in that year's Pac-10 football poll. The Cougs, however, went to the Rose Bowl. In 2001, Washington State was slated to place tenth in the conference. They got the number "10" right, as the Cougs finished with 10 wins and a No. 10 national ranking. In 2003, the Cougs were picked seventh but finished with another 10 wins and a No. 9 national ranking in both polls.
West Coast scribes placed the WSU basketball team dead last this past winter in the 10-team Conference. The Cougs went 26-8, finished No. 2 in the conference, earned a No. 3 seed to the NCAA Tourney and Tony Bennett took home virtually every National Coach of The Year Award in sight.
OFFENSIVELY, THE COUGARS lost four starters off an offense that averaged over 388 yards and 24 points per game, but the returning talent has the potential to see both of those numbers rise.
At the forefront is senior quarterback Alex Brink (6-3, 207), a two-time team captain who has started the last 28 games of his Cougar career. Brink, a second-team All-Pac-10 selection last season, is primed to break most, if not all, of the major passing records at WSU as he enters the season in the career top 5 in pass attempts (4th), completions (3rd), passing yards (5th), touchdowns (3rd) and total offense (4th).
Last season Brink finished the year ranked 20th nationally in total offense, 21st in passing and 41st in passing efficiency as he threw for 2899 yards and 19 touchdowns. That included a WSU single-game record with a .870 completion percentage (202-3) against Oregon where he completed his final 17 attempts.
Backing up Brink is a trio of talented young arms, led by redshirt junior Gary Rogers (6-7, 233), along with redshirt sophomores Cole Morgan (6-3, 190) and Kevin Lopina (6-3, 232). Rogers threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns last season, while Morgan and Lopina, who redshirted last season after transferring from Kansas State, will battle for the third spot.
THE COUGAR QUARTERBACKS WILL have a stable of receivers to throw to, led by senior Michael Bumpus and junior Brandon Gibson. Bumpus (6-0, 194), a senior from Culver City, Calif., led WSU in receiving last season with 60 catches for 558 yards and one touchdown in 11 games. Bumpus has a career-best 11 catches for 112 yards against USC. The senior also serves as the Cougars punt returner, where he is the WSU record holder with three punt returns for touchdowns.
Gibson (6-1, 201) led all Cougar receivers in yards in 2006, compiling 731 on 49 catches with four touchdowns. The junior wideout had three 100 yard-plus games, including a season-high 130 on eight catches against California.
In addition to Bumpus and Gibson, the Cougar receiving corps includes talented veterans Charles Dillon, Benny Ward, and Finas Rabb, along with a trio of young receivers in Keith Rosenberg, Anthony Houston and Greg Walker.
Dillon (6-0, 191) caught 15 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown last season, his first in a Cougar uniform, after arriving from Ventura Junior College. Dillon, a senior, enters the season one of three starting receivers for the Cougars, alongside Bumpus and Gibson. Ward (6-3, 192), a junior, has been a valuable special teams player that last two seasons who appears ready to break into the receiving rotation while redshirt senior Rabb (6-6, 198), who spent last season getting acquainted to the WSU offense after transferring from Santa Ana College, will look to make an impact.
Redshirt freshmen Rosenberg (5-10, 194), Houston (6-3, 190) and Walker (6-4, 180) will compete for playing time.
THE COUGARS ONCE AGAIN are deep at the tight end position, led by senior Jed Collins (6-2, 251). Collins, a senior from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., caught 22 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns last season. He moves into the starting role following the graduation of Cody Boyd. Backing up Collins are redshirt junior Ben Woodard (6-5, 249), junior transfer Devin Frischknecht (6-3, 250) and redshirt sophomore Tony Thompson (6-2, 237).
Woodard saw most of his action last season on special teams while Frischknecht arrived in Pullman in January after spending the past two seasons at Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah, where he earned honorable mention All-America honors by JC Grid-Wire. Thompson is a sure-handed receiver who doubles as the Cougars long snapper for punts.
IN THE COUGAR BACKFIELD the running game will begin with redshirt sophomore Dwight Tardy (5-11, 201). As a freshman last season Tardy led the Cougar rushing attack with 667 yards on 145 carries with four touchdowns. He had a season-high 145 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in a 34-23 win over No. 16 Oregon. Tardy is a straight-ahead runner who can break tackles and has good instincts.
Backing up Tardy will be Chris Ivory (5-11, 213). The sophomore from Longview, Texas, missed parts of last season with an ankle injury suffered in the home opener against Idaho where he rushed for 85 yards on three carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the second carry of his WSU career.
Also finding time in the Cougar backfield will be redshirt senior Kevin McCall (5-11, 208) and redshirt freshman Marcus Richmond (6-1, 219). McCall saw action in 10 games last season carrying seven times for 72 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown scamper against Idaho. Richmond spent last season as a redshirt and brings a bruising style of play to the Cougar backfield.
DURING THE 2005 SEASON the same five players started all 11 games on the Cougar offensive line. Last season injuries to the front five resulted in six different starting lineups, with only one player, recently graduated Charles Harris, starting every game. The Cougars return three players who started games last season: redshirt senior Bobby Byrd (6-7, 308), redshirt junior Dan Rowlands (6-5, 280), and redshirt sophomore Kenny Alfred (6-2, 310).
After starting the majority of the past three seasons at left tackle, Byrd moves inside to the left guard position for 2007. Alfred moved into the starting center position prior to the fifth game last season and did not leave. After just one season Alfred gained enough national attention to be named to the preseason Remington Award Watch List, recognizing the nation's top center.
To the right of Alfred is possibly Rowlands, or he could also be at right tackle. Rowlands battled injuries last season but still started nine games, at both the right and left guard positions.
Editor's Note: With Andy Roof out of the mix, (for further details see the CF.C stories) the big question for the Cougar offensive line will be its depth and solidifying the left and right tackle spots. Entering the season junior college transfer Vaughn Lesuma (6-5, 340) and redshirt freshman Joe Eppele (6-7, 278) will both look to lock up a spot. Lesuma arrived in January after earning second-team Junior College Grid-Wire All-America honors at Mt. San Jacinto Junior College. Eppele spent last season as a redshirt on the WSU roster as he acclimated to the college game. Sophomore JC transfer Reed Lesuma, Vaughn's brother, is also espected to be a strong candidate.
Other players looking for time on the offensive line include redshirt freshmen Micah Hannam (6-4, 278) and Grady Maxwell Jr. (6-2, 305), along with redshirt junior Jacob McKinney (6-3, 283).
THE 2007 WSU FOOTBALL SCHEDULE has been rated as the 20th-most difficult in college football. The Cougars face seven teams that reached bowl games last season, including four teams that won 10-plus games in 2006. Following the Idaho game (Sept. 15 in Pullman), WSU will face six straight teams that posted a winning season in 2006 until a Nov. 10 contest at Stanford.
In addition to Wisconsin and Idaho, the Cougars will face San Diego State in its only other nonconference contest, Sept. 8 at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Conference home games include Arizona State Oct. 6, UCLA Oct. 27 (FSN) and Stanford before closing the home schedule Nov. 17 against Oregon State.
The Cougars will open the conference schedule on the road at USC Sept. 22 in a game televised by ABC. Additional conference road games including Sept. 29 at Arizona, Oct. 13 at Oregon, No. 3 at California (FSN) and the regular-season finale at Washington Nov. 24 in the 100th playing of the Apple Cup.
1.) USC (unanimous choice)
4.) Arizona State
5.) Oregon State
8.) Washington State
Today; Pac-10 Media Day. Bill Doba and Alex Brink traveled to Los Angeles representing Washington State.
August 3; Rookies report.
August 4; Veterans report.
August 5; First fall camp practice.
A GREAT HIRE
Bill Stevens has been named Washington State Sports Information Director, replacing long-time, retiring SID Rod Commons who is looking forward to spending some well earned time with family and grandchildren. Happy trails, Rod. The view from here is that Washington State has tabbed an outstanding SID to replace Rod. Congratulations, Bill!