WSU QB seeks advice, comes away w/ big praise

GARY ROGERS HAD travel plans for the Christmas break. But the Washington State quarterback cancelled them and instead sought out Cougar legend Jack Thompson. The Throwin' Samoan, a well known goodwill ambassador for WSU, also happens to be a high priest of quarterbacking mechanics. After three high-tempo holiday workouts, his evaluation of Rogers was golden: "He's Carson Palmer with legs."

Thompson said Rogers, a fifth-year senior-to-be and long-time Alex Brink understudy, called him looking for insight and to set up the workouts over the break.

"It was all at his encouragement ... I've never turned down a kid who wanted to work. And Gary, he pushed me," said Thompson.

Thompson in turn put the 6-6, 240-pound Rogers through three high tempo sessions.

Rogers says they worked on everything -- drops, release point, footwork and more.

"It's really basic stuff but it's stuff you need to really concentrate on," said Rogers.

Staying "skinny" with the delivery is one of Thompson's mantras. Think of it, he says, as if you're throwing the ball in a tight hallway. You have to get the elbow high to make sure the ball travels only along a narrow pathway.

THROWING IS JUST one part of the equation, of course. Thompson said he also was impressed with Rogers' legs.

"What people don't really realize about Gary is that he's got legs, he's got really good feet. He has the classic Carson Palmer drop-back skills, but he also has the feet to go with it. His footwork was fluid and very efficient. He's very quick for a man that big," said Thompson.

He added: "What will make Gary successful, I think, is his ability to learn the new no-huddle offense," said Thompson. "He's got the tools. He's got the renewed sense of urgency in regard to his goals and in his role as a leader."

Rogers, who hails from Kamiak High in Mukilteo, said he's spending extra time in the film room these days, studying Eastern Washington's no-huddle spread attack.

"I'm jacked up about it, I'm licking my chops," Rogers said of the new no-huddle offense. "I'm sure we're not going to run the exact same stuff but I wanted to at least get a good idea of what they ran so I've been watching their film of last year ... this offense they're bringing over looks really good."

"It's the offense I wish I had," mused Thompson, who finished his WSU career in 1978 as the most prolific passer in NCAA history -- all the while operating out of a standard, two-receiver, two-running back offense.

WORK AROUND PULLMAN is that Rogers has taken on a greater leadership role this off-season.

Thompson says he's not surprised.

"One of the things I believe about Gary is that he's confident now. People excel when they're confident, they absorb things differently. If you're asking me my opinion, I see a pretty confident kid," said Thompson.

Rogers agrees.

"I feel really, really good about this season -- the coaches really seem like they're going to be a very good fit for the team."

Rogers said he's throwing every day and working on his mechanics, "but I'm also just trying to be a leader in the offseason workouts that we're doing right now."

ROGERS WILL HAVE plenty of competition for the starting job when spring practices open in mid March. Junior Kevin Lopina, second-year freshman Marshall Lobbestael, freshman J.T. Levenseller, and junior Cole Morgan will all be looking for their shot.

From Thompson's vantage point, Rogers looks eager to meet the challenge.

"He's looking really strong. He's re-energized, he's a different guy realizing what opportunities are out there for him. And he is a marvelously gifted athlete -- he's as physically gifted as any quarterback who has played that position at Washington State. There is just a real sense of purpose in his approach," said Thompson.

Rogers is succinct about the new season: "I've been waiting my turn for four years. It's time to show people what I can do."

Rogers has known Thompson since he was a freshman at WSU. In the last year and a half, he has increasingly sought out Thompson's advice and the two have become close. "It's been an honor to be able to work with Jack Thompson. He's such a Cougar legend. And he's not only a good "coach", but he's also a good friend," said Rogers.

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