Cougar football: No-huddle O needs an H-back

FOURTH-YEAR junior-to-be Tony Thompson, a tight end on the roster but primarily a long-snapper on game days, may be one of the biggest beneficiaries of first-year coach Paul Wulff's no-huddle offense. The 6-1, 234-pound Thompson could be an ideal H-back, assistant coach Rich Rasmussen told CF.C last Friday at the annual "Night with Cougar Football" in Seattle

The H-back is a combination tight end and fullback – a role pioneered nationally by Tri-Cities area native Clint Didier while playing for Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins in the 1980s. The position is featured in a number of sets in the no-huddle offense, often with a tight end lining up on the other side of the formation.

Tony Thompson started the past two seasons as the Cougars' long-snapper on punts, but was hampered for part of 2007 by knee and hamstring injuries. He's looked good in winter conditioning and may be poised to make a mark on offense. He was an all-Kingco 4A selection as a senior in 2003 at Seattle's Ballard High. While he has yet to catch a pass in a game, he's been a steady grab-master the last two spring seasons.

Rasmussen, who serves as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, said he's looking forward to the start of spring practices on March 17 and working with the tight end talent the Cougars return in 2008. Multi-dimensional Jed Collins will be trying his hand at the NFL this season, but the rest of the corps is back.

Besides Thompson, there's talented senior-to-be Devin Frischknecht, who caught 18 passes last season, including two Apple Cup TDs . The 6-3, 256-pounder from Ephraim, Utah, is No. 1 on the depth chart. "Devin's got a lot of athletic ability and can get vertical in the passing game," Rasmussen said.

Ben Woodard (6-5, 244) will back for his final campaign, but may miss all or parts of the spring season following surgery for a sports hernia, Rasmussen said. Woodard played in 12 games last season and caught eight passes, two for TDs. Rasmussen said he tried to recruit Woodard to Eastern Washington after Woodard's two-way All-State senior year at Cheney High in 2000,.

Trevor Mooney (6-6, 250), Aaron Gehring (6-5, 237) and Mikel Overgaard (6-5, 235) round out the unit. Mooney and Gehring are third-year sophomores and Overgaard a second-year freshman. Mooney is from Mission Viejo, Calif. Gehring, from Castle Rock, and Overgaard, from Weiser, Idaho, are walk ons.

RASMUSSEN CONTINUES WSU's staffing pipeline from Tacoma. He's a graduate of Tacoma's Lincoln High. He also started his coaching career in the City of Destiny, at Bellarmine Prep. The other Tacoma progeny on staff are assistant coach Mike Levenseller, assistant director of operations Jason DiStefano and graduate assistant Nick Lucey, the son of legendary Curtis High coach Bob Lucey.

Another Tacoma product and old Cougar – Palouse Posse cornerback Torey Hunter – recently joined Beau Baldwin's staff at Eastern Washington. Hunter, who spent last season with Baldwin at Central Washington, is coaching the secondary. Prior to that, the former Houston Oiler spent four years coaching corners on former WSU assistant coach Larry Lewis' staff at Idaho State.

BECAUSE OF THE RECRUITING calendar, Rasmussen said Wulff and the rest of the staff were on a true spinning wheel back in December when Wulff was named head coach. Wulff was offered the job on a Monday. The press conference announcing his appointment was Tuesday. Five coaches coming with him from Eastern, plus Steve Broussard, met in Pullman on Wednesday from 10 am to 10 pm culling lists of prospects and digesting film. Then they were all on planes the next morning to start recruiting. And the chore was daunting -- WSU had just three verbal commits at the time.

Time also was critical, because the NCAA-imposed recruiting dead period for the holidays started that Saturday night. By the time they were done, a little over two full days, they had met roughly 40 prospects. One of them was Redmond receiver Cory Mackay, who had just committed verbally to Washington.

"We already had a relationship with Cory -- at Eastern we were the first school to offer him a scholarship. WSU did shortly thereafter. And then Washington jumped in between the time Coach Doba left and Paul came on," Rasmussen said. "We felt confident we could turn him around – especially with his parents on board (with WSU)."

MacKay wound committing verbally to the Cougs five weeks later and was one of 25 who signed letters of intent with WSU.

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