"I like where we're at right now," said Sturdy. "Sure, I wish we had taken a few more steps in the spring like every coach always feels after spring football. But I like the steps we took. And I feel really, really good about the direction things are heading."
STURDY HAS taken a good amount of criticism from fans for the Cougs' offensive woes. And that's to be expected, because there's no questioning that the Cougs were downright awful offensively the past two seasons.
But the reality is also that the Cougars in 2008-09 had neither the talent nor the size to compete in the Pac-10. And the execution of what they were capable of, well, it was poor. On top of that, injuries and in turn the games missed across the depth chart hit absurd levels -- it was like starting over with a bunch of new faces most weeks. But on all fronts, that's changing, says Sturdy.
As has been documented on CF.C, there are considerable differences in strength and weight gains this offseason. A mere four players missed spring due to injury, compared with 24 the year prior. And there is simply more Pac-10 caliber talent now in the system to properly run and execute Sturdy's offense, and more will be arriving in the class of 2010 this fall.
Sturdy's offense, one that Cougar Nation should finally be able to really see the Cougs run this season, is one that puts serious stress on a defense. And the run game is a big part of it.
"Our level of consistency is improving there... I thought we ran the ball well -- and ran it through the tackles the way we needed to," said Sturdy.
STURDY ALSO SAID there were too many breakdowns in pass protection this spring -- be it a running back, tight end, receiver or offensive lineman missing an assignment. Still, he was not displeased with the overall performance in that area. And he pointed to one of the scrimmages where the Cougs did not yield a single sack.
"I thought our pass protection was coming along, there was some marked consistency there. And a lot of things go into that obviously...everybody has a part to play in protection, it's not just the offensive line. Consistency-wise, in pass protection, I like where we're heading," said Sturdy.
SOME FANS THE past two years have wondered if maybe WSU should scrap the no-huddle and go more traditional. But Sturdy's no-huddle system, if executed properly, causes a defense a myriad of problems. So are the Cougs still a no-huddle team?
"Yes -- we're a no-huddle offense, that's what we run," said Sturdy. "We came out in the spring and were for the first time were able to pick up where we left off, because just the overall understanding of everything has grown tremendously. We now have a number of kids who have been in the system for several years now and they're getting consistent.
"Obviously, we have to keep recruiting and keep building depth. We're not over the heap, especially on our side of the ball. But I like where we're at, and where we're going."
Check back soon for more of this multi-part series, putting the post-spring offense into context via insights from Cougar offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. If you missed any of the previous installments from co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears, click on the links.