Backfield in motion

TACOMA --- The one-back offense, a Palouse fixture for 16 seasons, is going to have some company in 2003. The Cougars plan to roll out some two-back sets and other tweaks to the offense in an effort to improve time of possession, offensive coordinator <b>Mike Levenseller</b> said Friday at the annual WSU head football coach's dinner in Tacoma.

"I'm not joking," Levenseller said. "We're going to try to control the football better. We're just trying to create some more problems for opposing defenses. We'll have multiple looks, shifts, you name it.'"


But in true Cougar fashion they won't be doing it in a traditional way. No I-formations will be seen. The Cougars are going to sprinkle in plays in which a tight end or wide-receiver goes in motion and then serves as the lead blocker for Jermaine Green, an honorable mention all-Pac-10 honoree who could be the toast of the conference in '03.


In addition, the Cougs will mix things up with an occasional split backfield of Green and speedy Jonathan Smith. All-world JC transfer Chris Bruhn and a now-fully healthy Allen Thompson further sweeten the two-back prospects.


"Last year we were No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total offense. Coach (Bill) Doba told me we could probably get to No. 1 by putting another guy in backfield," Levy quipped.


Doba was equally glib, joking that his offense coordinator (the long-time receving coach as well as a former receiver) has 15 receivers on scholarship and just a few running backs, so he's trying to be creative in how he uses all those grab-masters.


The thinking behind the 2-back idea -- which more appropriately should be called the lead-back concept -- is two fold. First, it gives the Cougs a new and perhaps better option when lining up against stacked defensive fronts. Second, Levenseller said, WSU is absolutely loaded with very athletic tight ends who could be lead some very nice interference for Green. They are Troy Bienemann, Jesse Taylor, Adam West, and Cody Boyd.


Levenseller noted that Taylor was actually recruited by UCLA as a fullback, so a lead role for him would be more than natural.


Use of the tight end like this won't be totally foreign to Cougfans --- WSU utilized tight end Brett Carolan in a similar fashion back in the early ‘90s.


As for Green, Levenseller said he's in great physical condition due in part to a steady diet of yoga. "We've been awaiting a long time for a Cougar back who could go 80 yards - - Jermaine did it twice last year. He's the real deal."


New offensive-line coach George Yarno, late of LSU, has fueled the lead-back concept with some great ideas, Levenseller said. Yarno told that he thinks the possibilities hold tremendous promise for the Cougars, emphasizing that it's a matter of complementing the one-back set with other options. Moreover, he said, it gives the Cougars a chance to get more outstanding athletes on the field in the form of all those great young tight ends.




Except for Mike Walker, every member of the Cougar coaching staff was in Tacoma for the Pierce County Cougar Club's annual dinner. Mike had a good excuse for his absence, though. He was in Yakima, watching son Marcus' Pullman Greyhounds defeat Cashmere to advance to the state Class 2A boys basketball championship game.


Calling Dr. Selby? Incoming recruit Scott Selby of Castle Rock is brilliant. Literally!  Coach Doba noted that Selby had an SAT score of 1240 and maintains a 3.8 GPA. The Cougs will grayshirt him this season and redshirt him next season, effectively giving him six years at WSU. "If he plays his cards right he'll have his doctorate before he uses up his eligibility," Doba said.


Spring practice begins April 1 (no foolin') and two notable faces will be missing from the Cougar defense. Safety Erik Coleman had surgery on a bum shoulder and will sit out the entire spring but be back to full strength by summer.  Linebacker Kevin Sperry has a knee injury that could sideline him for the entire season.


In regard to the quarterback situation, QB coach Timm Rosenbach , Levenseller, and Doba all said independently  said that Matt Kegel, a fifth-year senior with more than 1,000 career passing yards to his name, is THE man for '03. But youngsters Josh Swogger and Chris Hurd will be given many chances to shine and should push Kegel mightily.


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