A few updates, just so we want to be straight on a couple players. We've actually had six players go through surgeries that will impact their season this year. Ricky [Richard] Garner recently went, undergo a knee surgery that will keep him out somewhere from four to six weeks. Devan Jones had surgery a week earlier than him. You guys know that timeframe. It will be approximately the same time.
Quincy Landingham, same type of surgery, and will be back at some point during the middle of the season. A couple guys had probably season-ending injuries. Richard Kirtley will undergo surgery this Thursday, which is an ACL repair that will probably take away his entire season. Otis Merrill already went, undergone a shoulder surgery that will keep him out for the remaining part of the season.
And then unfortunately, an injury towards the last latter part of the second week there, James Kamoku, a linebacker and a key special teams player for us, popped his Achilles tendon and will be out for the remainder of the season. And unfortunately for us, that's also his career because he is a fifth-year senior.
And then also on a side note, Terrance Jamison, a defensive lineman in our program, has had chronic knee issues and is begun to start the process to get a medical scholarship for him and then will stay involved in our program, and actually, eventually, may be on the road of administration, has expressed an interest to get in the administration side of things, and we'll let him pursue that.
What it does allow us this week to do is focus in on our opponent, and we're having Washington State coming to town, a team that was in the top 25 a year ago, someone that we're very excited to play. And offensively, they have a quarterback in Alex Brink that as long as I have been here is probably one of the best ones we'll see coming to Camp Randall, very accurate, strong, strong arm, as well as a soft touch when he needs it.
And I think with their receivers that they have coming back, in addition to their tight ends, a very unique challenge for us offensively. And defensively, they're very, very big upfront. They have a defensive end/defensive tackle that is 6-8. Ropati is his first name. I can't even begin to pronounce the last name [Pitoitua]. And then two other defensive linemen upfront that are both 6-7. So they're very, very big upfront, a unique challenge for us, and their linebackers can run.
And as always, with Washington State, they're going to have a couple junior college transfers come in and some freshmen come in and play right away, which we're expecting on Saturday and know that they'll be skilled athletes to take the field. With that, I'll front the questions.
QUESTION #1: Coach, can you talk a little bit about the difference between starting the first game of the year this year compared to last year? You're coming in your first season as a coach unranked, expectations are a lot different this year before the first game. Are you approaching things differently, if at all, and what's your mindset compared to last year?
BIELEMA: Well, I think as a coach, you have to take every season for what it's worth. Obviously, last year, not so much from my standpoint of being a first-year head coach, but we knew we had all coaches that were, you know, seven new coaches coming in, nine new starters on offense, as well as some new faces on defense.
This year, I returned every member of my staff, except for obviously Henry Mason. We returned nine starters offensively and seven defensively, our punters and our kickers are back as well. So you have some older players, you're able to advance things a little bit more quickly and install in camp.
And then just an obvious thing, you know, last year, we basically played all of our games at 11:00 o'clock. There weren't any night games. And one of the big changes we made during preseason camp, and, you know, kept some of you guys up a little bit late at night as we had night practices during two-a-days for one reason, to get us to prepare under, to play under the lights then, and then we're going to at UNLV as well as our home opener here against Iowa.
Yeah, I think, you know, I asked our kids last week, and I saw a couple references to how are you going to do things differently, I got that question quite a bit, and I basically stood in front of them, and I said, boy, do I seem different to you guys, and got a bunch of no's. Practice was still the same amount of time. We actually met a little bit longer. So we don't change what we do. We just continue to do what we do, and hopefully, it's going to come out with similar results.
QUESTION #2: After Shaughnessy, what's your comfort level with the defensive ends? Is there any chance Butrym might have to play now? And would you ever consider like moving Chapman for some snaps out there too if you were short of bodies?
BIELEMA: Well, one of the things that we were able to do throughout camp is because of the attendance of our defensive line, particularly the defensive end, you know, with Kurt [Ware] not practicing, and Matt [Shaughnessy] missing those few days. We got a lot of guys, quality reps, Kirk DeCremer is back. Brandon Kelly is fully back and recovered from what he has, in addition to Shaughnessy playing as good as football that I've seen.
And then in addition to that, you know, as Kurt was able to progress through the latter part of last week, he went through a full practice yesterday, and we think he's going to be able to be there for us as well this week in particular. So we've got four or five guys without swinging anybody over there.
Patrick was kind of right on the verge, but we're not going to put him in any type of situation he's not ready for. We basically think he's kind of similar to where Kirk was a year ago, could maybe give us some reps. We feel four more years after this year he will help us out.
QUESTION #3: Bret, has anything happened to Tyler [Donovan] since being named the starter? Do you see more confidence, play the same? Have you noticed anything that you picked up or anything?
BIELEMA: You know, Tyler is who he is. And last night, you know, I think he was up there until, we've got another practice, I believe, right about 7:00. Our guys had dinner, and I know I left the office right about 10:15, and he was still down on the other end with Coach Chryst. That's how he likes to process things, a little bit of one-on-one time. And I think Tyler has shown that he definitely has been able to win at this level, and I expect those same things to continue.
QUESTION #4: Since Tyler's waited so long for this chance, do you think there's a tendency for him to try to do too much, and is there any advice you can offer him along those lines?
BIELEMA: Well, I would say if he didn't start those two games last year, I'd really believe that that would be a concern because he's waited until that fifth year, and you have all that anxiety and emotion, but it's kind of a been there done that now. You know, he was basically put in this position a year ago, this same timeframe because he really had to prepare for Bowling Green to be possibly his first start as a college football player. And to have that not come through, he learned how to do it.
And then also, I think maybe in those weeks right after Bowling Green, maybe he fell off a little bit. Because when he came in at the end of Western Illinois, he definitely wasn't the same player you saw take the field against Illinois and learn that you have to prepare every week.
And that's a message we send to all of our two's especially a guy like Allan Evridge, a guy that, you know, obviously prepared the same way that Tyler did to try and be the starting quarterback. And for him to not being in that position to see how he came out and prepared is going to be huge for us to have success this year.
QUESTION #5: Bret, with the talent and experience you have back and obviously a better starting point in the rankings than you had last year, is this a team that contend for the national title, or what kind of ceiling do you see for this team?
BIELEMA: I think the great thing that has been established in this program is we don't think that way. I think as you interview our guys, and you realize what type of response you're going to get, I mean, you'd say it's a one-moment mentality. We're going to focus on nothing but Washington State.
I think as a head coach, you have to understand the bigger picture, and that's part of my responsibility for them is to make sure they're on track to succeed. And, you know, what we do in that opening ballgame will have a direct effect on our record in what we finish at the end of the year, but we're never going to get off that task.
QUESTION #6: Bret, back to the defensive ends for just a second, your release on [Jamal] Cooper, you used the word indefinitely, and obviously, that opens to conjecture that the door is open for a return at some point. Can you expand upon that at all?
BIELEMA: That's probably poor English. My girlfriend is an English teacher now, and she corrects me all the time. I probably should have said as strong as I could that Jamal Cooper will not be back with this team. I would put out a release basically as I could to make everybody understand exactly where his status was going into the weekend, and that's where it's at, and that's where it's going to remain.
And I'm sure if you ask our players, you're probably going to get a very short answer as well. I told them last week. You know, this week when we met, obviously, something needed to be addressed for when I addressed the team, and I said that the worst thing that happened was it happened last Friday, and the best thing that happened is it happened last Friday. It's not going to happen this Friday or any Friday after that. It's behind us, and we're moving on.
QUESTION #7: Bret, is there a scenario outside of injury in which both quarterbacks would play?
BIELEMA: Well, I think as the game unfolds, that will get that reaction, you know, and, you know, asked Paul [Chryst], and, you know, our quarterbacks fully understand that Tyler is a starter, and he's not just there to be yanked if he throws an incomplete pass or throws an interception.
But on the same account, everybody in our program realizes every snap counts. And how you practice and prepare will put you in a position to have success, but I don't want Tyler, you know, looking over his shoulder. And I also want full cooperation out of all the quarterbacks when they're trying to get through a game plan for a week, as well as some of the information you can share on the sidelines.
QUESTION #8: Will you play up the Big Ten/Pac-10 rivalry this week, and do you think that's important to your players? BIELEMA: I do. I think anytime you get inter-conference, not a conference game schedule, anything you can build up to that, and, you know, I read off the teams that they [Washington State] played a year ago to show that they obviously can play with the big boys as well as anybody.
I saw an interesting article that took I think over the last 10 years or eight years, I can't remember exactly, and on preseason rankings and where they finished at the end of the year, and they had a point system set up to measure that. And they actually were the most underrated team in the country or that timeframe, you know, how they put those numbers together. And I thought it was very interesting to see that. I thought, I think if I'm not mistaken, over the least eight years, or possibly 10, there are three years where they weren't in the top 25 and finished in the top 10, which speaks volumes about what they have as a program.
QUESTION #9: You talked about the passing game. With two new safeties back there, is that a concern for you being the first game and seeing a team that's going to throw a ball as much as they are?
BIELEMA: Our safeties being new, well, it is, except for we go against our offense in fall camp, you see about everything you can. So I really think as a whole, I don't know if there's a position that took the summer program, fall camp, and now game week preparation as serious as I've seen Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant take it. I think those two guys for sophomores, redshirt sophomores, going into their third year of this program, took a huge, gigantic step into becoming and understanding what it means to be a football player, and more importantly, a successful starter at this level.
QUESTION #10: Bret, give what Washington State likes to do on offense, but in the field, is this a type of game that showcases what your linebackers, I'm thinking specifically of [Jonathan] Casillas and DeAndre [Levy] can do? And can you just address what their role is going to be against this offense?
BIELEMA: Well, you're right, offensively, you know, they're a one back team, so they're going to be spread, and they're not traditionally spread maybe as some of the teams in our league. They do like to use a tight end, and indications off of what I read in the fall camp is that's been the case.
But the thing about, you know, DeAndre and Jonathan, in particular, is both of them have come from DBA experience, more so Jonathan than Dre, but the way we deploy and the way we use them, the way we're also being able to use them in our pressure system. I think it will allow us to show that those guys can run. But as I pointed out to those guys a year ago, it's nice to look pretty and run fast, but it's all about hitting, and I think those guys are going to be ready, and as well as all of our guys to probably hit something of a different jersey than Wisconsin.