Doba, Cougars Begin Spring Drills Tuesday

March 28, 2003

PULLMAN, Wash. --- The Bill Doba Era of Washington State football will get underway Tuesday, April 1, at 3:30 p.m. when the Cougars take the field for the first day of spring practice on Rogers Field.

Doba, WSU's 30th head coach, is looking forward to his first season in that role since 1976, when he guided the Mishawaka High School Cavemen in Indiana.

'We are really excited about spring ball. We have a great nucleus,' Doba said in a teleconference Friday. 'We just want to work the areas where we need to get better.'

Senior quarterback Matt Kegel will take center stage next week, as he attempts to take the torch from departed senior and 2002 Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Jason Gesser.

'We have to find out who the quarterback is going to be. I think Matt Kegel is our leading guy,' Doba said. 'He has been here four years and he has worked his tail off and he has been loyal to this program. But he has two guys right behind them that are excellent players in Chris Hurd and Josh Swogger. That will be an interesting battle. Who is two and who is three, as much as anything.'

Despite the loss of two potential NFL draft picks in Mike Bush and Jerome Riley, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller is confident whoever wins the quarterback battle will have plenty of options.

'I think we have a chance to be pretty good. I'm calling them the 'No Names' right now,' Levenseller said. 'Obviously, Devard Darling is going to be a recognizable name. Scott Lunde has done a nice job and will be an important part (of the offense). I think we have some real exciting young guys that nobody has heard about yet. It's as deep a group, talent-wise, as we have had.'

Tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Robin Pflugrad had a minor setback to report in Friday's teleconference, but is anxious about getting a good look at a trio of talented pass catchers.

'(Starting tight end) Troy Bienemann will probably miss the first week (injured knee). We hope to have him back the second week of spring drills,' Pflugrad said. 'We are excited about Jesse Taylor. He played about 23 plays against Nevada before he redshirted. He is a tough player and we just need to see what Adam West and Cody Boyd can do at the tight ends position.'

Doba once again deferred to Levenseller to discuss what will be a mammoth offensive line for the Cougars in 2003. Returnees Calvin Armstrong, Josh Parrish, Sam Lightbody, and Riley Fitt-Chappell each check in at over 6-6, with three of the four tipping the scales at over 310 pounds. Newcomer Patrick Afif, checking in at 6-8, 320 pounds, joins the fray after transferring from Orange Coast College in January.

'We will be better up front,' Levenseller said. 'We have a good group of veterans and we will be better at knocking people off the football than we have the last two years. It's just that simple.'

While there will be plenty of new faces on offense, Doba and new defensive coordinator Robb Akey have a deep unit of returning veterans on the other side of the ball. They hope to receive even more good news about the time practice begins Tuesday from the NCAA.

'The Pac-10 has already given Virgil Williams his year back and I would really be surprised if the NCAA didn't agree with the Pac-10's ruling,' Doba said. 'He missed two years with his injury, and normally the rule is if you miss two, you can get one back. He is a good football player, but it's not official yet. We are supposed to know Tuesday.'

If Williams is granted an additional season of eligibility, he will join a cast of seven returning starters, including All-Pac-10 honorees in free safety Erik Coleman, defensive tackle Jeremey Williams, cornerback Jason David, and defensive end Isaac Brown. Coleman will sit out of spring drills coming off shoulder surgery in January.

As for Doba, he is still adjusting to the head coaching position after a 27-year layoff.

'It's going to be fun. I'm going to stand around and watch and second-guess a lot,' Doba quipped. 'I'm going to help with the special teams also.'

Despite having to replace nearly half of the coaching staff, Doba says the differences in his style and that of former head coach Mike Price, won't translate into an entirely new look on the field for WSU.

'I probably work out a little more than Mike did,' Doba joked. 'We brought in some new coaches with some new ideas. There won't be a whole lot different. I think our offense will take on more of Levenseller's personality. Your guess is as good as mine as far as how that will look.'

Perhaps the best sign heading into the spring is that there will not be a single player sitting out due to academics. Doba credited the players and support system.

'It really has been a good year academically for our kids. The class we just brought in averaged a 3.1 or 3.2, so we've got a little bit better students and I think you have to give some credit to our academic support system,' Doba said. 'Pam Bradetich and that crew up there are doing a good job of targeting kids and making sure they are getting there work done.'

The annual Crimson & Gray Game, which will be played April 26 in Martin Stadium at 1:00 p.m., will mark the end of spring drills.

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