2009 WSU Football Outlook
July 28, 2009
PULLMAN, Wash. -
WSU Cornerback Facts: The Cougars return just one player who saw action at cornerback last season, redshirt sophomore Aire Justin, who started six games in 2008. Redshirt junior Brandon Jones sat out last season after his transfer from California, while Daniel Simmons and Terrance Hayward redshirted the 2008 season. Redshirt junior Anthony Houston moved to the defensive side after spending his first three seasons as a wide receiver.
Wulff on WSU Cornerbacks: 'At one time we thought we would have a lot of young bodies that could play there. Because of some things that have occurred our depth isn't as deep as we thought it was going to be, but we do have some capable players there. Daniel Simmons is a young cornerback that might be able to make a difference in his first year playing. Aire Justin can help us there as well. With some added strength and maturity Justin can be a bigger factor for us. Brandon Jones, a transfer from Cal who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, will clearly have an opportunity to make a difference at corner. Chima Nwachukwu will have the ability to play a little corner and safety for us. He played corner his entire freshman year before moving to safety last season. And then who knows, we may have a freshman or two that will play in their first year.'
WSU Safety Facts: Redshirt senior Xavier Hicks and junior Chima Nwachukwu anchor the safety position as both players have started a majority of games over the last two years. Hicks was second in tackles last year for the Cougars while adding two interceptions, and Nwachukwu moved from cornerback to free safety following his freshman season. Sophomore Tyree Toomer started the final four games last season, gaining valuable experience. In addition to the experience, the Cougars add youth with redshirt sophomore Eric Block, who has battled health issues the past two seasons, and redshirt freshmen Jay Matthews and LeAndre Daniels.
Wulff on WSU Safeties: 'We have a good mix of veterans and youth at the safety position. We have three players who have a good deal of experience. It starts with Xavier Hicks, along with Chima (Nwachukwu) and Tyree Toomer. We also have two players who were hurt this spring that didn't help their development that have the ability to be contributors and they are LeAndre Daniels and Jay Matthews. Both of those guys unfortunately had injuries in the spring and as redshirt freshmen they really needed to participate. Those two need to fit into the depth. And then Eric Block is the wildcard. He needs to step up and be healthy to give us another capable player in there.'
43 Hoffman-Ellis, Alex 6-1 236 SO* SQ
44 Ledgerwood, Mike 6-0 224 SO 1V
51 Stripling, Jason 5-11 225 SR* 1V
58 Baffney, Kevin 6-1 222 FR* SQ
49 Tennant, Sam 6-0 217 SR* SQ
60 Guidry, Omari 6-0 200 SO* TR,p>
WSU Linebacker Facts: This is another position that has a mix of youth and experience. Senior Andy Mattingly returns to the outside linebacker position after playing defensive end in 2008. In 2007 Mattingly had 91 tackles and led WSU with eight sacks, earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors. Redshirt sophomore Alex Hoffman-Ellis and sophomore Mike Ledgerwood will compete at the middle linebacker position. Ledgerwood saw action in 10 games as a true freshman while Hoffman-Ellis redshirted last year after transferring from Moorpark College. Sophomore Louis Bland gained valuable experience last season as a true freshman, starting nine games and collecting 55 tackles. Redshirt junior Myron Beck, who started nine games in 2008 (six at linebacker), junior Hallston Higgins and redshirt senior Jason Stripling, who has battled injuries each of the last three years, will add experience and depth.
Wulff of WSU Linebackers: 'This was a veteran position last year. Health is the key as we have seniors Andy Mattingly and Jason Stripling that can play there, but have been nicked-up. If they can stay healthy it is going to allow us to build some excellent depth and really groom this position for the upcoming years. We have some young players there that need to play but maybe aren't ready to play every snap in the Pac-10. We have Louis Bland returning, who we expect to have a big year. Myron Beck is back in the mix, along with Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Mike Ledgerwood and Josh Garrett, who had a nice spring and made a difference for us. It is a group where a lot of players are going to have an opportunity to prove themselves. Hallston Higgins is another one. They all are going to have an opportunity to play on special teams and prove themselves at the linebacker position.'
WSU Defensive Line Facts: The defensive line is a mix of veterans and youth. At the defensive end position, senior Kevin Kooyman returns after starting six games in 2008 and the Cougars get back redshirt senior Jesse Feagin, who redshirted the 2008 campaign after seeing action in 10 games in 2007. Redshirt freshman Adam Coerper was named WSU's Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2008 while junior Casey Hamlett had a strong spring practice after transferring from Western Washington. A solid core of incoming freshmen may also find playing time. At the defensive tackle position, redshirt junior Toby Turpin anchors the position after starting the final four games of 2008. A trio of redshirt juniors will make their Cougar debuts as Bernard Wolfgramm and Jessy Sanchez return from injuries that forced them to miss all of last season, and Josh Luapo arrived in January 2009, and went through spring practices. Redshirt freshmen Dan Spitz and Anthony Laurenzi will have the opportunity to contribute.
Wulff on WSU Defensive Line: 'We have some young athletes at this position that have some capability but there is not a lot of experience. There is some ability that can make something happen and develop. Talking about our most experienced players you have to start with Kevin Kooyman at defensive end. Toby Turpin came on late last year and really took big steps in his development and Jesse Feagin has played some football at this level and has experience. Casey Hamlett showed some things in spring football. We need Josh Luapo, Bernard Wolfgramm, Anthony Laurenzi and Daniel Spitz to step up and help us. You may see some first-year players come in this fall and that may add depth. Obviously the loss of Cory Mackay is a big blow to that position and that will be something we have to overcome as a unit and a team.'
WSU Offensive Line Facts: One of the most experienced units on the team, led by fifth-year senior Kenny Alfred, who has started 32 of his 37 games in a WSU uniform. A Rimington Award candidate each of the last three years, Alfred heads an offensive line that returns seven players that started games last season. Junior Micah Hannam has started all 25 games the last two years, while redshirt sophomores B.J. Guerra (5 starts in 2008) and Steven Ayers (5), redshirt juniors Brian Danaher (8) and Joe Eppele (2) and junior Andrew Roxas (8) all saw starting action in 2008. The addition of redshirt junior Zach Williams, who spent 2008 as a redshirt, gives the Cougars a deep, experienced front line.
Wulff on WSU Offensive Line: 'We only lose one player from last year and seven players return who started games last season, led by an all-conference candidate in senior Kenny Alfred. Kenny is where it all starts. He has the most game experience and is a very good football player. He's going to need his guys around him and we have some experience returning. Micah Hannam at right tackle returns and is a player who has started every game his first two years and brings a lot of experience. B.J. Guerra, Brian Danaher, Andrew Roxas and Steven Ayers all started games last year. Then you add Zach Williams, a junior college transfer who we redshirted last year, along with Joe Eppele, who needs to step up and play well. Those are all players who can help this football team and we need those guys to continue to develop and mature. Another name to watch is Tyson Pencer, a redshirt freshman who could help us as well.'
WSU Quarterback Facts: In 2008 the Cougar quarterback position was devastated by injuries. Three different players started games and five different quarterbacks took snaps in a game. Redshirt senior Kevin Lopina started eight games, missing four due to a back injury. Redshirt sophomore Marshall Lobbestael started three of his five games played before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Sophomore J.T. Levenseller saw action in four games late in the season that will benefit him in 2009 as he battles for playing time.
Wulff on WSU Quarterbacks: 'The nice thing about the quarterback group is we will have three quarterbacks (Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael and J.T. Levenseller) who have taken snaps in games where those three players at this time last year had never taken a snap in college football. The expectations are they all will be improved and truly should be able to now lead us down the field and put us in a position to score points and more importantly, take care of the football. Securing the football is their number one goal. All those guys should improve in that area and should be an excellent competition between the three veteran players.'
31 Tardy, Dwight 5-10 208 SR* 3V
21 Montgomery, James 5-10 202 JR* SQ
20 Richmond, Marcus 6-1 220 JR* 2V
34 Mitz, Logwone 6-1 224 SO* 1V
23 Ivory, Christopher (INJ) 6-0 225 SR 3V
22 Staden, Chantz (INJ) 5-10 202 SR 1V
48 Martin, Remy 6-2 225 JR* TR
27 Thometz, Casey 6-0 210 SR* SQ
WSU Running Backs Facts: Entering the 2009 campaign this may be the deepest position on the Cougar roster. Senior Dwight Tardy returns after leading the Cougars in rushing each of his first three years. Redshirt juniors James Montgomery, who sat out last season after transferring from California, and Marcus Richmond, who saw action in all 13 games last season, along with redshirt sophomore Logwone Mitz, who rushed for 441 yards and three touchdowns last season, will all battle for extended playing time. Seniors Chris Ivory and Chantz Staden are recovering from injuries during the 2008 season and could have an impact if healthy.
Wulff on WSU Running Backs: 'We have some players that have played college football. Obviously Dwight Tardy has the most experience out of all of them, Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond have a little bit, and James Montgomery has a little bit from his freshman year at Cal. They all still can improve a lot more on game day. They all have a lot to prove and it should be a great competition. Whoever is playing the best is probably going to see the most playing time. All will have an opportunity to play, but at the same time if someone is playing real well we have to go with the hot hand. It's a diverse group as we have the ability to get to the edge with speed, have the ability to run downhill with power and can catch the ball out of the backfield. There is something there we can work with.'
WSU Tight End Facts: WSU lost its top two tight ends last season and are relatively inexperienced heading into 2009. Redshirt senior Tony Thompson leads a very young core comprised of redshirt freshmen Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz, along with redshirt junior Zach Tatman, who missed last season due to injury, and redshirt junior Aaron Gehring.
Wulff on WSU Tight Ends: 'This is an area where we need to have players step up for us. Particularly the young tight ends in redshirt freshmen Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz. We are counting on those two to produce and help us. We have been impressed with Tony Thompson, who is a versatile tight end; we can do a lot of things with Tony which gives us a lot of flexability. Zach Tatman is someone who showed flashes of good things during the spring. He gives us some maturity and a physical presence.'
2 Blackledge, Daniel 6-1 182 JR 2V
80 Forzani, Johnny 6-1 195 JR* TR
85 Anderson, Jeshua 6-2 188 JR 2V
89 Huemmer, Colin 6-3 192 SR* SQ
WSU Wide Receiver Facts: With the loss of a wide receiver to the NFL in each of the last three seasons, the Cougars are young at the position heading into 2009. Despite the youth, there is starting experience at each of the three positions. Junior Daniel Blackledge and sophomores Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter enter the season atop the depth chart. Blackledge has 10 catches and 91 yards in his first two seasons while Norrell and Karstetter each started multiple games in 2008. Junior college transfer Johnny Forzani, a speedy receiver who played with the practice squad of the Calgary Stampeders (CFL), winning Rookie of the Year and Most Outstanding Receiver with the club's junior team, junior Jeshua Anderson, who has started 12 games in two seasons and is the team's top returning pass catcher from 2008, and redshirt junior Jeffrey Solomon, who transferred to WSU from Eastern Washington and sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, will all play a big role in this year's receiving corps. Easton Johnson makes the switch to wide receiver after playing safety last season. Due to the relative youth at the receiver positions, newcomers Dominique Jackson and Gino Simone - considered by a number of publications to be the top prospect in the state of Washington last year - will each have a shot to earn playing time early in their Cougar careers.
Wulff on WSU Wide Receivers: 'A lot of young guys. It is really a position we have tried to overhaul and there are a lot of new faces that will have to play. We are still relatively inexperienced in some regards in terms of total amount of playing time in their career on gamedays. There are a few that have some experience: Jared Karstetter, Daniel Blackledge, Kevin Norell and Jeshua Anderson. Those guys have played a little bit. We add Johnny Forzani, who hasn't played much but will add some athleticism to the group, along with Jeffrey Solomon and Gino Simone. There is a core of players that need to work very hard, but they have a great attitude so we are excited to watch their development over the next few years.'
WSU Special Teams Facts: This will be one of the Cougars' deepest positions this season. Redshirt junior Reid Forrest will again handle the punting duties after averaging more than 41 yards per punt last year, including 10 of 50-plus yards. Junior Nico Grasu, whose three field goals in the Apple Cup last year led WSU to victory, will compete with senior Patrick Rooney for the kicking duties. Grasu hit 9-of-13 attempts last season.
Wulff on WSU Special Teams: 'Reid Forrest had a solid offseason getting bigger and stronger. Last season he started the year with a broken ankle and that slowed his development and his progress. Reid is a good punter and he can only get better. We expect big things from him this year: field position and consistency out of the position are very important. Dan Wagner, listed on the depth chart at quarterback, will again back up Reid this year. Junior kicker Nico Grasu has proven himself, though he needs to continue developing his consistency. He has all the tools to be an outstanding kicker. Senior Pat Rooney is another that will battle with Nico for our kickoffs. Both have strong legs, both have experience. We expect that position to perform well for our team. (Long snapper) Zach Enyeart, a redshirt junior, was honored with a scholarship this summer because he has been a two-year starter. He has given us a lot of consistency and the kickers really trust him with the snaps for punts and field goals. The backup could be a couple people, either Kevin Baffney or Chris Prummer.'
*Has used Redshirt season