Washington State Cougar football is in the beginning stages of fall camp.
Like just about every other team in the Pac-10, the Cougs will be looking to answer some pretty basic questions.
Will WSU put up better offensive numbers in 2009?
Will WSU be an improved football team on defense?
Coach Paul Wulff and his staff are looking for some answers to those questions and more in the coming weeks of fall camp.
Up to this point, Coach Wulff hasn't been making predictions about how many more wins to expect this season. He has been consistent in saying that the goal for WSU is to finish the schedule bowl eligible.
What Coach Wulff has been saying since spring practice is to expect something rather basic.
Washington State football players will be better prepared physically and mentally this season.
Since the end of last season, a number of players have been dropped from the WSU roster for a very basic reason. They were not willing to embrace the change in culture Coach Wulff and his staff believe in.
The latest player to be dropped from the team is Chris Ivory. Keeping in mind that college players are student/athletes and not paid professionals, there won't be elaboration on why Ivory was dismissed from the team.
The official word from Bill Stevens, Washington State Athletics SID, is all we need to know. Ivory was dismissed for violation of team rules.
From the moment Coach Wulff stepped on campus in Pullman, installing a regimen of discipline has been a priority. Discipline applies to every student/athlete on the roster, including players who were expected to make contributions on the playing field this fall.
As a three-year letterman, Ivory was listed fifth on the running back depth chart at the beginning of fall camp. However, he was one of the biggest backs at 6'0", 225 pounds. Ivory averaged over 5 yards a carry the past three seasons and likely to see plenty of playing time. That possibility no longer exists for the senior from Longview, TX.
Don't be misled about Coach Wulff's desire to win. He is all about winning football games, but his philosophy bears repeating:
"We need to put ourselves in a position where everybody can be proud of the student/athletes in this program both on and off the field on a consistent basis." - Coach Paul Wulff on WSU football
In terms of improvement, it would appear that the off-season strength and conditioning program is already paying dividends.
The first two days of fall camp were snappy, crisp and clearly different from last season in a number of ways.
Last season WSU players kept the team doctors very, very busy. It seemed that just about every day at least one player would leave the practice field with an injury.
Two days in to the fall camp schedule, players may be experiencing some aches and pains but no one has sustained an injury that has taken them off the practice field.
Players have been showing up early and staying after practice. There is an improvement in focus for the team which translates into some pretty serious work on Rogers Field.
Today, Tuesday, will be the last day of practice before putting on full pads and stepping up the level of workouts.
Once the pads start cracking, the serious work of earning playing time begins.
The first three days of camp have been about coaches seeing who has made physical improvements since last season. At the same time, the staff is evaluating the incoming Class of 2009 to see who might be ready to play immediately.
To single out individuals catching the attention of the coaches at this point is a bit premature. Give the guys a few days in full pads before we start talking about starters.
There is plenty of competition in fall camp already. And why not? There is really only one position locked down on offense. Aside from All Pac-10 candidate Kenny Alfred at center, fall camp will present opportunity for players to show both their ability and focus.
On the other side of the ball, there are a few defensive slots that have stand out performers. Again, let's hold off naming names for the moment.
The experience gained from last season is tied to a defense that gave up too much yardage and too many points week after week.
It should be pointed out that the defense was on the field too long last year.
Tomorrow is when the real work begins.
Can't wait for September 5th to roll around.
Originally published on Examiner.com