Washington State football coaches and players charged through the fall camp paces again today, Friday.
Actually, they went through them twice with morning and an afternoon session.
The new attitude in Pullman continues to evolve.
Coach Paul Wulff and his staff are getting some good looks at a lot of players putting in serious work to make a contribution to the team.
And what the coaches are seeing is a group aggressively playing good old fashioned hard nosed football.
What a difference a year makes.
Coach Wulff is looking at a roster filled with young men in better shape to play Pac-10 football this season.
There will be a full scrimmage tomorrow afternoon at 2:30pm.
The coaching staff will use Saturday morning to prepare for the scrimmage. Now that they have had a few days to evaluate players, getting the right combination of players on the field is but one of the goals for tomorrow. If you're within driving distance of the WSU campus, head there to take a look first hand at the progress being made. You won't be disappointed.
Continuing my series looking at the players who will be making a difference for Washington State on defense is coming season, the final group are the big hosses up front.
The defensive line was paper thin last season. Though there is a long way to go before Coach Wulff is satisfied with his DL talent, there is marked improvement.
Opponents ran over the Cougs in 2008 averaging 248 yards per game and nearly 6 yards a rush. WSU ranked 119 out of 120 Division I teams in stopping the rush last year. To say they are going to be better in 2009 isn't really sticking my neck out.
Coach Malik Roberson has some talent to work with, but only one player with real experience.
The leader of this group is senior Kevin Kooyman, a 6'6" 250 pound left defensive end from Maple Valley, WA. He has three years of experience under his belt and working to make his senior campaign something special. Kooyman made 31 tackles last season, four for a loss and recorded a sack against Hawaii. A leader on and off the field, he has been Academic All-Pac-10 honorable mention the past two seasons.
On the other end of the DL there is a fight for starting between Jesse Feagin and Casey Hamlett. Feagin used his red shirt last season after playing in 10 games in 2007. He brings a modest amount of experience to the table. Hamlett transferred to WSU for Western Washington when the school dropped it's football program. He might be undersized for a DL, but with a strong motor and impressive spring practice it's clear Hamlett came to Pullman to play Pac-10 football.
There's plenty of potential at the tackle position. If JC transfer Bernard Wolfgramm fully recovers from back surgery, he'll be at one tackle. He came to Pullman after a stellar two years at College of San Mateo. For now it's too early to tell if he'll be ready to go full speed.
Toby Turpin came on strong at the end of last year and looked good during spring practice as well. His experience last year is a foundation for good things in 2009.
Of the incoming class of freshmen, Travis Long has been turning heads with strong play. Long has been getting in a lot of reps with the first and second units. He didn't have to travel far to Pullman having attended Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. After a brilliant high school career at tight end as well as defensive end, Long has committed to the DL. He was a Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Greater Spokane League. The other award winner? Another member of the Class of 2009, Chris Mastin who is competing for playing time as a true freshman. It's more likely Mastin will red shirt this season, but don't etch that in stone.
There is a gaping hole in the list of players competing for playing time on the defensive line. Cory Mackay was outstanding in spring practice. Coming off a red shirt year, Mackay held plenty of promise for WSU this coming season. Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the DL, Mackay is fighting to walk again after an accident left him paralyzed. Like his teammates, Cory is a competitor. His presence will be truly missed until he can get back on campus.
The defensive line is all about potential due to lack of experience.
Actually, let's stretch that last statement out to cover the entire defense.
Using a couple of barometers, WSU will definitely be a better defensive football team this year.
First, the returning players are in much better physical shape to compete at this level. Truth be known, they are quite pleased to be on the practice field after pushing hard through an aggressive off season strength and conditioning program.
The other factor is attitude. Many players who weren't completely sold on the program and football culture Coach Wulff has put into action are gone from the team. Those that remain are football players who want to succeed as a team and believe Washington State is back on track.
What a difference a year makes.
Originally published on Examiner.com