Washington State Cougars
2009 Record: 1-11 (0-9)
Returning Starters: 8
The guys you knew: QB Kevin Lopina, RB Dwight Tardy, DT Josh Luapo,
The guys you know: RB James Montgomery, QB Jeff Tuel, WR Jered Karstetter, WR Gino Simone
The guys you need to know: RB Logwone Mitz, RB Chantz Staden, WR Daniel Blackledge
X-Factor: The Offensive Line- This seems like a cop-out answer and it is, but with a team rebuilding from the ground up the way WSU is, it's still the only answer. If they struggle the team has no chance to be successful, if they improve, the rest of the offense has at least a chance to produce.
Offensive Breakdown: The Cougars were completely unable to protect any of the three QBs that played in 2009. The silver lining for WSU is that Jeff Tuel seems to have emerged from the wreckage as a reliable option to start this season. Tuel completed a higher percentage of passes (and more passes overall) for more TDs and did so with a higher rating than either Marshall Lobbestael or Kevin Lopina. His best game of the season came at Cal where he completed 28 of 42 for 354 yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs. At RB, James Montgomery returns from a really frightening injury to his leg that almost cost him a lot more than his playing career. Logwone Mitz and Chantz Staden have looked solid in camp and could eat up enough carries to ease the load on Montgomery. None of the WRs are gamebreakers and the TE spot is still thin for WSU, but Jered Karstetter could be a bright spot. If the line has improved the guys around Tuel will have a chance they haven't in the past couple seasons.
Returning Starters: 6
The guys you knew: DT Josh Laupo, DT Toby Turpin
The guys you know: DE Travis Long, DE Kevin Kooyman, LB Louis Bland, CB Chima Nwachukwu
The guys you need to know: CB Daniel Simmons, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, DT Brandon Rankin
X-Factor: Defensive Tackle- If the Cougs can get a push up front it will be the firt time in awhile and could bolster a defense that will still be much slower than most of the offensive units it will face.
Defensive Breakdown: There isn't a ton to "break down" on a defense that at one point last season gave up 40 points five consecutive games and six out of seven; other than they were terrible in an epic way. Turning that around is going to fall on the shoulders of Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman. If the Cougars can get a pass rush and show the ability to set the edge against the outside run game, they will be able to rally more guys to the ball and create havoc for the opposing QB against the pass. If Long and Kooyman are ineffective, the guys in the back seven are going to be exposed as they have in the past and while they may not give up 40 a game, they are not going to be able to stop people enough to win.
Prediction: 2-10 (1-8) The Cougars are going to be a better team than they were in 2009, but with the conference parity and how far behind everyone else they ended last season, it won't translate to many more wins. Montana State is a given and the Cougs should be able to find another win against possibly Arizona State or maybe a down Cal or UCLA team. Of course if Jeff Tuel is brutalized like he was last season, there is the chance the Cougs are unable to get off the snide in Pac-10 play and go winless for a second straight year. That would likely mean Paul Wulff's job despite recent reports he is safe.