Coach Paul Wulff and the Washington State Cougars have taken a breather from their 2008 schedule. Many are saying that the "bye" week is exactly what the Cougs need after starting this season 1-7.
The question looming large over Pullman and everywhere members of Cougar Nation reside is, "Will WSU begin playing better football?"
To get an answer to that question, you'll have to travel with WSU to Palo Alto, CA this coming Saturday and follow them taking on schizophrenic Stanford.
Let's take a quick look at what's been going on in Pullman.
On offense, Kevin Lopina will get the start at quarterback again. Lopina is coming off a broken bone in his spine but says he's ready to lead the offense. Against the Trojans, he was severely limited. With some additional time to heal, Lopina has put in a couple of good practice sessions this week, looking stronger and quicker.
Running back Dwight Tardy is getting back into shape for the upcoming game and looks ready to go. Tardy hasn't been available the last couple of games but is looking good in practice. He has yet to return to the form that had him rushing for over 200 yards against UCLA last year.
Showing some flashes of brilliance in the last couple of games, Logwone Mitz has been getting plenty of reps with the first team this week. He will likely see more chances against the Cardinal. The redshirt freshman from Redmond, WA is working toward a breakout game.
OK. With Gary Rogers and Marshall Lobbestael lost for the season, there has been plenty of speculation about the status of grayshirt/redshirt freshman J.T. Levenseller.
"Will Coach Wulff burn Levenseller's red shirt?"
You don't have to wait until Saturday for the answer to that question. Coach Wulff announced that Levenseller will burn his redshirt season and see some action against Stanford.
Injuries have reduced the Cougs to just one quarterback, Lopina. Lopina is a first-rate player, but if he goes down there has to be an alternate plan B. Getting Levenseller some game action will speed up his learning curve and is intended to keep the team competitive if Lopina goes down again.
As a grayshirt, Levenseller participated in spring practice. That experience got him some exposure to the playbook, but little more than that. The plan was to ease Levenseller into the system and have him compete for the starting job next spring. Obviously that plan has been thrown out the window...along with more than half of the playbook.
Before committing to Coach Bill Doba and the Cougs, Levenseller was heavily recruited by none other than Coach Jody Sears and Coach Wulff when they were at Eastern Washington. J.T. says that turning down the offer to play for Coach Wulff at Eastern was a very difficult thing to do.
The one thing no recruiter could offer Levenseller was the chance to live a dream. Playing football at Martin Stadium on Saturdays is what he's always wanted to do.
Heck, Levenseller began learning how to throw a football at the tender age of four under the tutelage of his dad's best friend, Jack Thompson. Get it? J.T., Jack Thompson.
If you're wondering, J.T.'s legal name is actually Michael Jack Thomas. But when you're coached by one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the history of WSU, not only do you want everyone to call you J.T., you tell them the initials stand for Jack Thompson. At least you don't correct anyone making that assumption.
So can we expect better play out of the Cougs this week? That's still the question.
Between closed practices and the coaching staff on the recruiting road for three days, we'll just have to wait and see.
Come to think of it, we'll just have to wait and listen. For the first time this season, WSU football won't be televised.
One thing is certain this week. We will have a Football Friday and some exciting Cougar football Saturday afternoon.