Monday, October 24, 2011
Where Do We Go Now? (CS)
Hello Followers. Hope you had a good post-Seattle game weekend.
As for me, well, it was kind of crazy. Not only did I zig and zag across the country between Friday and Sunday morning, I arrived home at the compound late last night to find the Kahn running around the house yelling "BH is back! BH is back!"
So, of course, I was like, "Huh, what do you mean 'BH is back'?"
His response? "You can now call me Ball Hater. And I'm BBBBBAAAAAACCCKK!!!"
And with that, I knew that some semblance of balance needed to be brought to the Oregon State catastrophe. So, if you want to check out this week's semi-(or kind of/really not) hopeful spin from blog purgatory, then read on.
Followers, there has been a lot of really good writing out there concerning the overall impact of Saturday night's game on Paul Wulff's future. As others noted in the blog-o-sphere yesterday, Saturday was catastrophic for Wulff et al., because Seattle week represents THE week for the program to show its stuff in front of the Cougar Faithful with $$$$$$.
And so, like others wrote yesterday, Saturday's debacle represented the worst possible time for this young football team to fall flat on its face.
That said, before we get to the meat of trying to figure out where we go from here, I think it's important to revisit some fast "truths" about the current state of WSU Football.
"Truth #1." This season is playing out EXACTLY how we all thought it would.
At the beginning of the year, yours truly forecasted a 5-7 season for the Cougs. Of course, some readers on the Mothership were more ambitious than that--they thought we might actually win 6 or 7 games. And, while I could be wrong about this, NO ONE out of the near thousand visitors that frequent the mothership each day forecasted more than seven victories for the Cougs.
Of course, all of those predictions--be it 4,5,6, or 7 wins--were predicated on the notion that Jeff Tuel would remain healthy all year. In fact, from the top to the bottom (or from left to right), ALL of us were in agreement that if the Cougs were to lose Jeff Tuel, all bets were off regarding this team's fortunes.
And for me? Well, if you would have told me that we were to lose Tuel for most or all of the season, I would have said we'd be lucky to win four games. In fact, I think I would have said that we'd win two or three.
And so would have most of you.
So, given that Tuel has played a whopping 1.53 games of football this year (and none of it has been quality football), it should come as NO SURPRISE TO ANYONE that this team is sitting at 3-4 looking 4-8 or 3-9 straight in the face.
Simply put, when you're a young team with questionable strength in the trenches, you need all of your playmakers at full force. And we simply haven't had it this year.
And from these eyes, it sure doesn't look like we'll have it moving forward either.
"Truth" #2." Young teams lose games they should win.
Bud Withers at the Times said as much following Saturday night's game. And yes, we all know how much was at stake in Saturday's game. And yes, we all know that a team who has won 8 games in four years shouldn't be looking past ANYBODY. But those of you who watch sports know that these types of drubbings happen all the stinking time. And they're especially likely when a team that is not very good overlooks a team that is young, hungry, and developing rapidly.
And truly, that is what we saw on Saturday night, a cocky group of Cougars playing against a HUNGRY group of equally young upstarts in the Beavs. The result: We got crushed. But again, that type of thing happens all the time--even to good teams (see Oklahoma-Texas Tech on Saturday)
"Truth #3." The offense is in a slump.
Of course, this one relates to Truth #1. As we saw in the second half on Saturday, our offense is really struggling. As we've seen now for a couple of games, against real Pac-12 defenses, our offensive line really struggles.
On top of that, Marshall, who once looked like a world beater, now looks like his mortal and average self. Moreover, the running game and running backs look sub-par. Our receivers are dropping balls and giving up on plays (Hey Marquess, that INT in the endzone in the 4th on Saturday? That was your fault, my man).
And when Tuel is in? Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see he has not even been close to his former self.
And so, while last year we saw gradual--and at times dramatic--improvement with the offense, this year we're seeing the exact opposite: This group is regressing. And the reason? Our best player hasn't been able to play this year, and we have two starters on our offensive line that have played less than 30% of our games.
To wit, if any of us had been told that at the beginning of the year that we would essentially lose Tuel for the year AND lose two starters on the OL, most of you would have thought that 3-4 would be an ambitious goal at this point.
"Truth #4" This team is NOT that talented
Last year, when we were getting blitzed early on, my good friend SeanHawk was really on the brink with coach Paul Wulff. My response: "Sean, we can't fire Wulff because what the program needs right now is good recruiting. And, as long as Wulff is bringing in solid talent, we can't get rid of him right now."
His response: "Are our recruits any good? Seriously, are they truly any good?"
At the time, I thought the question was pretty silly. But now, I'm not so sure. Mind you, we certainly have done a good job of bringing in some nice wide receivers, linebackers, and quarterbacks. But beyond that?
Well, I think we might be pretty average, if not slightly below....
And honestly, its that sad fact, more than anything, that should lead Paul Wulff and his staff start to putting together their resumes this week.
"Truth #5." The Defense is Offensive
And this is where the rubber meets the road. Simply put, after four years of recruiting, the defense is simply not up to Pac-12 standards. And so, as we head toward answering the "Where do we go now?" question, all eyes need to focus now, not on wins and losses, but what happens from here on out with our defensive unit and its coaching leadership.
I mean, for years now, we have heard about our vision of establishing a tough 4-3 defense that would be able to stop the run. We also heard from all of the coaches that recruiting on the defensive side of the ball was the program's first and most urgent priority.
Well, it's four years later and our defense--though it has more talent and fight--is still hopelessly incompetent. In fact, our D is so bad (e.g. poorly coached and so under-talented) that I believe that serious questions remain as to whether or not this group has a fighting chance to have a winning season NEXT year. I really do.
But beyond that, if you think reasonably about what circumstances would enable Wulff to return next year, each of those scenarios carries one common denominator: THE DEFENSE HAS TO IMPROVE DRAMATICALLY OVER THE COMING WEEKS.
And at least in my feeble brain, the time has come for the coaching staff to WAKE UP and realize that because our D line and corners are so incredibly underwhelming, they need scrap that fricking 4-3.
What's more, because our linebackers represent the only unit on the defense that looks to have Pac-12 talent, I would argue that the ONLY option we have at this point is to slide Kafusi to the inside, bring Sua in to the outside, and play a 3-4--even if we don't have a guy to play the NT.
On top of that, for two years now, I have been lamenting about how Brandon Rankin has turned into Andy Mattingly part deux. If you all remember, Mattingly showed incredible promise as an outside linebacker before this staff converted him to a DE where he was terribly ineffective. Of course, for the final two games of 2008, they put Mattingly back at the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 and our D played well the last two games of the year-- in large part because Mattingly became almost dominant when he returned to his natural position.
And so it seems like Rankin--who Nick Saban recruited to Alabama as DE--should be given 5 games to see what he might do at an end spot opposite Travis Long, with Pole and Laurenzi alternating at the NT spot. Again, it may not be pretty in the short term, but by the Utah game that group might mature enough to steal the last two games of the year.
Which brings me to my last two points/laments/conclusions:
1) The best this team can do now is 5-7. And that should be the goal.
2) Paul Wulff might have been able to save his job had he sacked Chris Ball as his defensive coordinator last night and inserted Tormey in his place.
3) Wulff is the kind of guy that would just assume lose his job if it meant being disloyal to those who were the most loyal and supportive of him and his vision.
And because of that, Wulff WILL lose his job at season's end. We can all count on that now.
And this team will finish 4-8. No more, and in my mind, no less.
Enjoy the rest of your week. The Kahn will be back Friday to try to avenge last week's pitiful 2-4 showing