Pac-12: Devin Giles
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The tenth of 10 quick updates on offseason Pac-10 goings on.
Washington State in a sentence
- Washington State will be the consensus pick to finish last in the Pac-10, but hope lies in players developing a comfort level with coach Paul Wulff's systems and young talent stepping up.
The big issue
- The Cougars ranked last in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense, so there are a lot of issues. But if one were to be tapped it would be rushing defense. The Cougs ranked last in the nation -- 119th -- against the run last fall, and just two members of the front seven are back.
Quick hit news
- Five players won't return, including 2008 starting cornerback Romeo Pellum. Also gone are receivers Michael Willis and Michael Vandenkolk and corners Kevin Frank and Devin Giles.
- It received a lot of local publicity and inspired suggestions that Wulff was running a loose ship, but no charges were filed against defensive backs Leandre Daniels and Tyree Toomer in connection with an alleged theft of four bicycles on June 9. Turned out the bikes in question had been abandoned. Just like the players originally claimed.
- WSU had a long list of injured players during spring practices. The tentative, early report is generally positive, with most expected to be available by the season opener vs. Stanford on Sept. 5, if not the start of camp on Aug. 9. Linebacker Louis Bland, who's coming back from knee surgery, probably is the most worrisome. He'll be limited at the start of camp and may not be ready for Stanford.
- Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael is listed as an "OR" on the depth chart with Kevin Lopina. Lobbestael also is coming back from knee surgery but he's expected to be fully engaged in the quarterback competition.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Tenth in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.
Biggest reason for hope -- The running game should improve.
A solid running game would solve a lot of the problems that plagued Washington State last year. Or at least significantly help them. There are reasons to believe that can happen. For one, four starters, including underrated center Kenny Alfred, are back on the offensive line, as well as three others with starting experience. Some of those guys were too young in 2008 and were physically overwhelmed. That shouldn't be as much of a problem after a year in the weight room. What's more, running back might be the Cougars deepest position, with Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery and Logwone Mitz forming a solid threesome. An improved run threat could cause a ripple effect, improving the passing game, limitings turnovers and sacks and allowing the defense to rest.
Biggest reason for concern -- The defense lacks depth and experience.
The Cougars were historically awful on defense last year, surrendering nearly 44 points per game. Just six starters are back, including just three in the front seven. The hope is some redshirts and JC transfers will be able to step in, but that's far from a sure thing. It didn't help either that promising defensive end Cory Mackay suffered a serious back injury after spring practice, or that defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm, a JC transfer who redshirted last year, is nursing a troublesome back. Or that two likely starting defensive backs, Romeo Pellum and Devin Giles, were dismissed from the team. If the Cougars are going to be competent defensively in 2009, guys are going to have to grow up quickly.