Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

ANTHONY CARPENTER

ANTHONY CARPENTER'S hit on that Oregon return man the other day has to rank among the all-time great collisions in Cougar football history. The only tackle I can even remember coming close to it was Phillip Glover's absolute decleating of a Montana return man in 1995.

A couple of other great hits that stand out for me over the years were Steve Gleason's tattoo on Husky tight end Cam Cleland in 1997; punter Glenn Harper's cup-shattering stick on Danny Greene in the 1983 Apple Cup; and offensive lineman Lincoln Walden-Schulz' pancaking of a USC defensive back on an interception return in 1999.

By the way, Carpenter's hit was perfectly clean. The reason the return man got knocked out was because he ducked and flinched at the last second, putting his head right into the middle of harm's way. Any suggestion that Carpenter was head-hunting is total BS.

I must say, however, that aftermath of the collision sent a collective chill of worry through the entire Martin Stadium crowd. Thanks good it was only a concussion.

OUR OLD FRIEND Paul Sorensen may have been an All-American safety once-upon-a-time, but when it comes to sizing up the strength of a team the first place he looks is in the trenches. His assessment of the Cougar offensive line is that they're pretty decent right now but they're going to be excellent next season when the speed and complexities of Pac-10 ball are old hat to left tackle David Gonzales, left guard Wade Jacobson and freshman right tackle John Fullington, who has seen a ton of reps this season coming off the bench for senior Micah Hannam. Moreover, wily ol' B.J. Guerra will be back for his senior year. At center next year, the Cougs lose starter Zack Williams, but two promising guys appear to be waiting in the wings to take over: veteran Andrew Roxas and second-year walk on Elliot Bosch.

One thing Sorensen doesn't see is enough experience and/or size backing those guys up. Tyson Pencer, who is 6-8, 330 and can play tackle or guard, could be a force but he's been dogged by injury much of this season. Tim Hodgdon (6-3, 275), Alex Reitnouer (6-5, 275) and Sebastian Valenzuela (6-2, 312) -- all second-year freshmen this season – are still mostly wet-behind-the-ears. Another big body, former DET/DT Dan Spitz (6-6, 275), had moved over to offensive line but injured his shoulder in fall camp. He had surgery earlier this month to repair his labrum -- he's expected to be ready by spring ball. Spitz had previously been deemed ineligible until this November with a 9-game suspension from the NCAA due to a failed drug test.

"The Cougars need a quick infusion to bridge the gap between these young guys and the starters," Sorensen says. "I think the Cougs are going to go hard after JC offensive lineman in this upcoming recruiting class."

Rico Forbes, a 6-6, 292-pound JC tackle from Texas, verbally committed to the Cougs last month. But Sorensen says he thinks Forbes is just the start. "I could easily see two or even three more junior college offensive lineman in this class. Ideally, you want to bring in high school kids but the fact is that high school kids need time to mature mentally and physically -- at least most do, besides Fullington. I don't think the Cougs have that luxury in this class. They need an infusion of size, experience and speed now."

HATS OFF TO FIRST-YEAR Cougar special teams coach Dave Ungerer. WSU is ranked No. 1 in all of the FBS in kickoff return yardage defense. The Cougs are allowing, on average, just 15.7 yards per kickoff return. In addition, Nico Grasu has booted nine touchbacks. Well done all around.

ON THE MARK YOUR calendar front, there are a handful of notable dates to circle in basketball. The Cougs open practices this Friday at 8 p.m. at Bohler and fans are invited. The home opener is Nov. 13 against Southern, and the annual Key Arena game is Nov. 23 against Portland. And of course, on Dec. 3 -- the night before the Apple Cup -- the Cougs will be playing Kansas State at Beasley.

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