It’s truly been another exciting week out here and I really enjoyed answering all of the questions I got from the message boards last week, so thanks to everyone who posted. I'll answer your questions a little later and I'm not going to gloss over things in my answers. But I’d like to start out by talking a little bit about some progress we’ve made as a team -- off the field -- in the last year working with our coaching staff and each other.
As a team, we’ve drafted four team covenants that we are all working to live up to. Each covenant has its own meaning to us as far as our performance in the classroom, the community, practice and on Cougar Football Saturdays.
The first covenant is Trust. In the past and in retrospect, we haven’t always been willing to rely on each other unconditionally. Obviously, this is crucial to success not only in football, but also in many settings in life. With an established trust, players play less as individuals and much more as a unit. With a built sense of trust, each player can count on another to do his job the right way, the first time, every time.
This is an area that I feel we’ve made some huge strides. Guys are, simply put, learning to be accountable for their own actions instead of pointing fingers. With this, we don’t have to waste time wondering who could blow assignments or miss class, as we can truly rely on each other to do the right thing at the right times.
The second covenant is Family. One of the most important aspects here is that of players realizing that we must be more than just friends. It’s not enough for guys to simply back each other up in difficult situations. We must also push each other to do what is right, all the time, for the greater good of the team and Cougar Nation.
One of the most obvious changes we’ve had here lies in our ability to call each other out for not doing the right things both on and off the field. I love hearing what has become countless guys in the weight room -- like Marshall Lobbestael and Joe Eppele, for example -- call others out when they’re not completely focused, and then to have the guys being called out jump right back into the groove. It’s really helped to eliminate some distractions that have skated by in the past. We’ve been getting closer to each other and building that ever-important trust and respect that we must have to meld together as a team.
The third covenant is Intensity. Simply put, the concept here is to eliminate distractions. Whether that means turning our cell phones/instant message appliances off in class and sitting up straight or leaving personal issues off the field before practice starts, it’s an incredibly important ideal for us to encapsulate as athletes.
It really is all too easy to lose focus at times, worrying about a play that maybe didn’t go exactly as we’d planned or how a play will be executed in the future. With this concept of intensity, that of eliminating the unnecessary mental garbage that we all carry at times, we can truly focus on our immediate tasks and play the game one play at a time, one day at a time with great focus.
Our final covenant is Attitude. This is all about waking up every day with an overwhelming willingness to be taught, to find positives and to never, never give up in anything we do. Instead of being negatively-minded when faced with things like blown plays, turnovers, mistakes on homework assignments or problems in day-to-day life, we can actively decide to be positive and progressive in our achievements in all aspects of life.
These four covenants are things that the entire team is unifying with and working to fully attain on a day-to-day basis. And in all honesty, with these four concepts now firmly in place, things have gotten leaps and bounds better both on and off the field than they were before. As new players who are incredibly eager to learn and accept the system that we’re putting in place arrive, we will only become a stronger and better football team.
NOW, I'D LIKE TO answer some of the questions that have come up on the CF.C message boards.
First, for radninjaskills: I’ve gotta say, with a question like that, it would be really easy for me to shoot out a canned response and just say that I “look forward to playing” each team with the same level of fervor, and that really is the truth. With that said, however, I’ve always really enjoyed playing against Oregon. There’s just something about coming from the humble town of Pullman and stepping on a playing field against players who seem to have all the facilities in the world and remembering that the game is played with guys in pads, who hit each other on a field, and nothing else. By that, I mean it all comes down to what makes football the greatest sport on earth; team, toughness, grit, passion, preparation and fire. I really love that sensibility in a time when money is something so highly regarded.
For theRabidCat: I’ve been very fortunate to play against some incredibly talented players in the last few years: Sen’Derrick Marks, Brandon Mebane, Sedrick Ellis and Fili Moala to name a few. The Pac-10 and the BCS are full of gifted athletes, and because of that, there’s always great competition to look forward to. I won’t single out all the guys in particular other than the players above, but each year I get beyond excited thinking that I’ll be able to find out where I’m at as an athlete being challenged by the best out there.
For 89steep: Our running game wasn’t anywhere near where it should have been last year. Guys really have glommed onto that reality and have turned it up more than a few notches. Our running backs have taken the gun out of the holster, so to speak, and really worked themselves into explosive shape. We’ve got guys in Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery, Marcus Richmond, Logwone Mitz and others who have dedicated themselves to smacking some people in the mouth this year in our run game. Our o-line has matured and is also dedicated to pulling serious weight so we can open holes for our guys. Zack Williams is one strong hoss, along with B.J. Guerra, just to name two of 'em. We’ve all been putting in the time to gel and to be as competitive as we can be.
For Crazy4Cougs: Penalties -- to say this aspect of our game was frustrating is an understatement. Because of this, we know what we’ve gotta do. It’s at a point where we truly must be sharp and comfortable with our schemes to cut down on the yellow flags. This is about intensity and it’s happening right here and now in the offseason, no doubt about it.
For DatDudeWSU and SDCoug: We’d never haze our guys, it’s beyond out of the question. We do like to get to know the new guys as soon as possible through the vets introducing ourselves and spending time with the "rooks". And we do, however, make sure that they know the fight song though. As a Coug, you’ve just gotta be able to sing it proudly. Also, the RBs do put in work with the o-line in our voluntary workouts, predominately in our team drills working on timing and understanding of the plays.
Finally, for ArtieHolmesRules: There are a few guys I could single out here as the "most vicious, intense and tenacious dude on the team." I just love watching Andrew Roxas practice on a nice cold fall day when things start to grind a little bit -- that little can of fire really foams at the mouth; very fun to be around. Dwight Tardy is another one. Since we came in together as freshmen in 2005, he’s been an absolute ball of condensed energy -- the guy never stops and is always fired up beyond compare. There are plenty others for sure, but those two jumped out for me first.
Thanks to all the posters with positive comments about last week’s diary and answers. I really appreciate it and I look forward to seeing what you’ve all got to say! I’m happy to take any questions and I’ll never sugarcoat the progress we’re making, so expect raw and honest responses. Here’s to another exciting week of growth and GO COUGS!
Cougar center Kenny Alfred out of Gig Harbor, Wash. was named to the Rimington Award watch list for the second straight spring after his performance starting all 13 games at WSU in 2008. He has started 32 games for the Cougs since his redshirt freshman season and was named Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention for the third consecutive year in '08. A Sporting News Pac-10 All-Freshman Team member in '06, he concluded his prep senior year at Gig Harbor High as a consensus first-team All-State pick and was named one of only six "blue chip" prospects in the state of Washington by the Seattle Times.