Yes, the Cougs are young. Yes, they have work to do in all phases. And yes, two of their first three games are on the road in the South.
First up is Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Sept. 4. Tough assignment, for sure. Impossible assignment? No.
The Cowboys lost the vast majority of talent off last year’s 9-4 Cotton Bowl team. Only five starters return on offense, three on defense -- and that includes defensive end Jamie Blatnick, who may be suspended for allegedly hitting a former teammate in the face with a beer bottle in a bar fight.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden, a former minor league baseball pitcher, has thrown just 27 passes in college. Players are adjusting to a slightly different spread offense, one favored by new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. The wide receivers and defensive backs are young and inexperienced.
A Washington State victory in Stillwater would be an upset -- the Cowboys are favored by 14 points -- but the Sept. 11 home opener with Montana State is a gimme.
Remember the last time Washington State played a Big Sky team? The Cougars pummeled Portland State 48-9 two years ago, and this Cougar team appears to be much better than that underwhelming '08 crew.
A 2-0 WSU squad would be sky-high for a Week 3 showdown with Southern Methodist in Dallas. Third-year coach June Jones has done a masterful job with the long-suffering Mustangs -- they went to their first bowl game in 25 years last season -- but WSU’s lone 2009 win came in overtime against SMU in Pullman, and the Cougars should be improved from last year.
There. Who knew a 3-0 start could be so easy? The dream start would presumably end Sept. 25 at home in the Pac-10 opener against USC, but it remains to be seen how the Trojans play after an off-season filled with massive turmoil.
Hey -- it doesn’t hurt to think big, Coug fans. It’s the preseason. Nobody’s dropped a pass that counts yet. Nobody’s missed a tackle that counts yet. Last time we checked, the Cougars are undefeated.
WSU HAS AWARDED EIGHT scholarships to walk ons over the last two years and based on some of the ongoing work of three veteran walk ons, the number could grow in the coming months. Center Elliot Bosch, quarterback David Gilbertson and safety Kyle McCartney have each proven their mettle quite nicely over the last year. And at the rate freshman kicker Andrew Furney is pushing Nico Grasu you have to figure a scholie sits somewhere in his future too.
NATHAN JOYCE, A HARD-working sportswriter for the South Kitsap Sun, loves to delve into the state's sports history. His latest effort, published by MaxPreps.com, is the top 10 football players of all time produced by the state's high schools. The top three spots on the list are each taken up by Cougars: Drew Bledsoe (Walla Walla) is No. 1, followed by Mel Hein (Burlington) and Turk Edwards (Clarkston). Two other Cougs -- Mark Rypien (Spokane/Shadle) and Marcus Trufant (Tacoma/Wilson) -- also are in the top 10. Three of the most curious omissions from the list are former WSU and NFL star Torgy Torgeson (Lacrosse), record-shattering WSU QB Jack Thompson (Seattle/Evergreen), and former Long Beach State standout and electric NFL All-Pro Terry Metcalf (Seattle/Franklin).
SPEAKING OF THOMPSON, he and fellow Cougar legend Jason Gesser will be in the recording studio this week cutting ads for Cougfan.com that will air on WSU's football radio broadcasts this season. "The first time we had spots on Cougar football broadcasts, back in 2005, Jim Walden read them live," recalls CF.C co-founder John Witter. "The opening game of the season Jim kept calling us Cougarfan.com. Unless, Jack and Jason plan some audibles, I'm confident that won't happen this time around."
Pat Mitchell contributed to this report.