This is the time of year it usually happens. Past failures and potential shortcomings are minimized and/or rationalized into insignificance. Lowlights of the previous season are excused and highlights are…well, highlighted. There are no storm clouds on the horizon; only glorious rays of sunshine that lead to Pasadena (or El Paso…I wouldn’t complain.)
Optimism. It’s an affliction that affects literally millions of college football fans every year around this time. Everybody’s undefeated. Everybody’s all-American.
Except this year, I seem to be immune. Maybe three consecutive seasons of bottom-of-the-barrel football has served as my inoculation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to Pullman in the fall. Playing Palouse Ridge, tailgating, The Coug…I can’t wait for the season to get started so I can get together with the same old friends for the tried and true traditions of a Cougar Football Weekend. It’s just…I don’t have much excitement for the actual football part of it.
WSU did make some significant strides in 2010, particularly on offense. The team showed definite improvement over the course of the season, and there are some promising athletes on the roster. We even have a QB who looks like he could be ready to be listed among the elite players at his position in the conference and he has a deep stable of receivers to throw to. Other than Tuel and the passing offense though, is there really a unit on the team that doesn’t register at least a 6 on the Pucker Scale when they take the field? (The Pucker Scale is an intricate and highly complex tool designed by me just now to measure how much the average Cougar fan’s sphincter tightens when they see something like LaMichael James in open space or Vontaze Burfict coming untouched through your o-line on a blitz.)
The answer to the question, by the way, is “No.” Okay, the coverage units on special teams were decent; I think they were even statistically ranked pretty high in the country. So we’ve got that goin’ for us, wich is nice. But other than that, it really isn’t possible to make an objective prediction of success for any unit on this team without a big fat “IF” in front of it. IF the o-line can start to open some holes, then Mitz, Galvin, et al might give us a respectable run game (and help Tuel stay upright by keeping opposing defenses honest.) IF a reliable rotation can be found at D-tackle, then our athletic corps of linebackers could be freed up to make plays and the secondary might not get torched quite as often. IF we can find one or two dependable return guys, we might get set up with decent field position more often. And so on… I think it’s fairly normal to have a few IF’s on a team before every season given the natural attrition in college football, and I usually end up in the glass-is-half-full camp. But I just can’t muster the enthusiasm to fill my glass this time around.
Whether Wulff will be around after this season will sort itself out between now and November. His track record on the field and in recruiting, the situation he inherited, his staffing decisions…they’ve all been beaten to death on the message boards since even before the start of last season, so I won’t get into all that here. I will say that I want Wulff to succeed because that means WSU is winning.
I’m just not feeling that optimistic about it.
Whatever happens, there will be a lot to talk about before 2012 kicks off. Hopefully my section will still have that shiny new stadium smell.