2008 CFN Washington State Preview
Washington State QB Gary Rogers
Washington State QB Gary Rogers
Posted May 20, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Washington State Cougars

Washington State Cougars

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

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- 2008 CFN Washington State Preview |
2008 Wazzu Offense
- 2008 Wazzu Defense | 2008 Wazzu Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Wazzu Preview | 2006 CFN Wazzu Preview 

Head coach: Paul Wulff
1st year at Washington State
9th year overall: 53-40
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 15, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Cougar Players
WR Brandon Gibson, Sr.
2. DE Andy Mattingly, Jr.
3. LB Greg Trent, Jr.
4. RB Dwight Tardy, Jr.
5. LB Cory Evans, Sr.
6. C Kenny Alfred, Jr.
7. QB Gary Rogers, Sr.
8. OT Vaughn Lesuma, Sr.
9. RB Chris Ivory, Jr.
10. FS Chima Nwachukwu, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Oklahoma State
(in Seattle)
Sept. 6 California
Sept. 13 at Baylor
Sept. 20 Portland State
Sept. 27 Oregon
Oct. 4 at UCLA
Oct. 11 at Oregon State
Oct. 18 USC
Nov. 1 at Stanford
Nov. 8 Arizona
Nov. 15 at Arizona State
Nov. 22 Washington
Nov. 29 at Hawaii

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Wisconsin L 42-21
Sept. 8
San Diego St W 45-17
Sept. 15 Idaho W 45-28
Sept. 22 at USC L 47-14
Sept. 29
at Arizona L 48-20
Oct. 6 Arizona State L 23-20
Oct. 13 at Oregon L 53-7
Oct. 27 UCLA W 27-7
Nov. 3 at California L 20-17
Nov. 10
Stanford W 33-17
Nov. 17 Oregon State L 52-17
Nov. 24 at Wash. W 42-35

It’s the dawn of a new era at Wazzu, but progress will be gradual for a program that slipped to the Pac-10’s second division over the last four years.

Correctly sensing things had gotten stale under Bill Doba, who could never get the one big moment needed to turn the team into a winner, the Cougars have turned to former player Paul Wulff, who’s brought a fresh energy and a new playbook back to the Palouse. He’s a true believer who really thinks things can be changed up for the better right away. He might be the only one.

The Cougars will spend much of the upcoming season digesting the new no-huddle spread offense and making the switch on defense from the 3-4 to the 4-3. At its peak under Mike Price, Wazzu was an offensive machine, something the new regime would like to revive, and good enough to play with anyone in the conference.
The first order of business will be to uncover a replacement for all-time leading passer Alex Brink.  Senior Gary Rogers has the edge in experience, but with a new regime in Pullman and a desire for a more mobile quarterback, the competition was wide open in the spring. That changed as Rogers nailed the door shut, and now he has to be the leader who can carry the offense. The coaching staff plans to provide some help with more from the running game and more aggressive play-calling.   

Naturally, the Cougars would love to shock everyone and end their four-year bowl drought, but 2008 is more about setting the table for 2009. With so much turnover taking place after winning just five games, this isn’t going to be a smooth year. Just don’t tell Wulff.   

What to watch for on offense
: Opposing defenses to put everyone one and the waterboy on WR Brandon Gibson. Is there a No. 2 receiver to help Gibson out? It might be an overstatement to suggest that Michael Willis will be the most important player in the offense, but the former defensive back has to make teams pay for worrying so much about Gibson. If this spring was any indication, it might happen.       

What to watch for on defense
: The ditching of the 3-4 to affect other areas. Now that the defense doesn’t need four starting linebackers, the coaching staff can move around some of the players to boost the pass rush and the secondary. There will be some ongoing tinkering, but the hope will be for a more consistent producing group of linebackers.

The team will be far better if… the pass defense feeds off the momentum of last November. In total, the numbers from 2007 aren’t very impressive, but over the final five games, the light went on for the Wazzu secondary, allowing only two touchdowns and picking off five passes. More of the same will be needed from a defensive backfield that got shuffled around in the offseason and is the perceived weakness of the defense.

The Schedule: Compared to the rest of the Pac 10 there aren't any real breaks with 13 games packed in tight. The one
open date (compared to Washington, who has three off weeks) comes before a late October trip to Stanford. It would've been nice to have gotten a break before facing one of the big boys. The non-conference schedule isn't too awful considering the opener against Oklahoma State is played in Seattle. In conference play three of the Pac 10 heavyweights, Cal, Oregon and USC, have to come to Pullman, but there are back-to-back road dates at UCLA and Oregon State in between the showdowns with the Ducks and the Trojans. The nice reward, no matter what happens the rest of the season, is waiting at the end with a trip to Hawaii. If there's no bowl game in sight, going to Honolulu in late November will be like one.

Best offensive player
: WR Brandon Gibson. Had he left early for the NFL Draft, Gibson was projected as a third or fourth round selection. Instead, he’ll spend one more season tormenting Pac-10 defensive backs, while working to improve his physical and mental strength. One of the nation’s premier deep threats, he caught 67 passes for a school-record 1,180 yards, and nine touchdowns.

Best defensive player
: DE Andy Mattingly. What do you do with your best pass rusher, when he happens to be a linebacker? You move him even closer to the quarterback. Mattingly has relocated to defensive end a year after he exploded for 91 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and eight sacks, despite starting just six games. While his number of tackles will surely go down, his chances for dispensing havoc in opposing backfields will be much higher.

Key player to a successful season: QB Gary Rogers. Washington State’s quest to install an up tempo, no-huddle spread hinges heavily on the success of Rogers, a first-time starter. The 6-7, 234-pound senior has good zip on his passes and is more agile than his size might indicate, but he has big shoes to fill taking over for Alex Brink, who was one of the team’s lone bright spots. Rogers used the spring to virtually lock down the starting job, adopting the role of a leader and looking sharp in the new system.

The season will be a success if ... the Cougars win six games. Any improvement from last year’s 5-7 record will be deemed a success for Wulff, especially since a new offense and defense are being installed. While there is some talent on the Palouse, this remains a second-tier Pac-10 program that’s going to struggle to slow down Oklahoma State and the league’s better opponents. 

Key game
: Nov. 22 vs. Washington. The Apple Cup is always a big deal for both of these rivals, but this year it’ll have even more juice as Wulff and his staff try to establish an identity in Pullman while UW head man Ty Willingham might need this win to save his job. The Cougars have won three of the last four and must win to get to a bowl game.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Third down conversions: Opponents 98 of 193 (51%) – Washington State 70 of 198 (39%)
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 124 – Washington State 65
- Average passing yards per game: Washington State 319.7 – Opponents 258.5