2010 Washington State Preview
Washington State DE Travis Long
Washington State DE Travis Long
Posted May 19, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Washington State Cougar Preview

Washington State Cougars

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Wulff
3rd year: 3-22
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 23, ST, 2
Lettermen Lost: 2
Ten Best Wazzu Players
1. WR Jared Karstetter, Jr.
2. DE Travis Long, Soph.
3. P Reid Forrest, Sr.
3. LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Jr.
5. RB James Montgomery, Sr.
6. LB Louis Bland, Jr.
7. FS Chima Nwachukwu, Sr.
8. QB Jeff Tuel, Soph.
9. OG Zack Williams, Sr.
10. DE Kevin Kooyman, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Oklahoma St
Sept. 11 Montana St
Sept. 18 at SMU
Sept. 25 USC
Oct. 2 at UCLA
Oct. 9 Oregon
Oct. 16 Arizona
Oct. 23 at Stanford
Oct. 30 at Arizona St
Nov. 6 California
Nov. 13 at Oregon St
Dec. 4 Washington

Yes, Paul Wulff inherited a difficult situation when he replaced Bill Doba in 2008. No, no one could have imagined that Washington State would be this feeble two years later.

In one of the most precipitous drops in Pac-10 history, the Cougars have gone from a middling school, which would occasionally piece together a 10-win season, to one of the worst programs in America. And digging out is not going to be a short-term excavation. After six straight non-winning seasons and the worst two-year stretch in school history, Wazzu is firmly in rebuilding mode. Still.

Naturally, when a team loses 22 of its last 25 games, the coaching staff is going to bear the brunt of the criticism. Wulff knows this better than anyone. Worse yet, the Cougars haven't even been competitive, losing 19 times by at least three touchdowns. Couple his miserable record with the hiring of a new athletic director, Bill Moos, and it's patently obvious that more of the same could result in a change at the top at the end of this regular season. If Wulff can't show progress, both tangible and intangible, it'll be awfully hard to justify his retention.

If there's a shard of optimism in Pullman this season, it comes from 50 returning lettermen, a whopping 35 of whom started at least one game in 2009. The Cougars were decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball, which necessitated drilling deep into the depth chart and using a bunch of kids who were a year away from being ready. In theory, the growing pains from last fall should benefit the 2010 squad and beyond. In particular, the program hopes to have found a cornerstone on offense and defense in two second-year players, QB Jeff Tuel and DE Travis Long.

You can win on the Palouse. Just ask Mike Price, the driving force for a team that won 10 games in three straight years, appearing in the 2002 Rose Bowl and beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. Getting back to that point will require years of player development. Wulff doesn't have the luxury of time on his side, though on numbers alone, he should have a team a little better equipped to compete in the Pac-10.

What to watch for on offense: Tuel time. Whenever Washington State has been successful in the past, it's had a prolific quarterback throwing darts. Think as far back as Jack Thompson or as recently as Ryan Leaf and Jason Gesser. Sophomore Jeff Tuel needs to gradually blossom into one of those types of distributors if the Cougs are going to even sniff mediocrity. Before being lost to a knee injury, he flashed loads of upside as a rookie, even carving up a veteran Cal defensive backfield for 354 yards and a pair of scoring strikes.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Non-existent a year ago, the Cougars had just 13 sacks in 12 games, a contributing factor to the demise of the pass defense. There is cautious optimism, however, that they can produce a little more pressure without having to sell out and put the hapless secondary in an even more precarious position. A bigger and stronger DE Travis Long will be even more effective than his debut, when he had a team-high 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Plus, he'll get more cover on the other side from 6-6, 259-pound Kevin Kooyman, who missed all but one game with a knee injury.

The team will be far better if… it can somehow avoid the injury bug. For the second straight year, Washington State was crippled by the kinds of long-term injuries that tested an already shallow pool of talent on the roster. While everyone deals with losses at this level, it was almost unfair how frequently the Cougars were hit. They've tried to train their way in the offseason to fewer tears and sprains, hoping to break this vicious cycle that has some wondering if the program is operating under a curse.

The Schedule: Even if the Cougars are far better they'll have a hard time coming up with a great record. They were able to beat SMU last year, but they'll have to deal with a far better team on the road this year. Throw in a game at Oklahoma State and the home opener against a not-that-bad Montana State, and there's a lot of work to be done before starting out the year against USC. There are five Pac 10 home games and four on the road, but there are three straight road dates starting in late October going to Stanford, Arizona State, and Oregon State. For almost anyone else, getting USC, Oregon, and California at home would be a huge plus, but getting just one win in those three games would be a huge shocker.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Jared Karstetter. C Kenny Alfred has graduated and RB James Montgomery is rehabbing a leg injury, leaving Karstetter as the steadiest member of a troubled offense. One of the few bright spots a year ago, he caught a team-best 38 passes for 540 yards and six touchdowns, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 recognition. A big target, with soft hands, he'll have few problems matching those numbers, especially with more stability behind center.

Best defensive player: Sophomore DE Travis Long. In just his first season out of Gonzaga (Wash.) Prep, Long quickly established himself as Wazzu's brightest young defensive player. Still growing into his 6-4, 256-pound frame and digesting the playbook, he managed to make 47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks. Quick and relentless to the pocket, he'll be even more effective now that he's added the extra muscle needed to hold up at the point of attack.

Key players to a successful season: the offensive line. If Washington State is going to emerge from college football's abyss anytime soon, the offense will undoubtedly be the catalyst. And if the Cougar attack has any chance of rallying behind a green quarterback and average skill position talent, it's going to need substantially better blocking up front than in recent seasons. A year ago, the unit paved the way for the nation's 118th-ranked ground game and was 119th in sacks allowed, a level of futility that simply cannot be duplicated.

The season will be a success if ... the Cougars play more competitively in 2010. On a team that might be favored in just one game all season, the Sept. 11 visit from Montana State, success will not be measured by wins and losses. Instead, after losing by an average of 41 points in 2008 and 29 points in 2009, Washington State would be satisfied to simply be within striking distance in the second half of some Pac-10 games.

Key game: Dec. 4 vs. Washington. The Apple Cup is always the most important game on the schedule, but even more so when a bowl game is completely out of earshot. As the Huskies begin to build some distance on their in-state rival under Steve Sarkisian, this is an opportunity for the Cougars to avenge last year's 30-0 whitewash and gain a little momentum for 2011.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Washington State 70.7 – Opponents 236.4
- First quarter scoring: Washington State 6 – Opponents 176
- Sacks: Washington State 13 - Opponents 53

- 2010 Washington State Preview | 2010 Washington State Offense
- 2010 Washington State Defense | 2010 Washington State Depth Chart
- Washington State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006