Ah yes, summertime in Pullman. Although my time in God's Country during summer sessions was limited to me being to lazy to move out of my apartment and into the next one, I don't think I've ever had a better time in my life. No one has too big of a class load and the bars aren't too packed. Heck, some of them even dropped their prices a bit. Or maybe I just thought they did because my tab wasn't ever quite as bad.
In fact, some of my favorite memories of Pullman are in the summer time. The Dunes. The Cliffs. Lounging on the deck watching the sun slowly drop beyond the rolling horizon and fading into the most beautiful combination of reds, oranges, pins and blues these eyes ever laid sight upon. It's like Michaelangelo is delicately stroking his brush upon the twilight sky from his perch high up in the heavens. Its beauty is beyond comparison, second to virtually none.
That was one heck of a trip down beautiful poetry lane we took there. Anyhow, the summers there also mean fireworks at Sunnyside Park, barbecues and beers and laid back professors would rather be out here putting the brats on the grill with you instead of standing in a boiling hot room in Todd Hall. Summertime in Pullman is without comparison as life slows down and you can sit back and enjoy.
Life slows down an awful lot for the athletic department as well but in a bad way. From a news stand point, virtually nothing is going on. In fact, many folks in Bohler take the bulk of their yearly actions around this time. Walk into the athletic offices and you might be convinced it's actually a ghost town. Even the NCAA has wrapped up their last championship tournament (and a quick congrats to the South Carolina Gamecocks on their second straight baseball championship) so there's nothing going on at what I'm relatively sure is communism's new headquarters.
But there is one place where there should be plenty of work getting done: the weight room. Every last player on the roster should be pumping iron like it's going out of style. All these players should have their noses buried deep within a playbook. Every offseason, players should become better than they once were.
All of these statements are pretty routine for a given offseason. They get repeated time and time again and you're expected to believe them every summer. And given we're now heading into the fourth season of the Paul Wulff tenure at Washington State, I expect players to make big leaps and bounds in Pullman. So after tearing apart every "the summer time means so much" and "there's nothing like weights and studying in the summer" football article, I'll tell you who needs to improve the most if the Cougars hope to make it to a bowl game this year.
Alex Hoffman-Ellis: Let's get it out there right from the outset: this guy is just a freak athlete. He's about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 230 pounds but most of it is pure muscle. Standing next to the guy when he isn't in pads is plain intimidating. Even more impressive is the fact that he runs a quick 40 time. The problem is he has only played organized football for a few years, including his time at Washington State and his inexperience shows. Hoffman-Ellis misses gap assignments at times and his tackling leaves something to be desired. This is a guy who could spend literally no time in the weight room and all of it buried in a playbook and he'd be fine for next year.
C.J. Mizell: Yes, it's a coincidence the first two guys are linebackers. Mizell, like Hoffman-Ellis, is just a freaky athlete. We got tastes of it all year but perhaps most impressive was his literal body slam of Shane Veeren when the Cougs took on Cal. What Mizell has in bunches in terms of natural talent he lacks in his noggin. He's clashed with the coaches. He hasn't put in the hard work required to start. He's been incredibly frustrating for coaches and fans alike. If the guy would just focus on the game and focus on being a better teammate and player, he could be an All-Conference if not All-American.
Logwone Mitz: In his final year of eligibility, Mitz has got to come into his own. He's a big guy, but he's never had to carry the load of an offense before. And with his bruising, bounce like a pinball off everything running style, he's going to need to remain tough. Even more important will be staying healthy so Ricky Galvin doesn't have to take a majority of the snaps during his first season in the backfield. Mitz has to, literally, carry the load for the running backs this year. A season featuring roughly 700 to 800 yards would be ideal for me especially given Galvin could easily put up an total even to that as well.
The Offensive Line: This one is obvious. The line got more athletic last year and they were noticeably bigger. The problem obviously became difficulty with scheme. This line needs to do a better job keeping Jeff Tuel upright, especially considering the offense is a bit of a off-kilter version of the pass run option. They have to give Tuel the time to decide whether to run or throw and that is perhaps the most crucial aspect to improving this team. The defense and the special teams all got better last year. And while the passing attack got better, there was virtually no running game and the offensive line needs to shoulder most of the blame there.
Who Cares Pick of the Week: I really don't think I could care less about who wins the All-Star game. Which is hilarious because it's my favorite All-Star game.
American 7, National 4
Dunderhead of the Week: The lady across the street from the house we were setting fireworks off at who told us to quiet down. With 5 other houses around her blowing off fireworks. Yah lady, it's all our fault you can't sleep. .
And, of course, John Buccigross
+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++
The 2011-12 athletic season is nearly here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Baseball, track and field and rowing, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.