The Cougar football team worked hard throughout summer workouts and fall camp in order to prepare for their upcoming campaign.
This week, the Cougs will host Big Sky opponent Idaho State. The Bengals start this season with new Head Coach Mike Kramer at the helm.
Kramer, who was director of football operations last season at WSU, will look to improve Idaho State, who went 1-10 last season.
Head Coach Paul Wulff realized that Kramer likely already has some level of familiarity with the Cougars’ game plan, whereas Wulff has virtually no familiarity with Idaho State's.
“He probably has a really good feel for the types of things we’re trying to do,” Wulff said. “We would like to know more about him.”
Wulff has been pleased with his players progression so far this offseason, and he noted that his players have a little more swagger entering this season.
“I think as we’ve progressed through fall camp our players have gained more and more confidence,” Wulff said. “Our players believe they can win.”
The Cougar offense will be led junior Jeff Tuel, who finished his sophomore campaign by piling up more than 3,500 yards through the air along with 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Tuel will once again have his favorite targets in Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter to bolster the aerial attack.
Tuel reiterated Wulff’s comments about the Cougars' improvements throughout camp.
“We know we’ve improved as a group and individuals; we just got to go out there and prove it and show it,” Tuel said. “I think we’re all just chomping at the bit, we’re just ready to go. We’re better. We’re going to go out there, and we need to prove it.”
The Cougars offensive line, which gave up a staggering 51 sacks last season, will be significantly improved, Wulff said. The Cougars will have four seniors up front along with sophomore John Fullington to protect Tuel.
Tuel said the biggest challenge will be to stop playing tentatively and really open up their offense.
“I think just playing big and playing as us,” Tuel said. “Playing with confidence right out of the gate and letting ourselves go. Not being tentative and believing in ourselves that this is a new year, new team and we’re a different team and a special team.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars will return numerous starters including junior defensive end Travis Long and redshirt junior Tyree Toomer.
Toomer anchored the defensive side of the ball in 2010 en route to amassing 62 tackles last season.
After completing offseason workouts, Toomer said the defense is eager to go against someone other than his own team.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Toomer said. “The whole summer workouts and the fall camp just hitting each other and banging each other. It’s about time we get to see a new uniform to get after and bloody them up a little bit.”
Sophomore Damante Horton, who missed substantial playing time last season after damaging his medial collateral and anterior-cruciate ligaments against Arizona, will return this year to start at defensive back on the left side. The right side is more clustered, as juniors Daniel Simmons and Nolan Washington are battling for the job.
Toomer said Cougar Nation should be excited for some major strides on defense this season, and they are looking forward to their first test.
“Look for the Cougar defense to fly around: big hits, turnovers, knocking people’s heads off,” Toomer said. “Just playing excited with a lot of enthusiasm, we’re just happy to be able to play in front of Martin Stadium and the Cougar faithful once again. We want to start the weekend off right.”