2010 CFBZ Prediction: 10th Place in Pac-10
2010 Actual Finish: 10th Place in the Pac-10 (2-10, 1-8)
In 2009 the Washington Cougars posted one win and failed to compete in the majority of their other games. In 2010 they only posted one more victory in 2009 but they did close the gap in some of their conference games (lost to Washington by 7, lost to Cal by 7, lost to Stanford by 10, beat Oregon State). One area which the Cougars seemed to improve was in their passing game where they improved from 100th in the Nation to 42nd. It will be interesting to see how long the Cougars stick with Paul Wiuff (who is now 5-32 at Washington State) and if he can indeed turn this team around. Once again we partnered with the SB Nation Washington State centric blog Coug Center and got the inside scoop from Craig Powers.
Washington State went 2-10 but that was what you had them pegged for when you did our Pre-Season Preview. How do you view this season...success, failure, somewhere in between?
I can't say this season was absolutely a "success." That is really hard to do when a team does finish 2-10. However, I will say that it was not a failure. The team was able to put up some very competitive performances against Pac-10 competition, being in the game late against UCLA, Cal, and UW. They put up solid performances against the Pac-10's best teams; Arizona, UCLA, and Stanford. They showed great improvement in Pac-10 play and finally broke through with a road victory over Oregon State.
I am happy with that improvement, but I would have liked to see it happen a little earlier. The Cougs look pretty bad against Oklahoma State and Montana State, even requiring a frantic comeback against MSU to pull out the victory (I told you that was the game that frightened me the most at the beginning of the season).
There were a lot of positive signs. The offense showed a pulse for the first time in years and young talent emerged on both sides of the ball. Kickoff coverage was among the best in the nation, a testament
to the depth that Paul Wulff and his staff have been building through recruiting. While the season wasn't a total success, it was definitely a step forward.
Which player was the biggest surprise of the season?
Absolutely Marquess Wilson. We had seen a lot of good things in fall camp from him, but it seemed unlikely that they would have transferred to the kind of success we saw on the field. He ended up with over a 1000 receiving yards and a highlight reel full of big catches. Coug fans are very excited about him going forward.
What player(s) are you most looking forward to watching next year?
Two true freshman emerged as the best players on the defensive side of the ball towards the middle of the season; C.J. Mizell and Deone Bucannon. Bucannon alone made a huge difference in the defensive backfield. His sure tackling helped prevent many of the big runs that have plagued this WSU defense in previous years, he is not afraid to lay out a receiver over the middle, and he made a huge interception in the Apple Cup when UW looked poised to put the game away in the first half. Mizell didn't see much action early in the season because of a poor work ethic, but as that improved, his playing time jumped and he eventually was solidified as the starter at middle linebacker. He possesses great speed, is a sure tackler, and lays the lumber. Between those two guys, the Cougar defense could be a very exciting unit to watch over the next three years. On offense, I am looking forward to see what Jeff Tuel can do with a full season under his belt. All things considered, he had a fantastic season in 2010 and carried the Cougs to their victory over the Beavers.
In what areas does your team need to improve on the most this off-season?
For the first time in three years, I don't have to say "everything" to that question. The special teams, especially kick coverages, did very well this year. On offense, WSU still needs better line play. Jeff Tuel spent a lot of time escaping the pass rush and running backs rarely had room to maneuver. On defense, linebackers need to be more assignment sound. It was a familiar sight to see a Cougar LB flying by an opposing team's running back as they overpursued. The defensive line could also improve more in pass rush. The WSU secondary is
talented, but they can't cover forever.
As a Pac-10 guy do you root for or against Oregon in the BCS Title game against Auburn?
I'm absolutely rooting for Oregon. First, it would be great to see an non-USC team have success on a national level to improve the Pac-10's (soon to be Pac-12's) reputation around the nation. Second, I have really enjoyed watching Oregon. Chip Kelly is a heck of a coach and a hilarious interview. Third, I live in Tennessee, in the heart of SEC country, and would love to shut those folks up for a little while.