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What does our new oline coach need to be?
Written by EC Rules   
Thursday, 31 December 2009 13:05

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

A wise woman said that once and it holds true when discussing our latest WSU topic. We are most definitely of small minds here at The Coug but we will attempt to focus on something other than what you're seeing at every other Coug source on the web. Rather than discuss WHO Paul Wulff might hire (you'll get plenty of that from better connected folks than us) we will discuss the criteria he should look for in the next Oline coach. There are lots of ideas behind who the ideal coach should be….but what would really fit this staff and the type of player you can consistently recruit to Pullman?


Hit the "read more" button for what we believe should be the top priorities hiring our new coach:


This much is clear. The transition from Yarno's zone read system to Etheridge's blocking scheme didn't work. It was either poor coaching, poor system and/or poor talent. In truth, getting the production levels that we saw this year you to have all three.


The statistics for the offensive line are mind numbing. The two big ones?


Sacks allowed: 53

The number nine team in the Pac 10 (Cal) gave up 31. Those 53 sacks actually cost us 318 yards. Think about that for a second….we actually lost the length of three football fields in sacks last year. That's not good. Of course, that number doesn't even account for the knockdowns and hurries that eventually sidelined three of our quarterbacks. If we give up 50+ sacks next year it is virtually guaranteed that Jeff Tuel will not finish the season. We need to be at least 20 sacks better next year if we want to see Tuel play the entire season.


Average yards per rush: 2.4 yards per carry

The number nine team in the Pac10 (UCLA) averaged a full yard better at 3.5. Again, we aren't talking about the difference between worst and best in the Pac10. We are talking about the difference between us and the number nine team. We would actually have needed five downs rushing the ball if we met our average to get a first down. We need to be at 3.0 yards per carry next season if we want to keep defenses from blitzing our sophomore QB relentlessly.


So, the offensive line was unable to protect the quarterback in passing situations and unable to open lanes for the running backs. Clearly, something pretty drastic was going to have to happen with personnel, scheme and coaching for us to have a chance next year. Wulff has tried to address coaching and (possibly) scheme with the firing of Harold Etheridge. He's also tried to address the personnel issue by signing two top notch JC tackles that will arrive in January.


That brings us back to our original question. What would the ideal candidate bring to the table given the type of lineman we can typically recruit to Pullman and given the guys that we have in the program right now.


When I'm hiring people into my organization I always write down the three most important attributes that a candidate MUST have to get hired. That keeps me focused on what's critically important versus what's nice to have. You are going to have some very good candidates for this WSU job. It's in the Pac-10 and there is nowhere to go but up with the raw material we have. So, it's going to be on Wulff to filter the noise of everyone telling him what to do and what he should look for and just focus on his key attributes for the ideal WSU oline coach.


Of course, we have an opinion on what should be critically important with this hire. Here are the three attributes (in priority order) that I believe our new oline coach should have and this is the filter I will use in judging whether or not Wulff has made a good choice.


#1. Scheme

Over and over again we saw mismatches on the line this past season. However, more distressing than that was the coaches inability to adjust and stop putting our left tackle or right tackle out on an island. The expectation was for the players to grow into the scheme and not adjust the scheme to their talent level. The Wulff philosophy is similar to the Bennett's. Be consistent with your scheme/teachings and as guys grow they will play cohesive and scheme will sometimes make up for lack of talent.

That's fine if you've got the right scheme.

It's not often that we have a set of linemen at WSU that match-up well across the board. We've often heard Wulff say that our interior linemen are among the best in the Pac-10. Well, that's great. It means nothing if your tackles are the worst and that's precisely my point. At WSU you will often find yourself with Kenny Alfred (NFL) talent playing next to Reed Raymond (WAC) talent. Wulff will either be fired and go to his next job saying, "Man, we were just a player away…" or he will accept the reality of WSU and find a scheme that allows for zone blocking or some other form of team blocking system. This enhances the impact of a smart player and minimizes the deficiencies of a bad player. It does take away some aggressiveness and I'm sure that's where Wulff's mentality diverges from it but it's simply the best way to get consistent line play at WSU.


More than anything bring in a scheme that will give our linemen an identity to rally around and a persona for the ideal linemen we recruit. When you think of George Yarno linemen you immediately think of certain attributes, right? Can you say the same for the type of guy we have gone after the past two seasons? We haven't seen that since George Yarno left the building.


#2. Credentials

The offensive side of the ball needs their version of Chris Ball. It's fine that the staff is young and relatively inexperienced coaching at the D-I level. They bring energy and the players seem to love them and they can recruit with the best of them in the Pac-10. However, you need an anchor. You need a guy that has been around the country coaching and can serve as the sounding board for other coaches and players.

I know people will talk about budget limitations for this hire but we paid a premium for Chris Ball. Why not do it for the offensive version of Chris Ball?

For this particular hire, I would sacrifice youth and recruiting skill for a guy that can come in and serve as a steadying influence for the staff and a guy that is respected as a teacher of teachers. Heck, it's clear that Etheridge hasn't been an effective recruiter for the past two years so we wouldn't really be losing anything if this guy isn't a road warrior. We just need a guy that can help with the overall offensive game plan, teach the players his scheme and mentor players and coaches.


#3. Passion for coaching the offensive line before passion for WSU

We've got plenty of coaches with "Coug" ties. What I want is passion for excellence. I'm tired of hearing the fan base say that we should go after XYZ coach and their first criteria is his link to WSU. I know this is controversial and I understand the passion around the school. But I have a real passion around winning and excellence and I want Wulff to go and find the very best offensive line coach that's available in the country. Then if he leaves after three years we can talk about bringing him back as our offensive coordinator eight years from now because he has "Coug ties". We need to be an incubator of fantastic talent and not just the place where former Cougs can land a job.

I agree with 90% of what Wulff's philosophy is on building a program but one area really annoys me. He is a fan of saying that it's critical to have consistency with the coaching staff. Of course you need consistency…no one wants the revolving door but you need excellence first. You need to secure great coaches FIRST and then work to keep them in Pullman. I would take a great coach for three years and then go look for another great one if he bolts over an average coach for six years. Stop accepting mediocrity for the sake of "consistency" and expect excellence. High performing individuals will always have options and you're always better as an organization to be striving to keep the Tony Bennett's with your company rather than justifying a Kevin Eastman.


If you look at these criteria it starts to help filter who our ideal hire would be. I hate to say it but you eliminate Jason McEndoo because he may fit #1 but definitely not #2. Same goes for Dan Finn at Idaho.


You immediately focus on Jim Michalczik as the ideal hire but it's hard to imagine how he would come to Pullman for just the oline job when he already had and left the UW job as offensive coordinator. I would advocate giving him a three year contract at 250K annually if he would come for that. He would be our Chris Ball on offense. I still don't think WSU would do it and I don't know that JM would jump for even that. The beauty of this scenario is that you could fire Sturdy after the season if the offense was still awful and just install JM.

Keith Gilbertson hits the mark for 1 and 2 but lots of questions around 3. We are starting to hear that his appetite for the recruiting portion of the job might not be there. We've been a big advocate for him as the hire but it's a bigger risk than we thought if he's not excited about key portions of being a college coach.

Steve Morton does fit the bill for all three criteria and he would come at the right price and is available. At this point you have to believe that he could be a fit there. He's also jobless right now so you bring him on board immediately.


Of the names we are hearing, I would consider Jim Michalczik  an absolute home run hire if we got him. I would consider Morton a solid double and hiring McEndoo would be reaching base on an error. All of them are better than the strikeout that was Harold Etheridge but I hope that Wulff isn't too focused on hiring a young energy guy and more focused on getting us some experience and a steadying influence on the offensive side of the ball for the coaches and players.


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Comments (2)
O line
1 Saturday, 02 January 2010 09:27
Get the facts
You must have no life to spend so much time writing about something you have no idea what will happen. Do you really think Jim Michalczik will leave the NFL to come to Pullman to make $125k? When he turned down 3x that much? He wants to be in the NFL. Why do you refer to the team as "us"? You have nothing to do with the team and are not part of the team, just some homer fan. It will be Morton or Gilbertson so start wasting time and evaluate that.
Clearly another Doggy with reading comprehension issues
2 Saturday, 02 January 2010 10:02
Please come back and read the article once you've completed your GED requirements. That might help you to understand the content. It's only mentioned about three times that Michalczik is very unlikely. The point is that overpaying for him would be worth it and probably not for anyone else on the candidate list. Further, he's likely out of a job after this season with the Raiders so the scenario does become plausible. I understand that Doggies need to justify him bailing on you after just two months by pretending that his sole desire is to be in the NFL. However, don't you think it might have been that his offensive coordinator title at UW would have been a sham with Sarkheisel calling the plays? The only thing that enticed him about the Doggy job was the money and in the end he decided that even that wasn't worth it. Moreover, look at what we are suggesting the offer should be. Three years at 250K. That would be just 100K less than he got at UW and in a much cheaper place to live and at his alma mater. Not sure where you got 125K other than your little 8th grade mind. Please don't bother to post or read on topics which you clearly can't comprehend. I would suggest lighter reading for you like the Twilight books or maybe Harry Potter. Just ask your Mom or Dad to help you through the hard parts. Silly doggy.

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