I’m betting most of you aren't freaks like me so you haven't really kept track of what's going on around the Pac-10 as Spring practice is in full swing. In truth, I've only glanced occasionally at what other teams are up to these days. Gone are the days when we were so good that I would watch the activity of our Pac-10 friends because the loss of a tight end at SC or the bum knee of a running back at Oregon could give us the edge on the race for a Pac-10 title or better bowl. I can't wait for those days again.
Nevertheless, I did take notice of what is going on over at Oregon State. They are probably the team I hate the most in the Pac-10 right now. Mostly because they are most similar to us. We recruit head-to-head with them more than anyone. They take players from Washington State while we are down and they develop players the way that Paul Wulff talks about developing players in Pullman. Some say that we should like them because they are similar to us. I don't subscribe to that. College football is a highly competitive field and the teams most like us are the ones taking the players we need to fit our program, taking the TV time slots on Saturday's from us, taking advertising and donor dollars from our budget. Make no mistake, football success is a mutually exclusive endeavor. The failure of our closest competitors increases the likelihood of WSU's success….and it's about time WSU caught some breaks not only in Pullman but in places like Boise and Corvallis. Those teams slipping up just a bit will help us as well along the way to rebuilding the team.
So, how are things looking so far in Corvallis this Spring? Let's take a look:
Honestly, if you replace Washington State with Oregon State in some of the more recent articles about their team it would read eerily similar to what has been going on in Pullman the past two years.
Just this week their starting left tackle went down with a knee injury. Likely out the rest of the Spring. He was a 13 game starter as a freshman last year. They are already missing one starting guard to injury. They lost one starter to graduation so 3/5 of the line is out of commission from last year. Sound familiar?
They are one of two teams in the Pac-10 replacing their starting QB. Last year, the Beaver QB was first team All Pac-10. This year they are starting fresh for the first time in three years. WSU has been a revolving door at QB the past two seasons so we can definitely relate. Let's hope they have experience the same growing pains that we have had to endure. The top two tacklers on defense are gone as well and being replaced by a guy that is sitting out Spring with a blown Achilles and a group of role players or redshirts. Their secondary and dline will be a strength but linebacker is now down 2/3 of their starters from last year and the replacements come with many question marks.
Bizarre departures? Check.
The OSU defense has lost two starting defenders to really random scenarios. David Pa'aluhi was their starting middle linebacker and was second on the team in tackles last season. He decided to quit and join the military. Starting defensive end Matt LaGrone bolted as well recently. He decided to quit and move back to Reno to be with his wife and two kids. Yeah, two starters gone for the military and to be back home with his wife and two kids. Random.
None of this is to suggest that we have somehow leapfrogged Oregon State over the course of one Spring. When I look at these things I always think of this crazy VP that I used to work with at my company. The guy was mostly a waste of space but he did have one fantastic nugget of knowledge that I still carry around. I was in the midst of launching a product that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars for the company and I was running him through the plans and I articulated a bit of frustration with another group that had been notoriously difficult. He sat back and said with large groups or complex relationships things are never going to be perfect. Instead, you should measure whether things are getting better or worse because in all forms of competition things never stay exactly the same. So, if things are never the same then your situation is either getting better or worse. He said you really need to ask yourself if your situation is improving or regressing because it's surely doing one of those two things. I'd never really thought of things that way and it occurred to me that you can look at all dynamic relationships in the same fashion.
If I take that statement and look at Oregon State and WSU, it's pretty easy to see that Oregon State's situation seems to be regressing while we are improving. Now, is that combination enough to allow us to catch-up this season? I guess we get to find out this Fall but as a WSU fan it's good to see that not only are we improving but also our competition is stumbling a bit.