OT: The Trade Deadline

A little off-topic, but this was quite the day in baseball for trades. In 24-48 hours we will see the awkward sight of Manny Ramirez in a Dodger uniform, Ken Griffey Jr. as a White Sock (singular), and Pudge Rodriguez in pinstripes.

One of the things that makes college sports unique is that you can’t trade anyone. It’s partly why we go so nuts over recruiting. Once a guy commits, you have him for four to five years. It’s done.

Unless he/she transfers, of course. But even then NCAA rules work against the student athlete by making them sit out a year and lose that same amount of time in eligibility. So transfers are relatively rare, and usually have more to do with coaching changes or player unhappiness than they do with stocking up for a championship.

In college, you are forced to win one of two ways. You can win by recruiting (USC football, among others), or win by player development (WSU basketball, among others). Usually it’s a mix of both that breeds a champion.

The one thing you can’t do is trade. It’s against the rules to make that instantaneous move that can build a contender or rebuild a team for the future. Of course it would be totally ridiculous to trade a NCAA athlete, seeing as how they are in classes, settled into their college towns, and not making anything more than tuition and some living expenses.

Still, it’s fun to think of what might happen if you could trade a college athlete. I know a few Cougar fans who would’ve gladly given up Alex Brink to a contender last year in exchange for a few freshmen prospects. Or how about this year: trade a couple of young players to fill some holes at defensive back, or linebacker, or – let’s face it – pretty much anywhere on defense. We could’ve traded Arkelon Hall to Memphis before he flunked out and received a nice return for him. Even in a contending year – a 1997 or a 2002 – wouldn’t it have been great to poach a player or two from a down-and-out team in exchange for a couple four-star commits? That wouldn’t be so bad.

Anyway, it’s a ridiculous thought, so we may as well focus on the positives of not having trades in college. For example, USC can’t get any stronger than it already is. Also, we get to know our players. Even if it is just for four or five short years. We get to watch talented freshmen like Will Derting or Michael Bumpus captivate us for three more seasons. There’s no risk of a Bill Bavasi-type GM trading away all your talented freshmen for seniors with “veteran experience”; who just end up driving your school into the ground and graduating four months later. And the player actually has a choice of where they want to start school, and where they want to finish it.
Really, that’s the best part. Once a Coug, always a Coug. It’s the common thread that links us all, and allows us to verbally assault people like Carl Bonnell who choose to go somewhere else. As funny as it would’ve been to see Alex Brink in a Duck jersey after Dixon went down, it just wouldn’t have been right. We need a little solidarity in sports.

Otherwise you just end up with Ken Griffey Junior in a White Sox jersey.

Offseason Video of the Week: 7/30

Your friendly reminder that all Thomas Kelati does is win ball games.

This is a must-see for diehard Cougar basketball fans. Also, if you’re the impatient type, skip to the 1:45 mark. That’s where the good stuff starts.

Courtesy tuzgc; YouTube

Low –> Australia

Derrick Low has signed a one-year contract with the Sydney Spirit of Australia.

Why one year? Certainly Low is worth more than that, especially to a foreign squad. However, this is about keeping Derrick’s NBA dream alive. A single season contract allows Low to go down there, play ball, and then weigh his NBA options for 2009-2010. It’s very likely that if he plays well he will get another summer camp invite.

This year Low played summer ball with the Mavericks, but got limited playing time and ultimately got the feeling that he would not have a great shot at cracking the Dallas roster this fall. 

Right now he would be the second American on the Spirit roster, joining David Grueber. No word yet if he might play with noted weed-smoker/former Oregon Duck Ian Crosswhite, who played with the now defunct Sydney Kings.

Low dropped 35 points in a one-point loss to those same Kings during the Cougs’ Australia trip last summer. The Kings went on to finish with the best regular season record in the Aussie NBL and lost in the “grand final” to Melbourne. So it goes without saying a lot of Aussie teams were very high on Low’s talent level. That, and throwing shrimps on the barbie. I hear they do that there.

Best of luck to Low – we’ll track his progress and I’m excited to see Derrick light up the NBL.

G’day, mates.

Happy Media Day

See? Everybody’s smiling.

The Prediction: 10th. Meaningless.

The Oddity: One first-place vote for California. The only school other than USC to get that honor. The Golden Bears were fourth in overall voting. Speaking of which, here are the rankings:

1. USC – 389
2. Arizona State – 330
3. Oregon – 295
4. Cal – 274
5. UCLA – 204
6. Oregon State – 192
7. Arizona – 185
8. Washington – 139
9. Stanford – 76
10. WSU – 61

Which means it is about time I offered up my own opinion. So here goes:

1. USC
2. ASU
3. Oregon
4. Cal
5. Arizona
6. UCLA
7. Washington
8. Washington State
9. Oregon State
10. Stanford

Did I mention pre-season rankings are meaningless? Unless, of course, I get this right at the end of the season. In which case I will crown myself as a Pac-10 football guru this winter. That’s just how sportswriting works, folks.

Quote of the Day: “This isn’t a deal where we want to pass first, run second. We want to run the football.” Maybe not the most intriguing sound byte from media day, but certainly the most telling of how the Cougar offense will actually pan out in 2008. And I’m glad. Wulff reminded the media that the new offense is not a spread, rather a hurry-up, and that WSU will look to pound the bound every bit as much as throw it over the top.

This is great news for a few reasons. One, it means there may be some hope for a red zone offense that has been so terrible in recent seasons, I can’t not even describe it with a word. So I am forced to make one up. Craptawfuble. In fact, the goal line portion of the offense has been so craptawfuble that it struggled to score even with the unstoppable force of Jed Collins (occasionally) in the backfield. So, with a solid offensive line this season and Dwight Tardy at halfback, the Cougs should have the ability to run with some confidence. And as the yards on the ground go up, the more the passing game benefits. And the more confidence that Tardy has, the more likely the ball is to actually cross the goal line. It’s science.

The other reason this is good news is for the aforementioned benefits to the passing game. Gary Rogers will be challenged enough this year with a new offense. It would be hard for him to do anything if opposing defenses begin to focus solely on our high-powered passing game. Sometimes the running game can help without even gaining yards. Just keeping the defense honest at the line of scrimmage allows the wide receivers to work on getting open against fewer defensive backs. Since Brandon Gibson is going to be double-teamed a bazillion times this year, we need as many opponents focusing on the running game as possible. Wulff knows this, and knows he has to commit to the running game to make it happen.

Brandon Gibson, Still Awesome: “I believe every time I touch the ball, I want to do something special with it. I think they kind of expect that out of me.”

The last time I believed a player was capable of that statement was Michael Bumpus. Of course, as defenses began to key in on Bumpus or just avoid punting it to him altogether, a lot of the magic was lost. It could be the same problem for Gibson this season. He will be the focus of the defense. If he can still find a way to be a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, then we’re in business.

Losing Bumpus also hurts Gibson’s game, but not as much as you may think. Jeshua Anderson is so ridiculously fast that a lot of teams may consider re-assigning their fastest defensive back to him instead of Gibson. The receiving corps as a whole is also deep enough to be a help. Just hope they stay healthy.

That’s all I have for now. Let’s close with the Pac-10 media member motto:

If you’re not sure, rank Washington State last.

I believe it’s engraved on the side of the L.A. Times building.

Ted Miller: Player Hater

OK. So I’m not going to take as much offense to this as the Gary Rogers ranking, but here’s where Ted Miller ranks Cougar kicker Wade Penner among his conference counterparts. And yes, it’s only out of ten players:

10. Wade Penner, So, Washington State: Kicker has been uneven, at best, for the Cougars in recent years. Penner showed promise during the spring.

Replace the word “kicker” with “Loren Langley” for a more accurate analysis of the Cougars’ PK struggles in recent seasons. Romeen Abdollmohammodi wasn’t necessarily a solid kicker either, but remember that he was a walk on who had never kicked a meaningful ball through the uprights until college. With that under consideration, I think he did pretty well.

The interesting thing about this is that last I checked, Patrick Rooney was an early favorite to claim the starter’s job. Take that with a grain of salt, though. The competition won’t be decided for certain until fall camp is over. Even then – the winner is a couple of shanks away from conceding the job to the #2. With that in mind, Penner at #10 isn’t too much of a stretch. He has to earn a job first, then a higher ranking.

We don’t know much about Penner’s in-game ability to make field goals. What we do know is that his kickoffs seemed to get a couple yards shorter with every game he played. Now this could mean his leg strength deteriorated, or that Doba’s crew wanted him to get more air under the ball. Regardless, I just pray that the words “squib kick” aren’t in Paul Wulff’s vocabulary. I’m sure Penner would be thankful for that as well.

Back to Ted Miller, who actually doesn’t hate on all Cougs. He ranked Brandon Gibson second among receivers and the O-line fifth in the conference. Still, Miller’s rankings are representative of a general media attitude towards the Cougs. That is, if you’re not sure about them, rank ’em last.

It’s an attitude we’ll almost certainly see when the media rankings come out Thursday.

Offseason Video of the Week: 7/17

[credit: vegascoug123; YouTube]

On January 19th the Cougars were still in the midst of a thirteen game losing streak to the Oregon Ducks. Amazing how in just two months it turned into a three game winning streak.

Ted Miller Ranks Quarterbacks, Loses Credibility

Hey there, former Seattle P-I and current ESPN.com writer Ted Miller! How do you rank the Pac-10’s quarterbacks for this upcoming season?

[sitting on the edge of my seat]

First, let’s have some background:

This is not a bumper year for Pac-10 QBs. Only three schools are locked at the position: Tuitama, Carpenter and Locker.

There’s a clear leader at four schools — Oregon (Nate Costa), UCLA (Olson), USC (Sanchez) and Washington State (Gary Rogers). But it wouldn’t be shocking if any of the four lost his job at some point this season.

This is what is known in the sports writing world as “covering one’s behind”. I probably would be shocked if Olson, Sanchez or Rogers lost their job. Costa wouldn’t surprise me because he’s a sophomore and hasn’t really proven anything yet. Olson and Rogers are seniors; Sanchez is a junior who used to be one of the most highly touted QB recruits in the nation. So 3 of those 4 are fairly safe.

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