PULLMAN – Several Washington State football players and coaches have made reference to the “swagger” the Cougars carry onto the field these days.
That’s not easy to do when your team has won just nine times in four years.
A new, energetic, in-your-face coaching staff seems to have injected the Cougars with a healthy dose of confidence.
“We’ve never felt this before,” senior offensive guard Wade Jacobson said. “I don’t know if it’s the coaches or the new people (players) coming in. I would say it’s a fresh start.
“We feel confident. The confidence in everyone has changed.”
Jacobson said he realizes WSU fans have heard this type of talk before.
“Last year, we said the same thing,” he said. “You know: ‘We’re going to be good.’ I think last year we just said it to (try to) change people’s minds.”
Jacobson said the new coaches are more “hands-on” than their predecessors.
“The coaches are out there getting fired up,” he said. “These coaches’ enthusiasm reminds me of my old high school days when you had guys out there yelling and jumping around.
“Half of these guys just got done playing ball not too long ago, so they’re fresh and ready to go. Their enthusiasm and excitement (rubs) off on us, makes practice a lot better.”
The Cougars and BYU open the season Thursday, in Provo, Utah (7:15 p.m., ESPN).
Most WSU offensive players could barely contain their excitement when offensive guru Mike Leach was hired as head coach last winter. Andrei Lintz was not one of those players.
“I thought, ‘Holy cow, I might be in trouble here,’ ” Lintz said.
Lintz, WSU’s starting tight end last season, was referring to the fact that Leach rarely uses a tight end. Lintz feared he would be moved to defense or become a little-used H-back, but he quickly established himself as a key inside receiver in spring football, and he continues to be a prime target in fall practice.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” Lintz said, “but I definitely didn’t expect this.”
BYU is loaded with experience, and many of the 29 seniors are old for college football because they served two-year Mormon missions.
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU’s head coach and defensive coordinator, is grateful to have far more experience and talent at his disposal than in his previous three confrontations with Leach-coached teams.
When Mendenhall was defensive coordinator at New Mexico, Leach’s Texas Tech Raiders blasted the Lobos, 24-3, 42-30 and 49-0.
“I have a good understanding of the (Leach offensive) system and what they do, but that doesn’t make it easier to stop,” Mendenhall said.
Leach refuses to publicly name Jeff Tuel the starting quarterback, but the senior is taking most of the snaps with the No. 1 offense. … Athlon Sports magazine, which ranks all 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, ranks BYU 39th and Washington State 51st. … Niu Sale, a 6-foot-3, 334-pound junior college transfer whose poor conditioning has irritated Leach, has been moved from offensive guard to defensive nose tackle. … Iraq war veteran Chas “Sam” Sampson, a reserve who bounced between offensive and defensive lines since joining WSU last season, left the team.