PULLMAN – The Washington State football team opened training camp Sunday with a lengthy list of questions to answer before the season opener, but one of the Cougars’ biggest questions was quietly answered behind the scenes a few weeks ago.
Junior wide receiver Jeshua Anderson, the only WSU receiver with more than 11 career catches, revealed that he did not decide to turn down pro track offers and return to school until mid-July.
“It’s a blessing to be back here at school and to see your teammates happy for you to be coming back,” Anderson said.
Anderson has won the NCAA 400-meter hurdles championship two consecutive years. He has skipped spring and summer football practices the past two years because of his extended track seasons.
Anderson said he’s “happy to be here and have a great season,” but admitted “that would have been a hard decision” whether to return if he had qualified for the World Track and Field Championships in the 400 hurdles. The top three finishers at the USA Track nationals qualified; Anderson came in fifth.
Anderson said he hopes to compete in pro track and football after college.
A stronger start, no doubt
Assistant head coach Chris Ball didn’t need to see much – one practice, to be precise – to know that he’s positive the Cougars are improved from a year ago.
“We’re definitely stronger,” Ball said. “We looked good.
“We’re starting to look the way we did back in the early 2000s. We had a good summer (of voluntary workouts). They’re into it.”
Ball is in charge of the first three practices because of NCAA sanctions against head coach Paul Wulff for rules violations that took place when he coached Eastern Washington.
“He’s the general,” running back James Montgomery said of Wulff. “He talked to us last night. It’s not a big deal.”
Bringing toughness back
Almost from the day they took over after the 2007 season, Wulff and his assistants have been preaching the need for players to get tougher physically and mentally.
“We haven’t always had the best talent,” Ball said, “but we’ve been the toughest team year in and year out. We’re trying to bring that back.
“It’s got to show in every phase: extra effort, playing when you’re dinged-up a little bit, playing when you’re tired.
“You’ve got to apply it off the field, too. Going to class. You’ve got a paper to do, you’ve got to stay up late and get it done. You’ve got to be tough.”
No living in the past
Ball said WSU players “have got a chip on their shoulders” after going 2-11, but he doesn’t want them spending too much time dwelling on last season.
“We can’t even talk about last year,” he said. “It was a bad thing. We don’t even want to mention it.
“We’ve got to put that behind us and move forward and use it as a learning experience. I think it was a great learning experience. It stunk, but it was a great learning experience.”