March 23, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - Buoyed by the addition of four January enrollees and an anxious redshirt freshman class, the Washington State University football team begins spring drills Tuesday, March 30 in preparation for the 1999 fall season.
The Cougars return 46 letterwinners including 22 seniors, 13 juniors and 11 sophomores. Eight starters return to the offense while nine defensive starters return as well. Junior college transfers Melvin Camarena, a defensive lineman, Curtis Holden, a linebacker, and Milton Wynn, a wide receiver, and freshman quarterback Kjell Nesen, join the squad this spring after enrolling at WSU in January.
"This team has a tremendous attitude," head coach Mike Price said with regards to the 1999 squad. "You wouldn't be able to tell we had a losing season last year. I'm just as excited about this spring ball as any spring ball I've ever coached."
All-American candidates Kevin Brown and Nian Taylor return to bolster the Cougar offense. Brown set a WSU sophomore record with 1,046 rushing yards last year, while Taylor averaged 18.8 yards per catch in 1998 at wide receiver. Offensive guard Ryan Tujague, offensive tackle Reed Raymond and center Lincoln Walden-Schulz return to the line.
On defense, linebackers Steve Gleason and Brad Philley return as starters but will see limited playing time this spring. Gleason and Philley are outfielders for the Cougar baseball team. The Cougar secondary features three returning starters, including All-American candidate Lamont Thompson at safety, corner Chris Martin and safety Earl Riley. The defensive line features returners Austin Matson, Rob Meier and Jesse Ratcliff.
Kicker Rian Lindell also returns, while Kareem Anderson assumes the punting duties for the second straight year.
"We're hoping to improve our whole football team and get us back to the level where we think we belong," Price said. "One of the spots we're looking to fill is the quarterback position. We need to find a corner and a tight end and we're looking for depth at the running back position."
Returning letterwinners Steve Birnbaum and Paul Mencke will be joined by redshirt freshman Jason Gesser and Nesen in a battle for the starting quarterback position. According to Price, Nesen will not see as many turns during spring ball but Birnbaum, Mencke and Gesser will get equal shares of playing time.
"We're going to give those three equal opportunities and see if one guy will pull away from the other two," Price said. "It will be very competitive."
Returning linebackers James Price and Raonall Smith will miss spring practices as they continue to recover from surgeries performed during the winter. "This allows guys like Tupo Tuupo, Serign Marong, Grady Emmerson and Curtis Holden to have a great opportunity to step up," Price said.
The Cougars will miss the services of three offensive starters from the 1998 campaign: tight end Love Jefferson, tackle Rob Rainville and guard Mike Sage. Cornerback Dee Moronkola and defensive end Jonathan Nance are also starters lost by the defensive unit.
Spring practices will be held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday (with the exception of Fri., April 23) and Saturday beginning March 30 and ending with the annual Spring Game Sat., April 24. Weekday practices will be on the practice field at 4 p.m. or in Martin Stadium at 3:30 p.m., depending on the weather. Saturday practices will be held in the morning (9 or 10 a.m.) with the exception of the afternoon Spring Game (time tba).
Cougar Spring Football Schedule:
Tuesday, March 30 Wednesday, March 31 Friday, April 2 Saturday, April 3 Tuesday, April 6 Wednesday, April 7 Friday, April 9 Saturday, April 10 (Scrimmage) Tuesday, April 13 Wednesday, April 14 Friday, April 16 Saturday, April 17 (Scrimmage) Tuesday, April 20 Wednesday, April 21 Saturday, April 24 (Spring Game)