Since the brief, shining moment of Jason Gesser guiding the Cougs to victory in Hawaii last November, it's been a long off-season for Washington State University Head Football Coach Mike Price. Last year was a tumultuous season for the football Cougs. There were all sorts of distractions, turns of events, turns of bad luck and just plain old weak play on the football field. But it's a new year and, as always, optimism rules. Price has some returning starters he knows can contribute, and he has some newcomers he thinks can contribute to the Cougs' on-the-field success.

"We have probably six junior college guys that we think are going to help us," says Price, "with [running back] Dave Minnich being number one."

Price is also happy with the one true freshman (of those reporting in August) he expects may see some playing time this year -- Erik Coleman (from Lewis and Clark High School) at Lamont Thompson's safety position.

"Erik Coleman is having a good camp so far. He's playing very, very well right now."

The one person Price can't afford to have "not make it" is his starting quarterback, Jason Gesser, his only player at the quarterback position with game experience. Although Gesser tweaked his hamstring earlier this summer, Price says he should be fine for the Stanford game.

"The injury wasn't too bad, if it was a game he would've played all the way through, no doubt, but I wanted to be overly cautious and kept him out," says Price.

Price is high on his receiving corps, even though veteran Jason White is out for the opener with a high ankle sprain.

"Jason White will probably miss the Stanford game, and that's a disappointing loss because he was doing well," says Price. "Milton Wynn is having a great camp. No question about that. He's just phenomenal."

As for Stanford's Fightin' Trees, Price says they'll be watching how good brand new quarterback Randy Fasani, a prep All-American out of high school, really is.

"Any Stanford quarterback is going to be real good," says Price. "That's just the way it is. We've known about Randy since his high school days, and we saw him play tight end, so we know about his athleticism and we're preparing for it."

Price says he and the Cougs are preparing for the Cardinal's defensive line and the specter of their star Willie Howard and the challenges it will present for his young offensive line.

"They like to twist and spin a lot and use individual techniques, so our guys will have their work cut out for them in containing and holding their blocks."

If they can do that for a season, maybe Price can avoid an off-season like the one he's just gone through.

-- Tony C. Duarte

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