It was the first real practice of Big Game week Tuesday and there was a lot going on. One of the hot topics of discussion was the emergence of defensive coordinator Bob Gregory as a candidate for the Washington State head coaching opening. Gregory played at WSU and is from nearby Spokane. You could tell Gregory was prepared to be questioned about it because he didn’t even let the first question finish when he pulled a fake script out of his pocket and said “It’s flattering to be considered. I appreciate it. Let’s talk about Stanford now.”
It was a funny moment, but it certainly also wasn’t a denial that Gregory is a candidate and is interested in the job. When I told him that saying “it’s flattering to be considered” implies he feels he is a candidate, he didn’t disagree with me.
Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik also is being mentioned as a candidate, but probably not as strongly as Gregory. Michalczik also acknowledged that “it’s kind of nice to be thought of in those terms,” but like Gregory, preferred to only talk about Saturday’s game. He did admit that he’d be interested in becoming a head coach someday.
As for coach Jeff Tedford, he said he completely supports both coaches as candidates for the job, and he would never get in the way of an opportunity like that, even if it was before the season ended. He admitted that sometimes timing is everything with a head coaching job and he’d want his coaches to have every opportunity to pursue the opportunity.
In other significant news, wide receiver DeSean Jackson didn’t practice. He is trying to rest the thigh contusion he suffered against Washington. Jackson didn’t practice at all last week and he said the injury has stiffened up and he still feels a bit of pain. Both he and Tedford seemed about 50-50 on Jackson’s chances of playing against Stanford.
Back to Gregory, expect some changes in his defense Saturday. Gregory is replacing linebackers Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder with Greg Van Hoesen and Justin Moye in the starting lineup, and cornerback Brandon Hampton is getting his starting job back from Chris Conte. Van Hoesen, Moye and Hampton practiced with the first team on Sunday and Tuesday, and at first I just figured Gregory was giving the seniors the start in the regular season finale. But Gregory said Tuesday that the changes are performance-based, and it’s just a coincidence that it’s the last game. He said some major changes were needed after the performance against Washington. Felder and Williams both are in the top five in the Pac-10 in tackles, but each struggled against the Huskies.
A couple of other notes: Defensive tackle Matt Malele and right guard Noris Malele are away from the team to deal with a family emergency. Their status is up in the air for Saturday, and Matt Malele may not be able to play anyway because of a lingering knee injury. Also, left tackle Mike Gibson has been practicing in limited fashion because he is recovering from a concussion, but Tedford expects him to play against Stanford.