<
>

Gibson ready to Wulff it up for Cougs, not NFL

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Brandon Gibson flirted with entering the NFL draft a year early, but the Washington State receiver figured there also were rich rewards for coming back for his senior season.

Such as representing the Cougars at Pac-10 media day Thursday, which means a few hours of quality time with reporters. Can't beat that.

There were other, albeit less glamorous and exciting, reasons for coming back. Getting better for one.

"I came back to mature more and to get physically stronger and mentally more able to play at the next level," he said. "I don't think I was ready to compete with men who were 30 years old and having to put dinner on the table. I'm just a 20-year-old kid who had a good year. I figured another year would, hopefully, improve my stock and allow me to enjoy college football another season."

He had a good 2007, indeed, even if his stumbling team suffered through another losing campaign and the powers-that-be decided to fire coach Bill Doba, a move that wasn't controversial for a frustrated fan base.

Gibson earned First-Team All-Pac-10 honors and finished ranked seventh in the nation with 107.3 yards receiving per game. He led the Pac-10 with 1,180 yards receiving while averaging an eye-popping 17.6 yards per catch. Nine of his 67 receptions went for touchdowns.

Those numbers and a few good workouts could have made him a first-day draft choice, a notion that some didn't hesitate to point out to him last winter when he was mulling whether to return.

There was a new coach (Paul Wulff, formerly of Eastern Washington), new system (a no-huddle, shotgun spread) and new quarterback (Gary Rogers). The only familiar parts were the low expectations most fans had for the 2008 team.

"It was kind of weird," Gibson said. "I had to deal with that, 'Oh, you've got a new coach and you don't know what's going to happen. You might not be the focal point of the offense.' But since I've been here, I've never been the focal point of the offense. So that wasn't anything too special for me.

"I've got a couple of friends who go [to Eastern Washington] and they told me it's a receivers' offense. So I was eager to watch it and talk to [Wulff]. He's been nothing short of great."

Gibson, similar to the vast majority of his teammates, has nothing negative to say about Doba, who was almost universally liked. But it's also clear that academics and discipline under his watch had slipped just as much as recruiting. The Cougars were docked eight scholarships after failing to meet the NCAA's annual Academic Progress Rate standards, and a Seattle Times story detailed 25 players arrests over the last 19 months.

Gibson was not among the troubled, but he admits being troubled by what he read.

"It happens in every program," he said. "Sometimes it's hushed and sometimes it shows. We were a little shocked by it. We didn't realize all the things that were happening. But we have to move on and change it from now on and set a new tone and show we are good kids, I guess you can say."

That's why Wulff's stated goal of pushing for a massive culture change around the program is receiving nearly equal billing to a more glamorous change: For the first time in three years, the Cougars will have a new quarterback.

With the departure of Alex Brink -- the most maligned of the six Pac-10 quarterbacks to eclipse 10,500 yards passing in their careers -- senior Gary Rogers, all 6-foot-7, 233 pounds of him, will be running Wulff's rapid-fire offense.

"We all knew that, physically, (Rogers) is very impressive -- in the build of a Drew Bledsoe-type," Gibson said. "I was very impressed with him this spring. We bonded and got to throw a lot on the field. I've been waiting for him to get his time to shine."

How much shining Wazzu fans can expect this season is a difficult question. Most prognosticators place the Cougars at or near the bottom of the conference.

"We understand we're picked to be last in the Pac-10, and we're not supposed to do well, and we're supposed to lose every game except Portland State," Gibson said. "But you can't really go off that. We're not too worried about wins or losses. We just want to compete every game."

So those last-place predictions don't bother him?

"How could they not fire you up?" he said.