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Youthful WSU prepares for Oregon


COUGARS

Thursday's practice in the books, so we can share with you what went on and what Paul Wulff had to say in his final press conference of the week. For all of that, read on.
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• Before we get to all that, we wanted to share our story on freshmen linebackers Sekope Kaufusi and C.J. Mizell, both of whom have a shot at starting Saturday. ... We also had our weekly basketball Q&A, this week with Reggie Moore. ... Also, ESPN.com's Ted Miller has this piece on the athletic directors' meetings. ... OK, on to practice and Wulff's press conference. ... Nothing unusual about Thursday's practice, other than Kenny Alfred showed up sans crutches. He's still rehabbing his hip surgery but he can now walk again. ... There were a few minutes of ones vs. ones to start practice, but that quickly gave way to special teams action then game-plan work against the scout teams. ... No new injuries to report, but Alex Hoffman-Ellis returned to practice and went full speed, so he should be good to go Saturday. ... Tight end Andrei Lintz is still out as in Chima Nwachukwu, who won't be able to go against Oregon. Mike Ledgerwood suited up but mainly watched again. ... As for Wulff's press conference, he did say Mizell and Kaufusi both may start, but if Hoffman-Ellis is good to go, I don't see Kaufusi on the field for the first play. However, whoever starts, Wulff assured us that both of the freshmen would play a lot. ... The same can be said of Deone Bucannon and Anthony Carpenter at Nwachukwu's strong safety spot. Both will play. ... The Oregon defense's mixture of speed and strength is a concern, Wulff said, but he's more interested in how well the WSU offense plays. If it executes, it will be OK. ... The key, as usual, is up front. The offensive line is improved – if you remember last year, it was overmatched by the Ducks, in part because so many players were hurt, freshmen had to be thrown into the breach – but Saturday will test them more than they've been tested this season. ... I asked Wulff about Toni Pole and he said the plan now is not to play him. He'll suit up and be ready to go, but if they can get away without using him that would be great. But with Steven Hoffart out with mono and Kaufusi now at linebacker, the defensive line is a bit thinner. ... Wulff was asked if Bill Moos had snuck a bonus clause into his contract that pays off if he beats Oregon and Wulff laughed. He did say that Oregon is the measuring stick every team in the Pac-10 uses right now. It's the defending conference champion and everyone wants to earn what it has. ... Asked if the changes to the defense would not only help the speed but the toughness as well, Wulff said he hopes so. It's just a group that has to grow up quick, he said. ... Finally, Wulff was asked about Bucannon and why he didn't play all that much against UCLA. Wulff said it went back to the mistakes against USC and they were trying to put Bucannon in more situations where he could be successful. But this week, with Nwachukwu out, that won't be an option. ... That's it from Wulff. As I was watching the defense work against the scout team, I was thinking there is a possibility Saturday that as many as nine freshman – true or redshirt – could be on the field together at any one time. They would be: Pole (if he plays), Justin Clayton (who is backing up Long now), Kaufusi or Darren Markle, Mizell, Jamal Atofau or Arthur Burns, Nolan Washington, Damante Horton, Bucannon or Carpenter, and Casey Locker. Not ideal against a team like Oregon.

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• That's all for now. We'll be back in the morning with our usual post. Until then ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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