With the long march to open the season a little over halfway done, the Washington State Cougars are contemplating some changes to the practice schedule this week. The goal will be try to continue the steps toward respectability without straining a roster that’s starting to bend under the stress. We have more on that and other items, so read on.
• Washington State: Coach Paul Wulff answered questions for almost 20 minutes Sunday night, many of them concerning an injury list that seems to be growing like cordgrass. He said the staff is contemplating changes to the practice schedule, cutting down the amount of full contact sessions while not cutting down the teaching time. He also believes the strength of the schedule, facing athletic, physical teams week in and week out, is behind the injury-list growth. That doesn’t slow this week with a trip to Stanford. … We had more on this in our story that appeared in today’s S-R, including updates on David Gonzales (broken arm) and Damante Horton (knee). … Checking other players who missed Saturday’s contest or were dinged up during the 24-7 defeat, took a while. Punter Reid Forrest will have his injured shoulder checked out this week, but Wulff said it’s a problem he’s had before and it is expected he’ll be fine. Tight end Andrei Lintz (neck), running back Chantz Staden (chest), defensive tackle Steven Hoffart (mono), offensive tackle Micah Hannam (concussion), linebacker Mike Ledgerwood (neck), defensive ends Casey Hamlett (concussion) and Adam Coerper (concussion) all have a good chance of being back this week, which should be a shot in the arm for the roster. Safety Chima Nwachukwu might be another week away and offensive lineman Tyson Pencer had another setback, suffering from an illness, so his return is still hard to determine. … With Horton out for at least four weeks, Wulff said Aire Justin and Terrance Hayward become the primary backups for Nolan Washington and Anthony Simmons at the corner spots. … Speaking of Justin, his work on kickoff returns (four for 73 yards) and punt returns (four for 18 yards, with a long of 16), was noted. Wulff said he caught the ball with confidence, was aggressive and showed promise. For the first time this year, Wulff added, he felt they had someone who could break a kick. … There was more talk about the Cougars closing the gaps with the top teams on the schedule, something more than one Pac-10 coach has mentioned this season as a key step in turning the corner with a program. Now, Wulff said, the players want to get to the next step, winning. It’s hard to wait, he agreed, but the foundation is crucial. … Talking with Mike Stoops afterward, the Arizona coach mentioned how much tougher the conference is right now, Wulff said. When Stoops was making changes to the Wildcat program, he felt there were two or three Pac-10 games a year that, of UA played a good game, they had a chance to win. Looking at it now, there aren’t those types of games anymore. Stoops feels it would take a great performance to win any conference game today, Wulff relayed. … Though Wulff liked the effort, he felt the offense didn’t help Jeff Tuel out at all, from the offensive line play to the receivers struggling to make catches. The Cougars have to execute at a much higher level to get that elusive Pac-10 win, he said. … John Fullington played OK in his first start, Wulff said. He believes the freshman will be a left tackle down the road, and that road could start Saturday. But that is just among one of many options WSU is examining to replace Gonzales. … The game opened with a successful onsides kick and basically ended with an unsuccessful double pass attempt that resulted in a turnover. Such out-of-the-ordinary plays are part of his philosophy, Wulff said. Though he doesn’t believe in being reckless, he likes to stay aggressive with so-called trick plays, using them at any time he feels they can be successful. If there are advantages to be gained, he wants to take them. … Finally, as the linebacker corps continues to be in flux, Wulff sees freshman Eric Oertel getting more of opportunity to relieve Myron Beck at the Sam spot. … In other news from Sunday, Cougfan reported two more commitments, including 6-foot-4 receiver Dominique Williams from Pomona, Calif., and 6-7, 270-pound Stephan Nambot, a highly sought-after line recruit originally from Cameroon and now playing high school football in Van Nuys, Calif. Nambot was recruited by a lot of Pac-10 schools and was high on the Cougars’ wish list. Despite the 4-28 record of the past three years, WSU has attracted 19 commitments for the Feb. 2 signing date. JC players can sign Dec. 15. … Highlights are available from Saturday’s game courtesy of the WSU Football Blog. … And we’ll leave you with this. If Chris Ivory had ever been healthy enough to consistently have games like he had for the Saints yesterday, Bill Doba might still be in Pullman. …
• Around the Pac-10: The Times’ Bud Withers takes a look around the conference. … ESPN.com’s Ted Miller sees Oregon as No. 1 in the polls but No. 2 in the BCS standings. … Washington: The Huskies are still basking in the glow of a huge win. … Oregon State: Mike Riley doesn’t second-guess his decision to go for two. He would go back, Jack, and do it again (sorry for the ‘70s music reference but it’s in the blood). … Oregon: The Ducks are keeping their heads about the lofty rankings. … Cal: The Bears’ grade would put them on probation even at UC Santa Cruz. … Stanford: Coming off a bye, there’s a dearth of information on the Cardinal. … USC: Even a big win over Cal can’t ease the sting of two close losses. … UCLA: No. 1 Oregon (never been able to write that before) is on tap Thursday night for the Bruins. … Arizona State: A couple suspensions in Tempe. …. Arizona: After losing Nick Foles, the Wildcats must adjust. That means there is more pressure on the defense.
• That’s it for this morning. We’ll be back later tonight after practice under the lights at Rogers Field. And yes, I will bundle up. It’s time. Until then …