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Some notes from Paul Wulff’s press conference

COUGARS

Paul Wulff met the media today and though he didn't impart any real ground-breaking news, he did cover quiet a bit of ground. We summarize what he had to say (most of it at least) on the link, so read on.


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• The first thing I asked Wulff concerned the academic standing of some players, and he reiterated returning defensive linemen Toni Pole and Brandon Rankin were good to go – the latter for practice at least, though I'm still not sure if something has to happen for Rankin to be game eligible because my followup question on that point was drowned out by someone else's inquiry; I'll have to ask about that again later – and that a couple of freshmen were headed to WSU-picked JCs, which was the Cougars and their backup plan if the players didn't get through the NCAA Clearinghouse. Those two are Brock Lutes and Demetrius Cherry. Three others, Alex Mitchell, Rahmel Dockery and Wendell Taiese, are still working to get cleared. Wulff also said in Los Angeles at Pac-12 media day defensive end Niko Aumua didn't make grades and wouldn't be in Pullman. Add in offensive lineman Tyson Pencer leaving to go back to Canada and running back Arthur Burns enrolled at Moorpark JC working to get back into school, and the depth took some hits this summer. … My next question concerned whether this camp will be different from the last three and Wulff said yes. The main difference is this group is composed of all his guys – there are just five holdovers from the Bill Doba era, Andrew Roxas, Logwone Mitz, Dan Wagner, B.J. Guerra and Marshall Lobbestael – and everyone has an understanding of what's expected and how to reach those expectations. Each year the practices have sped up a bit and this year should be no different. … I asked Wulff if Jeff Tuel could throw for 3,000 yards this season (only six Cougars have done that, so if you want to guess, I'll list them tomorrow) and he was reticent to put any numbers next to his junior quarterback, saying that yardage numbers are the result of “the 11 others guys” executing as well. The funny little slip of the tongue might be a hint how WSU is going to have such a potent offense this season. Wulff also said he is loath to point out one area of the offense because that slights the other area, to wit, the running game. And he believes the better the rushing attack, the better Tuel will be able to throw. … The next subject I brought up was the depth or the lack of same. Wulff admitted the Cougars are not yet a deep football team and that the preseason camp – being it's still summer, I'm trying to avoid the misapplied term “fall camp” – was for building depth, for finding out who could do what. … I asked about the freshmen and whether the lack of depth means some will have to be counted upon and Wulff said this is his first year at WSU that a freshman won't have to start. But some, like running back Marcus Mason, linebacker Chester Sua and defensive end Darryl Paulo, may earn playing time in a reserve role. … The last question I asked Wulff near the end of the presser concerned the pressure he was facing in this, his fourth year. Wulff said he sort of has blinders on when it comes to such things, but he knows people expect this team to do well. And he's one of those people. He said he tried to tell people when he got to Pullman there were a lot of things that had to be put in order on and off the field before wins would come. Now, he said, those things have been done. So it's time to win. … That was followed up by a question from, I believe, Jim Moore on whether this team would go to a bowl. Wulff said there is a legitimate chance, right now. But he knows anything can happen, specifically mentioning the Patriots losing Tom Brady one year, with the obvious allusion to Tuel and his importance to this team, that could derail those hopes. … Other things Wulff mentioned included how excited everyone is for camp to open; that the leaders are expected to be Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Travis Long, Tyree Toomer and Nolan Washington on the defensive side of the ball and Jeff Tuel, Jared Karstetter and Guerra on the offensive side; the offseason perception of the Cougars he heard from outside the program is the final three games last season showed the team is on the rise; that he wouldn't trade Tuel for any other quarterback in the conference (“he's our guy so we're biased”); the offensive line is where there is the most need for depth to be built in camp; he's expecting big things from running back Rickey Galvin but WSU needs Mitz to be at his best week in and week out; the wide receivers have the potential to be the team's best position group, but they are young and have to prove they can block up to his and Mike Levenseller's expectations; there are four linebackers that have proven they can play at this level (Hoffman-Ellis, C.J. Mizell, Mike Ledgerwood and Sekope Kaufusi) but more need to step up over the next few weeks; and, though there are questions about the special teams, Wulff feels Andrew Furney (kicker), Wagner (punter) and whomever emerges as the long snapper, will all be solid. … Finally, Wulff answered a couple questions on the schedule, one having to do with the long stretch without games in Pullman, and the other about new Pac-12 division alignment. Though Wulff would like to have more home games (what college coach wouldn't?) he believes the bye week after the three nonconference games is crucial. It will allow the coaching staff to look at what happened outside of conference, to identify the players that asserted themselves and those that struggled, and to determine what changes need to be implemented. As for the divisional alignment, the Pac-12 kept the nine league games, so 3/4 of the schedule is still against some of the better teams in the country, and the North, with Oregon and Stanford leading the way, is really, really tough.

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• That's all for now. Until later …


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