PULLMAN – Washington State head football coach Paul Wulff still doesn’t know how his team is doing.
After all, it’s only been a week since the Cougars started spring practice.
But the glaring problems are fundamentals, Wulff said at practice Monday.
“They just need to work on it,” he said. “They’re young. And we’re probably going to devote more time to it than they’re accustomed to.”
The problems – such as basic stances – are at all positions, but especially in special teams. Punting and kicking are areas Wulff has said need work.
On the field Monday was someone new – walk-on kicker Patrick Rooney. He’s a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior college transfer from El Segundo, Calif. When the Cougars were practicing field goals, his kick soared between the uprights when the scholarship players’ tries did not.
Rooney is not the junior college transfer Wulff and his staff are hoping to bring in this fall to fill out the kicker position. That name is still under wraps, per NCAA regulations.
Last week, the Cougars practiced two days without pads then two days with them. Friday was a high-paced scrimmage in which running back Marcus Richmond had two long runs.
“It went good,” Wulff said of the scrimmage. “There were really some bright things on both sides of the ball, which is always encouraging.”
Redshirt senior Gary Rogers was still taking most of the snaps at quarterback, leading the Cougars offense through Wulff’s new no-huddle system. With the new coaching staff’s faster practice pace, the players have had plenty of snaps to get better acquainted with the changes, Rogers said.
“Just that alone has made it easier on everybody,” he said. “The coaches have made it easy on everybody. It’s a good transition, I think.”
But not everything is up to speed.
“It’s pretty evident we still don’t know how to play at a high, high tempo, and how to practice at a high tempo and intensive level yet,” Wulff said. “We’re still working on that. It’s going to be a little while before we get that figured out.
“So it’s too early to give a fair analysis of really where we’re at.”
That said, Wulff thought practice went well last week, and said the Cougars are making strides.
“We made about as much progress as we could expect in the first week,” Wulff said. “There’s not one thing that we can’t work on, so we’ve got a lot of work in front of us. But we’re capable of getting there.”
The NCAA last week granted cornerback Markus Dawes a medical redshirt, after he missed much of last season with a shoulder injury. He was at practice Monday. … Running back Christopher Ivory, who Wulff said will focus on grades this spring, was on the field. Cornerback Devin Giles, also dealing with academic issues, was not, and is not expected to practice this spring. … Reserve quarterback Dan Wagner, a redshirt freshman, was punting. On the receiving end was defensive back Tyrone Justin. Star wide receiver Brandon Gibson was also catching punts as Wulff tries out his options for the Cougars’ thin special teams.
The defense was overpowering the offense as the Cougars practiced new plays Monday. Andy Roof, in his new position on the defensive line (he was on the other side of the ball two seasons ago, before getting suspended from the university), raised a ruckus among his D-line brethren by coming up with a big stop on a running play. … Jeshua Anderson, a promising wide receiver who also is a standout hurdler, is not practicing with the football team this spring so he can focus on track.