We've written a couple of stories for tomorrow's S-R on the Pac-12 media day (and we'll link them as soon as we can), but there is so much more to go over, we had to put together this blog post. If you want to read the transcript of coach Paul Wulff and receiver Jared Karstetter's press conference, more from Wulff on injuries and academics, and other WSU notes, read on.
• At the bottom of this post you will find two things. One is a transcript of Wulff and Karstetter's comments. After that, I've added what I considered to be the best quotes from each of the other 11 conference coaches. ... Before you get there, however, we have some more news to share. We'll start with Louis Bland. Wulff said the linebacker's off-field problems have cleared up, which you probably would qualify as good news. But Bland won't be on the field this season, as his knee just didn't heal completely, meaning he'll have to have more surgery. The upshot of that is Bland will have missed more than two seasons with the knee. Wulff did say, however, that Bland is a perfect example of why the NCAA has a six-year rule and he expects the linebacker to still have two years of eligibility remaining when he does return. ... Junior college defensive end Niko Aumua did not qualify academically, Wulff said, and won't be headed to Washington State. He's the only 2011 recruit who has not qualified for certain, but Wulff said there are five more incoming freshman who WSU is still waiting to find out if they'll qualify. The group includes Rahmel Dockery, the cat-quick receiver from Curtis High in Tacoma, Wendell Talese, an offensive tackle from Oakland, Demetrius Cherry, a defensive tackle from Oak Ridge Military Academy, Alex Mitchell, the big offensive guard from Portland, and Brock Lutes, a linebacker/defensive end from Newberg, Ore. All five could make it, Wulff said, which would be somewhat of a problem. The Cougars expected some academic casualties and signed more players than they had available scholarships, so if all five qualify, they would be two over the limit for the year. At that point, Wulff said, two players – not necessarily from this five – would have to grayshirt and enter in the spring. ... As for the returning players, defensive tackle Toni Pole has to pass a summer class to be eligible in the fall, the results of which are note yet none, and another defensive tackle, Brandon Rankin, is dealing with an academic issue that Wulff termed nothing major. Both are important for a defensive line that has depth issues as it is. ... Offensive lineman Tim Hodgdon, who had injury issues last season, has left the team as has Tyson Pencer, who is headed back to Canada to play. Pencer has always had unlimited potential but never seemed to be able to get healthy enough to contribute. ... Linebacker Arthur Burns, who has also played running back in his WSU career, had academic issues and is no longer in school but instead is attending Moorpark Junior College in Southern California. Whether he will ever return to WSU is still to be determined.
On to the transcript, courtesy of ASAP Sports, beginning with Wulff's introductory statement ...
WULFF: I'm very excited to be here, thank you. Wanted to introduce Jared Karstetter who is here. Big reason why we brought Jarrod down today is one of our first recruit that's we brought in three and a half years ago from right up the road in Spokane, from Pullman. He's been an All-American academically. He's been a great player for us. And he's one of those guys that changes programs. He's had a big influence in our change within our team.
I think you're going to see a lot of that this fall. I'm very excited about our upcoming year. I think we have a nice, youthful football team. We have a chance to surprise a lot of people.
Q. Talk about coming off with some injuries in your linebacker corps?
WULFF: You know, it's been an issue. Obviously, a lot of things have been. But our defense, I believe, has more physical strength than we've had, and more team speed that we've had. So the combination of that, more game experience heading into the season that we've had, there is a good chance we'll start one or two seniors on the whole defense.
But we have good players that have played. So I think that combination without its size, strength and confidence is going to make a big difference for us.
I think we'll stop the run. I know through spring football there are signs of things we have not shown in our time there on defense, which is very encouraging to see. So I'm pretty confident we'll take a big step on defense.
Q. Would you give us one or two names that you expect to make a huge move forward on your team. Guys that we'll be talking about at the end of the season?
WULFF: You know, hopefully there are some guys that we feel have every reason to break out and will stay healthy enough to do that. I think on offense we'll start with Rickey Galvin who is a running back who broke his arm in his first play of his career against Oklahoma State last year. I think he has a chance to do some really good things for us, and that's on offense in particular.
Kristoff Williams, another wide receiver who we had to red shirt because of injury this last year is another receiver that can add to the mix with Jared and Marquess Wilson.
Defensively, I anticipate Sekope Kaufusi, a big linebacker making a big difference for us who played a limited amount of roles there. Then a veteran player that had one great spring, and that was Alex Hoffman-Ellis. I think Alex has a chance to be one of the final linebackers in our conference.
Q. How difficult has it gotten worse or better since the pacific northwest -- you could probably put Oregon in there, but also Oregon State and even Washington -- with the improvement of those teams, how has it affected your recruiting?
WULFF: You know, I don't know that it's affected it a whole lot. We've gone about our business of trying to recruit the type of person with the right DNA. When I say that, I mean from the neck up. We're looking for kids that have the great passion for the game, love the game, tough, they're a great person, and have that attitude and work ethic. Lot of time from the neck down, he might not be the most flashy guy all the time. But they're productive and great football players and they can help you build a team. That's what we've been trying to do. We go after guys that fit our profile and sometimes may not, but that's who we are and what we're building.
Q. I talked to Jeff Tuel this summer, and asked him about the lack of respect among the other teams when you're playing a Pac-12 opponent. It seemed like he was legitimately angry kind of recalling the experiences and stuff like that. Did you sense there was an improvement in the respect from your opponents last year? How does that play in the locker room in terms of generating a little fire?
KARSTETTER: Yeah, I think we were more competitive especially the end of last year. Any sort of lack of respect that we feel as a team, I think that we just use that as motivation to go out there on game day and compete and prove ourselves.
Q. You guys have your offensive line returning; is that correct?
WULFF: All but one.
Q. Okay, how do you look to improve that offensive line protection, protecting Jeff Tuel?
WULFF: I guess when you look at all the numbers, you have a couple of things that come into play. First of all, we had two junior college players playing their first fall at the Division 1 level for us, and that offensive line last year starting. We also had a true freshman offensive lineman playing in there. We had a running game that wasn't very effective, and we had a receiving corps that was still young and not running together. So the combination of that and Jeff, who we got in predictable passing situations, and an offensive line that had not worked together very often. So those were all ingredients that didn't allow us to do well and gave up those numbers. But I think a lot of things are solved. Our running game, we're a lot more physical on the offensive line. We're athletic. We have experience. Our running backs are better. Our quarterbacks and then the continuity with some of our young receivers and Jeff are better. So all of those ingredients are going to equate to higher productivity. I know through spring football we were executing and doing things that we've never done at a much higher clip. So I think through the summer work and fall camp you're going to see a pretty explosive offense in the fall.
Q. What was the next step for Jeff Tuel?
WULFF: Yeah, that's a good question. He needs to be able to take a team on his back and carry it. When games are tight, he needs to be able to make the plays that win the games. Those are the steps that he's going to take, and he will take. But I think that's at the next step is to truly be in tight situations, carry this football team into the fourth quarter, and then make the plays to win it.
I do think that is the step that's going to happen with this football team a. I think that we're going to go as he goes in a lot of ways.
But what I also like is we do have more of a supporting cast around him and on defense that we've never had. So it's not going to be only on Jeff Tuel, which is great. There needs to be some games where he isn't necessarily the big factor, hopefully, and we can still win the ballgame. I'd like to see our team take that step, and I'd like to see Jeff take the step that I mentioned.
Q. Paul, you changed four assistant coaches over the last two years. How does that change how you get your work done, and what kind of improvement has it brought to the practice field?
WULFF: Well, we've added a lot of veteran coaches to our staff, and that's helped us, particularly on special teams, number one, with Dave Ungerer doing that this last year then Steve Morton the on the offensive line. A former coach there has coached all over the country. He's one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. He's really settled our offense down.
Then defensively adding Chris Tormey who is very Regional. He coached at Idaho as head coach, and Nevada, Reno, was at Washington for 18 years, born and raised in Spokane, Washington. Just a great experience, and great mentor for some of our young linebackers that we think are extremely talented.
Then we added Todd Howard who was at UCLA the previous five years as a defensive line coach who has NFL experience, and as a coach there as well has a Super Bowl ring with the Rams.
They just bring a lot of experience and credibility right now. It's been a good impact for our players at those particular positions. I really think that it's made a big difference, already, in spring football and as the season moves along it will again have a big impact for us.
• And now the best quotes from around the league ...
Jeff Tedford on last season: "We have a lot of work to do, but I think our players are completely refocused. I will tell you the last meeting that we had when the season ended after we lost that heartbreaker to Washington and it became a reality we weren't going to a bowl game for the first time in our time there, it hit us all very hard."
Chip Kelly on Darron Thomas: "He's probably the toughest quarterback I've ever been around. If you look at the touchdowns that he's thrown and just put a highlight tape of the 30-some odd touchdowns he threw, and how many shots he took when he was throwing the ball, and he's truly a fearless competitor. He's really grown into the leadership role that we've asked him to being the quarterback of our football team. The exciting thing for us is he's only going to be a junior."
Mike Riley on replacing Jaquizz Rodgers: "We don't have right now a No. 1 back that's going to replace Jacquizz right now today. We have a number of guys, I thought, that had very good spring practices. I think if we're going to look at that group, it might be a little bit like running back by committee. And I don't mean that in a negative sense. I think we have some guys that might be more suited to being a third down back, like a Jovan Stevenson, Malcolm Marable, then we have some first and ten type backs like Ryan McCants, Jordan Jenkins, or we might have a guy emerge through fall camp."
David Shaw on replacing Jim Harbaugh: "Coach Harbaugh came in and fought a lot of battles that I don't have to fight. My job is to maintain a competitive spirit. Like I said before, that is one of the things that he and I had in common. We were going to compete. We're going to fight. We have different personalities, but at the same time you can ask the guys when somebody crosses the line, I'll be nose to nose with them. I might not be yelling, but I'll be dead serious. There is a standard of play that we'll play up to, and it's my job that we'll do that."
Steve Sarkisian on the Huskies: "I think we've got a football team that you saw at the end of last season starting to play a brand of football that we believe in. That is one that is physical that believes in running the football and playing sound defense."
Mike Stoops on Arizona not being picked high in the Pac-12: "It doesn't affect me. We've never been picked high, so it's not unusual for us, is it?" Why do you think that is? "I don't know. (They) must think I'm a bad coach."
Dennis Erickson on the criticism of the ASU program: "It doesn't really affect me at all to be honest with you. I have high expectations of our football team this year. We all do. And that's all I can worry about. I can't worry about what you think or somebody else thinks or what a former player said or anything like that. My concern, and our whole football team is on winning football games. Yeah, we want to go to a Bowl game. Yeah, we want to win the Pac-12 championships, and everybody that's been sitting up here wants to do."
Jon Embree on why he's at Colorado: "To be exact, we've lost 18 consecutive games on the road. I believe there is no one on our team that's played in a road win. I'm taking it head on. I believe it all starts from how you prepare. It all starts with the mindset. Good teams win on the road. Obviously we haven't been a good team or I wouldn't be here. So if we want to do the things that the players want to do, be it Bowl games and championships and all that, we have to win on the road. The schedule was mentioned here earlier, and about us playing 13 straight. The thing I'm excited about is our first game is on the road because we need to address that issue immediately. I'll leave it at that. We need to address that issue immediately. It does not sit well with me."
Rick Neuheisel on the hot seat: "I think in this business we all are on somewhat of a hot seat at all times. I mean, it just comes with the nature of the beast."
Lane Kiffin on Matt Barkley's chance for a Heisman: "When you look at Heismans, so many things have to go right. It's not just about that person's play. The team has to be very successful, not just to be winning. Especially for a quarterback he needs all the stuff around him going right. I think Matt is on schedule to be in that conversation, but those variables he can't control will be up to us. Playing good defense, making sure we're putting the guys in the right position around him to make those critical third down and touchdown plays for him so his stats are up in that caliber."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on being in the Pac-12: "On behalf of the University of Utah, first thing I'd like to say is we're ecstatic about the opportunity to join the Pac-12 Conference. It's something that's been talked about in Salt Lake City for a lot of years, even back when it was the Pac-8, going that far back. So it's something that's very exciting for the university, for the community, and big challenges lie ahead. We're fully aware that the Pac-12 is a good conference, lot of good football teams. But with big challenge comes big opportunity. We're excited about the opportunity we have moving forward."
• That's all for now. We'll have a morning post full of links, so until then ...