Wulff sheds more light on Atofau, Barrington

PAUL WULFF

RESERVE JUDGMENT. That is what Washington State coach Paul Wulff requested during Tuesday's teleconference when asked about redshirt freshmen Jamal Atofau and Andre Barrington.

Both players were arrested early Sunday morning after Pullman Police found 38 marijuana plants growing in a house they shared with two other individuals. Atofau has been suspended indefinitely, while that is unnecessary for Barrington, because he is academically ineligible and has not practiced with the team. Atofau is a backup outside linebacker and has played in five games with eight tackles this season. Barrington is also a linebacker.

"The headlines probably don't equate to accurate information," Wulff said.

He then was asked if that meant that the other two people in the household were responsible for the marijuana.

"You could see it that way, but I'm not saying one way or another," Wulff said.

He said the police contacted him immediately after the arrests. But Wulff said he has not concluded his gathering of all the information, as he still needs to talk more with both players.

"There's not going to be a large tolerance for this at all," he said.

Some have called for both to be dismissed, but Wulff said that is not a decision he will make hastily.

"This isn't just, 'If you make a mistake, (and I say this in general), you're out of here.' We're here to help them down the right path."

Atofau has had other run-ins with the law during his time at WSU and Wulff said a player's history is always a consideration when it comes to discipline.

THE NEWS COMES as the Cougars (1-5 overall, 0-3 conference) host a ranked opponent for the second consecutive week. They play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: Versus) against No. 17 Arizona (4-1, 2-1). The Wildcats fell eight spots in The Associated Press poll after losing 29-27 on Saturday at home against Oregon State.

It all starts with the passing game for Arizona. Behind junior quarterback Nick Foles, the Wildcats rank fifth among Football Bowl Subdivision teams with an average of 328.6 passing yards per game. Foles has completed 137 of 183 passes for 1,529 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

"They've probably got the most mature passing attack in the conference," Wulff said. "Nobody in this conference throws the ball as well as Arizona. You've got to be patient and realize they're going to move the ball."

Arizona ranks just 99th among FBS teams in rushing yards, but Wulff said that is deceptive. He said the Wildcats, who average 4.3 yards per carry, have good speed at running back, and are balanced enough to create problems for defenses. Also, Foles is known for his accuracy in the short-passing game.

"You've got to be very disciplined and make sure you don't give him a lot of easy throws," Wulff said. "They protect him well enough where you can't get consistent pressure on him."

Oregon State produced 486 yards of total offense against Arizona, but quarterback Ryan Katz also made several long completions while narrowly avoiding sacks. The Beavers converted 10 of 15 third-down plays.

The Wildcats have 14 sacks this year, which ranks 27th among FBS teams. Freshman defensive tackle Justin Washington leads the team with four sacks, while senior defensive end Brooks Reed has two and a half. But Wulff said there is talent and depth throughout Arizona's defensive line.

"It's a big concern of ours," he said, referring to the pass rush. "Those guys are really good football players."

IN HIS ASSESSMENT of the first half of the season, Wulff continued to praise the offense. The Cougars rank 33rd among FBS teams with an average of 252 passing yards per game.

Wulff credited some of that to more dynamic play calling in recent weeks.

"Our first three games we didn't open things up and that's more on me than anything," he said. "We wanted to bring them along slowly. Could we have done that from game one -- I'm not sure. This is a building, progression and evolving situation."

He also feels the defense has made progress with some changes that brought more speed to certain positions. Redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi was moved from defensive end to linebacker last week.

But Wulff said progress also is incumbent on avoiding injuries as WSU plays five more games before its two-week bye. The Cougars lost senior wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon indefinitely after he suffered torn cartilage and a partially torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee during last week's 43-23 loss against Oregon. Wulff is hopeful that Solomon, who required arthroscopic surgery, can return in three or four weeks.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Wulff was asked about signing Marquess Wilson, who has developed into one of the best young wide receivers in the Pac-10, in February. Wulff said Wilson also held offers from Arizona State and Washington, but thinks some schools might have passed on recruiting him because the 6-foot-3, 173-pounder has a slight build. If WSU featured more depth, Wulff said he might have even considered redshirting Wilson. But given the Cougs' needs at receiver that was not a thought after he entered the program in August.

    "I think when he came onto the field, it was clear that he was one of our best players," Wulff said.

    Wilson has two touchdowns and a team-high 515 yards on 29 receptions.

    "He's got excellent ball skills and catches the ball really well," Wulff said. "His height helps him a lot of times as well."

  • Junior running back Logwone Mitz had a season-high 15 carries against Oregon, but Wulff was noncommittal when asked if he will continue to see regular playing time.

    "If he runs hard ... he definitely will get the ball," he said. "We need a consistent performance (from Mitz)."

  • After this week, the Cougars will play at No. 14 Stanford. The Cardinal will be the third ranked opponent WSU has faced in as many weeks.

    "That's the way it is in this conference," Wulff said. "It's not an easy task, but I think our players are up for it."

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