WASHINGTON STATE PREVIEW

WASHINGTON STATE enters the fourth year of head coach Paul Wulff's rebuild in 2011 and all eyes on the Palouse are focused on a bowl game. The young Cougars won just twice in 2010 but the silver linings were many -- foremost among them being the development of quarterback Jeff Tuel.

Last season's record: 2-10

Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 8 defense, 1 kicker)
Returning lettermen: 46


Key losses:

C Zack Williams, a steady presence who was drafted by Jacksonville, started every game at center in 2010. Fifth-year senior Andrew Roxas and JC transfer Taylor Meighen will battle to fill his spot.

CB Aire Justin , was a part-time starter in 2010 but a veteran who gave the Cougars depth at a critical position. This year's likely starters at corner –sophomore Nolan Washington and either junior Daniel Simmons or sophomore Damante Horton – are solid but the depth behind the trio is untested.

C Zach Enyeart, a long-snapping phenom, is gone after four years of impeccable work on punts and placements. Two first-year walk ons will vie for his spot.

Key returnees:

QB Jeff Tuel improved by leaps and bounds last season as a true sophomore and just missed WSU's single-season top 10 with 2,780 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes. He also ran the ball for 204 net yards.

WR Marquess Wilson took the Pac-10 by storm last season and earned Freshman All-American honors after catching 55 balls for 1,006 yards and six TDs. He was 22nd among all FBS receivers in yards per game. Redshirt frosh Kristoff Williams, many think, is capable of a likewise outstanding debut.

DE Travis Long is back for his junior campaign after earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 recognition in 2010. He led the Cougars in tackles-for-loss with 10.5, and posted 51 total tackles.

Best game: The Apple Cup, Nov. 26, against rival Washington at Seattle's Century Link Field.

Projected finish: 7-5

Outlook: The Cougars have almost everyone back from last season, plus some promising newcomers, including defensive end Ian Knight and offensive linemen Taylor Meighan and Rico Forbes. The Cougars were young last season and it showed in a series of games that were winnable well into the fourth quarter but went south at the end. Tuel came on strong in 2010 and with a corps of solid, extraordinarily deep receivers and an O-line that remains largely intact, he looks poised for a huge season. On defense, the Cougars were statistically terrible last season but showed glimpses of respectability as athletic young guns such as Deone Bucannon, C.J. Mizell, Sekope Kaufusi, Nolan Washington and Damante Horton started to put things together. DT Anthony Laurenzi is among those capable of a breakout season. The schedule in 2011 is favorable out of the gate, with the first five against Idaho State, UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado and UCLA. The last three of those are on the road, but a 4-1 mark -- or even 5-0 -- is not beyond the realm when Stanford comes to Pullman on Oct. 15.

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