Stripling ripple effect goes deep

KEN DUNN

PULLMAN -- The news that outside linebacker Jason Stripling's appeal to the NCAA has been denied assures that JC transfer Ken Dunn and sophomore Andy Mattingly will be on center stage all season long, with sophomore walk on Brady Emmons and true freshmen Hallston Higgins and Marshal Pirtz in line for some spot head crackin'.

Stripling, a third-year sophomore from Tyler, Texas, would have been a difference maker at weakside linebacker on a WSU defense that is thin overall and inexperienced in the secondary.

He was ruled academically ineligible this season, but appealed the decision, citing the two weeks of class he missed in the spring due to a shoulder injury and surgery. Stripling had a 3.0 GPA and earned six credits in the summer session but because of the missed two weeks, he fell short of meeting NCAA requirements towards earning his degree.

Stripling will continue to practice with the team this year. Since he's already redshirted, he effectively loses a year of eligibility.

Ken Dunn, from Hearne, Texas, is 5-11, 230 pounds. He signed with WSU this past spring out of Blinn College in south-central Texas. He will start on the weakside at Wisconsin this Saturday. Co-captain Greg Trent will anchor the middle and Cory Evans the strongside. Andy Mattingly, a 6-4, 235-pound sophomore from Spokane is nursing a bad ankle but figures to be first off the bench, with the 5-10, 211-pound Emmons, from tiny Everson, Wash., near Bellingham, next in line. Alex Hamill, of Couer d' Alene, while dinged up of late with a foot sprain, also could be in line for more PT. Hamill was mentioned by Bill Doba this spring and fall as one of the Cougar linebackers who had shown the most improvement since last season.

The ripple effect from Stripling puts the two freshmen linebackers, Higgins and Pirtz, on a path to see more than just special teams duty. The 5-10, 211-pound Higgins, from Magnolia, Texas, was the Greater Houston Area class 5A defensive player of the year last season.Pirtz (6-0, 210), from Boise, was a first-team Class 5A All-State pick as a junior and senior, racking up nearly 200 tackles.

Senior Chris Baltzer, dogged by injury much of his career, also could be in line for playing time.

THURSDAY'S PRACTICE was a short, helmets-only session. Coaches focused on the fine points, mostly with the offensive line and special teams. At the end of the practice, kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi lined up for a field goal with the entire team screaming at him. He hooked his first attempt, but the second split the uprights, giving way to cheers from teammates.

The Cougs confused onlookers as many players swapped jerseys in what is apparently a Thursday tradition. DL Ropati Pitoitua squeezed into DB Brian Williams' No. 28 jersey, while Williams was swimming in Pitoitua's No. 75 jersey. The same could be said for safety Husain Abdullah, who swapped with defensive tackle Aaron Johnson.

MARTIN STADIUM NOTE:

The hustle boards on the east side of the stadium will not be present at Martin Stadium this fall. The boards, which give the passing yards, rushing yards and total yards for each team, have been taken down to make way for the construction.

NOTABLE: Wisconsin is ranked No. 7 in the nation. A win there would rank as one of the Cougars' biggest non-conference road wins of the modern era. In the 2003 Holiday Bowl, they beat No. 4-ranked Texas. That same season, the beat No. 17 Colorado in Boulder. In 1994, in Chicago, they topped No. 21 Illinois. In 1989, in Provo, they defeated No. 24 BYU. And in 1977, in Lincoln, they downed No. 15 Nebraska. The Cougs have had other big road wins -- at Tennessee and Illinois in 1988, at Michigan State in 1977, and at Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana in 1965. But none of those victories came against ranked teams.

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