ROUNDUP: Who starts at FS in place of Hicks?

HICKS WILL SIT FIRST THREE GAMES

ONE OF THE questions Washington State will need to answer in fall camp: Who will hold down Xavier Hicks' place for the first part of the season -- the starting free safety has been suspended the first three games by Paul Wulff. The Cougar head coach talked to CF.C previously, following spring ball, and what he said about a pair of safeties now takes on even more significance.

There were three walk-ons who were singled out by Wulff as most showing this spring they might be able to contribute and help the team on Saturdays this fall, Wulff told CF.C recently. With today's suspension of Hicks, click here for more details, two walk-on junior college transfers could figure prominently for the Cougars in the season's first three games -- Ok. St, Cal, Baylor.

Easton Johnson, before he got dinged up, and strong safety Myron Beck both played surprisingly well over the course of the spring session, said Wulff.

Johnson (5-11, 185) was at Feather River JC last year, where he had nine receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown this past season, and seven kick returns for 115 yards. Beck (5-11, 205), out of Glendale CC, led the WSFL in picks last fall with six.

The other walk-on mentioned by Wulff does his work in the trenches. He's not as big as he used to be, and he's quicker.

"Adam Hineline came back and started playing again and he did a nice job," said Wulff. "He's lost 20-30 pounds and it's allowed him to function better, he was a pleasant surprise," said Wulff.

HOW DOES WASHINGTON STATE go from hovering around .500 the last four years to posting a winning season and making a bowl game? The answer is, naturally, multi-faceted but the main ingredient is no big mystery, says Paul Wulff. The players need do one thing, something every successful team always done.

Buy in.

Spring ball gave the Cougar players a good idea of what success requires and what life will be like under Paul Wulff and the new staff. Veterans are being asked to do different things on the field than they've been used to doing, and that usually requires a transition phase.

"I made it very clear that they are going to always have a voice but we have a plan that will work," Wulff said in a recent conversation with CF.C. "And its something that will take a little time and the quicker they jump on board, the quicker we're going to move forward and have success.

"The sooner they adapt, the sooner we're going to make big strides as a team."

AND SOME THIS SPRING showed signs of being rapidly able make that transition, said Wulff.

Linebacker Cory Evans' consistency was one of the things that stood out on defense. QB Gary Rogers obviously had a big camp and solidified himself as the starter, but the guy who laid claim to the No. 2 role was a pleasant surprise as well. Not a surprise but certainly a welcome development was the play of two crimson stalwarts.

"I think Cory Evans had a nice spring and did a nice job. I don't think people are talking as much about Cory, but he worked hard and he got better. Offensively, Kevin Lopina probably did a little more than we anticipated. And I can't go without mentioning the consistently excellent play from Kenny Alfred and Brandon Gibson," said Wulff.

WHILE SPRING ANSWERED some questions, others remained, and there are position battles to be waged come this fall.

"I really think there are potential battles at a number of spots," said Wulff. "Obviously there are certain guys who are pretty experienced, guys like Cory Evans and Greg Trent, but on the defensive line, who are our elite players who is going to emerge as our elite players?

"We are working with a lot of players who can function to a certain level. So that is encouraging. Our defensive end position we need guys to step up and develop...and there are guys there who have a chance to develop who are working hard."

THE MAIN AREA of concern on offense headed into fall camp is found at running back, said Wulff.

Dwight Tardy sat out the spring after offseason surgery to repair his ACL. He is ahead of schedule and is expected to be ready for fall camp. Chris Ivory played in only about half the sessions as he concentrated on academics. Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond both missed time due to injury this spring.

That end result was more questions than answers.

"Who's going to be there and who are the guys we can count on," said Wulff.

Defensively, Wulff said he "would now lean towards" linebacking depth, with secondary depth a close second on the most pressing areas of concern for the defense.

QUIP OF A QUOTE: Wulff said he really hasn't had time to be nostalgic or sit back and take stock of the fact that he's now the head coach at his alma mater. He did take a moment or two this spring out on Rogers Field to gaze over at the stadium and reflect on his playing days but as soon as he did so, he would see something in a drill than needed to be corrected.

"Every once in a while I'd look back at the stadium and think, 'Wow, it seemed like a lifetime ago I was here playing and at the same time what an honor to be here and represent this school.' And then as soon as I'd think that I'd look over and somebody wasn't doing the right thing," laughed Wulff. "No, what steps do we now need to take to get better, that is what really consumes my thoughts right now and has since I got here."

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