Young guns may make Wulff's decision for him

KEVIN NORRELL

PULLMAN -- Washington State coach Paul Wulff says he hasn't decided if any true freshmen will play this season, but Jared Karstetter and Kevin Norrell might be making Wulff's decision for him. Karstetter and Norrell continued their strong play in fall camp by adding to their collection of highlight-reel catches at wide receiver during Tuesday's two practices.

The emergence of Karstetter and Norrell has been one of the few benefits from the siege of injuries that has hit the Cougars, particularly at wide receiver.

On Tuesday afternoon, three more Cougars were added to the "protective boot brigade" that lines the practice field each day. Still, a number of players practiced Tuesday after missing a number of workouts before Wulff made his strongest remarks yet regarding the alleged lack of toughness of some of his players.

Asked if believes he "sent a message" with his Sunday comments, Wulff thought a moment, then said, "I hope so."

He added, "You don't play this game without being nicked up and hurt. We talk about there's hurt and there's injury. True injuries are what they are.

"Again, it's (playing with pain is) not inbred in our program right now. The players don't quite understand that.

"It's not their fault. It's not anyone's fault. It's just the way it is. We're trying to get that rectified."

THE START OF Tuesday's second practice of the day focused on special teams. That has been a problem area for the Cougars in recent years.

"We've got to do our best to get ourselves better in that area," Wulff said.

WULFF ANNOUNCED THAT Wade Penner, WSU's kickoff specialist as a freshman last year, will be replaced by either Patrick Rooney or Nico Grasu.

Wulff removed Rooney from consideration for the field-goal kicking job last week, but on Tuesday, the coach said Rooney is back in the hunt with Penner and Grasu.

"We'll just keep slugging through it," Wulff said.

Rooney and redshirt freshman quarterback Dan Wagner are dueling to fill in for injured punter Reid Forrest.

On Tuesday, Forrest said the odds are "slim" that he'll be ready for the Aug. 30 season opener, since the protective boot on his surgically repaired left ankle isn't scheduled to be removed for good until Monday.

Wulff said he's eager to settle on a field-goal kicker, but he cautioned, "You know, we're not going to play our best football in the first game. We're going to play good football. We're going to do our best to play as well as we can, and we're going to be a team that needs to improve as the season goes -- and we're going to."

THE AFTERNOON PRACTICE featured some impressive pass defense.

Fifth-year senior cornerback Markus Dawes, true freshman safety LeAndre Daniels and true freshman Mike Ledgerwood made fine plays to break up passes, and the No. 2 defense produced a cover sack -- virtually unheard of last year at WSU.

STAR RECEIVER Brandon Gibson was uncharacteristically inconsistent catching the ball. He dropped a short pass and later saw a perfectly thrown bomb from Gary Rogers slip right through his hands.

But Gibson absolutely tooled true freshmen safeties Tyree Toomer and Daniels in 1-on-1 drills.

Tight end Tony Thompson expertly extended his reach in the end zone to haul in a touchdown pass from No. 2 QB Kevin Lopina. Touted Cougar rookie Chantz Staden finished the practice with a big gain on the ground.

THE COUGARS CONTINUE to experiment, trying players at different positions and/or as starters.

Meanwhile, Andy Roof and Brandon Jones, who both suffered ankle injuries in the morning practice, wore protective boots while observing the afternoon workout. Promising freshman linebacker Louis Bland also showed up in a boot. Wulff said Bland is nursing an old foot injury.

NOTABLE NOTES:
WSU PRACTICES RARELY draw more than a dozen or two spectators, but an increasing number of students are returning to Pullman and occasionally peek in on the Cougars. Classes start Monday. WSU's first full scrimmage drew perhaps 200 spectators on Saturday. By contrast, the first scrimmage of the Oklahoma State Cowboys -- WSU's opening opponent -- drew an estimated 2,000 fans. And, no, fall semester had not started in Stillwater.

WSU's SECOND AND final full scrimmage of the preseason is set for 2:30 p.m. Friday at Martin Stadium. Admission is free.

FIVE OF THE assistant coaches not retained by Wulff have found new coaching jobs. Marty Long headed to Northwestern, Leon Burtnett to Houston, Greg Peterson to Colorado State, Dave Walkosky to Tiffin (Ohio) and George Yarno to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All are assistants except Walkosky, who landed the head coaching job at NCAA Division II Tiffin.

Mike Levenseller and Steve Broussard were retained off Bill Doba's staff.

Mike Walker and Timm Rosenbach continue to live in Pullman and will be paid their full salaries (in the neighborhood of $100,000) if they do not land new coaching jobs by the time their contracts expire June 30, 2009. Doba, whose contracts runs into 2010, is enjoying life at his lake place in Michigan.

Ken Greene, a former All-American defensive back and assistant coach at WSU, is part of the cast in the CBS television reality show "The Amazing Race." Eleven pairs of competitors will travel to five continents in 23 days. Greene, a former NFL player, is described as a home builder who is estranged from his wife, Tina. According to the CBS.com, Greene's "poor choices and infidelity tore their marriage apart and he prays that the Race (sic) will help Tina to trust him again." The first show of the new season is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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