PAUL WULFF WAS a rarity as a player, a four year starter on the offensive line. But Wulff sees some similarities in another young hoss, one he says might just have what it takes to follow the same path. There's lots of news and notes as the Cougs put the finish touches on preparations on Oklahoma State, and Wulff also touches on his passion for Washington State and winning.
Wulff said he feels an extra amount of investment in coaching his alma mater.
"I really feel like a fan," Wulff laughed. "I'm a big fan, and not only am I the coach...I want to see Washington State win every game like every fan does. There's no question. I have that kind of passion and fire about every game, I know I'm going to, I feel it all the time.
"There's no one out there that wants to have more success for Washington State football than me. There just isn't...and probably because I played here and how good I feel about this place and what it did for me as a person."
Wulff said instilling that same kind of passion in all his players will take time.
"They're still figuring out what our expectations are and how we're doing things on a daily basis...we're trying to break some habits and ask some guys to change some ways and that's always going to take a little bit of time," said Wulff.
WULFF SAID WHILE at Eastern, Steven Ayers caught his eye coming out of high school. After WSU offered the Bellingham hoss, Wulff wasn't going to be able to convince him to come to EWU but now the two are both wearing the crimson and gray and Wulff said Ayers, a redshirt freshman, has a chance to do what he himself did out on the Palouse.
"When he came to the Cougs I knew he was a good player," said Wulff. "He's maybe exceeded our expectations this early. Now, we haven't played a game yet and he's going to have some growing pains in games. But based on practice, he's a very good football player with a tremendous amount of upside.
"He's the kind of guy who could be a four year starter in the program."
THE COUGS WILL travel 62 players to Seattle, including four true freshman. The plan had called for 64 but Andy Roof and Dan Rowlands are no longer with the program. Louis Bland would have made it five true frosh but he's out with a foot injury. Bland will probably play at Cal unless the foot injury lingers, said Wulff, and if it were to really linger, there's a possibility he could still redshirt. But a healthy Bland means he'' play this year.
The four traveling for the opener are wide receivers Jared Karstetter and Kevin Norrell, LB Mike Ledgerwood and S Tyree Toomer.
Wulff said Karstetter's competitiveness has stood out early. "He's got good mental toughness. He's got good ability and I think his
ability will only improve as he gets stronger through the offseason and develops from a physical standpoint -- he's got a lot of room for that area. He's deceivingly wise for his age..Again, he's going to go into his first game and I'm sure he's going to make his mistakes. But we know what we're getting. We're getting someone who is going to compete and if he has a chance to make a play, he's probably going to make it," said Wulff.
WULFF SAID THE Cougs have in the 73-74 range on scholarship right now after the loss of Rowlands, Roof and Keith Parr Jr. The Cougs lost six scholarships to the APR at the start of the season, putting them at a max of 79 for this year. Wulff said Parr Jr. (formerly Rosenberg) has been battling a knee injury his entire WSU career and it wasn't too big a surprise that he wanted to see if he could find playing time elsewhere.
LT Vaughn Lesuma (back) is out for this week. Wulff said the Cougs hope he's able to go against Cal but they will be cautious in returning him to the field.
"We hope (for Cal), we need him back. But we want to be smart, it's a 14-week season counting the bye and we surely don't want to bring him back too early where he aggravates it and we miss him for the next six weeks. He's getting better," said Wulff. More should be early next week on his availability for the home opener," said Wulff.
On Brian Danaher: "We were impressed with him in (the spring), by his toughness and aggressiveness. And then also at (fall) camp. He's been very, very good. He brings some violence to the position. He's an explosive, get off the ball kind of guy. He's very tough. And we like those guys," said Wulff.
On Dan Rowlands, "It surprised us a little bit but it didn't completely surprise us..I know he was struggling a little bit and there was a lot of competition going on, a lot of factors in there...It's been a chronic thing for him and it goes beyond this fall camp, I think has gone on now for a couple years. Sometimes you can only sustain X amount of pain for so long and decide it's just not worth it.I believe that's basically just the conclusion he came to," said Wulff.
Wulff said there are some similarities that Cougs may be able to draw from in the win over Jake Locker and the Huskies in facing QB Zac Robinson at Oklahoma State. "We definitely have our hands full on defense," added Wulff.
Wulff will take three kickers and punter Dan Wagner on the travel squad. Wade Penner gets the start at kicker. "(Wednesday) we went through a drill and he was 6-for-6 and kicked the ball extremely well. I'm pretty confident he's going to do a good job," said Wulff.
A NEW WEEKLY PODCAST you don't want to miss. Every week this season, Jason Puckett of KJR-AM 950 goes inside the Cougar football team with an in-depth preview of the upcoming Washington State game. Jason Gesser answers your email questions and there's a whole lot more. Click here and grab it all: Crimson & Gray Weekly Podcast.