WASHINGTON STATE, a team thin on experience, depth and fighting injuries already, have some new health woes to contend with, particularly at running back and on the offensive line, said Paul Wulff on Thursday. Meanwhile, the head man of the Cougs had nothing but praise for some members of the senior leadership, their efforts this week and all season long.
Washington State has been outmanned at several spots this year. But there are also positives to be seen in the face of those deficiencies, said Paul Wulff on Thursday.
"As coaches, we're really excited about their attitude of working to get better," said Wulff. "And now we obviously want it to show up on game day, but the players are doing a number of things right," said Wulff.
The Cougs have also had better execution this practice week and a greater sense of purpose, said Wulff.
"We had a really good Tuesday practice and a decent Wednesday practice, so (I'm) very encouraged. And I'll tell you, the one thing, and I have to sit back and not get tunnel vision, but our seniors, a lot of them, are just doing a great job. I can't speak highly enough of Matt Mullennix and Ben Woodard," said Wulff.
Both Mullennix and Woodard already have their college degrees. There's also a history of knee injuries.
"Both chose to come back and play their last year," said Wulff. "...I think Ben Woodard's wife didn't want him to play and he is...and Matt Mullennix made a decision to come back and he wanted to be part of the change.
"Those guys work every single day. They work very, very hard. Just their effort, they're just making an impression with the young guys on the team. Guys like those two and Greg Trent, they're just great Cougars...I think those guys are going to leave a big impression on this football team for years to come.
Wulff also singled out WR Brandon Gibson and DT Matt Eichelberger. The defensive tackle spot is one where the Cougars have been pushed around in two Pac-10 losses, but Wulff said there are other considerations also to keep in mind.
"The thing about Eichelberger is that he's clearly playing his best football of his career," said Wulff. "And that's a positive. Here's a kid who's lost X amount of weight, he's in his fifth year and he he's playing his best football. To us, that's a great thing and that's all we can ask. He hasn't missed a practice, he's worked his tail off and that's something everyone says that has been here in the past, that you never knew what day he was going to show up or if he could practice or any of those types of things.
"The young man has just come miles based on what so many people tell us (prior to) us coming here. There's a number of kids we're very proud of that are doing a great job."
THE INJURY UPDATE is not the brightest of lights, however, headed into UCLA.
"We're fairly banged up," said Wulff.
Running backs Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Logwone Mitz (ankle) are questionable, said Wulff, as is OL Steven Ayers (neck/shoulder). WR Daniel Blackledge (shoulder) is "very questionable" -- Jared Karstetter will start if Blackledge can't go.
LB Cory Evans (hamstring) is "very questionable".
Louis Bland has impressed the Cougar staff this week and is likely to start at the WIL linebacker spot in place of Kendrick Dunn, with Myron Beck in for Evans on the strong side of Greg Trent, said Wulff.
"Cory's injury is a part of that and Kendrick has been a little nicked up. But at the same time, Louis Bland is playing so hard and giving us a little bit more consistency right now so we're going to give him that opportunity to make his first career start against UCLA," said Wulff.
OT Will Hunter broke a finger in practice this week. He may be able to play with a cast on against UCLA.
"He was going to play actually a little bit more for us this week," said Wulff of Hunter, a walk-on.
With the injuries to Ayers and Hunter, the starting o-line lineup of last week, RT Micah Hannam, RG Andrew Roxas, C Kenny Alfred, LG Brian Danaher, LT Vaughn Lesuma, may remain unchanged for UCLA, said Wulff.