WULFF: Draws parallels to early Bennett years

DICK BENNETT

PAUL WULFF ON Tuesday drew a parallel between Washington State's current football struggles and the school's basketball woes circa 2003. Meanwhile, the QB depth chart for Saturday's game with Southern Cal was clarified headed into the week's first practice. The head man also talks penalty flags and more.

In discussing how WSU will go about righting the ship, Wulff pointed to WSU's basketball program and the three years of foundation-laying under Dick Bennett that preceeded the last two highly successful campaigns.

"It was three years of trying to educate and create a culture that wasn't there," said Wulff. "In Year 4, you saw it kinda step up. The Dick Bennett philosophy was to recruit to players you can lose with -- and what does that mean? That means the player that can handle a loss or two and then they're going to respond by fighting back and continuing to do what it takes to overcome those defeats.

"That," he said, "is the kind of character you've gotta have. You've got to recruit that. You've got to develop that. That's the philosophy it's going to take."

Dick Bennett went 13-16, 12-16 and 11-17 in his three years at Washington State, with 7, 7 and 4 league wins. The previous three seasons under Paul Graham were 12-16, 6-21 and 7-20, with 5, 1 and 2 league wins.

"Guys competing and playing hard and all those things, it's a culture," said Wulff. "It's a learned behavior, some of it is (inborn) with kids. ...To get that instilled in a program when it hasn't been in their past, it just.. takes.. some.. time. And some understanding. And to understand the level of competitiveness that it takes.

"You can't just show up and expect to have every kid to play at a level they don't even know how to play at yet, some kids. So we're working through that. But players are trying. They're working hard."

WULFF SAID TEAM morale was "reasonably good", but that outside negativity can have an impact.

"I think that the more positive we as a team and coaches (are), the more we stay together, the more productivce we can be. The more negative stuff that's out there people write or say, the harder it is for the kids to keep their morale up," said Wulff.

WULFF SAID BARRING something unforeseen, Kevin Lopina will start on Saturday. J.T. Levenseller is his backup, with Dan Wagner the No. 3. But Wulff said he's still trying to preserve Levenseller's redshirt.

'We haven't come to the conclusion on whether we'll play J.T. Levenseller or not yet," said Wulff.

THE NUMBER AND KINDS of penalties this season have been a hot topic in cyberspace. Wulff said a good portion of them have been simply players trying too hard to make a play. Others are a different kettle of fish. There are penalties and then there are dumb penalties, and the latter is unacceptable, said Wulff.

"When you have penalties that are late hits and those kinds of things, there's a fine line there," said Wulff. "If a kid's just trying to make a play and he's a little bit late it's hard to penalize a kid if he's just trying to play hard. I've been around it long enough to know that happens a lot...and then there's some that are just dumb, a kid hits somebody in the back like occurred on our kickoff return team."

"(But) I've (also) been around enough to know that when you start looking at teams that win championships, it's very common to see (them) lead the league in penalties."

A quick check shows USC currently leads the Pac-10 in penalties per game with 9.0. Washington State is second with 8.71. Georgia has the highest in the nation amongst the 119 D-IA teams, with 10.67.

But how does the staff address the foolish ones? Wulff answered rhetorically.

"We've over the years have done different things to try and address that...do you either not play the kid? Or I guess you could try to run the kid? Do you continaully stress it, that you can't do that again? They're human beings and we all make mistakes. As coaches if the kid keeps making the same mistake and we're letting him make it, then that's not good. (At some point) that's a coach's responsibility to get that individual fixed or not play him so he doesn't hurt the team," said Wulff.

ON THE INJURY FRONT, Wulff said Steven Ayers (neck/concussion) has been medically cleared so "it's on him" when he comes back. Eric Block has had a long term stomach illness. It first surfaced in the spring, and then again in fall camp and has caused him to lose a lot of weight. There is no timetable on his return. It looks promising Brian Danaher (shoulder) will be able to return this week.

"I've been through as a coach...some years where we've had a tremendous amount of injuries. But not this many," said Wulff. "...We're playing with a lot of kids that are hurt unfortunately. And I feel bad for them, I feel bad for the kids who are missing an opportunity to play."

Wulff said he likes the look of B.J. Guerra, who is raw, but who also got his first start last week.

"B.J. has the potential to be a good player for us, there's no question. He's just kind of a raw dog running around out there but there are flashes of him doing some good things," said Wulff.

Wulff was succinct when asked if he had any thoughts on being a 42 point underdog to USC.

"Nope."

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