Intrigue abounds at tight end for the Cougs

TONY THOMPSON

JC TRANSFER PETER Tuitupou's decision to leave Washington State for a church mission must have set a record of some sort for fastest casualty in a recruiting class. The new crop of talent isn't officially unveiled until Wednesday and this lad's already gone. That fact alone is intriguing, but more pressing is what this means for WSU's depth at tight end in 2009.

CF.C has been unable to reach Tuitupou for explanation about why he decided to leave Pullman just two weeks after enrolling. WSU's sports information department confirmed his departure but didn't offer details beyond the stated reason of going on a Mormon mission.

For WSU, the early departure of this JC All-American means a coveted scholarship slot -- schools are limited to filling no more than 25 per recruiting cycle -- has likely been wasted. There are also implications for academic progress ratings. You'd have to believe, however, there's an NCAA appeals process available somewhere in the mix to get it back.

Regardless, Tuitupou's departure brings uncertainty to WSU's tight end situation for the upcoming season. With Devin Frischknecht and Ben Woodard both graduating, Tony Thompson is the lone returning TE with notable game experience and he ended the season on the sidelines with a concussion, his second of the '08 campaign. There's also fourth-year walk-on Aaron Gehring, who has seen time on special teams and impressed in practice.

Tuitupou, though, was expected to challenge Thompson for the starting role. Just as important, the Cougs are expected to run some two-tights sets in their no-huddle, multi-formation offense.

Thompson now sits alone at center stage. There doesn't appear to be immediate help coming in the new recruiting class, though Jordan Pu'u-Robinson could be a possibility. Travis Long, a highly rated TE prospect, appears destined for defensive end.

Bottom line is that Tuitupou's departure means a golden opportunity awaits one or more of the youngsters WSU redshirted in 2008.

That list includes Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz. In addition, Dan Spitz, a redshirt freshman, was named by Paul Wulff in December as one he's excited to see perform at defensive end this spring, but he also starred at tight end at Mead High. And there's versatile Cory MacKay. The former All-State receiver from Redmond was a scout team linebacker in 2008 but word out of Pullman is that WSU's offensive coaches haven't given up the debate about his potential at tight end.

NOTABLE RECRUITING NOTES:

• On Wednesday, the day high school seniors and junior college end-year transfers sign letters of intent, Wulff will discuss each member of his new class and show video clips of them at the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights near Spokane. The gathering begins at 7 p.m., and admission is free. In addition to the Signing Day Party, a VIP reception is scheduled at the casino prior to the public event. For more information, contact Lori Olson at 509-358-7541.

• On the following two days, Thursday and Friday, Wulff and staff will be in the Puget Sound area for the annual "Night with Cougar Football" dinners. The Friday, Feb. 6 dinner is at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle and the Thursday, Feb. 5 confab is at the Little Creek Casino near Olympia. The legendary flag, Ol' Crimson, will be at both events. In addition, the Friday dinner will feature numerous NFL Cougars, including Erik Coleman and Marcus Trufant. To make reservations for either dinner, contact Todd Thrasher at WSU West at (206) 448-1335 or e-mail him at tthrasher@wsuwest.edu.

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