Wulff, Bland & Mattingly: Cougs united on D

PAUL WULFF

PULLMAN -- Paul Wulff says "there's no question" Washington State will be improved on defense this year. Why? Well, Wulff says players have trained better and made themselves physically stronger, but the Cougar coach seems even more impressed with the progress his defensive players have made between the ears.

"Everyone's out here to work and get better," Wulff said after Wednesday afternoon's practice. "They've done a good job of turning the page and getting rid of a lot of the drama that was us in the past."

It's almost inevitable when a team goes 2-11, but it's no secret that the Cougars weren't always the most cohesive team last year.

"We're more united as a defense," outside linebacker Louis Bland said. "Last year, it seemed when times got hard, we laid down a little bit.

"Right now, we're not backing down from anything."

Bland has been slowed by a left knee sprain suffered during spring practice, but he saw his most extensive action of camp on Wednesday. He joined the starters in a practice that involved only the No. 1 and 2 offenses and defenses.

"I think I'll be ready for the first game," Bland said.

Bland, one of WSU's best players at the end of last season despite having his weight fall under 200, now carries 221 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame. Bland said he aggravated his knee injury a couple times over the summer ("Probably just working it a little too hard a little too fast"), but he said widespread media reports of him undergoing arthroscopic surgery were incorrect.

NOTABLE:

  • Senior Andy Mattingly, a blitzing phenom at outside linebacker two years ago, is delighted to be back at his old position after struggling last season at defensive end. "I like it a lot," Mattingly said. "I'm having a lot of fun. I feel real comfortable."

    Mattingly sounds like he feels the same way about the team as a whole after last year's meltdown. "It's huge to start fresh completely," he said. "Day One. Just start having fun again like football is supposed to be."

  • For a complete run down of both of the Cougars' practices on Wednesday, click to the CF.C front page.
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