Wulff likes Tuel's moxie; Feagin, AL move up

ANTHONY LAURENZI

JEFF TUEL IS just a true freshman, but he does not lack confidence. He predicted during practice this week that WSU not only would be competitive in Saturday's homecoming game against Arizona State at Martin Stadium, Tuel said he expects the Cougars to win the game. Meanwhile, two first time starters look poised to line up on the Cougars' d-line on Saturday.

During his Thursday news conference, WSU coach Paul Wulff was asked if he agreed with Tuel's sentiment or if it was just youthful exuberance?

"I think it's a combination of both," said Wulff, adding that he did not have an issue with Tuel's remarks. "I think we have some young guys who are highly competitive. We feel that's where we're headed with high expectations among ourselves."

Tuel injured his hip during last week's 52-6 loss at Oregon, but Wulff said his quarterback was not limited during Wednesday's practice and is expected to make his second start against ASU.

WHILE WULFF noted the difficult environment at Oregon's Autzen Stadium last week, Tuel won't have to worry about those distractions at home. But the Sun Devils present at different challenge for Tuel. Despite their 2-2 record, they allowed just 232 yards per game, which ranks third among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

"The games they've lost, they've given up the big play," Wulff said. "They've got a very, very stout defensive line and linebacking corps. I think they're stouter than USC in terms of defending the run."

ASU does not have a dynamic pass rusher such as Terrell Suggs, who set a single-season NCAA record with 24 sacks for the Sun Devils in 2002. As a team, ASU has produced just three sacks, which actually is half of the Cougars' total.

But Wulff believes that is a product of teams choosing to run on the Sun Devils.

WSU's injury-plagued offensive line also has been one of the worst in the country at protecting its quarterbacks. Only five teams have allowed more sacks (18) than the Cougars.

Wulff plans to start the same offensive line for a second straight week. That means junior Joe Eppele and true freshman Alex Reitnouer will make their second starts at guard, while redshirt freshman Tyson Pencer makes his third at left tackle. Senior center Kenny Alfred and junior right tackle Micah Hannam have started every game.

JUNIOR BRIAN DANAHER suffered a concussion in a 27-6 loss Sept. 26 at USC and missed last week's game, but will play this week. Wulff said Danaher has "a bit of a history with concussions" and wants to be cautious with him.

"We don't want to line him up and take every snap," Wulff said. "Hopefully we can get out of this game without him re-dinging his head."

Injuries also have necessitated some changes on the defensive line. Junior defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm suffered a hip injury against Oregon and won't be able to play against ASU. The Cougars previously lost junior defensive tackle Josh Luapo to a season-ending knee injury against the Trojans.

THAT MEANS JUNIOR Toby Turpin will play alongside redshirt freshman Anthony Laurenzi, who will make his first start. Redshirt freshman Dan Spitz, who started the last two weeks at left end, will move inside to become the third tackle in the rotation.

Someone asked Wulff if any freshmen could help with the depth issue at the position. But he is confident Wolfgramm will be able to play Oct. 24 at Cal after next week's bye.

"I think Justin Clayton could come in and help," he said. "But somewhere along the line we don't want to burn all the redshirts."

True freshman Travis Long has started every game at right end, but could see his fourth different counterpart this week. Senior Kevin Kooyman started the opener at left end, but likely won't play again this season because of a knee injury. Junior walk-on Casey Hamlett also started once at the position in addition to Spitz.

Now, 6-foot-4, 258-pound senior Jesse Feagin has emerged and likely will make his first start. Feagin signed with Oregon in 2005 out of Jordan High School in Long Beach, Calif.

He did not qualify and then signed with the Cougars two years later out of Los Angeles Southwest College. Feagin had three tackles in 10 games during the 2007 season for WSU. He sat out last season in order to get his academic house in order.

WULFF CREDITED FEAGIN for working hard to improve his grades. He added that Feagin also has become more dedicated in the weight room when head football strength coach Darin Lovat was hired earlier this year. His evolution on the field remains a work in progress.

"He shows flashes, he needs to be a little more consistent," Wulff said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Sophomore middle linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis (staph infection), who has started four games, will not play against ASU. Wulff said sophomore Louis Bland will start in his place.

  • Wulff played six true scholarship freshmen last season and has played five this year. Long, Reitnouer, Tuel, wide receiver Gino Simone and running back Carl Winston. Also, walk-on fullback Jared Byers has played this year. Last year, Wulff played Bland, wide receiver Jared Karstetter, linebacker Mike Ledgerwood, quarterback J.T. Levenseller, wide receiver Kevin Norrell and defensive back Tyree Toomer. Norrell (suspension) and Toomer (pectoral) both will not play this year and utilize their redshirt years, while Levenseller transferred to Eastern Washington.

  • Wulff said he does not anticipate using any other freshmen who are redshirting, but that will be dictated by injuries.

  • True freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler might see playing time for ASU. Wulff noted that the 6-foot-8 Osweiler, who originally committed to play basketball at Gonzaga, would not have a problem seeing over the line. "I think he's got a pretty bright future," he said. "He has a nice arm."

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