No grappling with schemes for Wulff this week

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Paul Wulff breaks down how the Trojans are different under Lane Kiffin than former coach Pete Carroll. He also talks about goal setting, the status of two freshmen -- DT Toni Pole and WR Kristoff Williams -- who were expected to play this season but have been beset by injury. And at what point, if they're not ready, does that redshirt go on?

From the wishbone to the run-and-shoot, Washington State coach Paul Wulff has seen some very different schemes already this season.

But that is expected to change at noon Saturday when the Cougars open Pac-10 play against USC (TV: FSN) at Martin Stadium.

Under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans run the "pro-style" offense that was favored by Pete Carroll, who is now with the Seattle Seahawks. Kiffin was an offensive coordinator under Carroll at USC before he became coach of the Oakland Raiders and the University of Tennessee.

REGARDLESS OF THE coach, it always begins with personnel for the Trojans (3-0). Wulff said USC features its usual stable of depth and talent in the backfield. Junior Marc Tyler leads the Trojans with 255 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries. Behind Tyler, USC mixes in seniors Allen Bradford (193 yards) and C.J. Gable (75 yards).

True freshman Dillon Baxter also is beginning to emerge after missing the Sept. 2 season opener at Hawaii. He has 73 yards on 16 carries.

"He's one of those rare guys," Wulff said. "His quickness is pretty darn impressive. You already see the physical flashes that you don't see too often."

Kiffen recently groused about the play of his offensive line, but the Trojans average 196.7 rushing yards per game.

"I don't really feel sorry for him," Wulff said, laughing.

"I think they're still trying to get a few pieces together on the offensive line. I think they're very talented on their offensive line."

DEFENSIVELY, WULFF SAID USC is a little different than in the past because coordinator Monte Kiffin uses Cover 2 and even Cover 1 schemes more frequently than did the Trojans under Carroll. After allowing 36 points against Hawaii, the Trojans only have given up 35 combined the last two weeks.

The Trojans surrendered 459 passing yards against Hawaii.

"They've gotten a little better the last few weeks," Wulff agreed. "They look like they've cleaned some things up."

Now the Cougars (1-2), who have lost seven consecutive meetings against the Trojans since Drew Dunning's field goal in overtime gave WSU its last win in 2002, open conference play against the program that ruled the Pac-10 for most of the last decade.

"I think we're excited for the opportunity to open up Pac-10 play," Wulff said.

He said he has talked about setting goals with his young team and one that has come up frequently is winning at home.

"That's something we're trying to instill with our football team," Wulff said. "We've got to start setting some benchmarks. It's creating an environment that Martin Stadium is a challenging environment to play."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole's calf injury became infected last week and he had surgery to correct it. Wulff said he expected Pole along with another true freshman, wide receiver Kristoff Williams (turf toe), to play this season, but both have had multiple injury setbacks. At this point, Wulff said, both likely will redshirt if they are not ready within a week or two.

  • Wulff already has played a true freshman walk-on, Gonzaga Prep's Jack Wilson, and he said Bennett Bontemps out of Rogers High might be the next. Wulff said Bontemps, along with scholarship true freshman cornerback Tracy Clark, would get looks in practice this week as WSU looks to fill holes in its special teams. Eight true freshmen have played for the Cougars this season, and while Wulff said that is not his preference, the program has not yet built the depth to avoid it. Wulff said at the start of this year that next season, he expects to have the depth in place and to play very few true frosh.

  • USC was hit with sanctions by the NCAA during the offseason that stemmed from former running back Reggie Bush allegedly receiving benefits when he played for the Trojans from 2003-05. Wulff was asked about his thoughts on the sanctions, which reduce the scholarships that USC can give out by 10 each year for the next three seasons. That means while the Cougars and other Pac-10 teams can sign a maximum of 25 players in February, the Trojans will be limited to 15.

    "I think you're going to see an impact over the next three years," Wulff said. "I think it opens up the Pac-10 that much more."

  • Wulff said senior safety Chima Nwachukwu (neck) will be limited in practice this week, but is expected to play against USC.


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