Wulff searching for o-line stability

HE WOULD LIKE the offensive line to find stability. And injuries don't help. Washington State coach Paul Wulff said during his Thursday teleconference that sophomore Tyson Pencer (hip) will not be available for Saturday's Pac-10 opener at noon against USC (TV: FSN-NW). Wulff said the injury is comparable to the one suffered by wide receiver Jared Karstetter during fall camp.

That means junior-college transfers David Gonzalez and Wade Jacobson will start on the left side of the line. Wulff said that either could be challenged by Pencer when he becomes healthy.

Both senior center Zack Williams and junior right guard B.J. Guerra, who was cited by Wulff for having a good week of practice, appear entrenched at their positions.

But Wulff said senior Micah Hannam, who has started every game of his collegiate career, and true freshman John Fullington will share time at right tackle.

One player who is not in the rotation is 6-foot-5, 270-pound sophomore Alex Reitnouer. Wulff said he wanted to redshirt Reitnouer last year, but a huge run on injury necessitated him playing in five games and starting four. Wulff said he believes there is enough depth on the offensive line to avoid playing Reitnouer this season and getting him that redshirt, developmental year.

"He really needs the strength," Wulff said. "We think he can take a big step with another year."

ONE PLAYER WHO seems destined to find the field more and more this year is true freshman walk-on Bennett Bontemps.

Wulff said Bontemps already is starting on two special-teams units, and wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller compared him with another former walk-on, Scott Lunde, who played for the Cougars from 2000-03 and was instrumental in a number of wins during that stretch. Lunde caught 72 passes over the 2002-03 seasons and many came in big moments. One difference between Bontemps and Lunde? Wulff said Bontemps has better speed than Lunde.

While Bontemps will play, the likelihood of true freshman Kristoff Williams redshirting is becoming increasingly likely. Wulff said Williams had another setback with his turf toe and "we're going to try and shut him back at this point."

WSU brought in four high school receivers this past class -- Blair Bomber, Bobby Ratliff, Williams and Marquess Wilson -- along with junior-college transfer Isiah Barton. Wulff initially planned to play Williams and Wilson in addition to Barton, but it appears that only Wilson, who has a team-high 281 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions, will play this season among the high-school signees.

One reporter asked Wulff if Wilson did not receive much attention during the recruiting process. Wilson is related to University of Minnesota co-defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee, who was a defensive back from 1985-88 for the Cougars, but he did not recruit him to Minnesota. But a number of schools came after Wilson late in the process after he had pledged WSU. Wulff said that Arizona State offered Wilson a scholarship and, "I know Washington came in and wanted him to change his commitment."


  • Wulff expects senior running back Chantz Staden to play Saturday. Staden has practiced this week.

  • When Wulff was asked about which players have practiced well this week, he started on the defensive line with sophomore Travis Long and senior Bernard Wolfgramm.

  • Wulff said one of the biggest keys to success against USC will be limiting the Trojans' running game. USC is averaging 196.7 rushing yards through three games. Other keys for Wulff include good tackling, not missing scoring opportunities and winning the turnover battle.

  • The Cougars have an awkward schedule that features 11 consecutive games before a pair of bye weeks in November. After that, they play the Apple Cup on Dec. 4 at Martin Stadium. Because of the scheduling quirks, some tweaks are being made -- Wulff said he shortened a practice and canceled a weight-lifting session this week. He said he will need to do more of the same moving forward to keep players healthy.

  • Senior offensive lineman Chris Prummer entered last week's game against Southern Methodist after a teammate committed a personal foul. Wulff didn't identify the player but said the change was related to that infraction.

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