Wulff: Bill Moos supportive of rebuilding job

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Paul Wulff talked job security, more about the changes this week on the defensive side of the ball, recruiting and much more in a wide ranging press conference on Tuesday.

Various websites this offseason and season have listed Washington State coach Paul Wulff as being in one of the hottest coaching seats in college football.

But during Tuesday's teleconference, Wulff described his support from school administration and athletic director Bill Moos as very good. Wulff has a 4-26 record in three years at WSU but repeatedly has noted underlying factors, such as loss of eight scholarships because of academic sanctions by the NCAA under previous coach Bill Doba in addition to small numbers of upperclassmen, as reasons behind those struggles.

"I think Bill Moos understands," Wulff said. "He's built football programs in the past. It's a process."

In lauding the recruiting class he signed in February, Wulff said most recruits understand that the Cougars (1-4 overall, 0-2 Pac-10) are rebuilding.

"They see it and that's why we continue to get quality recruits," he said. "They know we can't go from last place to the Rose Bowl this year."

Wulff, whose team hosts No. 3 Oregon (5-0, 2-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday, appears to have settled on a youth movement on the defensive side. He previously began rotating true freshman Deone Bucannon with senior Chima Nwachukwu at safety, though Nwachukwu's injuries has also played a role. Wulff is also making other moves this week as reported earlier by CF.C, including moving redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi from defensive end to middle linebacker.

AT THE BEGINNING of the season, junior Mike Ledgerwood and senior Hallston Higgins were battling for the starting job at that position. But after five games with the Cougar D giving up an average of 500-plus yards, Wulff said either Kaufusi or true freshman C.J. Mizell will compete for that distinction against the Ducks.

In addition to the size the 6-foot-3, 233-pound Kaufusi brings to linebacker, Wulff said he also runs and tackles well. As for Mizell, he arguably was the most heralded member of the 2010 class. He's shown flashes, to be sure, but has also made mistakes of youth in games. Mizell originally signed with Florida State in 2009, but did not qualify. Scout.com listed him as a four-star (out of five) recruit.

Wulff said both players will have an opportunity to play on the first-team defense during practice before a decision is made, and that the decision is not an indictment on Ledgerwood or Higgins. Wulff said Ledgerwood, who suffered a stringer in the Sept. 4 season opener at Oklahoma State, continues to have neck spasms. As for Higgins, Wulff said it is important for Kaufusi and Mizell to get experience for the future.

Another notable change involves redshirt freshman Anthony Carpenter moving from cornerback to safety. Wulff said Carpenter initially was signed to play safety, but they decided to look at him as a cornerback for reasons of depth. Since that time, sophomore LeAndre Daniels (neck) suffered a career-ending injury, while Jay Matthews (shoulder) is sidelined for the season. Nwachukwu (hamstring) also might not be available to play against Oregon.

Wulff said he also feels comfortable in moving Carpenter to safety, noting that he runs and tackles well, because WSU is beginning to build depth at cornerback. Both starters -- sophomore Daniel Simmons and redshirt freshman Nolan Washington -- are projected to return next year in addition to junior Aire Justin, who has started in the past, and true freshman Damante Horton.

In addition to that quartet, Wulff said that the coaching staff likes a pair of cornerbacks, Tracy Clark and Brandon Golden, who are redshirting this season. He also noted a verbal commitment for the 2011 class they're high on, though Wulff per NCAA rule cannot mention by name current recruits until Signing Day in February. The Cougs have a verbal commitment from Florida corner Spencer Waseem.

Regardless of changes, Wulff said the Cougars face a challenge against the Ducks. There was some conjecture by the media during the offseason that Oregon might be challenged to repeat as conference champions after starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team. But Wulff said Masoli's replacement, sophomore Darron Thomas, also runs well and is a much better passer than his predecessor.

Thomas, who has completed 78 of 135 passes for 1,060 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, is far from the Ducks' only star on offense, though. Wulff compared running back LaMichael James, who has 712 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 carries, with former WSU standout Jerome Harrison. And when James is not playing, Oregon uses Kenjon Barner. He has rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 33 attempts.

"Give them a little room and it's all over," Wulff said.

Oregon averages a nation-best 56.6 points per game and Wulff said shutting its offense down is not realistic.

"If I had the key, everyone in the country would be talking to me," he said. "You've got to be very disciplined, get off blocks and tackle one-on-one. It's easier said than done."

IF THE DUCKS have a weakness, it arguably is their secondary. They allow 205.4 passing yards per game, which is 60th nationally. But Wulff said much of that is the byproduct of teams falling behind Oregon and its aggressive defensive schemes.

"We're facing an extremely fast defense that gives you a tremendous amount of different looks," he said. "They're so prolific in their offense ... that their defense can gamble."

During Saturday's 52-31 win against Stanford, the Ducks fell behind 21-3 entering the second quarter. But coach Chip Kelly told his players to ignore the scoreboard. Wulff, whose team led UCLA in the third quarter Saturday before losing 42-28, agrees with that sentiment.

"We always talk about the scoreboard lying until the clock runs out and that's where the truth really is," he said. "That's something we're trying to breed with our kids and program."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Wulff said sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel, who completed 20 of 37 for 311 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA, has benefited from the development of his wide receivers and offensive line. The Cougars now rank 31st among Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 253.4 passing yards per game.

    "I really think our offense can continue to take huge strides," Wulff said.

  • True freshman defensive lineman Kalafitoni Pole has returned to practice on a limited basis. Wulff said another true freshman, wide receiver Kristoff Williams (turf toe), will undergo another MRI soon. Wulff said he is leaning toward redshirting both players as WSU nearly is midway through its season.

  • The Cougars face ranked teams in each of the next three weeks. After Oregon, they host No. 9 Arizona and then head to No. 16 Stanford. Wulff said wide-receivers coach Mike Levenseller, who is in his 19th season with the program, told him that this is the strongest he has ever seen the conference.

    "I think I can argue with anyone that this is the strongest conference in America," Wulff said. "I don't know that it's close. I think this conference is as strong as ever."

  • Wulff was asked about junior wide receiver Jared Karstetter, who has 255 yards and four touchdowns on 23 receptions, after catching just 38 passes last year. He said Karstetter's toughness and route running are the reasons behind his progression.


  • Cougfan Top Stories