Wulff's PT expectations on Pole, CJ, Kaufusi

THERE ARE NO specific incentives in Washington State coach Paul Wulff's contract for beating Pac-10 teams. But with athletic director Bill Moos, who held the same title from 1995-07 at Oregon, at the WSU helm, it was a natural question for Wulff during his Thursday teleconference as the Cougars host the Ducks in their homecoming game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"I am sure that would be one of those things that came off the record later," Wulff said, jokingly.

WSU (1-4 overall, 0-2 Pac-10) has lost three consecutive games against Oregon (5-0, 2-0) since its last win in 2006. And upsetting the Ducks this Saturday, who average a national-best 56.6 points per game, might be as difficult as ever.

"I think their offense is improving because of the quarterback," Wulff said. "(Sophomore Darron) Thomas is getting more and more comfortable. You've to be disciplined and tackle well."

HE SAID IT will not be much easier for the Cougs when they are on offense.

"Their speed on defense is faster than what we've seen," he said. "We've got a huge challenge, regardless of whether we run or pass."

But Wulff also said the Cougs are better prepared for Oregon than a year ago when they lost 52-6 at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks put relentless pressure on junior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who was intercepted twice and was sacked four times.

The Cougars started a pair of freshman that game -- Tyson Pencer and Alex Reitnouer -- on the left side of the offensive line in that game. This year, a pair of juniors, albeit junior-college transfers, David Gonzalez and Wade Jacobson, man those positions. Neither Pencer (groin) nor Reitnouer (redshirting) will play. And WSU's protection has improved noticeably this season.

"Obviously, we're much improved in our offensive line," Wulff said.

BUT WSU'S DEFENSE HAS been blistered. WSU has been young all year on D, but it looks like it will be even more inexperienced against the Ducks.

Former starting junior middle linebacker Mike Ledgerwood (stinger) is questionable, while starting WIL Alex Hoffman-Ellis (back) is expected back at practice Thursday.

Wulff said Hoffman-Ellis' health could determine who starts and where, but regardless he expects redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi ) and C.J. Mizell to play the majority of the game.

Kaufusi began the week moving from d-end to middle linebacker, and getting increased turns backing up new starter Mizell, but then moved to the No. 1 WIL the past two days with Hoffman-Ellis out.

As expected, and reported earlier, senior safety Chima Nwachukwu (hamstring) is out, which means true freshman Deone Bucannon is likely to start alongside sophomore Tyree Toomer.

Bucannon played less in last week's 42-28 loss at UCLA after Nwachukw returned and Wulff said some coverage mistakes by Bucannon resulted in a pair of touchdowns the previous week against USC.

"We're probably asking more from him mentally right now than he's capable of doing," said Wulff, referring to Bucannon, a true freshman. "There's so much to learn. We're trying to bring him along without shattering his confidence."

ONE TRUE FRESHMAN who will suit up -- but is not expected to play -- is defensive tackle Toni Pole. Wulff said he expected Pole (calf) and true freshman wide receiver Kristoff Williams (turf toe) to play this season, but he now would prefer to redshirt them since the Cougars nearly have reached the midpoint of the season.

Pole, however, remains on red-alert -- Wulff said his playing status will be determined by how the Oregon game is going.

Wulff also is excited about the prospect of his young players competing against the Ducks, who are the defending Pac-10 champions.

"They're at where we're trying to get to," Wulff said. "The measuring stick is the defending champion."

Cougfan Top Stories