Wulff seeks speed, Burns moves to RB

PULLMAN – Monday was a day of change, both anticipated and unanticipated, for the Cougs. As expected, the offensive line rotation was at full pitch with the season ending forearm fracture suffered by LT David Gonzales. But the coaches had another wrinkle in store, too. Redshirt freshman LB Arthur Burns made his return to the offense, and the running back position he starred at as a prepster.

Arthur Burns spent much of his true frosh campaign at WSU redshirting as a scout team running back before being moved to strongside linebacker. Why move Burns back to running back now? For starters, Paul Wulff said, speed and explosiveness.

"We're trying to add a little more speed and interject that to the backfield," Wulff said. "We're going to give Arthur a chance to do that and see if he can give us a boost at the running back position."

The move, however, might not pay immediate dividends for this week. There's a learning curve involved.

"How much he'll play this week is probably not as great because of just getting back and learning what we're doing. But he should pick it up fairly quick," said Wulff.

Rickey Galvin, who was expected to be a featured back this season, suffered a reason ending injury on his first carry of the season. On Monday, RB Chantz Staden (chest) was a little more involved but still missed the majority of practice. And WSU's running backs corps have simply struggled, along with the o-line, to mount a consistent running attack this season.

Wulff also said the emergence of true freshman Eric Oertel at the SAM made moving Burns back to offense a win-win.

Burns is a 5-11, 206-pounder out of Corona, Calif. At Centennial High his senior season, Burns rammed, battered and sprinted his way to 1,760 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was ranked a 3-star prospect and No. 68 in the nation as a running back.

WITH LEFT TACKLE David Gonzales out for the rest of 2010, Steve Morton was tinkering like a mad scientist on Monday to fill the void. One of those candidates to protect Jeff Tuel's blindside is true freshman John Fullington.

"Everyone that we have on the o-line is ready to step up," Fullington said. "We're going to miss David, he's a great tackle, but we know someone can step in and do great."

Fullington, usually at right tackle, switched over to the left side and got an extended look there running with the 1s on Monday. When Fullington would take a breather, LG Wade Jacobsen would slide down to LT, and Andrew Roxas would step in at LG with the first team.

"Wherever coach wants me I'll play," Fullington said. "I'm feeling comfortable on both side -- it's just a little extra work if I'm going to play left side but it's going to be good."

RT Micah Hannam returned to practice after missing a week with a concussion. He was in a yellow no-contact jersey to start the week. Another move made by Morton was putting in TE Skylar Stormo at RT, seeing some reps in place of Hannam.

"Coach Morton moved some guys around," Wulff said. "We didn't do enough (Monday) to see anything (definitive), not until we get through some practices. We'll start rotating guys in there. We'll give Skylar Stormo some reps in there as an emergency situation as well, he's the one we add."

Zack Williams is the man at center, and one of the line's most consistent performers. But the senior hoss has had considerable issues in cleanly getting the ball to QB Jeff Tuel in the shotgun. In Saturday's 24-7 loss against the Wildcats, Williams had numerous low snaps.

And Wulff was not happy about it.

"It bothers the heck out of me and it bothers all of us," Wulff said. "It messes with Jeff and any quarterbacks rhythm -- and he's got to get better. We need to be more consistent to help out our quarterback."

MONDAYS TYPICALLY SEE a number of players who sit out with injury but are expected to play by the time Saturday rolls around. LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis (back), Aire Justin (knee) and Brandon Rankin (rest) were all spectators for Monday's session.

With Hoffman-Ellis out, Sekope Kaufusi saw the turns with the 1's at the WIL position. At MLB, C.J. Mizell returned to practice following his one game suspension for an undisclosed team rules violation. He was backed up by Mike Ledgerwood, who returned to practice after being out with a neck injury. DT Anthony Laurenzi filled in for Rankin.

Safety Chima Nwachukwu also missed full speed drills, but the senior was in full uniform and was doing plenty of rehab work on the sidelines.

CF.C BROKE THE news on Sunday on two big verbal commitments – DE/DT Stephan Nembot and WR Dominique Williams – and the buzz around Pullman and in cyberspace has been electric. Wulff can't comment specifically on incoming recruits until Signing Day in February but can speak generally about recruiting. Including one classified as a soft verbal, the Cougs have 19 known verbal commitments.

"I think it's going to be a rival to the best class we ever had -- which would have been a year ago," Wulff said. "We've never had this many commitments, obviously, in the middle of October. I think it speaks volumes of our vision as coaches, and the players vision in the program selling it to our recruits.

"They're not looking at losses or what's happened in the past, they're seeing how things are moving forward. They all see it, and I couldn't be (happier) with our commitment list right now. And I say this; we're building something special right now. And this is just more of that."

NOTABLE NOTES:
CB Damante Horton (knee) was at practice Monday and was wearing crutches Monday night.

WR Jeffrey Solomon (knee) was also at practice Monday, but was able to walk on his own and got rid of his crutches.

Wulff, according to The Spokesman-Review, told a Spokane luncheon crowd that running back Devontae Butler-Booker has met his academic qualification requirements and will enroll at WSU for the spring semester. A 5-foot-11, 180-pounder in high school, Butler-Booker signed in February but was a longshot to initially qualify for the 2010 season out of Sacramento's Grant High.


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