WSU D-line: Rotation ready

WHAT WILL THE interior of the d-line look like on Saturday when the Cougs line up against Arizona State? Will last week's starting change at DT still be in place this coming Saturday, or is a first year Cougar with seven starts under his belt ready to jump back in?

It was a sudden change to the starting lineup against Stanford. After starting the first seven games of the year, junior Brandon Rankin was displaced by sophomore Anthony Laurenzi at one defensive tackle spot.

But Paul Wulff said during his Thursday presser he does not anticipate it to again be the case at 4 p.m. Saturday when the Cougars play at Arizona State -- Wulff said Rankin likely will start alongside senior Bernard Wolfgramm.

Wulff had said Sunday that the change was made because Rankin has not displayed enough consistency. That does not mean he is displeased with Rankin, who sat out last season in order to gain eligibility, though.

"Whether you're a junior-college player or high school … that first year is not an easy one for anyone," Wulff said. "You're not going to get consistency until your second or third year."

Regardless of which players start, the preferable option is always to be able to rotate -- if you have the depth. Wulff said everyone on the defensive line will see plenty of playing time and that they'll frequently rotate players at ASU.

Senior defensive end Casey Hamlett (concussion) should be able to play against the Sun Devils, said Wulff. Hamlett started eight games in 2009, but senior Kevin Kooyman and sophomore Travis Long have done that in every contest this season.

The change at DT last week had surprised some Cougar fans because Rankin was a junior college All-American with 24 sacks in 2008 at Butte College in California, though played a lot of the time at defensive end there. Rankin told CF.C on Wednesday that being demoted to second string was an "eye opener."

In other injury news, Wulff said senior safety Chima Nwachukwu, who started the first five games of the season, might be able to return this week after missing three contests because of hamstring injury. Nwachukwu was able to participate in half of Wednesday's practice. He also said starting redshirt freshman cornerback Nolan Washington (thumb) will play with a splint the rest of the year.

ASU (3-4 overall, 1-3 conference) reportedly has not changed much during practice this week -- they feature some similarity in schemes to WSU (1-7, 0-5). Wulff, who agreed with that assessment, said the Sun Devils are able to pit their first-stringers against each other because they mostly are healthy. He said his team has too many injuries and lacks the depth to do that consistently, though they've been able to do so with more frequency this year than the previous two.

Despite that, Wulff said he is happy with how his team has practiced for the last month. He attributes that to the competitiveness his team showed against three consecutive ranked opponents -- Oregon, Arizona and Stanford.

"You can sense the culture changing in terms of work ethic," Wulff said. "We're drawing a lot more consistency daily than we ever have."

He also expects junior ASU quarterback Steven Threet, who suffered a concussion last week against California, to start against the Cougars. If Threet is unable to play, Wulff said he's more familiar with sophomore backup Brock Osweiler than junior Samson Szakacsy, the latter having recently been demoted to third string.

"(Osweiler's) a big, big kid with a good arm," Wulff said.


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