Wulff offers injury update, spring preview

STANDOUT COUGAR defensive end Travis Long's recent surgery to repair a shoulder tear went well and his recovery is right on track, Washington State head coach Paul Wulff told CF.C this week. Long, an honorable mention all-Pac-10 selection, won't be able to participate in spring workouts but he should be cleared to start lifting weights in March and is expected to be 100 percent early this summer.

Long, a sophomore, actually injured the shoulder during his freshman season, and has worked with trainers to heal through rehab but it became clear this season that surgery eventually was needed.

"He played through it all season," Wulff said.

The Spokane product led the Cougars in tackles- for-loss this past season, with 10.5, and posted 51 total tackles.

Long's is the only off-season surgery the Cougars have had, Wulff said. That contrasts with recent years, when there were multiple surgeries each off season.

It's not a coincidence, the coach says. The rigorous weight training and conditioning program that was introduced three years ago is paying dividends. "Our kids are getting bigger and stronger and that reduces the number of injuries," he said.

In fact, the combination of a bolstered roster and a healthy one will allow Wulff to make some changes in how he structures the spring season.

"For the first time since we've been here, we have quality depth at all positions," Wulff said. That means he can run simultaneous 11-on-11 drills, for instance, that would allow lots of reps every day for many players.

Wulff said he plans to start spring ball in early March, getting three practices in before the school's spring break, and then coming back later in the month for the bulk of workouts.

He also said WSU is kicking around the notion of holding the spring finale -- the Crimson and Gray game -- in Spokane. If the past is prologue, it might be a good move. The last time the Cougars held the C & G game at Albi Stadium, in 2001, the team went on to rack up the first of three straight 10-win seasons.

Before spring ball, however, there's the two months leading up to it, and Wulff says it will be critical that every player attack the weights. He has no doubt they will. "It's a key step in our development. We're building something special here – everyone, players and coaches – is extremely excited about where our program is headed. The kids are putting in the hard work they know is necessary to take us to the next level."

ELSEWHERE ON THE INJURY front, Wulff said that left tackle David Gonzales and linebacker Louis Bland would be knocking heads in spring ball. Gonzales started the first seven games of 2010 before suffering a forearm break. Bland was a starter as a true freshman in 2009 but went down with a knee injury late that year that shelved him through all of 2010.

There's also good news at running back. Two guys who went down in September in the season opener at Oklahoma State -- Rickey Galvin (arm) and fullback Jared Byers (knee) -– are expected to be ready for spring ball. So is defensive back Jay Matthews, who injured a shoulder last summer and missed all of 2010. Defensive end-turned-offensive tackle Dan Spitz, is still recovering from shoulder surgery this past fall but is expected to see action, though limited, in spring ball, Wulff added. The coach also said promising offensive lineman Tyson Pencer -– hampered by an ongoing hip issue -- is making strides and the hope is to have him ready for the 2011 campaign.

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