He ideally would like to sign a class that consists predominantly of high-school players and redshirt the majority of them.
But Wulff said during his Letter-of-Intent Day teleconference Wednesday that a lack of depth at most positions did not allow him to do that last season. He said that will not be as significant of an issue this year, but he did recruit heavily on the offensive and defensive lines to address depth issues there.
AND THE COUGARS are not finished in that regard. Wulff said the Cougars could add more linemen, which he said again will be a priority in the 2012 signing class, anywhere from immediately to the next couple of months. One prospect, Montclair Prep's Stephan Nembot, initially committed to WSU before switching to Washington. But Nembot is expected to make a final decision between the two Evergreen state schools and Colorado at announcement scheduled for 5 p.m. While not mentioning Nembot by name, Wulff seemed to indicate he did not anticipate him signing with the program, UW, that many expect.
Regardless of where Nembot or others sign, Wulff called it "a quality class."
"A lot of times when you sign a lot of linemen versus skill players, it doesn't look as flashy," he said.
Wulff said he does not anticipate playing as many true freshmen as last season, but added that some will be needed. He said as many as eight first-year players, between high-school and junior-college transfers, could see the field immediately. Many of those could be on the lines, but there could be exceptions. He cited Curtis wide receiver Rahmel Dockery and linebacker Chester Su'a from Honolulu as possible exceptions (see chart below for Wulff's comments on each signing).
He said this is the first class where the coaching staff specifically has been able to target players they felt could redshirt because of the program's depth at the position. That includes junior-college transfers on the offensive line as Wulff said he hopes to add experience at those positions when linemen such as David Gonzales, Wade Jacobson and Andrew Roxas graduate. Redshirting some of the incoming junior-college transfers allows them to adapt to the program before playing the next two seasons, Wulff said. One example of that was Zack Williams, who redshirted in 2008 before starting the next two seasons.
Wulff also said the Cougars' focus on linemen was a contributing factor in the small number of in-state signings. He said it was a poor year for linemen on the West Coast. As of 2 p.m., WSU's Evergreen State signings were restricted to a small Pierce County footprint. Dockery and Max Hersey are from Curtis, while Tana Pritchard signed out of Clover Park in nearby Lakewood.
THAT NUMBER WAS hindered by the defection of Spokane running back Bishop Sankey, who signed with UW. Wulff did not mention him by name, but said "the local (defection) was not a surprise." He said the only surprise came from a recent defection from California, presumably lineman Brandon Tuliaupupu who bolted for UCLA.
Wulff said an early signing period would curtail much of that as said coaches who preach the importance of accountability and integrity need to practice it on the recruiting side.
"I just think we're sending a really bad message," he said. "These coaches are telling players before they get to their program that their word doesn't mean anything. It's hypocritical."
Wulff said most of the recruits stuck to their word. He noted the number of early commitments, particularly those coming from the Orlando, Fla., area, where the Cougars signed four players. Wulff said it started with a connection legendary WSU quarterback Mark Rypien had with a high-school coach in that area. He said it was enhanced because there are several rural areas surrounding Orlando, which made those players comfortable with coming to Pullman.
"Those kids came here with their parents and absolutely fell in love with the place," Wulff said.
Some other recruits and their parents expressed concern about Wulff's job security. In three seasons at WSU, Wulff has a 5-32 record.
"Kids asked about it and it is something you have to overcome," he said. "It does weigh very heavily on kids and parents minds."
"It's fueled by coaches. When you tell them what I've had to overcome ... they get it. They understand why we weren't very good. That really alleviated a lot of the negative recruiting that was targeted toward us."
In a few other program notes, Wulff said he would like to sign another running back, but anticipates strong competition between Rickey Galvin, whom he said now is weight lifting after breaking his right arm on his first collegiate carry on Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State, and senior Logwone Mitz. Wulff said he also is more confident that James Montgomery will be granted a sixth-year of eligibility after having surgery to correct acute compartment syndrome in his left leg in 2009. He said incoming freshman Marcus Mason also will compete for the starting position.
Wulff confirmed that Devontae Butler-Booker, who signed with the Cougars last February, will head to Fresno State. He said that Butler-Booker still has a lot of work to accomplish to qualify, though.
Wulff also wants to improve the kickoff and punt return units and said "explosive" players such as Blair Bomber, Henry Eaddy and Dockery all will have opportunities to play on those units.
He also was asked about Malik Roberson's status as the team's defensive-line coach. It's been widely reported he would not return this season.
"There's been no announcement on that," Wulff said.
2011 SIGNING CLASS:
"He's athletic, extremely tough and a high-end competitor," Wulff said. "I think he's going to be kind of the hidden gem in this class. He's going to force the issue with the quarterbacks in this program."
"He's very thick player," Wulff said. "He's going to create a lot of strength for us in our defensive line. You can't get enough young defensive line."
"He's one of those flashy, explosive players," Wulff said. "We anticipate him helping right away. We're starting to collect some explosive players in the program."
"He will be one of the fastest players on the team," Wulff said. "He has an excellent chance of contributing this fall."
"He's got all the potential in the world to be a great player," he said.
"We expect a lot out of Ian," he said.
"He's blessed with a lot of physical ability," he said.
"He gives us excellent speed and explosiveness," Wulff said. "The competition there is going to be fierce."
"He's just a fanatic," Wulff said. "He's a football junky."
"He's going to bring us an attitude and some real physical play from the linebacker position," he said.
"Tana's already recruiting," Wulff said. "He's going to be a great asset to Cougar football."
"He's got great instincts, tremendous toughness and aggression," he said. "It's a matter of time before he's an impact player in this conference."
"He's a heck of an athlete," Wulff said. "He's someone who could play right away because of his size and strength."
"He's a very physical corner," he said. "His toughness is going to bring a lot to our CB position."
"He's someone who can make an impact this fall," Wulff said. "Lenard is going to be a player we're going to rely on because of his size, speed and strength."