Wulff talks about Tuel, being a fan, and more

IT'S OFFICIAL. Paul Wulff has made the transition from Cougar coach to Cougar fan. Since leaving Pullman for San Francisco two weeks ago, the latest updates on his favorite college team are no longer available over the fence or down the street. So he texted Cougfan.com the other day with a question about signing up for a subscription.

Now that he's joined Jim Harbaugh's staff with the 49ers, he's just like the rest of the crimson faithful when it comes to the Cougs.

In a phone conversation over the weekend, Wulff left no doubt he remains a loyalist despite not being allowed to complete the program's rebuild in what would have been the fifth year of his five-year contract.

"I follow the Cougs," he said. "I haven't been able to the last couple of weeks (with the move to the Bay Area) but I definitely follow 'em, absolutely. I'm very excited to watch the Cougars this fall ... I think they're a seven- or eight-win team, with nine not being out of the question."

One guy in particular he can't wait to see play is Jeff Tuel, who saw a collective 1½ games worth of action last season due to injury.

"The way Jeff performed in spring a year ago and then last August, I really felt he was going to be right there with Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. I believe in Jeff ... The one thing to remember about him is that, aside from last season, he's been the guy since his freshman year. He's experienced, he knows what it's all about. This is going to be the breakout year for him that we felt he was going to have last year before the injuries. It's going to be fun to watch him."

The fact last season's Cougs ranked second in the Pac-12 and ninth in the nation in passing even though Tuel was stuck on the sidelines is a point of pride, Wulff said.

"We were so close to turning it around last season and really ushering in a period of sustained success," he says wistfully.

He said Phil Steele, the college football magazine publisher, recently shared some interesting stats on that progress: WSU is one of only six teams in the nation to improve in total offense and total defense in each of the last two seasons; and that WSU was the only school in the country to increase its points scored and decrease its points allowed in each of the last two seasons.

Looking at where, and how quickly, his assistant coaches landed on their feet after the firing speaks to the quality of their rebuilding work in Pullman, Wulff said.

"When a staff is let go, it's not an easy thing. With wives and kids, you're talking about 50 people who are getting uprooted. That's a lot of change, and I felt responsible for it ... That was my biggest worry (after being let go), making sure everyone found a job … It's a relief to see where they are, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the staff and what we accomplished in a short time when you see where they landed. I couldn't be more proud."

Todd Sturdy is the offensive coordinator at Iowa State; Chris Tormey is the defensive coordinator at Wyoming; Jody Sears is the interim head coach at Weber State; Chris Ball is the secondary coach at Arizona State; Todd Howard is coaching the defensive line at Cal; Mike Levenseller is the passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Idaho; Rich Rasmussen is the director of player personnel at Boise State; and Steve Morton and Dave Ungerer have taken administrative positions within WSU athletics, as has Shawn Deeds, who was Wulff's coordinator of football operations. In addition, Travis Niekamp, who was director of development for Wulff, is now the tight ends and special teams coach at Louisiana-Monroe.

As for his job with the 49ers, which will have a heavy emphasis on game planning as well as work with the offensive line, Wulff said initial plans to take a year off went out the window about two months ago.

Once everyone on his staff was settled, he started to get the itch. "I'd had some inquiries (over the winter) but I wasn't ready," he said. He did spend time visiting with different coaches around the country, not job searching but collecting ideas and observations about the game of football. One of his stops was the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he and Harbaugh had a chance to talk. That led to more conversation about a month ago, and now Wulff is an offensive assistant with the defending NFC West champions.

"When this opportunity came up with Jim, it felt comfortable, the right place to be," Wulff said.

His family will move down in June.

In the meantime, he's neck deep in OTAs this week following a rookie mini-camp last week. Free agent David Gonzales, one of Wulff's Cougar offensive linemen the last two years, is doing well with the Niners and the staff is impressed so far, he said. "I'm very pleased."

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