Young CB poised, coachable, ready for Badgers

PULLMAN -- Few things are guaranteed heading into the first weekend of the college football season, but there are at least two certainties that fans can look for when Washington State debuts Sept. 1 at seventh-ranked Wisconsin. First, the Badgers will test Chima Nwachukwu, a true freshman starting at cornerback.

Secondly, Nwachukwu will handle things like a man, whether he flourishes or falls flat on his facemask.

"Isn't he amazing?" asked cornerbacks coach Dave Walkosky, referring to Nwachukwu's maturity as much as his talent. "He's just a great kid."

Indeed, reporters have quickly learned that Chima Nwachukwu (Chee-ma Watch-uh-koo) is as poised in interviews as he is on the field.

"I think I'm solid. They (doubters) can say whatever," Nwachukwu said after the Cougars engaged in a light practice Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

Nwachukwu, who doesn't turn 19 until April, said he came to WSU because of the academics (he's a political science major who wants to become a lawyer), and because he saw the opportunity to play right away. The Allen, Texas, native said he never ruled out starting as a freshman.

"I like what the coaches say: ‘The best are going to play,'" Nwachukwu said.

"He's ultra-coachable, which is just great," Walkosky said. "He buys into everything you say. He doesn't question the coaching. He takes the coaching and tries to fix it (problems) the next day.

"You wish all players were like that. He's so hungry for knowledge. When he asks questions, he has good questions related to what you've put in."

The 5-foot-11, 189-pound Nwachukwu said he accelerated the learning process by taking part in all of WSU's unofficial summer workouts.

Walkosky said Nwachukwu "obviously" received outstanding coaching in high school, where he was recruited by several schools (including Wisconsin briefly) from all over the country. Safeties coach Leon Burtnett, who recruits Texas, wooed Nwachukwu after the youngster had second thoughts about his verbal commitment to Rice when the Owls' coaches left for Tulsa.

"He's a fast-twitch (muscles) guy," Walkosky said. "He's put together great. When I met him, I thought, ‘Holy cow, he looks the part.' He plays a physical role. He's built like a safety; he hits like a safety; but he covers like a corner."

Nwachukwu and WSU's other starting cornerback, junior college safety Devin Giles, have never played in a college game. Nwachukwu and Walkosky insist that doesn't worry them.

"The secondary is filled with veterans," Nwachukwu said. "The seniors, they know what they're doing, so Devin and I are soaking up the information they have to give us."

"Coach Burtnett coaches hard," Walkosky said. "I coach hard. We expect excellence on every snap, so at game time, it's not going to be a problem."

INJURY REPORT: Trainer Bill Drake said Lance Broadus, a starting defensive end last season, is "doubtful" for Wisconsin. Broadus is recovering from shoulder surgery and has yet to do any tackling. Drake said outside linebacker Andy Mattingly should play in the opener with a brace and tape on his recently sprained ankle.

Long snapper/tight end Tony Thompson is recovering nicely from a knee sprain and will be ready for the Badgers, Drake said. He is hopeful that Gibson will be ready but noted "it's too early to tell" if Gibson's ailing left knee will come around in time.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: Not only did head coach Bill Doba not ask for a pay raise when he added his old defensive coordinator and linebacker coaching duties to his job description, but he asked that some of the money paid to former defensive coordinator Robb Akey be spread around to other assistants.

Burtnett, who effectively has become deputy defensive coordinator, received the biggest bump in pay, going from $103,107 to $120,000. Offensive line coach George Yarno ($113,422), quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach ($105,008), tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Greg Peterson ($103,000) and defensive tackles coach Mike Walker ($100,000) all picked up several thousand dollars.

New Cougars assistants Walkosky and Steve Broussard (running backs) make $100,000 per year and new defensive ends coach Marty Long makes $105,000.

Offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, the highest-paid assistant, stayed at $132,870. Doba earns $440,000, plus bonuses.

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