Sorensen offers unique insights on Wulff

PART II OF OUR INSIDE LOOK at Paul Wulff through the eyes of Paul Sorensen continues. An All-American safety at Washington State in the '80s, Sorensen has had unique access and insight into the staff at Eastern as the Eagles' radio color commentary man the past four seasons. In the second installment, Sorensen talks coaching and recruiting -- plus the one thing WSU needs most.

Speed. Washington State, to return to bowl games and 10-win seasons, must get faster. Recruiting speed is where Sorensen envisions Wulff's biggest impact -- in both the short and long term.

"Washington State was one of the slowest teams in the Pac-10 last year. And that's about recruiting, period," said Sorensen. "You win because you have guys that can play. It's (the old saying): recruiting is like shaving -- if you don't do it every day, you look like a bum. You have a group of guys coming in who understand that."

Sorensen says Cougar fans can expect Wulff to continue the Washington State tradition of unearthing recruiting gems. When WSU has been successful, it's because they've outworked everyone else on the recruiting trail. He points to EWU receiver Aaron Boyce as an example of Wulff's eye for talent. Boyce played one year of high school football. He was known for his basketball skills.

"And he's one of the best receivers in the conference now. For crying out loud. This kid was playing basketball with (Rodney) Stuckey ... when Wulff found him. What a tremendous find," said Sorensen.

SORENSEN, AN OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE of the need for Washington State to recruit more in-state, says he envisions the Cougs under Wulff identifying -- and signing -- more Evergreen State talent than in recent classes.

"Their philosophy will be to go directly after the University of Washington, directly after Oregon. They're going to attack them in recruiting and go after the types of kids that they've been getting from inside the state. Wulff is going to make sure every kid in the state of Washington, if they want to become a Cougar, will have that chance.

"Wulff's got relationships with all the coaches in the state of Washington. He gets 1500-1600 kids a year who come to his football camp, that's bigger than what Washington State has done in recent years."

WHAT ABOUT CALIFORNIA? The Golden State is the lifeblood of Cougar recruiting. Wulff, a four year starter for the Cougs during his WSU playing career, is from the Sacramento area. Sorensen came out of the Bay Area. Every great team and season Washington State has ever had has been heavy on California talent.

Sorensen says with Wulff's staff, with two spots yet to fill, will have success recruiting California for the same reasons they will be successful in Washington.

"It's about building relationships in California, just like it is everywhere else," said Sorensen. "They didn't have the money at Eastern to go into California. They still figured out a way to get some pretty good football players out of there. That's what people don't realize -- they reached into California -- with no money -- and still brought some good guys up to Eastern.

"So how will they fare in California? That's just going to be a matter of them doing their jobs, establishing their territory and building relationships. They're going to attack it. Paul came out of (Davis, Calif.,) and he can talk to kids and their parents -- first hand -- about his experience coming to Washington State."

THE REACTION TO WULFF assuming the crimson helm has been positive around the Cougar Nation. After his first WSU press conference, Wulff's Q rating shot up higher -- he said all the right things. But as with any new hire, there are those who disagree. Some wanted a bigger name than Wulff. There are those who wanted to see a coaching staff with more BCS experience. Sorensen isn't buying it.

"I'm sick and tired of these guys who think just because it's a I-AA program that they don't play good football," he said. "I personally would not want to play in the Big Sky because I would be out there on an island the entire bleeping time as a safety. No thank you! And Eastern has turned out more offensive linemen to the NFL than WSU has these last 10 years."

Wulff also points to Dennis Erickson and Mike Price as two who arrived in Pullman from the I-AA ranks. Price was 46-44 at Weber State, Erickson was 6-6 at Wyoming, (though 32-15 at Idaho).

"People are going to say Wulff's a I-AA coach but those two other guys came into Washington State and they didn't have as good a record at their last stop as Paul Wulff (53-40). Three-time Big Sky Conference coach of the year, won the league three times, 21 All-America players (through '06), and 15 have been offensive lineman. And he did it without the money."

SORENSEN DRAWS DISTINCT PARALLELS between Eastern and Washington State and their place, historically, in their respective league's food chains.

"Wulff has competed toe to toe with Montana -- and Montana is the USC of the 1-AA Division," said Sorensen. "Eastern dominated Montana -- they lost by one this year and they shouldn't have -- but Eastern dominated those guys this year. The big picture is Wulff's leaving Eastern in great shape. When you have a strong program like that, you don't have extended periods of losing. Wazzu's has been losing the last four years.

"He's been able to bring in guys and he has made the team better and better each time -- that's not easy to do," said Sorensen. "If I was one of the three other schools in the Northwest, I'd be a little nervous right now. It's a great day to be a Cougar. They hired the right guy at the right time."

SORENSEN, WHO IN addition to calling Eastern's games the past four seasons has also been broadcasting the Big Sky Game of the Week on Fox more years than he can count, says the reason WSU made the right choice in Wulff can be boiled down to two points.

"You have a guy with great vision, and you have a guy who is very, very committed to your program," he said. "I give full credit to those guys for making the decision they did a very, very nice job in their search," said Sorensen.

Sorensen is referring, primarily, to A.D. Jim Sterk and to Bill Moos, whom Sterk brought in as search consultant. Sterk said this week Wulff was a dark horse candidate when the hiring process began. Sorensen adds another layer of insight -- Wulff was able to hit the home run in his interview with Sterk because of Moos.

"What Bill has done behind the scenes, along with Jim Sterk, is to really position Washington State very advantageously in the state by getting Paul Wulff hired. He would have had a tough time getting that interview if it wasn't for Moos. I am really proud of the school for doing what they did," said Sorensen.

Click here if you missed Part I, where Sorensen covers the offense, defense and special teams.

NOTABLE NOTE:
Paul Sorensen played safety for the Cougars from 1980-81, earning first-team All-American honors as a senior. He later played in the NFL and USFL. From 1985-98 he was the color commentator on radio broadcasts of Cougar football. A long-time assistant coach in the Greater Spokane League, he's also been writing periodically for CF.C since 1999.


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