Incoming Coug footballers offer intrigue

AFTER LISTENING TO Paul Wulff describe his first crop of Cougar recruits, it's easy to get a sense of the foundation he's laying. Twelve times late last month in the annual coaches dinner with King and Pierce county alums, Wulff used these words or derivatives thereof while assessing the 25 kids in the class: tough, leader, smart, competitive.

Sounds a bit like Bennett Ball.

High character and toughness, Wulff said in his prefacing remarks, are going to be the hallmarks of the Cougar recruiting philosophy. So, too, it seems, are grades. Time again, Wulff uttered the phrase "excellent student" during his summary of the 2008 class.

Indeed, says WSU recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen, only one member of the Cougars' incoming class looks to be a question-mark with academic eligibility. He didn't disclose the name. He also said that high retention is critical to building long-term success, so the Cougs will continue to be judicious when it comes to prospects with academic uncertainty.

Wulff said he's already made about a dozen scholarship offers to kids who will be high school seniors this fall. One of his selling points is this sterling fact: Washington State has been to the Rose Bowl twice in the last 10 years -– an achievement no other school in the Pac-10 can outdo except USC.

In his review of the 2008 recruits, Wulff showed video clips of each player. Three kids drew gasps of "Oh!" from the crowd of 350 after particularly devastating hits. They were defensive end/tight end Adam Coerper of Hood River, Ore.; defensive end/receiver Cory Mackay of Redmond; and safety Jay Matthews of Lake Oswego, Ore.

Both Coerper and Matthews were headed to Portland State to play for Jerry Glanville before Wulff took over at WSU. Mackay had verbally committed to Washington.

Wulff said Coerper, who is 6-5 and 235, is "the type of kid Washington State has made a living off" over the years. In other words, he has the frame and athleticism to develop into a stellar player at a number of positions. Wulff projects he'll be at 260 pounds in short order.

The 6-1, 200-pound Matthews is a physical player with outstanding speed, Wulff said. He's also mature and possesses excellent leadership skills.

As for the 6-4, 215-pound Mackay, Wulff was succinct: "Ya gotta love this guy." The Cougars are projecting him as a slot receiver or possibly a defensive end. His clips were a powerful endorsement of his defensive talents -– fast off the edge and punishing on the quarterback.

Wulff is a devout believer in redshirting players their first year, but says depth concerns may force some newcomers to play immediately. Foremost among them are JC defensive end Bernard Wolfgramm (6-3, 270) from College of San Mateo and JC running back/receiver Chantz Staden (5-11, 200) of DeAnza College.

Wolfgramm has the potential to develop into one of the finer defensive lineman in the Pac-10, Wulff said. And Chantz is a "big, physical player who should instantly help us this fall -– we'll try to get him all over the field in mismatches."

Two other newcomers could be in line instant action are prep cornerbacks Kevin Frank of Elk Grove, Calif., and Daniel Simmons of Ontario, Calif. Simmons, he said, is a fierce competitor. Frank, who also played quarterback in high school, is the fastest player in the class, Wulff said, with 40 speed in the 4.3 to 4.4 range. His uncle is Ricky Reynolds, a long-time NFL standout and old teammate of Wulff's at WSU.

Wulff said the Sacramento area, where Frank is from and where Wulff himself grew up, hasn't traditionally been a place where WSU spends a lot of time recruiting. There's considerable talent there, he said, and the Cougs will be in there fighting for it.

Other Wulff highlights from his recruiting class run down were:

• JC offensive lineman Zack Williams has what it takes to develop into an NFL player. A redshirt season will prove invaluable, so that's the tentative plan at this point.

• Defensive back Terrance Hayward, who just turned 16, would have been one of the top prep prospects in California next year if still in high school. He has huge upside, Wulff said.

• Offensive lineman Tim Hodgdon has some "nastiness in him" that will serve the Cougars well.

• Tight end Andrei Lintz of tiny Meridian High near Bellingham was one of the best prep prospects in the state and could develop into an All-Pac-10 type of talent.

• Receiver Kevin Norrell looks tailor-made to work out of the slot, but also could turn into a top-flight punt returner.

• Wulff wasn't ready to name the name, but said the Cougars will be bringing in a walk-on JC kicker this fall who has a leg that can put kickoffs into the endzone.

• Wulff said he wants players who have a service mindset – a sincere desire to help make everyone around them better.

• For fans who post on message boards, Wulff said he encourages a positive tone because prospective recruits read every word out there and it influences where they decide to attend college.

• When spring practices open on March 17, senior Gary Rogers will get the first opportunity to prove he should be the starting quarterback, "and then we'll see how it works out."

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