Giles heads list as Cougs make the grade

PULLMAN – Paul Wulff said all of WSU's veterans and recruits should be cleared academically by Tuesday. And that includes 2007 starting cornerback Devin Giles, who missed spring practice and took a heavy class load during the spring and summer semesters to become eligible. He wasn't the only Coug hitting the books hard this summer.

Washington State football players recorded a team-record 3.13 grade point average during the summer session. It was welcome news to the program, which was docked eight scholarships by the NCAA in May for poor academic performances in recent years.

The Cougars finished the 2007-08 academic year with the highest GPA (2.72) on record for WSU football teams for cumulative grades throughout the players' careers.

"We're stressing the importance of doing well academically," said Wulff, who will push the Cougars through their opening fall practice Tuesday. "Our coaches are supporting our academic people, who have done an outstanding job of getting these kids on track."

Wulff said he expects senior Markus Dawes, another potential starter at cornerback, to miss at least the season opener with Oklahoma State (Aug. 30 at Seattle's Qwest Field). The oft-injured Dawes is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Wulff said Dwight Tardy, WSU's leading rusher the past two seasons, is "100 percent cleared" to participate in all practices. Tardy missed the end of last season due to knee surgery.

"He's done a great job working hard to get himself ready to go," Wulff said.

Freshman tight ends Andrei Lintz (leg fracture) and Tyson Pencer (shoulder) are nursing injuries. Wulff said Pencer may need surgery, and Lintz "will definitely redshirt" after being injured in a practice for the state high school all-star game.

"I'm not a big fan (of prep all-star games)," Wulff said.

• Wulff said two offensive linemen, Alex Reitnouer and Tim Hodgdon, will grayshirt (delay full-time enrollment until January) to save a year of eligibility.

• Sophomore Greg Walker, who had been listed as the top backup at one receiver position behind All-America candidate Brandon Gibson, was recently kicked off the team. "It was a weight room (temper) issue," Wulff said. "There was an accumulation of things, so we let him go."

• Two other sophomore reserves, tight end Trevor Mooney (who transferred to Delaware) and defensive end Asly Jean-Jacques, left the program over the summer. Wulff declined to say whether those players left voluntarily. Cougar walk-on tight end Mikel Overgaard also has left the program.

Darryl Blunt, who was WSU's No. 1 punter in 2006 and the start of the 2007 season before being suspended for disciplinary issues the rest of the season by Bill Doba, was kicked off the team soon after Wulff was hired. Wulff noted that team building and a culture change was needed when he took the reins back in December and said problems remain to be solved in that area.

• The Cougars' incoming class of freshmen includes a number of athletes who could fit into the TE/DE mold. At this point, Dan Spitz, Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz look headed to the tight end spots while Aaron Coerper appears destined for defensive end.

Wulff said he remains hopeful that senior defensive tackle Andy Roof will be cleared to remain in school and on the football team. Roof, who sat out last season after being suspended by the school for repeated problems involving alcohol, was involved in a brawl last spring.

Wulff said Roof and eyewitnesses maintain he was not drinking (contrary to statements by the Pullman Police) during the brawl and acted in self-defense."We have a very good feel for exactly how things occurred," Wulff said. "We don't believe what he did warrants him being dismissed from the football team."

Wulff added, "He's done a great job. The staff and people who have worked with him in the past that are still here -- meaning athletic trainers and weight room people -- have really noticed a dramatic change in him as a person for the positive.

"They're all extremely supportive of Andy."

The Whitman County prosecuting office continues to investigate the incident involving Roof. The Pullman Police submitted documents May 5 asking prosecutors to charge Roof with six cases of assault, including one second-degree felony for facial fractures suffered by one of six alleged victims.

Wulff said most starters and second-stringers will practice separately from others Tuesday and Wednesday. "What we're trying to do is give every kid in camp an opportunity to get multiple reps and as much personal instruction as we can give them," Wulff said. "Particularly the first two days, to kind of get them off on the right foot with our system and give them a level of comfort. "It's more work, obviously, for the coaches, but it's going to help the whole football team. It's going to help develop the younger guys."

The first practice in full pads is set for Saturday, Aug. 9. Only a few two-a-day practices are planned, the first coming on Aug. 10.

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