FALL CAMP: Rookies showing early promise

PULLMAN -- When Paul Wulff and his staff took over the Washington State football program last December, only three players -- three! -- had made verbal commitments to play for the Cougars. The new staff scrambled to recruit a full class, but that class was rated the worst in the Pac-10 by the recruiting "experts." Wazzu no-huddle architect Todd Sturdy, however, says the Cougs have a plan.

Wulff and his assistants are the first to admit they arrived on the scene too late to land some of the players they wanted. However, at the risk of reading too much into the first two days of practice -- with no pads or tackling, mind you -- a number of WSU's recruits have displayed impressive athleticism.

"Paul played here," offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Sturdy pointed out. "Paul has a great feel for the type of kids that will succeed here.

"We've got a great plan."

Coaches and other observers have taken notice of the play, athleticism and/or physiques of freshmen like tight end Cory Mackay (moved from wide receiver Wednesday), middle linebacker Lewis Bland (moved from safety), cornerbacks Kevin Frank and Tyree Toomer, safety LeAndre Daniels, quarterback J.T. Levenseller and wide receivers Jared Karstetter and Kevin Norrell.

"Cory's such an athlete...we think we've got a great one there," Sturdy said.

Mackay, a wide receiver and pass-rushing outside linebacker at Eastlake High School, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds. He has grown since last year, when he caught 64 passes for 1,200 records and 14 touchdowns as a split end.

Several transfers also look quite promising.

The list includes running back James Montgomery and cornerback Brandon Jones (two sophomore transfers from the California Bears who must redshirt this year per NCAA transfer rules), plus junior college products Bernard Wolfgramm (defensive tackle), Zack Williams (offensive lineman), Chantz Staden (running back) and Jessy Sanchez (defensive end).

"We've got some good-looking kids," Sturdy said. "Time will tell."

-- Uneventful morning workout: Newcomers and lower-tier reserves practiced separately from other players for the second and final time Wednesday morning.

The practice was fairly uneventful, but third-string quarterback Marshall Lobbestael did display a nice touch on two long, arching sideline passes that were hauled in with fine efforts by Karstetter (one of the three early verbals) and Mackay (who did have a couple drops).

-- Position switches: Wulff said there may be plenty more position changes in the making. Already, five of the 15 returning starters have been moved.

In the spring, strong safety Chima Nwachukwu and cornerback Alfonso Jackson switched positions, and outside linebacker Andy Mattingly moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. Dan Rowlands -- now at tackle, and Micah Hannam -- now lining up at guard, had switched places on the offensive line after spring practice. Also, Andy Roof, who sat out last year, has moved from the offensive line over to defensive tackle.

-- Kudos for Oviatt: Rob Oviatt's recent resignation as WSU's strength and conditioning coach raised some eyebrows, since much of Oviatt's work focused on football and Wulff is the new guy in town. Wulff, however, offered nothing but praise for the well-respected Oviatt.

"We got along great," Wulff said. "He's a great man. He's had a phenomenal career in his profession...He had family issues he wanted to address. He's made the right decision for himself and his family."

Oviatt, a married father of four, said he plans to remain in Pullman. Wulff said the timing of Oviatt's resignation was "perfect," since most strength and conditioning work is done in the offseason. Further, Wulff said Oviatt's replacement may be named this weekend.

Sad NFL fantasy:-- Sports Illustrated once dubbed WSU "Quarterback U". Judging from SI's preseason rankings for NFL fantasy leagues, perhaps WSU should be re-named "Kicker U."

SI ranked 224 players -- quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and kickers -- and two ex-Cougars were mentioned: veteran kickers Jason Hanson of the Lions and Rian Lindell of the Bills. The 10th-leading scorer in NFL history, Hanson was ranked 23rd among 32 kickers, and Lindell was No. 26.

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