WULFF: Position battles and moves in store

THINGS ARE GOING to change. Big time. That was the message Paul Wulff delivered on Sunday. The secondary and offensive line are among the spots where position battles, moves, or both will take this week as the Cougs look to regroup Saturday against Portland State after a lackluster 0-3 start. At quarterback, both may play this weekend.

Vaughn Lesuma will move inside to left guard and battle for the starting job there with B.J. Guerra this week in practice.

The starting left tackle job will see a battle waged between now healthy Joe Eppele and Steven Ayers.

"We're going to see who is going to win (left tackle and left guard), who wants them...too many breakdowns out there on the quarterback's blind side and can't have it," said Wulff.

Alfonso Jackson, moved to cornerback this offseason back when depth and experience was considerably less than it is now, is moving back to safety this week.

In addition, safety Xavier Hicks returns this week after a three-game suspension.

"From a mental standpoint, he knows the defense better than anybody on that field, period," said Wulff of Hicks. "He has done everything, everything right since we've come to camp here.

"He served a three-game suspension. And it's over. And we're not going to continue to penalize him."

WULFF SAID it's "very possible" that both Hicks and Jackson could start at the safety spots this week.

"He's probably going to have the opportunity to play a tremendous amount if he doesn't start, but we're not sure on where that's at (starting) right now," said Wulff.

The previous week's starting safeties were Chima Nwachukwu and Myron Beck.

"If you look at the long runs where we got a little exposed, really it's been the secondary and the safety position not making the plays in open field. That guy has to make the play. They're kind of the last line of defense," said Wulff.

Beck is moving from safety to weakside linebacker.

"We're going to move him close to the ball, we think that will fit his ability," said Wulff.

WULFF LEFT THE door slightly ajar on who his starting quarterback will be Saturday against Portland State, but Kevin Lopina (wrist) looks to have done enough to take the lion's share of the snaps with the first team in practice -- provided his injured wrist will allow.

"I can't answer that yet ... I would say yes, but ... we still want to get through here and see how his health is," said Wulff. "If he is healthy, he's going to get the majority of the snaps (Tuesday) with the 1's at this point. But again, I'm not here to rule out that Gary won't play (Saturday), a lot.

"We're kind of in that quandary, just a hair, where we're still trying to get some answers. But like I said before, it's not all on the quarterback. You've got the offensive line breaking down at times. You've got receivers still not running the exact same routes, obviously, a few dropped balls here and there. It just isn't Kevin's fault or Gary's fault."

Asked if he expects, at this point on Sunday, Lopina to get the start again provided his wrist allows, Wulff said, "I would say that."

PRACTICE CAN REVEAL a lot, but it is the games that provide the definitive answers.

"We're trying to find out who we've got mentally, who we've got physically, what their strengths are -- you go through so many practices and make your assessment and then you get in real games and your assessment changes," said Wulff. "...We're finding some answers out. Whether we like those answers or not, we're finding them out. So we're going to make our adjustments accordingly.

"Things that have become apparent, on a positive note, is our special teams is making solid improvement. We're not where we need to be by (any) means. But we clearly are making some good headway in that department."

WULFF SAID with Romeo Pellum and Tyrone Justin getting starts and playing time, along with Devin Giles and Markus Dawes both in the mix when earlier there were question marks on whether they would be available earlier this season, that Jackson moving back to safety was a logical move.

"Now that Romeo and Tyron Justin are starting to gain more experience and be more consistent -- not great, but consistent, and Devin Giles is back and it looks like Markus is doing well, that we do have enough kids there currently that it allows us to move Alfonso back, who is a seasoned, veteran kid. And we've been exposed in the secondary, particularly in the run game, at safety," said Wulff.

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