Wulff staying with plan; Lopina back for USC?

PAUL WULFF came to Washington State with a plan. As difficult as the losses this season have been, that plan, he said, remains intact. A candid and confident Wulff showed some fire as he touched on all that, plus, injury updates and the quarterback situation. Will it be Kevin Lopina, J.T. Levenseller or Dan Wagner this Saturday now that Marshall Lobbestael is sidelined?

Wulff said Lopina (vertebrae fracture) practiced today and will probably be ready to start on Saturday. If Lopina can't go, who the Cougs' No. 2 is against USC -- J.T. Levenseller or Wagner -- will be influenced by how long Lobbestael (knee) is out.

If Lobbestael is out for a lengthy amount of time, the No. 2 on Saturday will probably be Levenseller. If it's a short time, look for Wagner. Lobbestael is definitely out for Saturday but how much beyond that won't be known until the MRI results come in.

And what if further QB disaster were to somehow befall the Cougs, (Lopina and Gary Rogers, Wazzu's Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks, were lost in Week 4), and they were forced to go further down the list, what happens then? Wulff said there are probably two current players that the staff would, at least, discuss.

But Eric Block, who had the wherewithal at 14 years old to quarterback Bellevue High's highly successful wing-T, has been out since the first week of fall camp with illness. Xavier Hicks was a playmaking QB in Fullerton, Calif. during his prep days, but that would mean taking from the defense one of their best players. After Lopina, Levenseller and Wagner, the Cougs have Peter Roberts, selected from the student body to run the scout team last week.

WULFF SAID WHAT the Cougs are doing in the win-loss column this year is not affecting his ability to go out and get the kind of talent he needs to right the Wazzu ship.

"Recruiting to this point has gone very well. We've probably exceeded a number of people's expectations on the kids we're already getting. We'll continue to do that. We're not looking for guys who have a lot of stars next to their names. We're looking for good, tough, hard nosed kids that want to come in here and compete and help us change the culture and be part of a team that's moving forward and a program that's moving forward," said Wulff.

Those recruits are part of a plan, said Wulff -- and it's one that will not change with some bad beats on the year.

"We've got a plan," said Wulff. "We're going to stick to it. I know it works, it will work, and we'll be good. I'm excited about the future. We've got to get through the tough times. That's how we'll grow. And we're in a tough time right now. We'll get better.

"We're not a very good football team right now. And there's a lot of reasons why that is. But we're going to work hard. We will improve over time -- And I know that."

THROUGH SEVEN GAMES, with B.J. Guerra the latest, the Cougs have now had a mammoth 23 players make the first start of their careers this season.

"We've lost three quarterbacks. We've lost several offensive linemen. We've got injuries at running back. We cannot put any pressure on opposing defenses, and so much stress is going on our defense," said Wulff.

That doesn't mean the Cougs will burn any redshirts at this point, with Levenseller the possible sole exception.

"And we have some very capable players that we're redshirting that could help us right now -- we're too far into the season to hurt the future of the program," said Wulff. "J.T. is a different animal because of the severity of the position.

"Right now we're playing a tremendous amount of young kids across the board No. 1, so we're physically not as strong as we need to be just because of our youth. On top of that, we have several injuries. We're going to get a lot better as we mature physically, and get bigger and stronger, and get guys healthy.

"When I came here, the idea was we had to rebuild the program. And there's a plan. We have a very solid plan, that we'll stick to, and that's how we're going to get going in the right direction. If we start changing the course of out plan, the long term isn't going to be as bright."

· Vaughn Lesuma (shoulder AC sprain) is out for USC. Joe Eppele, who is moving a little better, said Wulff, will probably be the starter there at left tackle.Will Hunter played in Lesuma's absence and will compete with Eppele this week in practice.

· Steven Ayers (neck strain, concussion) has not yet been cleared by the medical staff.

· The status on TE Devin Frischknecht (high ankle sprain) won't be known until MRI results come in but he's likely out at least a week.

· Starting left guard Brian Danaher (shoulder), who sat out the Oregon State game, may be ready to come back this week.

· Chris Prummer, who was going to play center for Oregon State because of Kenny Alfred's hip strain injury, was injured in practice this past week and is out for 3-4 weeks.

· Wulff is hopeful he'll get back one of his top two running backs for USC. Dwight Tardy is questionable/probable, while Chris Ivory "pretty sure/definitely" will not be ready to go," said Wulff.

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