Is J.T. Levenseller's redshirt to be burned?

THE BYE-WEEK COUGARS don't take on Stanford for another week, but one storyline leading up to the contest is already front and center. Will Paul Wulff take the redshirt off of freshman quarterback J.T. Levenseller? In an exclusive interview with CF.C, Wulff talks about the odds of Levenseller taking the field.

Nothing is set in stone just yet but it's looking as if Cougar fans will see Levenseller under center a week from Saturday.

"It's very likely that we're going to go that way. I would say there's probably a 90 percent chance," said Wulff late Thursday.

Levenseller, the son of Cougar assistant coach Mike Levenseller, starred at Class 2A powerhouse Pullman High from 2005-06 and then grayshirted last season, thus making this his first season in crimson.

While burning a redshirt at this stage is clearly not the ideal situation, five games left on the schedule also represents nearly 40 percent of the Cougs' 2008 season.

IN THE PAST 3 1/2 years, the Cougars didn't have to deal with the starting quarterback missing a game to injury. Conversely, in eight games this year, the Cougs have seen the three quarterbacks who have started miss a combined 10.

Gary Rogers (vertebrae) and Marshall Lobbestael (torn ACL, MCL) are out for the year. Kevin Lopina just returned last week from a fractured vertebrae. If that's not enough, and surely it has been for the Cougar Nation and coaching staff, walk on backup Dan Wagner rolled an ankle in practice and was gimpy last week.

"We'd be naive to think Kevin Lopina is (guaranteed to) take 100 percent of the snaps until the end of the year," said Wulff. "So we need to be prepared, we need to have a plan and with this week off this gives us a lot of time to prepare (J.T.) and to plan it out.

Lopina threw only nine passes in his return to action last week in the 69-0 loss to USC. While he was cleared to play in the game, Wulff clearly didn't feel comfortable putting him under USC's nasty pass rush against an offensive line that had had protection issues this season and the week before against OSU.

"We have five games. That's a lot of games we have in front of us. And if we end up deciding to play J.T., the opportunity he's going to have is just that -- he's going to have a good opportunity to play and better himself with experience."

IT'S WORTH noting that 90 percent is not the same as 100 percent.

One more thing. Just because Levy is (90 percent) likely to take the field next Saturday, that doesn't mean the Cougar Nation won't also see Lopina over the course of these last five games.

"If we decide to play J.T., we'll clearly designate series where he's going to play. We're not going to pull it off and just have him play a couple plays. If we're going to do it, we're going to have to build into our game plan that he's going to play X amount," said Wulff.

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