Recruiting & Development: Wulff style

THE BENNETTS HAD five cornerstones, a quintet of core values in the plan to build and maintain the success of Cougar hoops. Likewise, Paul Wulff has five major tenets in his plan to build the Cougar football program. Character, structure, and Xs and Os are critical. It is, however, recruiting and player development that are Job One, says Wulff.

In rebuilding the Wazzu football program, Wulff says he's not interested in anything less than a complete solution. A band-aid or short-term fix often enables quicker success, but it's also fleeting and inevitably followed by prolonged struggles. Instead, Wulff says he's looking to do it "the right way" and to execute a plan both comprehensive in nature and in scope.

Recruiting and Development sit atop the list.

"It's really the No. 1 thing. Recruiting players that fit your system and fit the personality traits that you're looking for to build your program is really the No. 1 thing (along with) the second piece which is your development once they get on campus," said Wulff.

WULFF HAS NINE known verbal commitments in the class of '09. In the state of Washington, of the top six ranked recruits who have verbally committed, Wulff has four of them.

The first eight that have pledged crimson are rated 3-stars by Scout.com. As for WSU's ninth pledge, Scout.com does not have video on him and his 2-star rating appears to be based primarily on a combine performance held in May. No WSU class through this stage has ever had a high average rating since recruiting sites like Scout came into being.

AS WULFF INFUSES the program with the types of guys he and his staff have targeted, the focus will turn to their development. Herein lies the rub. Indeed, herein lies a hard truth, one of time.

"I wish we could get them all to perform at their peak performance right away, but you just can't do that," said Wulff.

In the offseason, there are rules governing the amount of coaching, and contact, that college coaches are allowed with their players. There are a handful of workout sessions -- ones where by rule players cannot wear pads, there are no blocking sleds -- there cannot even be a football to throw around. And then there are 15 days of spring football practice. Other than that, the strength and conditioning coach is the point man. And the coaching staff relies on his reports -- the coaching staff isn't there for weight room workouts or the voluntary summer session workouts.

BUT CAN'T THE Washington State players make all the physical gains they need in the weight room this offseason, can't they physically get to where they need to be before next year rolls around?

Well, Rien Long couldn't, says Wulff. Neither could a whole host of other great Cougar and college players.

"Unfortunately you need years of weight training, and building, of those individuals to get them to the level that they can play...in terms of getting them to their peak performance in strength and speed and those types of things," said Wulff. "Rien Long was a great player. But he wasn't a great player as a redshirt freshman or even as a redshirt sophomore. It was Year 4, (redshirt junior) when he really turned it all on. And you gotta realize, that's four years.

"And the kids we're recruiting now it's going to be 2-3 years before they really play to the level they're capable of playing. And because we've probably underdeveloped the kids we're playing with now, they're probably a couple years from reaching their best playing days."

BUT TAKE HEART, Cougar fans. The process, where Wulff talks about 2-3 years and 3-4 years, he's talking in comprehensive rebuilding terms -- It will take time to get to a point where outgoing seniors are replaced by guys who are ready, having already already gone through their development.

And as Wulff said previously on why high caliber recruits are coming on board with Washington State in the '09 class, the Cougs will be an improved football team moving forward -- incoming commits, Wulff says, are not going to be part of the types of losses the current team is experiencing.

"It's something I've always taken a ton of pride in and it's something I always want to be on the cutting edge of -- We will find a way to maximize every kid's talent," said Wulff.

"Part of the issue that we're dealing with, and I get tired of having to say the same old thing, but our kids just physically aren't where they need to be and that's pretty evident. And a lot of that has to do with youth. Sometimes there are kids playing who aren't physically prepared to play yet, and because of our lack of depth we have a lot of kids that, they are capable players, they're just not quite physically quite ready to play every play in the Pac-10."

THIS HAS BEEN, however, a decidedly painful year on the scoreboard. Cougar fans have suffered through dark times before but in four of five Pac-10 games this season, the Cougs have surrendered 60-plus points. That's never happened before.

It can be argued that the Cougs should be doing better, that the scores should be closer. But in the greater scheme of things, Wulff says the Cougs simply aren't where they need to be in order to compete, they've been decimated by injuries and a 17-point loss and a 50-point loss count the same on the bottom line -- as a loss.

"All of our coaches are winners. They've all won championships working with kids in this age bracket. And I played at this level and I played after this. I've been able to coach players who have gone on in the NFL and been very good NFL football players. I'm well aware of what it takes...What I'm aware of is the big picture and what you have to (do to) build a program," said Wulff.

CF.C RECENTLY PUBLISHED a commentary piece on some coaches and how their first year(s) turned out. All of the coaches mentioned in the story had differing amounts already in the cupboard to work with in building a program, and in moving forward.

Referring to player development, Wulff pointed to two more coaches who suffered through tough times -- years -- before getting the program to place it could consistently compete, reload, and win.

"I go to Jim Grobe at Wake Forest who doesn't hardly even practice his freshman -- all they do is lift weights in their first year," said Wulff. "Look at his first 3-4 years there. But he built it up. And same with the guy at Vanderbilt, Bobby Johnson I think he's in Year 7 and this is his first year in getting himself in position for a bowl game.

"Those are guys that did it the right way. And now they're going to have a solid, consistent program."

TV NOTE ON FINAL 5 REGULAR SEASON GAMES:

Next up this week for Washington State is Stanford. The game was not selected for TV broadcast and neither was the following week's game, against Arizona. The Stanford game this Saturday represents the first Cougar football game not to be televised this season, breaking a streak of 8 games. A decision has yet to be made by the networks on if the ASU and Hawaii games are to be televised, (usually forthcoming in a 6- or 12- day window.) The Apple Cup is the only one of the remaining five WSU games that has been picked up for television -- it is scheduled for TV broadcast by Fox Sports Net.


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