WULFF: Lopina to start, Levenseller to play

PAUL WULFF SAID Tuesday that QB Kevin Lopina "definitely will start" Saturday against Stanford. He also said that the redshirt is coming off J.T. Levenseller. "J.T. Levenseller will play," said Wulff. "How that will unfold throughout the game I'm not sure, we'll probably put him in a series early in the first half and evaluate it as we go."

Kevin Lopina and J.T. Levenseller shared about equal time under center last week during the bye.

"Kevin Lopina is our starting quarterback and he's going to be our starting quarterback. But J.T. is going to go in...He's just trying to learn a system, too. And he's young in that, things don't come as natural for him with play right now..Kevin will play the most, but things also change in games, we have to be ready to adapt as the game goes along," said Wulff.

DECIDING TO TAKE the redshirt off Levenseller was based on the here and now, Wulff said it had little to do with any potential experience gained for next season. J.T. has been watching film with and been around a Pac-10 coach, WSU assistant Mike Levenseller, pretty much since he could speak, and that can only help. But Wulff emphasized J.T. is clearly still in the early learning phases and he expects he will face adversity on Saturday.

"He's green, that's just the reality of it. So he's going to have some things like that happen that just aren't going to be beneficial for him -- so we're going to have to live through that. But this is also an opportunity to grow past it...he'll get there, though," said Wulff.

Wulff said there will be a set series the staff will decide later this week on when Levenseller goes in. He may get another series in the first half, or he may get his second series in the second half -- it all depends on the game.

WSU FACES STANFORD this week on the field and they're also battling the Cardinal out on the recruiting trail. Lynnwood High DT Geoff Meinken verbally committed to Washington State back in May. Stanford offered earlier this month and Meinken has set up an official visit to the Palo Alto campus on Nov. 15. (When verbally committed to one school but still taking officials to another, Scout.com defines that as a soft verbal.)

Wulff was asked if his experience the past couple of weeks has been if the recruits the Cougs are looking at were waiting to see if Tyrone Willingham would be fired at Washington before making their decision. Wulff said no, he definitely did not think that was the case.

"Again, we, here at Washington State, are going after kids we want in out program..what other schools are interested in him has no bearing, we don't really concern ourselves with (it)," said Wulff. "We need to go after the ones we believe in, ones we want, and if those players want to be part of where we're headed and what we're doing here, then that's all that really matters.

"Whether another school comes in and tries to recruit them and those types of things, I'm not worried about it, we just have to keep recruiting. We're trying to recruit players that are going to be loyal and competitive kids, and if they're going to commit to us they're going to honor their commitment. Those are the type of people we want here. If they can't honor their commitment, then maybe that's not who we want here."

THE COUGS HAVE struggled mightily at stopping the run this year and they face a big, bruising talented running back in Stanford's Toby Gerhart (779 yards on 138 carries). Stanford doesn't try to conceal what they do on offense, said Wulff.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to practice against everything we see in the game. We'll give the players all the looks they're going to see," said Wulff. "...We're not going to stop the guy because no one really has, but we need to play good hard football, tackle him, and get him down."

Wulff was going to put linebacker Cory Mackay (6-4, 240) in the scout team backfield to play the role of Gerhart but McKay is having arthroscopic knee surgery this week. Wulff said McKay, who is redshirting this year, will be at linebacker when he returns for practice the rest of this year but 'backer might not be where he'll line up in '09.

"We'll probably sit down with him at the end of the year and try to put him at the position that's best for the team and hopefully that's the position he's going to be comfortable with... We'll sit down (at season's end) with every player," said Wulff.

ANOTHER SURGERY scheduled for tomorrow is that of QB Marshall Lobbestael (ACL, MCL). Medical science has come a long way and players return in about 9 months these days from a torn ACL, though some fans would point to Tardy as being medically cleared and able to play -- but not yet 100 percent back to form.

As for the return timetable on Lobbestael, Wulff said because of his competitive nature, don't be surprised if he beats the projections and returns in time for voluntary summer workouts.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • RB Dwight Tardy (knee) will return to the lineup for Stanford. Fellow running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) will in all not be ready in time. Wulff said Ivory's hammy has been oft-injured throughout the season. Tardy and Ivory have missed the past two and three games, respectively.

  • WR Daniel Blackledge is "reasonably healthy" said Wulff. The second year receiver, hampered by hamstring and shoulder injuries this season, also came in for some tough love comments from Wulff on Tuesday; "He's struggled. He has not played as well as he's capable of this year..Daniel's in his second year of college and he's just not mature enough right now, mentally and physically in a lot of respects...he's still young..he could (play Saturday) if he has a good week of practice. But he's got to show more consistency and we haven't gotten it from him."

  • TE Devin Frischknecht (high ankle sprain) is out for Saturday and also doubtful for Arizona on Nov. 8.

  • Wulff said the elder Levenseller was loath to add his two cents when it came to whether his son would play or redshirt this season. "Mike does a good job of staying out of it, he really wants everyone to make the decision and sometimes I have to force out of him a 'dad' (answer) and make a point to ask him -- because he won't do it unless I force it out of him," Wulff chuckled. "He really wants to do the best for his kid...Mike also knows the heady decision is we've got five full games in front of us, we're very thin at the position and he truly has a legitimate chance to play a lot of football."


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