Wulff's pursuit of DT a fascinating study

HE STARRED AT a small school in California. He has weight and bulk to add before he's ready to win Pac-10 trench battles. But mentally, he's ready now, says his prep coach who is calling on 33 years of experience. And what is equally fascinating about future Cougar d-tackle Justin Clayton -- just how Paul Wulff and Washington State went about recruiting him.

Washington State had already done their football homework on Clayton. They already liked what they saw on the football field enough to offer. But what WSU didn't know, what they needed to find out, was what was under the helmet.

Because whether a DT prospect is already physically ready to play in the Pac-10 or if he's a 6-4, 250 pounder like Clayton, it doesn't matter one whit either way if the work ethic, character and drive aren't also present.

So when Jody Sears talked with Justin-Siena coach Rich Cotruvo, he didn't have the same old questions Cotruvo has been answering from college recruiters since 1976.

"That's what impressed me with Washington State. They didn't really come in here and ask me a bunch of football questions, they asked me a lot more personality questions, behavior questions. That impressed me...I became a Coug fan after talking with him," said Cotruvo.

THE COUGARS WOULD like to redshirt Clayton but may not have the luxury. Both who started the year at d-tackle (A'i Ahmu, Matt Eicheleberger.) on what proved to be a porous defensive line are graduating. Headed into spring ball, Toby Turpin (four starts in '09), along with Bernard Wolfgramm and Jesse Feagin II are expected to vie for starting jobs but the d-tackle position is usually most effective when there's a quality rotation, and Clayton and/or Quayshawne Buckley could be called upon early.

"Ideally, I think just about everyone needs a year to redshirt, just to get acclimated... That being said, if he was forced into a situation where he had to play a little bit this year, I think he'd be just fine," said Cotruvo.

Cotruvo said Clayton is working out 4-5 times a week these days and has foregone his basketball and baseball seasons, sports he also lettered in, in an effort to come to Wazzu's fall camp in August as ready as can be.

"He does come from a hard working family, he does have a great work ethic...He's very intelligent, a 4.2 student, very academically responsible, and he's a very smart kid. But he turns it up when he gets on the field," said Cotruvo.

Still, the big picture is where Clayton's value will be revealed. He has a large frame conducive to weight and strength gains, says Cotruvo.

COTRUVO HAS BEEN coaching prep kids since 1976. He's seen in that time, up close, many who have gone on to D-IA and Pac-10 success. Based on 33 years of observations, how does Clayton measure up?

"I think mentally, he's close to the top of any (of those players). Physically, I think he needs work," said Cotruvo. "But he has the confidence and self-worth and work ethic to really have a great career.

"Quite frankly, he's one of the nicest kids I've ever had the pleasure of coach all the way around -- great leadership. They're getting a gem."

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