LOTS OF NEWS and notes coming out of Pullman today. A cornerback has been suspended, position battles look to be heated across the board and particularly at running back, and the injury list is a bit lengthy. Paul Wulff also said while he'll know more in a few weeks, he firmly believes headed into spring ball that there will be little resemblance between the squad of last year and the 2009 Cougs.
Washington State hasn't put on the pads once this year and have yet to hold their first spring practice. But if you ask him right here, right now, Paul Wulff
says the Cougars are a decidedly different bunch.
"If you're asking me today, I definitely think we'll be much improved," said Wulff. "And again, that's purely a guess in a lot of ways but I definitely think we'll be a much improved football team.
"This really kind of feels like our first year in the sense that we truly feel like, 'Okay. We're all on the same page now.' ... I think we can take some nice steps in growth as a team and program. I don't know how that's going to equate in wins and losses right now, we're so far away from that, but there's no question I think we can take some bigger steps."
Taking a step back however is Romeo Pellum
. The corner started 12 games last season and was expected to be listed atop the depth chart on the left side this spring, has been suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules, said Paul Wulff today. Pellum has been dropped to fourth on the pre-spring depth chart at left corner.
"He is suspended indefinitely, a violation of team rules," Wulff said.
Other news and notes from Wulff:
Among the players Wulff praised for their offseason work.
"Daniel Blackledge has had a good offseason in the weight room, B.J. Guerra has done a nice job in the weight room to improve himself, Marcus Richmond did a nice job. On defense, Andy Mattingly did a nice job of working hard, Xavier Hicks did a nice job. (That's just) to name a few guys that improved themselves physically," said Wulff.
Upperclassmen who redshirted Wulff said he expects to provide immediate help include RB James Montgomery, CB Brandon Jones, DT Josh Luapo, DT Bernard Wolfgramm, LB Alex Hoffman, TE Zach Tatman, DE Jesse Feagin, OT Tyson Pencer, WR Jesse Solomon.
"These are all (redshirt) kids that aren't redshirt freshman that I think can help us and will make a clear difference with our team," said Wulff. "WR Johnny Forzani is another one."
Andy Mattingly moving to strongside LB likely means flexibility -- the Cougars can drop him in over the line of scrimmage and get him running downhill as well as dropping back and playing off the ball and in coverage and doing some of the traditional things from a SAM linebacker.
"Andy's pretty deceiving, he does some good things in pass coverage as big as he is. He's capable of doing some fine things.. After retooling and looking at what we had to work with, I think it will be a really good position for him," said Wulff.
There are a number of injuries that will prevent some players from taking part in all of the drills and some, like Kenny Alfred (hip), who will sit out the entire spring. Others who will be limited include RBs Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Chantz Staden (knee), OT Tyson Pencer (shoulder), DT Jessy Sanchez (shoulder), LB Hallston Higgins (shoulder), OG Brian Danaher (shoulder), LB Myron Beck (back).
QB Marshall Lobbestael (knee) is likely to be cleared to throw in some drills, run some skelly, but won't take part in scrimmages. It's unlikely but not impossible for someone to come out of spring as the clear No. 1 with Lobbestael out but Wulff stopped short of saying it's a foregone conclusion. Bernard Wolfgramm (back), will also likely be limited, said Wulff. He might have a chance to engage and get in some contact depending on how spring goes along.
Jeshua Anderson is participating in track and field events at WSU and will not be participating in spring drills.
While the offensive line will be missing some players, Wulff expects to see considerable improvement regardless. Four hosses he said he's fully expecting significant strides from are Steven Ayers, B.J. Guerra, Zack Williams and Joe Eppele.
"Those guys need to have really good spring practices and improve their performances...They have to make progress... I envision they're going to improve a lot and I'm very confident they will. They have to, and we'll make sure of it," said Wulff.
The running back competition looks to be heated. Even with Ivory and Staden injured, four other Cougar running backs will be vying to earn playing time -- Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz, Marcus Richmond and James Montgomery.
"It should be a great competition...in this league you need three to be quality players day in and day out," said Wulff.
On the subject of the roster gains, which have been considerable this spring with 33 players now listed 10 or more pounds heavier compared to the 2008 fall roster, Wulff said he believes the players put on the pounds in ways that won't limit their athleticism and speed. Nor does he expect a run on the sprain and pull type of injuries.
"I think we've done it the right way...When we're talking from December to now, realistically there's only so much amount of muscle mass you can put on your body in that amount of time..I think a number of them have gained between the 5 and 10 pound range and I think that's appropriate...If they put on correct weight, as long as they're in good shape in spring football, I think we should expect less injuries and muscle pulls because I think we've done a lot of the right things this offseason," said Wulff.
The Cougars intend this spring to go back to the no-huddle offense they ran before injuries and unfamiliarity forced the Cougs to huddle up midway through last season.
Wulff said no starting jobs are guaranteed.
"There's a lot of players with experience back but that doesn't guarantee anything for sure," said Wulff.
Correction: The first two practices are helmets only but full contact in the spring can begin as early as the third session. (WSU may not go full contact as early as that, however. Wulff said the Cougs may ease into full contact this spring more than they did last year.)