WULFF: Cougs have new starter on d-line

ONLY ONE OF the three linebacker spots was supposed to be filled by an inexperienced player in Washington State's season opener Saturday against Stanford. That no longer is the case. There's also a new starter on the d-line, more on the plan about which youngsters will redshirt this year -- it's a larger number than what you might expect -- and more.

WSU coach Paul Wulff said sophomore Louis Bland, who was second on the team with nine tackles-for-loss in 2008, likely will start the opener at MIK. He also expects redshirt sophomore Alex Hoffman-Ellis to see plenty of time in his WSU debut.

The 5-foot-10, 221-pound Bland started nine games last year at outside linebacker (WIL), but Wulff said his versatility allows him to move inside.

Wulff also likes the depth at outside linebacker with redshirt junior Myron Beck, who started nine games at safety and linebacker in 2008, backing up two senior starters -- SLB Andy Mattingly and WIL Jason Stripling. Wulff also mentioned redshirt freshman Joshua Garrett and Mike Ledgerwood as contributors at linebacker.

That means freshman Darren Markle, said Wulff, who ran with the No. 1 defense at times during fall camp, likely will redshirt.

Wulff said wide receiver Gino Simone and defensive end Travis Long, both of whom will start against the Cardinal, are the only true freshmen expected to play this season barring injuries.

"Mentally, linebacker is a position where you need a lot of reps," Wulff said. "It's a lot more mentally challenging than people think."

DEFENSIVE TACKLE IS another position where the depth chart has changed in just the last couple of days.

Josh Luapo, who earlier enrolled in January and took part in spring ball prior to fall camp, has supplanted fellow redshirt junior Toby Turpin at right tackle. Wulff anticipates Luapo will start next to redshirt junior Bernard Wolfgramm.

"Josh keeps playing better and better," he said. "It's a competition and we have to find out who wants to compete and play the most."

Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman is the only one among the projected front four starters who played in 2008.

That's a concern as the defense not only must contain Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 1,136 yards last year, but redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck, the son of former Houston Oilers quarterback, Oliver. Luck beat out returning starter Tavita Pritchard for the job.

"I'm pretty sure he's not going to be your typical redshirt freshman," Wulff said. "He's got really good size and is very athletic and runs the ball. We've got to be aware of that and cautious with it."

THE RIGHT CORNERBACK spot remains unsettled but Wulff said the coaching staff "has a pretty good idea" about what they want to do.

Sophomore safety Tyree Toomer is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, which means whether the coaching staff starts junior Chima Nwachukwu at cornerback or safety, they'll have to rely on a redshirt freshman to start at the other position. That means either safety LeAndre Daniels or cornerback Daniel Simmons.

WULFF SAID THE depth chart during game week has been more fluid than he prefers at many positions because 13 players have contracted the flu during the last nine days. None have been the H1N1 flu.

"It's been a balancing act with every position," he said, adding that he reminds players to wash their hands and avoid others with the flu on campus.

SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVER Kevin Norrell is among those battling the flu and is questionable for the opener. Wulff said junior Jeshua Anderson, who had 305 yards and two touchdowns on 33 receptions last year, will start if Norrell can't play. Daniel Blackledge was also splitting time with Anderson earlier this week in practice.

"If he (Norrell) plays at all, it will be in a very limited role," Wulff said.

WULFF REITERATED THAT everyone is anxious to start the season and the team has put last year's 2-11 record and 58-0 loss against Stanford behind them.

"Players and coaches have worked extremely hard to turn the page," he said. "I believe we've done that."

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