NOTES: Bland returns with full head of steam

PULLMAN -- The image of high-octane Louis Bland roaming the field in search of prey was a welcome sight last year at Washington State. Bland started at weak-side linebacker as a true freshman and made a ton of plays despite weighing less than 200 pounds by season's end. This year, Bland progressed slowly in fall camp while recovering from a knee injury suffered in spring ball. But then..

Once he began running like the Bland of old, coaches utilized him at all three linebacker positions. He started at middle linebacker in Saturday's season opener and led the Cougars with eight solo tackles and 10 total tackles.

"Middle was fun," said Bland, who has little experience at middle linebacker. "I think it fits me pretty good. It's easy for me to read linemen. There are not as many ‘rules' as the Sam (strong-side linebacker) and the Will (weak-side linebacker). You just kind of read your keys and go."

Bland is still on the small side for a Pac-10 linebacker at 5-foot-10 and 221 pounds. Of course, Bland looked plenty big to bruising Stanford running back Toby Gerhart when Bland leveled the 6-1, 235-pound Gerhart for a loss in the third quarter.

THE COUGARS LISTED TRUE freshmen Gino Simone (wide receiver) and Travis Long (defensive end) as starters Saturday, but Simone was not on the field for WSU's first two offensive plays.

At WSU, starters are considered to be players who start or play early in the team's standard offensive or defensive lineups. The Cougars opened with two tight ends instead of their standard three receivers look.

Since the Pac-8 became the Pac-10 in 1978, the only time WSU "started" two freshmen in the opening game was in 2004. Even then, the other "starter" besides defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua was kicker Loren Langley.

WSU coach Paul Wulff said Simone and Long have the potential to be great ones.

Wulff said Simone is "a very solid, good football player right now. As he continues to grow and gain experience at the college level and gain strength, he's got a very bright future here."

Simone, the No. 1-ranked prep prospect in Washington this past recruiting cycle, starred at Skyline High School in Sammamish. Long was an All-State performer at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane.

"When we signed Travis Long," Wulff said, "I truly believed he was one of the best defensive linemen on the West Coast … he's a very, very intelligent young man."

Simone had one catch for 5 yards and ran a reserve for 7 yards against Stanford. Long recorded one tackle.

FORMER UCLA AND SAN FRANCISCO 49er coach Terry Donahue likes Wulff, but he doesn't like Wulff's players. "I think Paul Wulff is a good coach … (but) if they win three games this year, I think they will have made real progress," Donahue said in his Pac-10 analyst role on

JARED PRINCE, A FIXTURE IN in right field for the WSU baseball team the past four years, has been hired as an office assistant for the Cougar football program.

"I miss the game and I'd really like to be around it," Prince said, who just concluded an outstanding first summer of pro ball with the Spokane Indians.

Prince said he'll perform a variety of "grunt" work while earning some scholarship money as he works to finish his degree this semester.

A football, basketball and baseball standout at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, Prince wanted to play football and baseball at Washington, but when the Huskies balked, he headed to WSU on a baseball ride.

Prince quickly fell in love with WSU and all things crimson. The gregarious Prince represented the school so well on and off the field that baseball coach Donnie Marbut called him "Mr. Cougar."

Prince said he occasionally thought about trying to play two sports at Washington State. Now he says he could see himself coaching college or high school football after he's done playing pro baseball. Prince put together a solid first season in the pros with Spokane, a farm club of the Texas Rangers.

Prince is close friends with star Cougar center Kenny Alfred.

"We always talked about how cool it would have been if I could have played football and we could have done the center-quarterback thingie," Prince said. "But we're sort of on the same team now."

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