Cougars take another hit at running back

DWIGHT TARDY will start with Marcus Richmond backing him up. Meanwhile, true freshman Jeff Tuel is the No. 2 quarterback and Kevin Lopina has a strained calf. Paul Wulff raves about the potential of a defensive player plus more.

WSU has struggled to build depth at many of its positions since its last 10-win season and Holiday Bowl victory in 2003.

Many analysts had the same thought when examining the Cougars' 2009 roster entering fall camp -- with the exception of running back.

After all, the Cougars had several players with Pac-10 playing experience, including Chris Ivory, Logwone Mitz, James Montgomery, Marcus Richmond, Chantz Staden and Dwight Tardy.

BUT THAT DEPTH has quickly eroded and Wulff said today it might have taken another hit. Mitz, who was expected to back up Tardy entering Saturday's game at USC, now is questionable because of the flu. Wulff said they are waiting to see what his temperature is before determining if he will play.

With Ivory having been dismissed from the team before the season began and Montgomery's surgery Sunday to correct acute compartment syndrome in his left leg that ended his season -- and possibly his career -- Wulff said true freshman Carl Winston might play.

That's not his preference, though.

"We want to redshirt him and we hope Logwone makes it back," Wulff said. "Carl is a fine young player."

He said Winston might not play even if Mitz is unavailable. Wulff said it could depend on the health and performance of Tardy and Richmond.

ONE PLAYER NOT an option to play is Staden, who tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee last season. Wulff said the fourth year senior is healthy but "it wouldn't be fair at all to play him because of his strength and conditioning level." Staden, who signed with the Cougars out of De Anza College near San Francisco, still has a redshirt year available.

Tardy, who has started all three games and rushed for 117 yards on 28 carries, has battled ankle issues. Wulff said it "has been a little sore, but he'll be OK. I don't believe it should affect him at all."


  • Wulff cited the Cougars' good team chemistry when talking about Montgomery, who rushed for a team-high 167 yards on 37 carries (4.5 average) and had a touchdown this season.

    "James is one of the most liked players on the team," he said. "James is so respected. They really care about the guy."

  • Team chemistry again was mentioned by Wulff when someone asked if he used, as a motivator, the Las Vegas spread, which has the Trojans favored by about six touchdowns. He said it could be used effectively with some teams, but does not think it's necessary with this group.

    "They're learning the intensity level and what it takes to prepare," he said. "We're starting to see signs that these guys are really analytically looking at the situation."

  • True freshman Jeff Tuel will be the No. 2 quarterback against USC and Wulff said the plan remains, as it was last week, for him to play. Senior Kevin Lopina, who started the first two games, might not be available because of a strained calf muscle that has hampered him throughout his collegiate career.

    Wulff reiterated that sophomore Marshall Lobbestael might play well enough to stay in the entire game. Lobbestael, who completed 24 of 52 passes for 239 yards along with a couple of touchdowns and interceptions in Saturday's 30-27 overtime win against SMU, will make his second start.

    WULFF SEES LOBBESTAEL PROGRESSING after missing most of 2008 after tearing the anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee at Oregon State. He said that taking some hits against SMU was good for him from a psychological standpoint.

    "I think Marshall is just going to grow," Wulff said. "He's had to overcome all of that. I think he's back on track of growing as a quarterback. I think Marshall's going to take a big step this week."

    Wulff said there is not any tension between the three quarterbacks about playing time, and the staff has been up front with everyone about expectations. Wulff said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy met with Lopina, Lobbestael and Tuel before the season to talk about the situation.

    "We need better production," Wulff said. "We're not partial to anyone."

  • There's a lot of postgame examination of football games, but Wulff said to look no further than turnovers.

    "You can talk about Xs and Os and talent," he said. "There's some really simple facts that matter. If we do those things (win the turnover battle), we have an opportunity to stay in this game and win it."

  • WSU's lack of speed on defense has been a frequent discussion point among fans, but one position where Wulff is comfortable with that element is middle linebacker. Sophomore Alex Hoffman-Ellis, a late addition to the 2008 recruiting class out of California's Moorpark College, is one of the team's faster players.

    Wulff said Hoffman-Ellis did not earn much attention out of Moorpark because most junior-college recruits must earn their two-year Associate's Degree to be eligible. But Hoffman-Ellis qualified to play at a four-year institution out of high school.

    "When we found that out, we thought bringing him in and giving him a year to redshirt would be great," Wulff said. "We thought we could have a diamond in the rough. He has excellent speed."

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