Wulff not ready to make quarterback call

The Cougars could have their third starting quarterback in five weeks when they play Saturday at Oregon. WSU coach Paul Wulff did not discount that possibility during his Sunday news conference, but added that a decision between sophomore Marshall Lobbestael and true freshman Jeff Tuel won't be determined until Monday at the earliest. Plus, new injury news and much more.

Lobbestael, who made his second consecutive start, completed just 2 of 9 passes in Saturday's 27-6 loss at USC. Tuel made his first collegiate appearance in the second quarter and played the rest of the game. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and also was intercepted once.

Wulff said the insertion of Tuel was related to the offense's performance. He reiterated that the plan was to play Tuel unless "things were going extremely well."

"Jeff did some good things running the ball," Wulff said. "He threw the ball pretty well. We kind of had a little spark when Jeff was in there."

Despite that, he said naming a starter after the game was not prudent.

"We need to make sure we're doing it right," he said. "Sometimes you need to sit on things and make sure you feel good about it."

Some of that relates to the play on the offensive line. While Wulff acknowledged that Lobbestael "misfired on a few throws," he also felt protection from the front five and other blockers was poor early in the game.

REGARDLESS OF WHICH QUARTERBACK IS SELECTED, Wulff said he likes the potential both possess.

"They're both young quarterbacks," he said. "That's what everyone needs to realize. Neither one of them are nearly the football players they're going to be."

OFFENSIVE GUARD has been an injury-plagued position for the Cougars this season. Both starters entering the season, sophomore B.J. Guerra (sprained a medial collateral ligament) and junior Zack Williams (high ankle sprain), missed the USC game and both are out this week.

Sophomore Steven Ayers, who started the first three games at left tackle before moving inside to replace Williams, injured an ankle against the Trojans and is "highly questionable."

JUNIOR BRIAN DANAHER will start at one guard position, but Wulff isn't sure about the other spot. He mentioned junior Joe Eppele, who battled for the starting position at left tackle, as a candidate along with senior Reed Lesuma. Two others are freshman Alex Reitnouer, who enrolled in January after grayshirting last season and was targeted to redshirt, and Michael Pfeiff.

Pfeiff is a 6-foot-2, 283-pound redshirt freshman out of Marysville-Pilchuck. He's a walk-on, but Danaher once held that status before he started eight games a year ago and earned a scholarship. Wulff said Pfeiff played well during fall camp.

THE INJURY SITUATION did not improve after the USC game. Wulff does not expect any notable players to return this week, including senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman (knee), and lost another significant player in addition to Ayers.

He fears that junior Josh Luapo might have suffered a season-ending knee injury. Wulff believes Luapo, who started two games at defensive tackle, suffered a torn ligament but won't know until he has an MRI.

Wulff said senior backup tight end Zach Tatman is questionable after suffering a concussion against the Trojans.

MOST OF THE 2009 freshman class is redshirting, but the three who played against USC performed well. In addition to Tuel, defensive end Travis Long has started every game. After recording two tackles-for-loss against USC, Long was named the Cougars' defensive player of the game. Another true freshman, wide receiver Gino Simone, returned from a concussion that kept him out against Southern Methodist. He caught a team-high eight passes for 83 yards.

"We're bringing in great young players," Wulff said. "They're proving that when they have the opportunity. I think our recruiting is starting to show that. Travis had a great game"

USC SCORED 20 points in the first quarter, but went scoreless until a Dwight Tardy fumble set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Stafon Johnson early in the fourth quarter.

Wulff said the Trojans benefited from strong field position after "one guy in particular" ran out of his lane on the punt coverage unit. On defense, he said some of the early struggles were the result of missing or starting late on "some little basic techniques."

THAT WAS NOT THE CASE on the onside kick that was recovered by USC. The Trojans used that to score their third touchdown of the opening quarter on a 57-yard pass from Matt Barkley to Damian Williams.

"That was a game-plan thing for them," said Wulff, adding that his players instinctively moved back after the kick. "It had a perfect bounce right back to the kicker."

WULFF SAID USC coach Pete Carroll congratulated him on the program's improvement. The Trojans won 69-0 last year in Pullman.

He said the compliment just reaffirms the coaching staff's belief in the rebuilding process within the program.

"We know we're making a lot of progress," Wulff said. "They (other coaches) are very aware of the improvements this team is making."

ONE POSITIVE TRAIT that continues to stand out to Wulff is the defense's physical play. He noted the team has five goal-line stands this season.

"We kind of out-willed them a little bit," he said. "I think that's very impressive and says a lot."

"We know to play in the Pac-10 we have to play physical. We have come a long ways in one year."

WULFF SAID THE Cougs did some preparation for a noisy road environment at USC and that will continue with the Oregon game at Autzen Stadium, which is regarded by many as the Pac-10's loudest venue.

But there are more concerns than the crowd for Wulff. After all, the Ducks upset No. 6 California 42-3 on Saturday and produced 524 yards of total offense.

EVEN WITH THE coaching change from Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly, Wulff noted the stability within Oregon's program because its system did not change. Kelly was the offensive coordinator before being elevated to coach when Bellotti became the school's athletic director.

Wulff specifically noted the Ducks' speed at their skill positions, returning starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who completed 21 of 25 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns against Cal, and "their ability to spread the ball around."

Cougfan Top Stories