WULFF: Four true frosh to start against Ducks

WSU COACH Paul Wulff initially planned to only play two true freshmen this season. But when the Cougars play Oregon at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium, they will have twice that many first-year players starting. Meanwhile, Wulff says there is "no question" a fifth true freshman will see playing time in Eugene.

WSU coach Paul Wulff initially planned to only play two true freshmen this season -- Gino Simone and Travis Long. But circumstances have changed.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel joined defensive end Travis Long and wide receiver Gino Simone as a starter in last week's 27-6 loss at USC. Guard Alex Reitnouer will be next when he starts against the Ducks.

Wulff said during his Thursday news conference that junior Brian Danaher (concussion) would be unavailable against Oregon, which left him with little choice than to pull Reitnouer out of a planned redshirt year. Reitnouer, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, signed with WSU in 2008 out of California's Saint Francis High School, but delayed enrollment until January.

Reitnouer was on red-alert last week and has seen considerable practice time the past two practice weeks.

THE PLAN IS for him to start at left guard with junior Joe Eppele making his first start at right guard. Both players have more experience at tackle, but Wulff noted that his team has lost a mind-boggling half-dozen guards with injuries since August.

In addition to Danaher, Kevin Freitag (toe), Andrew Roxas (viral hepatitis), Zach Williams (high ankle sprain), B.J. Guerra (knee) and Steven Ayers (ankle sprain) are out.

Now in his 10th year as a head coach between Eastern Washington and WSU, and having gone through a huge amount of injuries in '08, Wulff said he never has seen a position hit as hard by injuries. Given those issues, Wulff also must plan if another player gets injured against Oregon. He said senior Reed Lesuma would be the first option off the bench and would play guard. That would mean moving either Eppele or Reitnouer out to tackle.

Reitnouer will play next to redshirt freshman tackle Tyson Pencer, who made his first collegiate start against USC.

"The left side will be young, but they're athletic kids," Wulff said. "They have bright futures."

He said the next reserve is sophomore walk-on Chris Prummer, who is Kenny Alfred's backup at center but also can play guard. Freshman Tim Hodgdon also will travel with the team, but Wulff hopes to redshirt him. He said Hodgdon will only play if there are more injuries on the offensive line against the Ducks.

THE SITUATION MIGHT IMPROVE next week. Wulff hopes Danaher can return and Williams, who was injured Sept. 12 against Hawaii, was able to run in practice during the week and might be able to return Oct. 10 versus Arizona State.

He said Ayers, who was injured against USC, still is two weeks away from playing, while Guerra is out until at least later this month.

WULFF ALSO SAID injuries at running back also mean "there's no question you will see Carl Winston playing this week." He will be the fifth true freshman to break the lineup, one less than a year ago.

The defensive line also lost some depth when Josh Luapo suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Trojans. The prognosis might not be any better for senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman, who has not played since the Cougars' season-opening 39-13 loss Sept. 5 against Stanford.

Wulff said Kooyman tried to run at practice this week but "he's not even close."

Wulff said the concern is now that Kooyman might be lost for the season. Kooyman, a Tahoma High graduate, played as a true freshman in 2006 and Wulff said he would apply for a medical redshirt if necessary. He hopes it does not reach that point, though.

  • Junior offensive lineman Micah Hannam and sophomore linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis were selected captains for the Oregon game.

  • Wulff was asked what he would consider a successful first start for Tuel. He said Tuel has played well in practice this week, but coaching staff simplified the offense because of his inexperience in addition to the injuries on the offensive line.

    "He doesn't get rattled and executes our offense," he said, adding that WSU burned a timeout against USC because a wide receiver lined up incorrectly, not because Tuel did not understand the play call from the sidelines. "He takes advantage of the plays that are there and doesn't make turnovers. I think that will be very successful."

    Wulff acknowledges that it won't be easy for Tuel in Autzen Stadium, which is regarded by many as the Pac-10's loudest venue. "I don't know if he could be tested any more as far as distractions," said Wulff. "This will be a big test."

  • Zach Enyeart has not played on the offensive line since Wulff took over the program last year, even though that is his listed position. But Wulff raved about the 6-foot-1, 249-pound junior's long snapping ability.

    "I think Zach is as good as there is out there," he said. "He probably can snap in the NFL. I think he has enough velocity to be able to do that."

  • Wulff said the contributions of junior punter Reid Forrest probably do not garner as much attention within the program because the Cougars "haven't had enough tight games where we can look back and say how important they were."

    Forrest is third among Football Bowl Subdivision teams with an average of 45.3 yards per punt. He trails Georgia's Drew Butler (50.1) and San Diego State's Brian Stahovich (47.5).

  • Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has experience as a starter, which Wulff said makes the Ducks difficult to prepare for in addition to their schemes.

    "Radical probably is too strong of a word, but they do quite a few things," he said. "You have to prepare more than most teams."

  • After LeGarrette Blount was suspended for the season when he punched opponent Byron Hout after a 19-8 season-opening loss at Boise State, the Ducks plugged redshirt freshman LaMichael James into the starting lineup. James has 348 yards and two touchdowns on 59 carries this season.

    "That's been the key to their offense so far," Wulff said. "There's no question he's giving them a big lift."

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