WULFF: We've got to keep getting tougher

THE COUGS UNDER Paul Wulff have made it a huge focus in the offseason to get bigger and stronger. But once into the season, and with the vicious run of injuries Wazzu has endured in the first half of '09, it is mental toughness that the Cougars need to focus upon in the here and now, said Wulff.

One could examine each position and debate at length about why WSU is 1-5 this season. But Paul Wulff put it simply and succinctly on Tuesday. And it's all about youth a lack of experienced depth. That youth, said Wulff, holds considerable promise, but right now it's a different story.

"We're just not in a position to take some injuries right now without a big drop off," said Wulff.

Four of the five offensive linemen who started the season were on the sidelines for Tuesday's practice. Indeed, of the 22 starters who began the season as starters on offense or defense, a mere 11 have started all six games.

"By playing all these young guys, I think the silver lining in all of this is we have several players on this football team that are getting game time. As we keep moving forward, this year and particularly the next and the following, is that you're going to have a team that has a lot more experience -- one that can maybe handle a few more injuries here and there and not have the falloff like we do right now," said Wulff.

WULFF SAID TUESDAY that it's worth noting the offensive problems the Cougs experienced against ASU were in large part due to the opponent.

"I think Arizona State's front seven are as good as anybody's in the Pac-10, no question, if not the country. (They're) very physical in all aspects of their defensive line, they can play a number of players and get a good rotation in there and their linebackers are very physical. That combination was not a good matchup for us with our youth up front," said Wulff.

WITH THAT SAID, Wulff said the Cougs also need to battle.

"We're not very mentally tough and physically tough right now. We have to fight through that. We have to battle harder to make sure we do what we can do. And coaching-wise, we've got to kick it up a notch to continue to work these guys hard," said Wulff.

The theme on toughness was one Wulff came back to often during his conference call on Tuesday.

"We've just got to keep getting tougher. We talk about it on this football team. We will be a tough football team. I don't know when. But we are taking our steps and we will continue to get there," said Wulff.

Wulff also said that he feels the players are on the same page -- that if they keep fighting, good things are going to happen.

"Oh I think so..we had enough of an issue (vs. ASU) on our offensive line that it prevented us from winning the ball game. We created enough turnovers, we did enough things on defense, our special teams I thought were very good.

WULFF SAID IT'S also a balancing act between getting guys like QB Jeff Tuel experience against preventing their confidence taking a big hit.

"That's something we have to be real careful with," said Wulff. "We're trying to grow up some young guys that we belive (have) enough potential to be really good. But in the process of growing up, we have to make sure we don't do any..psychological damage or physical damage to our players.

"If you go back and look at film, when Jeff had time, he was very accurate. He made some very good throws, there was a couple times he didn't. And then there were a few times he lost confidence in the protection (prematurely) and he looked to run, which I couldn't blame him for.

Wulff also said Marshall Lobbestael remains a key component for the Cougs and the staff is continuing on "grooming both those guys"

"I do think we've got some potential to get better (offensively), we've just got to protect him more and do some things that will allow him to grow," said Wulff.

WHEN ASKED IF as an old Pac-10 o-lineman, the 12 sacks surrendered against ASU ate at him for a day or so, Wulff said it's not something that easily washes off.

"It's going to eat at me for the whole offseason. But it's something that we've got to use as motivation for our players. And they have to realize that's not acceptable," said Wulff.

Not all sacks in the ASU game were created equal, said Wulff.

"A lot of it is on the offensive line, some of it is on the running backs, a little bit on the quarterbacks. We just have to get better collectively as a group, we have to gain some confidence back and we have to be able to toughen ourselves up a little bit," said Wulff.

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