ROUNDUP: Injuries, sleepers and awards

CAN INJURIES EVER be a good thing in college football? If you look beyond one season, says Phil Steele, yes. Washington State suffered through a catastrophic amount of players going down in 2009, but that might well mean good things for the Cougars in 2010. According to Steele, here's why...

Steele's says his 6-year study shows that teams that had 32 or more starts to injury, improved or had the same record the next year on 48 of 58 occasions -- 82.8 percent.

But WSU was in a world all their own last year on the injury front.

Steele calculated the Cougs lost 67 starts to injury in 2009. The next worst? Tennessee, who lost 44. Just how bad was it for the Cougs on the injury front in '09? WSU had about double the injuries as the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th teams with the most lost starts (E Michigan 34, Kentucky 34, Hawaii, 32; Boston College, 32).

According to Steele, from 2001-2005, 12 teams went through seasons of having 40 or more combined starts lost and ALL 12 had the same or better record the next season.

There was, however, a course correction in 2006-07, when 17 teams had 40 or more lost starts -- seven had a stronger record the next year but nine had a weaker record.

One reason to think WSU will belong to the improving group in 2010? The gains made in the weight room. They are tangible -- and stronger, more mature bodies means less injured bodies on the sideline.

WSU has started to build some real depth after biting the bullet the last two seasons by redshirting players who could have contributed. Those contributions will begin to be realized this season, says head man Paul Wulff, and the plan of course is to continue to increase those contributions all the way through Year 5.

For Steele's complete entry on the subject, click here .

WITH 11 KNOWN verbal commits, the most ever to this point in the year at WSU, it's easy to lose track of the ones on board and look ahead to the potential future verbals. But keep an eye on future Coug Brock Lutes.

State of Oregon prospects don't get a lot of notice to begin with, but Lutes is intriguing because of how much he hasn't played.

You see, Lutes has seen his past three seasons cut short by injury. The injuries weren't of the pull or strain variety, and don't suggest anything chronic. Indeed, in football, you'd almost rather see a broken bone (elbow), as Lutes suffered last season, than a couple hamstring pulls. But back to the central point..

Lutes, because he hadn't played, had virtually no tape to offer college recruiters.

His athleticism was apparent to all, but they all wanted to see him in their camp. He went to Washington State's camp first, and then cancelled his planned trips to Oregon State and others after he received the WSU offer, followed shortly thereafter by a verbal commitment to Paul Wulff.

Don't be surprised if a) Lutes blows up this season, and b) it turns out Wulff and area recruiter Dave Ungerer bagged a big time sleeper.

IN CASE YOU missed it last week, offensive lineman John Fullington has been named Athlete of the Year at North Mason by the Tacoma News Tribune.

Of all the issues that plagued WSU, perhaps the biggest was the deficiency on the offensive line. Fullington is a 6-6 offensive tackle prospect, but here's hoping there is sufficient depth now on the offensive line so that Paul Wulff can redshirt him. Nothing says o-line success in the Pac-10 quite like the term, "fifth year senior," does.

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