Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Paul Wulff Radio Show Recap - Week One

Another year, another season of radio shows with Paul Wulff! We'll recap it each and every week for the rest of the season with a quick-hit approach. Note - Wulff talks FAST on the air, faster than Doba did and there are a lot of things to absorb. So give me a break if I miss a few things! Plus I missed the opening salvo, so I have no idea what was said about Andy Roof. Sorry. But Wulff's statement right now speaks for itself.

With that, here we go:

Wulff had some decent things to say. Gary Rogers has had a solid camp but Kevin Lopina will have a chance to play. Rogers was sharp today. RB Chris Ivory is hurt right now, so Dwight Tardy will get the bulk of the carries out of the gate. Tardy is still coming off knee injury but hoping he will keep improving. Logwone Mitz and Chantz Staden backing up Tardy for now.

WR's are young outside of Brandon Gibson but they are hopeful for Daniel Blackledge to come back soon from hamstring, and then Jeshua Anderson later (end of the month?). Jared Karstetter had a strong camp and deserves the chance to play, if not start.

O-line is beat up right now. Dan Rowlands is done with football due to shoulder problems (!). Lesuma has a sore back. Losing their experience hurts right now but it is a chance for others to step up.

Wulff has a special feeling at WSU, and it's very hard to describe. So few people have been able to do what he's doing. Blessed and humbled being at WSU. He has felt pain when WSU hasn't had success in recent times, and he's been a fan of WSU the last 15 years before he was even head coach.

Other teams going to no-huddle as well as WSU. More teams are doing it, spread offense out of no-huddle. You will NOT see us out of the shotgun exclusvely, we will again be a multiple look offense with some basic packages. Wulff feels that will give us an advantage not being the shotgun no-huddle, harder to prepare for the more things you can do.

Wulff doesn't often script first 10-15 plays but they will for sure with Todd Sturdy to start the year. They want Rogers to get off to a strong start and be as comfortable as possible with the plays and build confidence early in the game.

Majority of the coaching staff will be on sidelines. Rich Rasmussen will be up top in the box with grad assistant. On defense, Jody Sears will be upstairs with Ryan Smaha and Jake Young. Rest of coaches will be on sidelines, including Todd Sturdy and Chris Ball. He wants them to engage, teach and keep the players composure on sidelines. The more coaches eyes the better on the sidelines with the kids the next couple of years at least, to help build them into what they expect on game day.

Bob-Rob asked if the no huddle made it harder on physical condition of team on offense? Wulff said it was harder on them then they expected. But hopefully being harder on them in camp will mean it's harder on other teams once season begins, especially later on in games. They want to wear the opposition out. Even today, prepping for Okie St, they are still working really hard on conditioning. But Wulff said our issue right now is that we have to grow up and still execute when we are extremely tired! Part of our growth and maturity is being able to do good things when you are exhausted, but we aren't there right now.

They want to stop run, and that is the number one commitment (this is something we've heard from day one). But within reason. Wulff doesn't want to completely compromise the secondary, and obviously doesn't want to give up easy scores. But they will line up to stop the run.
Wulff also stressed the importance of playing good situational defense, and to prepare accordingly to handle each situation. But he's also willing to adjust to personnel and their strong points. He felt we have good flexibility to do different things this year, and ultimately they want to make the opposing offense as predictible as possible.

Matt Mullennix getting another year has given them a huge lift so far. Kevin Kooyman stepped up and improved this fall. Andy Mattingly as well and combined the three of them will get a lot of playing time. Mike Graise is out for at least this week but could be back soon.

Inside, Ahmu must play well. Wulff feels he can be better than he's been. Matt Eichelberger is also working harder than ever, and had a great camp. He could be very valuable inside. Toby Turpin and Adam Hineline will be in the mix as backups.

LB's are the strength of defense. They are experienced, have played a lot, and bring a ton of passion, leadership and intensity. The defense keys off these guys and their passion lends to other players on defense. Greg Trent is physical and emotional leader. Corey Evans and Kendrick Dunn are strong on the outside and improving.

The position switches look good in the secondary. Alfonso Jackson is a better cover corner than Chima was, and that is a good fit. And Chima has better safety ability than Jackson. But Xavier Hicks, while out the first three games, has just been really strong at practice this fall and runs the secondary in a leadership role. Wulff feels he clearly has learned his lesson and is excited to get him back after the suspension. Plus Myron Beck has 3 more years of eligibility, and had a very good fall camp. He looks ready to go.

Finally, young corners in Tyrone Justin and Romeo Pellum both have improved and look good right now. Markes Dawes played well too, he's banged up right now, but will help when he gets back.

Wulff talked about the coaching staff on defense. Jody Sears as coordinator for 5 years at EWU, a Pullman native who's dream is to be at WSU. Travis Niekamp at EWU and had top 10 defenses 3 of last 4 years, really an excellent coach. Malik Roberson at d-line brings a lot of things on and off field to the position, and really connects with the players. Wulff said some players talked to him after spring ball about how much better and how much they have learned under Malik. Chris Ball is familiar with Wulff, as he was a grad assistant when Wulff was a player. Ball has experience all over the place, has coached some very good defenses and it was an easy decision to make him co-coordinator. Ball also gets along really well with Sears. There is EXCELLENT chemistry on this coaching staff! They are all positive and they are buying in to the direction of the program. Wulff made it clear to have everyone's ego left at the door and everyone working hard, together there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Kicking game/special teams:

Kicker still hasn't separated himself from the others. All are competing. May not have answer until games begin. Penner, Grasu and Rooney have all battled. Kicking off will be Rooney and at times Grasu. Punting game - Reid Forrest is still hurt, but could be back by Cal game next week. Meanwhile Dan Wagner, converted QB, goes this week. Hopefully he will be consistent??

With the lack of depth, more starters will be on special teams than we would like. Wulff wants special teams to be as sound and consistent as possible. As the season moves along, young kids might be in the mix for more special teams. Wulff stressed how very important it is to be in good shape as a team right now! But starters will be asked to play multiple special teams early on, and it will be an adjustment.

Other Stuff:

A caller, Paul from Tacoma, asked about clock rule changes this year. Play clock at 40 seconds this year instead of 25, and the clock will run even if out of bounds, unless it's within 2 minutes of the end of each half. Then it's the old rules of stopping the clock if someone gets out of bounds. Basically the exact timing rules as the NFL, trying to get the games down to 3 hours. Wulff said he heard a lot of it has to do with trying to shorten games to exactly 3 hours, something the NFL has mastered and TV sponsors want to do the same with the NCAA.

Bob-Rob asked about how the coaches got familiar with the players they inherited. Did they watch a lot of film? Wulff said the coaching staff studied some film, but not a lot on their own players. He didn't want to get too concerned with the past, and the staff wanted to build their own opinion in practices and what they did out on the field. The coaches watched during winter conditioning and got some feel as to who they are as people and their commitment as student athletes. But it is still a learning and "feeling out" process. They have a pretty good idea on some guys, but others still have to prove themselves. He has leaned on Levy and Broussard for how some of the kids handle themselves on game day, but it will be a new experience for everyone this Saturday.

Bob-Rob asked about academics and what Wulff did there. Wulff joked "some strong arm tactics" but then said they held players accountable to all of their responsibilities. Going to class, studying, follow through on what they are supposed to do. He also said they made it very clear to the players that there are people here to help them with school and it is ok to trust them. It turned out well with a strong spring and then the best gpa ever in summer school. The goal is to break the all-time team GPA record this fall. But it is a team effort and all are accountable. They are pushing the kids to go to class, and even at class, to be alert, be engaged and also to help each other out as students. And even have fun with it. There were a couple of players who were against the wall this summer but had great summer sessions in the classroom. He was proud with how well they responded. Wulff said it's a great feeling to see kids come in and question whether they can make it, and then to watch the kids grow with their confidence as they get through the first year to year and a half. Generally they will be successful if they can make it through those first three semesters and to see them grow up is exciting to him.

Bob-Rob asked about the differences with EWU to WSU in terms of talent. Wulff said there is a difference in overall size and speed of players. But he was quick to say that several EWU players could play in the Pac-10, right now, and that EWU could contend for a I-AA title this year. I-AA has closed the gap and can compete at high level on given day, see App-State/Michigan last year. But top to bottom WSU is bigger and stronger but EWU has capable talent.

BOTTOM LINE - Players are sick-n-tired of hitting each other. They are ready to go hit someone else. Wulff is looking forward to get started on the year and then just build from there. While the players have a lot to learn, Wulff said he himself has a lot to learn about his players, and evaluate how we respond on game day. He said they challenged them in camp but now we're in true competition he is interested to see who responds.

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