A lot of ground to cover this week so we'll jump right in with a recap of this week's radio show (and some potential BREAKING news to boot?):
- First off, I have to admit that Wulff's overall tone was definitely more somber or down than I can remember. You can hear it in his voice that this whole thing is probably wearing on him, and he's also ready for it to change. But I haven't heard him like this the whole season. Not totally down in the dumps, but clearly a different tone.
- Bob-Rob asked him about the closed practices this week. Wulff said that there are a lot of reasons, but mainly "we need some time to ourselves". Lots to work on, but also need to stay together and iron out a lot of things, and most of all, "address the things that we can control right now". Wulff also made it clear that he is using this bye week to reinforce their understanding of things, as well as make it well-known about the coaching staff's expectations of the players and each other. But Wulff also said hey, we've been trying this thing one way so far, and it's obviously not working. We have to adapt and try something else to get it turned around.
- Bob-Rob asked him what Wulff is looking for in terms of team leaders. Can they be built? Wulff said that some of it can be, and sometimes players grow into a real leadership role. Basically the ones that "walk the talk" are the ones that others will gravitate towards and look to in tough times, and they carry the most respect (we touched on this earlier in the week, about the lack of leadership might be a big problem right now?). But they are always looking for leadership on the recruiting trail. Clearly there is a void right now.
- A caller asked about the no-huddle, and where has it gone? Wulff said that right now, given the injuries and inexperience, that offensively they can't really handle it. It will come with more experience and as they get more comfortable and healthy going forward, but for now, they can't do it effectively. Ideally it will return as a staple of what they do offensively, and will want to use it as a way to dictate tempo, catch the defense off guard/on their heels/etc but doing it now wouldn't benefit anyone.
- Another caller asked him about recruiting right now, and how is he handling all the losing when dealing with recruits? The fine line of a recruit wanting to play early vs. playing on a winner, how is he dealing with that? Wulff said that there is usually more than fans think when it comes to recruits and what they look at. The end-result on the field, AT THAT MOMENT, isn't the most important thing to a recruit. They look at the opportunity to play early, but other things, like their potential position coach, the style of play, the gameday atmosphere, the campus, the academic situation, everything goes into it. Wulff said that many of the recruits and the families they are talking to right now understand the situation, that they are young, injured and everything is still new, and that these times won't last forever. They are selling the opportunity to these kids to be part of something special going forward as the foundation of a successful program. The caller brought up the caliber or recruits, and the Utah kids who visited were brought up (not by name, as that is against the rules of course). Wulff went out of his way to say that Jody Sears is doing a great job recruiting right now, and that Utah is his territory. He has really hit it off well with the two kids from Utah and they have shown tremendous interest in all that WSU has to offer (check it out here from Cougfan as to who was visiting from Utah last weekend).
- A caller asked about the strategy against USC. Why only nine passes? Why not use J.T. Levenseller instead and actually try to do something other than what we saw? Wulff said there were several reasons they did what they did. First off, Lopina's health is "far less than 100%" but good enough to play. Wulff was so concerned for his health that they did not want to put him in jeopardy of getting a further setback to his recovery from the broken vertebrae. If you remember, even though Lopina threw just nine balls, he did take a couple of pretty big (and painful looking) shots. You wonder how much he could have actually handled before he was back on the bench. As to why they didn't play J.T., the reason was simply that it wouldn't be fair to have his first NCAA experience to be against USC's defense! USC starts nine seniors on their defense, it's the best defense in the Pac-10 if not one of the best in the country, and at least half of them could eventually be first-round NFL draft picks. That is no way to break in a true frosh QB, behind a battered offensive line and no running game to speak of. It just wouldn't have been fair to J.T. to play him in that game. Wulff basically again said that the goal was to try and run the ball, control the clock and come out of that game healthy.
- Wulff was also asked about USC. He said they look outstanding, and really felt that Mark Sanchez is excellent, if not underrated as a QB in the country. But he went on about how Pete Carroll was just a class act all the way, citing a few opportunities they had to pile on even worse but chose not to (including the possession to end the first half). Carroll apologized to Wulff after the game for the final score, and Wulff told him that there is nothing to apologize for. But Carroll is just a great guy and a class act all the way.
- One issue that came up when discussing USC was the emotion on the team right now. Wulff said a troubling sign is what is happening when they do get behind early, and that is there seems to be an "acceptance" of the situation. They aren't showing enough fight overall, and might be a big reason for some of these terrible final score margins. He didn't flat out say they were quitting when the going got tough, but you can figure it out. I guess it's not hard to at least think that many players are giving in when you have four Pac-10 teams hang at least 60 points on you??
- Now for some semi-Breaking news - J.T. Levenseller is, if you believe the radio show, VERY LIKELY to play vs. Stanford. Wulff said that they are working hard, right now, to make that happen, and that they are looking at this as a five-game season. J.T. is going to be a big part of that. Now he didn't say if young Levy would start vs. Stanford, or come off the bench as part of a QB rotation, but he did say he would play. Hmm, maybe this is part of the closed practices as well?
- Wulff expanded on what they think of Levy. Wulff first said "competitor" without hesitation, much like Marshall Lobbestael. But they really see the extra intangible in him, and that he'll be the type of QB who simply finds ways to win. He stands just about 6 feet, and is an outstanding athlete with great feet. He has an excellent arm, one that Wulf says "can make all the throws in this offense". And he also possesses the ability to throw on the run, and with real accuracy. Very tough minded kid, like his father. And every bit the "coaches son" in that he knows the game and understands things pretty well just because he's been around it so much. Wulff would say that you get a player like J.T. Levenseller, it has the potential to lift the whole team.
- Wulff would go on to say that the QB situation is setting up nicely for next year. When you consider they'll still have Lopina on the roster, plus a return to health for Lobbestael and now, Levenseller is going to show what he can do. Hopefully they close the deal with Jeff Tuel, the recruit from Fresno, and he can redshirt next year.
- Wulff was asked about Stanford. He said they are doing an excellent job of running the football, and that is keeping them in virtually every game they play. They are still in their second year with Harbaugh, so they aren't perfect, but they have made some big strides. But a huge part of their success so far is their ability to run the ball. Very physical up front. They also play sound defense and have some experience, so they should be tough. Wulff would go on to say that he looks at Stanford and sees that our own offensive line needs to emulate some of what they do, in terms of physical play up front and the ability to run the football. If you can't run it, you can never keep that defense honest, and you aren't able to get very deep into your offense.
- Finally, a caller asked about the scoring streak, and why with a few minutes left didn't they at least try some hail mary type throws? Wulff said that the streak was sort of on their mind, and they did talk about it briefly as far as running a play or two that they thought could work. But at the same time, it was not a priority to them. They had a game plan and wanted to stick with it, and they felt it was more important to keep Lopina healthy and not risk having him get hurt in a "meaningless situation at the end of the game". Wulff said he would just hate the idea of getting Lopina further injured on something that simply wasn't too relevant. So, he said they bagged the idea of some deeper plays, and Wulff stuck to the plan.
But again, overall a less-than-thrilling radio show. It's hard to explain, but if you heard the show, you would know what I mean when I say there was a different tone with Wulff. Maybe a little down, but also much more serious sounding to me. We'll see if it's same 'ol, same 'ol, or if some of these changes actually pay off in a couple of weeks.
Happy Wednesday, and GO COUGS!