Pac-10 Football Media Day offers an opportunity to meet with coaches and top players in the conference.
Washington State University was well represented at media day by Coach Paul Wulff and All-Pac-10 candidate Kenny Alfred. After a busy morning session, Coach Wulff took time to talk about Cougar this coming season.
It's been a couple of months since spring practice wrapped up. We're just days away from the beginning of fall camp.
So what's changed for Cougar football since the end of spring practice?
There are a few things that immediately present themselves front and center.
Most of the month of May, WSU assistant coaches were out on the recruiting trails evaluating prospects for the class of 2010. Though the actual signing of Letters of Intent is roughly six months away, many student/athletes are already committing verbally.
There is an advantage for high school players to commit verbally before the season even begins. When a player is comfortable about making a choice before their senior season begins, they are freed up to focus on playing great football, classwork, college entrance testing and maybe even some time to enjoy their final year of high school.
Coach Wulff had this to say about how things might shape up for his next class of student/athletes.
"It's going really well. We got some good kids coming in that are very talented. We're very excited about how we're doing. It takes time and we're continuing to build this program."
One of the keys to recruiting for WSU is efficiency.
Coach Wulff recognizes there's a wealth of football talent in the Northwest. He talked about utilizing a "regional" approach for a couple of reasons. Staying relatively close to campus facilitates parents visiting Pullman with their son because it's possible to travel without the expense of flying. And in the current economic climate, the cost of traveling has become more important than the convenience.
Trying to quickly shift gears with Coach Wulff and pose a question he has been asked at least a thousand times since last season elicited a broad smile from the head man at WSU.
Are the Cougs going to be able to run the no-huddle offense all the way this year?
"Well, we're going to try! If we have the able bodies I believe we're going to give it a whirl," said Coach Wulff with excitement in his eyes. "I think we're head and shoulders above where we were last year at this time. If we can (build) some consistency with the same players practicing out there we should be able to execute."
His response to the question didn't suggest that it's one thrown his way on a daily basis. Instead of rolling his eyes, there response left you feeling he's as anxious to see his offense on the field as much any college football fan.
It's quite clear that Coach Wulff anticipates a vast improvement from his offense this year. As he's said all along, "It's going to take some time." When you have a plan articulated for both the players and staff, patience is required but easier to exercise.
Staying with the offense, there's no question that the deepest position for Washington State going into fall camp is at running back.
"Yeah, we've got some guys. But they've got to compete as well. Someone's got to play at a high, high level." - Coach Wulff on WSU running backs
It won't matter how many good running backs are on the WSU roster if there isn't strong blocking up front from the offensive line. Here's how Coach Wulff feels about the big guys up on the line of scrimmage:
"There's really no excuse for them to not be very solid and strong. We have a number of players back with game experience and we're worked really hard during this off season. I expect them (the offensive line) to be much improved."
Naturally Coach Wulff isn't going to talk about the offensive line without specifically discussing the leader of that group, senior Kenny Alfred.
"That guy is as good as they come. If they play with his characteristics and traits, we're going to have a pretty tough offense. He leads by example...and just naturally draws a lot of respect." -Coach Wulff on Kenny Alfred
Coach Wulff was quick to point out that not all of the players on his roster pick up on the dedication and passion Alfred brings to the team. But that is part of the process he is talking about when saying it takes time to build a program and change the culture of the team. Make no mistake that Coach Wulff believes Alfred is a model for the team he's building at Washington State.
Then there's the question of who will be taking the snaps this fall from Kenny Alfred. Who will be the starting quarterback for WSU?
"I honestly don't know." - Coach Wulff on his starting quarterback this fall
If you follow WSU football, you are aware of physical improvements made by many plaers over the off season. Players have dedicated themselves to becoming bigger and stronger. That showed during spring practice when compared with the 2008 spring, Coach Wulff's first in Pullman.
"I think we're making progress. We're nowhere near where we plan to be or we're going to be. I think there's a lot of areas we can improve on... Bigger, well some of them are but some aren't... But I have high expectations of them." - Coach Wulff on off season training
The reserved response by Coach Wulff reflects his vision of what he sees Washington State football achieving in a matter-of-fact way.
At the same time, one of the reasons he's excited about the progress of the team is a number of red shirt players that have gained a year of experience in the program. They come into fall camp bigger, stronger and much more familiar with the system than this time last year.
Merely mentioning the defensive line fired up Coach Wulff.
"We've got some guys that can help us. There are some JC kids from a year ago...Josh Luapo has got size and strength. Bernard Wolfgramm is coming off a back (injury) and is a big question because he's got a lot of talent. Toby Turpin is a player that should help us a lot. Anthony Laurenzi is a red shirt freshman who should help us a lot. Kevin Kooyman and Jesse Feagin can help us. They're big kids with range and size. They've got quickness and are going to do some good things." - Coach Wulff on the defensive line
Though Coach Wulff didn't ramble on with glowing adjectives and accolades when describing the defensive line, his energy and enthusiasm for the group was palpable.
At this point in the interview, Coach Wulff was proudly rattling off names faster than world class speedster, wide receiver Jeshua Anderson runs the 400m hurdles. If the Cougar defense plays with just a fraction of the energy racing through Coach Wulff when he talks about them, expect to see improvement on the field in 2009.
No question that Coach Paul Wulff and his staff are looking forward to the challenges of Pac-10 football.
"We've gotten stronger than we were a year ago. We've got more confidence and we know our assignments and terminology." - Coach Wulff on the Cougs
Spending time with the head football coach of Washington State inspires and generates a level of excitement that has been missing the past couple of years.
Cougar football is definitely coming back.
Originally published on Examiner.com