PULLMAN, Wash. – In part one covering the final news conference on the 2009 Washington State Cougar football season, we looked at what Coach Paul Wulff talked about in terms of last year.
Clearly last season is finished and it's time to look forward.
Coach Wulff has substantial reasons as well as confidence to project improvement in every phase of Cougar football in 2010, including the won-loss record.
For some, winning and losing is the only criteria measured to determine whether a college football program is improving or sliding downhill. Marching in place is a rarity when it comes to assessing the state of a football program at any level.
Naturally, the question which comes to mind here is, "Why do you think WSU will show improvement in wins and losses next season?"
Coach Wulff didn't quantify how many wins to expect from the Cougs next year.
Going into the 2009 schedule, he wasn't going to project a win total either. But his reasons for shying away from mentioning some sort win total in 2010 make a lot of sense.
I’m not looking at (how many we should win) because you know what, we could stay extremely healthy and just get better and better and win more games than people think (we can). Or we could maybe lose an injury here and there.
I’ll just tell you our kids, they’re very excited. They’re very anxious and I think they’re pretty set on going to a bowl game. That’s not expectations and that’s not anything other than what’s going to be our goal every year." - WSU Coach Paul Wulff
As recruiting continues, there is a constant impression virtually every prospect talks about after a visit to the Pullman campus. Recruits talk about the young players on the WSU team are rock-solid confident about next season and truly expect to become bowl eligible.
When a follow-up question about wins next season if the seemingly impossible happens, players stay healthy, did Wulff believe the team could become bowl eligible? His response was direct and crystal clear, "I do."
I think we can make a lot of progress. There’s a tremendous (number) of young guys back. They’ll be young but I think that there’s some talent we can now work with. It’s all headed the right direction." - Coach Wulff
Between players returning, redshirts vying for playing time and starters lost to injury last season, Wulff believes fans will see the most improvement next year on defense.
In a way, Coach Wulff was describing the proverbial snowball rolling down hill. He expects to see better play at the quarterback position as well as the offensive line.
An improved offense will keep the defense on the sidelines longer, making them fresher when they take the field after a Cougar score.
And with a stronger pool of talent on the WSU football roster, it just makes sense there will be improved play by every unit, including special teams.
If we get great play out of the quarterback and offensive line, then our defense comes around which I think will be the biggest improvement on our team.
I think that our speed in our secondary and linebacking corps will drastically improve. I think our ability to get to the quarterback with the pass rush will be greatly improved.
Our physical play to defend the run will be greatly improved. I just think that our defense should make the biggest jumps and our offense will make a big jump. The number of speed kids we have back will be able to play on special teams, which has been an Achilles heel.
We’ve struggled on special teams the ability to cover. The ability to get back in position to return a kick and block somebody and not be outrun to a spot.
We need to be able to block people instead of trying to catch up and get holding penalties. Those are the things that occur to you on special teams. We get penalties because you’re not in position.
I think we’re going to have so many more bodies that are going to help us with our special teams units because of the speed and some of the young players we’ll have on our team." - Coach Wulff
Yet another reason cited by Coach Wulff to support the belief Cougar football will improve is the off season program. He's been talking conditioning and nutrition for his players since arriving on campus. With those programs in place, Coach Wulff expects new leaders to emerge and players to become a very close-knit group.
It’s very important to have leadership and that (players) are collectively growing together and doing more things together as a team.
Not just in the weight room but maybe in their apartment, house or at the movie theater and just continue the development of growing together and building a tighter relationship amongst the players. When we do go to battle in the fall there’s more at stake.
They’ll be competing next to a brother, in terms of feelings, versus a stranger. That’s how you build chemistry. That’s how you build continuity. That’s how you build a team.
We’ve got to continue to grow together as people and start to look at each other as brothers, that we’re willing to protect each other and willing to go to bat for each other.
That’s part of our growth, getting these young guys to come together as a team." - Coach Wulff
In the final installment of this series, Coach Wulff talks about players returning and prospects who will be joining Washington State Cougar football.
Originally pubished in Lew Wright's column on Examiner.com