Right off, let me say that it was an intense yet upbeat coach Wulff for the show. I don’t know if you had the chance to tune in, but while there’s so much angst in Coug-ville right now, you wouldn’t know it by coach Wulff’s demeanor on the radio show. I will definitely give him that, for all year long he’s been pretty up and/or into what’s going on. You know the losses are eating at him, big-time, but by Tuesday night’s show, he seems to put the week behind him and is quickly looking forward to what lies ahead. I’m sure that mentality has served him well in the past, and I don’t think that will ever change about the guy.
With that, here’s some of the better things to take from this week’s show:
1) Bud Nameck immediately asked him about how good it must feel to be getting ready for a HOME game! After so long away from the friendly confines, “no doubt about it. We are anxious to get out there in front of our home fans. It’s been a long time and we are excited to be playing a home game! And he also added “it will be nice to have our young offense not have to battle the crowd for once. That sort of thing definitely makes a difference” when you go on the road vs. playing at home, “especially with a young offense.”
2) As usual the injuries were a topic of discussion. First, Jeff Tuel: “He was limited today, in that he can walk around but that’s it right now. He may practice on tomorrow and on Thursday and we’ll see how he does. The good news is that it doesn’t appear to be a real serious injury, where the knee popped out of place and then popped back in. They think he will recover quickly. But he could be a game-time decision.” This is pretty much what we’ve heard the last two days, but Wulff has basically confirmed that we won’t know for sure until later this week, if not right up until kickoff, if Tuel can go. Meanwhile, “Jay Matthews at safety looks better, and he practiced today and should be able to go this week. Chima Nwachukwu should be back this week, however he did NOT practice today. But we think he will be able to go.”
That was about it as far as the injury updates. Nameck brought up the hydrotherapy facility, and if that was helping players recover quicker? Wulff said “absolutely, and it has been a huge help in getting guys back.” Names like Zack Williams, B.J. Guerra, even James Montgomery and Marshall Lobbestael have all used it, and it’s been a tremendous help. Wulff said “It is a huge asset.”
3) James Montgomery was brought up, and there could be some very good news there. Wulff said “things are more positive on James than we ever thought”, and that he is making great progress! Don’t pay any attention to the rumors of him playing this year (it’s not true), but Wulff said that he is hard at work, hoping to come back next year. Wulff also threw in that “James actually has another injury, to some cartilage on his knee opposite the calf injury, that we want to clean up with surgery here in the next month. So he’ll be coming back from that as well.”
Sounds like it is still a long road ahead, but, it’s at least sounding POSSIBLE that James Montgomery could be back in 2010??
4) A caller asked about the game-plan every week, and what is involved there. Wulff said they start putting it together on Sunday, and Sunday evening they’ll spend 4-5 hours to start formulating the game plan. They’ll spend all day Monday and into part of Tuesday, then they reveal it to the team via film study and of course, practice. Every coach has a say in the game plan, and they try to get everyone on the same page and all the coaches are comfortable with what they want to try and do for the upcoming game.
5) On the same game plan theme, the caller asked if there were different game plans based on who was at QB? Wulff said not really. Wulff did say that they do have some flexibility in their system, but we are “still growing and getting comfortable at QB before we can make some bigger changes” based on who is at QB. They might try and do a couple of different things based on who is in there, but it isn’t drastic in terms of differences.
Nameck asked if the game plan includes scripting of the first 10 or so plays? Wulff said they “have done that in the past, but we are quick to change it based on the situation. If we have a sack or something like a big loss early, suddenly it’s 3rd and long instead of 3rd and short, it changes the whole approach.” But Wulff said that they “like to run different things early in the game, just to see how the opposing defense reacts to what they are doing. Then we’ll have a handle on how to approach a situation or a formation later in the game based on what we saw them do.”
6) Nameck asked about the slow starts, and how the young team was handling things. Wulff brought up the Arizona game as an example of how something like scripting plays with a young team may not work. For example, “Arizona runs the opening kickoff for a TD. We get the ball, and we give up a sack in our first possession, so we run three plays and we punt. Arizona comes right down the field and scores. We get the ball back, get sacked again, and we punt after three plays. They drive down and score ANOTHER TD. Suddenly we’ve run SEVEN PLAYS and we’re down 21-0!” Wulff said when that happened, you could see a lot of “wide eyed, shell-shocked young eyes on the sideline”. Right now “they are just too young & don’t know how to respond. But somehow, we have to learn to stop the avalanche early and have to learn how to respond to those situations. That will come with experience.”
7) A caller asked about the defensive scheme lately, and specifically the ineffectiveness of the 3-4 or the 3-3-5 or whatever it is. The caller said that we can’t seem to get any pass rush with just a three man line, and we certainly aren’t stopping the run with any effectiveness. Why is this? Wulff said that first of all, the defensive line has been hit hard by injuries, missing good, strong players like Josh Luapo and Bernard Wolfgramm for chunks of the season, as well as Kevin Kooyman after the first game. They did try and blitz earlier in the year, but they were getting beat far too often to stick with that approach. So, Wulff said, they have found the approach of dropping eight into coverage and just playing more coverage, trying to keep the play in front of them and keep them from getting first downs, that is their best strategy with what they have right now. It is the “best thing we can do with where we are defensively right now.”
Wulff then pointed out the injuries, and that they are going to get guys like Josh Luapo and Kevin Kooyman back for next year. He then said “we will be a strong, physical defensive line next year. In fact, it will be one of the strongest, most physical defensive lines we’ve seen at WSU in some time.”
8) A caller asked about the woeful special teams, and what the heck happened vs. Arizona? If you forgot, AZ had TWO special teams TD’s, one on a kickoff, one on a punt. Wulff said that on the opening kickoff return for a TD, they didn’t line up correctly, so they were out of alignment right away. Then, “we didn’t get off blocks well enough or make a play, and they got seven points right away.” On the punt return, Wulff said “Reid Forrest really drilled the punt, but unfortunately he kind of outkicked the coverage. One of our contain guys came down too far inside, got sealed off to the inside, and the returner broke it outside and was gone.” But Wulff said that while special teams are still a work in progress, they did do well against Notre Dame the week before. He said “we played outstanding in special teams vs. Notre Dame, and they have some of the most talented returners we will see this year. But we are still inconsistent week to week on special teams.”
9) Nameck brought up UCLA, and what the challenges are this week. Wulff said that “they are playing much better offensively, the last two games over 300 yards passing in Pac-10 games. The key is they are healthy right now on offense. And they have had several close games. Looking at some film, they very well could have beaten Oregon State earlier this year but just couldn’t put them away, and Oregon State ended up winning the game. And of course they beat UW last week in a close game.” Defensively, they “have six seniors, plus a junior in Brian Price, their excellent defensive tackle. They are REALLY talented on defense.”
Wulff mentioned the play of Rahim Moore, the safety who leads the country in interceptions with eight, and his interception last week of Jake Locker sealing the win over UW. Wulff said “they are NOT getting beat deep, and Moore is a really good player, along with Alterraun Verner at corner. But they have a very strong pass rush and they get really good pressure on the opposing QB. You get good pressure up front and have a good secondary, you will get a lot of takeaways, and that is what we are seeing from UCLA right now.”
10) Finally, kind of out of the blue but Wulff went deep on how optimistic he was that there will be a resurgence in football at Washington State. He said “Fans can’t see it yet, but I can assure you, it is happening. There is a lot of youth, but they are growing and learning every day. We are beat up right now, but there are a lot of these kids who are out right now that we will get back next year. Plus we have some outstanding recruits coming in that will really help the program take another step forward. We will see a big resurgence in Cougar Football!”
That’s about it. For a coach who has seen the season fall apart at the seams with injuries and inexperience, he sure sounds dug in for the long haul.
ENJOY your morning, and GO COUGS!