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Originally published Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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WSU Football | Paul Wulff says Cougars practices are more fun

Those who watched WSU's first three weeks of workouts have noticed bigger bodies, a crisper tempo and, finally, the no-huddle offense that coach Paul Wulff wanted to install last year but scrapped due to inexperience and injury at quarterback.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Any analysis of how far Washington State's football program might have come since its forgettable 2008 season seems inevitably framed by how lacking the Cougars were physically.

Their absence of bulk probably resulted in some of the injuries, and subsequent surgeries, that have trimmed the available roster. But for those who got through a 2-11 season unscathed and went through the winter lifting and conditioning program, the difference has been noticeable.

Those who watched WSU's first three weeks of workouts have noticed bigger bodies, a crisper tempo and, finally, the no-huddle offense that coach Paul Wulff wanted to install last year but scrapped due to inexperience and injury at quarterback.

"It's a lot more fun going to practice every day," Wulff said late this week. "We're getting so much more done.

"I think players trust the coaches more now that we've been around them longer. It's just a healthy working environment for all of us."

That's for the attendees. There are a passel of players missing this spring, and the offensive line is a prime example of the attrition. Three players — tackles Micah Hannam and freshman Tyson Pencer and guard Brian Danaher — all have had some form of shoulder procedure since the season ended, while the line's anchor, Kenny Alfred, is rehabbing from hip surgery.

"When you have young guys, or even old guys, that aren't physically strong enough to compete at this level," Wulff said, referring to shoulder injuries, "they're taking a lot more physical blows to their shoulders and they don't hold up."

WSU has a scrimmage today and then another week of workouts before ending the spring session next Saturday.

Notes

Zack Williams, the JC product who redshirted in 2008, is working at guard and tackle, and Wulff said he has "shown flashes," but needs consistency.

• Another JC product on the defensive line, Bernard Wolfgramm, has been held out some as he recovers from a back problem from last fall. Wulff said WSU "will probably have to be smart" in how much work he gets in the fall.

• Standouts so far, according to Wulff: the running backs — Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery, Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond — a position that is probably WSU's strongest; freshman WRs Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter; TEs Tony Thompson and Zach Tatman; LB Louis Bland; S Chima Nwachukwu; DE Cory Mackay; DT Josh Luapo; and CB Brandon Jones, the O'Dea product and California transfer.

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Casey Hamlett, a 6-3, 239-pound transfer defensive end from Western Washington after the Vikings disbanded their program, has been a "surprise," Wulff said. "He's a tough, hard-nosed kid."

• CB Romeo Pellum is suspended for the rest of the academic year for breaking team rules, and senior backup WR Michael Willis is also out because of a DUI charge last weekend. A WSU police spokesman said Willis registered about 1 ½ times the legal blood-alcohol limit.

• Wulff said he hopes to have WR Jeshua Anderson committed to football as of July 1, with a lesser card of track events than he had on his plate last year. Anderson is excelling in the intermediate hurdles.

• Pencer, the 6-6, 297-pound Delta, B.C., product, is raw but "very athletic," Wulff said. "He's really got a chance."

• QB Marshall Lobbestael's rehab from a knee injury is going well, and he's taking part in some drills. He should be ready for fall camp.

• Wulff said S Eric Block, the former Bellevue High QB, is still battling the chronic stomach ailment that has slowed his development. "When it flares up, he loses weight," Wulff said.

• K Nico Grasu, one of the heroes of the Apple Cup, has had a strong spring, getting more lift on the ball than he did much of last season.

• Bland has been the only experienced linebacker able to practice all through spring. Andy Mattingly is out with a pectoral tear, Myron Beck has sat out with a back problem, and Jason Stripling only returned lately from a shoulder injury. All should be ready for the fall.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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