PULLMAN - Paul Wulff has left the field a winner just three times in two seasons as football coach at Washington State, and he has frequently bemoaned the lack of players at his disposal who can make big plays at key times.
Paul Wulff, meet Brandon Rankin. Brandon, Paul.
Rankin, a junior college All-American two years ago, turned in a dominant performance against both the run and the pass to highlight WSU’s final spring scrimmage Saturday night at Martin Stadium.
“He’s athletic, he’s big, he’s strong. He’s just going to be a great addition to the defensive line,” said Kevin Kooyman, a senior defensive end out of Tahoma High School.
Wulff and other Cougars coaches waited not-so-patiently for Rankin’s January arrival on campus after he redshirted last year while working to become academically eligible.
“Brandon is going to give us a unique pass rush from the defensive tackle position which we haven’t had here probably since Rien Long (2000-02),” Wulff said.
“Brandon should give us an excellent pass rush. His quickness off the ball; he can disrupt things in the run game and the pass game.”
The Cougars can certainly use the help, since they finished last in the nation with 512 yards allowed per game last year.
Saturday’s scrimmage consisted of four 12-minute quarters, with no kickoffs or punts.
The No. 1 offense played against the No. 2 defense and vice versa before an estimated 1,000 spectators on a cool, breezy evening.
Wulff said he was pleased with both the offense and defense Saturday.
“Without question it’s been our best spring football,” Wulff said. “I feel really good about the progress we’ve made. We’ve still got a ways to go.”
Jeff Tuel, who started at quarterback part of last season as a true freshman, cemented his starting role by completing 11 of 16 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown.
Wulff said “there’s no question” Tuel will enter fall camp ahead of former starter Marshall Lobbestael, who spent most of the scrimmage with the No. 2 offense and went 4 for 11 for 27 yards, with an interception and two fumbles.
“I think I made a lot of improvements, just with some little things that are definitely going to help my game,” Tuel said.
“I feel a lot better about the playbook and the offense, just understanding what’s going on. I’m able to make my reads. The game’s starting to slow down a little bit for me.”
Chantz Staden, a senior who redshirted last year due to a knee injury (like Kooyman), led an effective running game with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Logwone Mitz ran for 59 yards on 10 carries and scored on a 16-yard screen pass in the Crimson’s (starters) 21-0 win over the Gray (reserves).
Kooyman would not predict a win total for the 2010 Cougars, but he said the team will show “great improvement” after last year’s 1-11 season and “definitely” has a realistic shot at a bowl game.
Spring practice concludes with a 6 a.m. workout Monday.
WSU opens the season Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State.