Q&A With Paul Wulff
With the 2009 football season fast approaching, Head Coach Paul Wulff recently sat down with Butch's Beat for an exclusive Q&A session. Among the many topics Coach Wulff talks about are the offseason, the academic success of his team, how fans can best support the program, and his Twitter page.
What did you learn from your first season that you will apply in your second season as head coach?
"There are a number of things, but one of the biggest issues was for all the coaches to get to know who we have as players and people within our team. It was important for the players and coaches to get to know each other, what we can trust from each other, know what the player's strengths are, and then to apply and build from there. Really, it takes a full year to get a good grasp of the players who are currently in the program and adapt to the new ones. The biggest thing is familiarity and then being able to build from there and apply that into our second season."
Will you be changing anything in terms of your offensive or defensive philosophy from last season?
"We always tweak and change things every year. It goes hand-in-hand with the first question of understanding our personnel and strengths and trying to apply them to our schemes. Our philosophies won't change but we will tinker with certain thing in what we are trying to do."
Comment on how offseason conditioning went and what benefits do you expect to see from it heading into fall camp?
"The conditioning went well. The emphasis was to spend a lot of time in the weight room. We made some great strides this first full year in the weight room with a new strength coach, Darin Lovat. I think he is as fine as a strength coach as there is. The players have all gotten bigger and stronger. We should see fewer injuries when it's all said and done and we should see more of a physical football team heading into fall camp. That should be very evident."
What expectations have you set for this season?
"We expect to be very competitive and win games. We expect our players to be more competitive and fight a little bit more for what they want. We have expectations for being competitive and tougher. We will take it one game at a time. It is an old cliche but it's how you have to do it."
You have talked in the past about instilling a new culture of Cougar Football. Please talk about what policies you have established within the program to achieve this.
"The biggest thing was accountability to start with. We wanted to establish that amongst our whole team. To accomplish this, we sat down in the offseason and developed some core covenants for our program, which are very, very important. The first one is trust, the second one is family, attitude is the third one and intensity is the fourth one. It's very important that we take responsibility for not only for our own actions first but also our player's actions, our teammates' actions, and that they realize that they are all in this together. When one makes a mistake it hurts the team, whether it's on the field, off the field, or in the classroom. We have to hold each other accountable, not anyone on the outside of the program, but within it. We have to have a work ethic that is undeniable in everything that we do. Those things are vital for this team. It started from ground zero and we've come a long ways in a short amount of time. It's easy to make the changes, but it's not easy to get it to run full steam and have it infiltrate through the program. It takes some time and years to do that, but we've definitely made some steps in the right direction."
Last year, the program had 15 representatives on the Pac-10 All-Academic team, the most ever in program history, and last year the team had its highest spring semester GPA ever. Talk about the importance you stress with academics and how can academic success translate to on-the-field success?
"Again, it goes back to accountability and having expectations of doing all the right things every day, not in just one sector of your life. If accountability is there, your academics improve as well. We have expectations academically to do the very best you can do and to utilize all the resources we have available. If we aren't doing those things, then we have to, as coaches, stay right on top of that to make sure every player is, so that we can continue to maximize every kid's academic potential. As coaches, we are trying to do that and I think the players will understand that if they're giving their best effort, than academically we're going to continue to improve. We saw some of that a year ago and as we move forward you'll see more of that. I'm very excited about the All-Pac-10 Academic team and I think the more people you get accountable in that area, accountability breeds, and then they become more accountable in everything. All things we do on and off the field, particularly off the field, if we get that right then the football part takes care of itself. It really doesn't go the other way. You can't be a good football player and not be extremely accountable."
What role can the fans have in helping Cougar Football achieve success?
"Stay positive and understand where we're at right now and the phase we're in. That's very important. Be positive about the direction of what we are doing and have fun in the process. Ultimately, as you work your way through it and you battle and battle, and you keep taking steps forward, eventually you're going to jump over that hurdle. When you get there it just makes it that much sweeter. Enjoy the process along the way and watch it grow and develop. It's not always going to be perfect and pretty but that's how it is. That is the fun part of my job, watching the work take place and watch things evolve and grow. I've been part of that in my past as a head coach and I'm excited about watching this grow and develop as well.I think season tickets are critical from what you can do as a fan, and to be there for every game. If you can't be there, be supportive. When Martin Stadium has a large crowd it's probably the toughest place to play in the Pac-10. That has to give us some extra wins every year. We can't have that unless we have people in the seats."
You have a Twitter page. How have the social media networks changed the way you communicate and what benefits have you seen from it?
"I think it does allow you to put some brief messages out there and to keep people updated on what's going on each day. Some days very little is going on, which can be a good thing. It does keep people in touch, and there's no question it allows people to feel a little bit more of a part of what's happening on a daily basis. That's important. Whether you're a recruit, a fan, a supporter, or whatever your relationship is to our program, it does give you an opportunity to stay more connected."
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