Cougars coach Paul Wulff backtracks, had said Lopina would split time with Marshall Lobbestael in opener.

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Washington State coach Paul Wulff backtracked somewhat Tuesday on an earlier stance on his starting quarterback spot, saying senior Kevin Lopina could play the entire game against Stanford in the season opener Saturday in Pullman.

“If he plays extremely well, he may stay in the whole game,” Wulff said. “If he plays OK, then we’ll give Marshall [Lobbestael] an opportunity to prove himself.

“No one really separated himself through practice. Practices don’t always separate, but on game day, sometimes they do.”

Earlier, Wulff had indicated Lobbestael, the third-year sophomore from Oak Harbor, would definitely play. In any case, it appears likely WSU will look at both quarterbacks to try to bring clarity to the position.

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Lopina is listed at 241 pounds, compared to 232 a year ago. “As long as he’s playing strong and fast,” Wulff said of Lopina. “When you see him out there, you might be surprised. He moves pretty darn good out there.”

Jones OK

Cornerback Brandon Jones, the ex-O’Dea player who transferred from California, is expected to start after being slowed recently by a sprained ankle.

Other injury and illness updates:

• Linebacker Louis Bland “is kind of an emergency guy for us,” Wulff says, as he plays his way back into shape after a knee problem. Wulff says Bland can play at any of the three linebacker spots.

• Defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm, who had a back injury that ended his redshirt season prematurely last year, has responded well, Wulff said, although his speed from 10 to 20 yards seems down. Wolfgramm is a key for a defense that allowed a nation-worst 247.6 yards a game rushing last year.

• Offensive lineman Andrew Roxas finally got a diagnosis of a mysterious ailment that caused him to lose more than 20 pounds and sidelined him in fall camp. Offensive-line coach Harold Etheridge says Roxas went to Los Angeles to a specialist and was told he had a liver infection. He likely will redshirt and figures to be the heir apparent next year to Kenny Alfred at center.

Freshmen answer bell

Wulff said three freshmen will definitely play — Gino Simone of Skyline in Sammamish, listed as a starter at flanker; Travis Long of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane at defensive end; and middle linebacker Darren Markle of Meridian, Idaho.

Simone “is very steady in his practice habits and how he goes about his business,” Wulff said. “He’s nowhere near the player he’s going to be, but he’s a very solid player right now.”

Long, meanwhile, was a prospect Wulff thought to be among the best defensive ends he saw on the West Coast last year in recruiting, and he hasn’t changed that opinion.

“He’s flat-out performed better than the guys at the defensive-end position,” Wulff said. “He’s grinding through practice like a veteran. Sometimes [freshmen] hit a wall. He hasn’t done that.”

Some redshirt decisions aren’t final. But Wulff added, “There’s some really good kids we’re redshirting as freshmen. When they get in the weight room this year and next year, there’s going to be some awfully good players.”

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281

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