Toby Turpin has played his way into the starting lineup at right defensive tackle. Or because he fits Washington State's schemes better...

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PULLMAN — Toby Turpin has played his way into the starting lineup at right defensive tackle. Or because he fits Washington State’s schemes better. Or because he’s finally healthy.

Whatever the primary reason, the redshirt sophomore will assume the starting spot at right tackle for the remainder of the season after getting his first career start last Saturday.

Senior Matt Eichelberger started the first nine games at right tackle, but Turpin replaced him during the game against Stanford two weeks ago and hasn’t let go.

“Eichelberger played pretty good at times, then not so good at others,” Wulff said, adding that it was strictly a “performance decision.”

Co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears said Turpin fits better into the defense the Cougars are running.

“Really this all comes down to schemes,” Sears said. “Going with Toby fits our defense and his abilities better than Eichelberger.”

Given the climate of the team’s overall effort this season, both Wulff and Sears went out of their way to shoot down any speculation the move had to do with Eichelberger’s work ethic or attitude.

“Ike is a great leader — I want to be clear on that,” Sears said. “He’s done a tremendous job for us. He hasn’t missed a day of practice going all the way back to spring camp.”

Since the shift, Eichelberger has given Turpin pointers in practice and helped him during film studies.

“Ike is taking this whole thing so well,” Turpin said. “He hasn’t made this awkward at all. I know I couldn’t handle this as well as he has.”

Turpin tore ligaments in his thumb two days before the season opener against Oklahoma State and was forced into a cast. It was taken off two weeks ago.

After redshirting in 2006, Turpin recorded just four tackles last season.

“I feel like I haven’t really played since my senior year in high school,” Turpin said. “It’s really exciting — but starting has been my plan all along.”

Sears said Turpin excels with his hands and has an ability “to eat up the center better than anyone else.”

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Sears said. “It’s really nice to see him developing the way he is. We’ve been pretty pleased with his progress.”

Running choices

Wulff said either Logwone Mitz or Dwight Tardy could start Saturday, depending on how the week of practice goes. Since returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss two games, Tardy has only seen limited action — carrying the ball eight times for 26 yards against Stanford and Arizona. In the same span, Mitz has carried 22 times for 139 yards.

“Logwone has gotten consistently better this season and taken advantage of our [injury] situation to better himself,” Wulff said. “But he’s not where we need him to be, even though he’s making progress.”

Backup Chris Ivory, sidelined since last month with a lingering hamstring injury, practiced for the first time Tuesday, and could return in some capacity Saturday against Arizona State.

• The Cougars are last in the nation in turnover ratio (22) and in turnovers committed (33).

• Wulff said he expects to have defensive end Kevin Kooyman (pinched nerve) back Saturday.