|College:||Washington State '90|
|Experience:||8th Season (41-28)|
It's been a long time since the Eastern Washington University football team has faced a challenge such as this. But fortunately for the Eagles, Paul Wulff has been through it twice before. For only the second time since 1996, the Eagles are coming off a losing season. With lots of youth at the skill positions, last year's 3-8 finish was a disappointment for sure, but no reason for Wulff to hit the panic button as he enters his eighth season at the helm of the Eagle Football program. "We need to take care of each other, work hard and have fun doing it," he says. "That's it - let's not get too complex about it. Everybody knows what they need to do to improve and understands where they are. Now we have to take that next step and go to work and make progress." The last losing season for EWU came in 1998 when the Eagles were 5-6 in Wulff's first season as EWU's offensive coordinator. However, the Eagles followed with seven-straight winning seasons, capped by back-to-back years in which EWU won the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern, which has now made five appearances in the playoffs, enjoyed its first back-to-back playoff appearances and back-to-back titles in 23 seasons as a member of the FCS (20 as a member of the Big Sky). Back in 1995, when Wulff was EWU's offensive line coach, the Eagles were 3-8. Two years later, Eastern had the best season in school history with a 12-2 finish after advancing to the semifinals of the playoffs. The turnaround then is the same turnaround EWU is hoping for now. "Teams with the most experience with talent, and teams that have great leadership, have success. That's just a reality," he said. "You might find an exception here and there, but most teams that don't have those things don't have success. I don't care who the coach is - that's just the way it works." Wulff's 2005 team was one of those teams with experience, talent and leadership. The Eagles finished 7-5 and won the Big Sky title with a 5-2 record before losing to eventual national runner-up Northern Iowa in the first round of the playoffs. In 2004, his squad finished 9-4 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. The crowning glory came when the Eagles knocked off No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois in the first round. Wulff enters his 15th season on the Eagle Football coaching staff in 2007, including his eighth as head coach. With 68 victories from 1997-2006, Eastern's program has not had a better stretch of success in 98 years of football at the school. Success on the field has been the result of years and years of labor for Wulff and his coaching staff - hard work that eventually paid off. "Our effort is really good," he says. "That's the one thing about our program and our expectations here. Our players have a great work ethic and effort is not an issue. If it is, we address that quickly. It's something that we really pride ourselves on. We believe we play as hard or harder than anybody else." "As coaches, we want to see improvement from these guys on a daily basis," he says. "Part of the fun that we have as coaches is finding ways to help our players get better. We know if they keep working hard, then they are going to make big strides. These players work really hard - they've done good things in the past and they'll continue to do good things again." Players with character, competitiveness, perseverance and resiliency are traits that Wulff and his staff look for when they hit the road in search of future Eagles. "There is a lot more between the ears and inside that chest that matters as much as playing ability," says Wulff, who is now 44-36 overall and 28-23 in the Big Sky Conference in seven seasons as head coach. "We need to do the best job we can to find players that fit into our program and blend into the players we have." "We're looking for tough players and ones that want to work hard. They need a certain element of perseverance as well as commitment and pride. They don't always have to be the biggest, strongest and fastest, because we're going to try to get them to be big, strong and fast." Wulff Selected as Big Sky Coach of the Year Three Times in Seven Years . . . Wulff has been selected as Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year three times in his seven years at the helm. "Our coaches and the players have done a great job to stay the course and keep our goals and mission in front of us," he says. "We're always striving to move forward. Our assistants have done a great job coaching, and our players have done a great job taking the coaching." His 2005 team featured an incredibly talented and productive group of seniors that included the Big Sky's Offensive and Defensive MVP's (Erik Meyer and Joey Cwik), and featured a trio of All-Americans (Meyer, Eric Kimble and Matt Alfred). Meyer would go on to win the Walter Payton Award as the best football player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Together, Meyer and Kimble rewrote Eastern's record book as they combined for 27 school records and four Big Sky marks. Meyer set a FCS record for passing efficiency rating (166.47 with 10,261 yards, 84 touchdowns, just 17 interceptions and a .657 completion rate), while Kimble's 46 touchdown grabs ranked second in FCS history behind the 50 of legendary Jerry Rice. The 2004 season was also special, even after the Eagles opened the season 0-2. Eastern won eight of its next nine games - most by substantial margins - as the Eagles closed the year with a 51-44 overtime victory at Montana State to secure a place in the playoffs. Quarterback Erik Meyer was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award. Senior offensive tackle Michael Roos joined Meyer, wide receiver Eric Kimble and guard Rocky Hanni as All-Americans, with Roos eventually being taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. Statistically, the 2004 and 2005 teams were nearly identical with both finishing the year ranked fourth in FCS in total offense. In 2005 the Eagles averaged 477.8 yards per game, and were 14th in scoring (35.0). A year earlier the Eagles averaged 475.5 yards and 37.5 points per game to rank sixth. Creating a championship team was a work in progress for Wulff and his coaching staff. In 2000, Wulff concluded his first season as head coach with a 6-5 record overall and 5-3 finish in the Big Sky Conference as the Eagles were the runner-up for the second-straight year. A year later, the Eagles were ravaged by injuries, but they still managed to win all of their non-conference games en route to a 7-4 finish overall and 3-4 mark in the Big Sky. The Eagles just missed a playoff berth, and Wulff was selected as Big Sky Co-Coach of the Year. Before the 2001 season, Wulff revamped his team's offensive attack. The results were instantly noticeable, starting with a season-opening 35-17 victory at Football Bowl Subdivision member Connecticut when the Eagles out-gained the Huskies in total offense 530-194. Led by 10 senior starters, Eastern's record-breaking offense led FCS in offense and scoring with averages of 514.5 yards and 41.9 points per game. All-American running back Jesse Chatman led the division with 2,096 rushing yards as a senior in 2001. In all, Eastern finished the year with 43 school records, nine Big Sky Conference marks and three FCS records. In 2002, the Eagles were third nationally in passing offense (317.6 yards per game) while ranking sixth in total offense (447.6) and 13th in scoring (33.2). In 2003, the Eagles averaged 380.0 yards per game, ranking 21st in passing offense (247.3). Both years yielded records of 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the conference. Eastern's offense under Wulff has now led the Big Sky Conference in total offense in four of the last six years. Prior to becoming head coach, Wulff was offensive coordinator in 1998 and 1999, and six of his first nine seasons at EWU were spent as Eastern's full-time offensive line coach and strength coach. In 1999, Eastern ranked 28th in FCS in rushing (196.3 per game) and was 40th in total offense with an average of 397.3 per game. The Eagles had two games with at least 500 yards, four with at least 44 points and three times broke the 295-yard rushing barrier. Included was a school-record 456 yards against Cal State Northridge in which Jovan Griffith (262) and Jesse Chatman (211) broke a Football Championship Subdivision record for combined rushing yards by two players in the same game. In Wulff's first year as offensive coordinator in 1998, the Eagles had just four senior starters and still finished 31st nationally in total offense at 398.1 yards per game. Wulff and his impressive offensive line were a major reason the Eagles led FCS in offense in 1997 with an average of more than 500 yards per game. That year, the Eagles finished 12-2 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs. Wulff's Former Home on the Line is His Pride and Joy . . . Wulff has coached 15 All-America offensive linemen at Eastern, including Matt Alfred in 2005, as well as 2004 selections Michael Roos and Rocky Hanni. Roos is perhaps the best of all of them as he earned Lineman of the Year honors from I-AA.org, was a first team All-American on four different teams (second team on a fifth), played in both the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and was eventually drafted in the second round by the Tennessee Titans. He was the first Football Championship Subdivision player chosen in the draft, Eastern's highest ever and the highest choice in the Big Sky since 1989. He was an instant success in Tennessee, starting all 16 games as a rookie in 2005 and 16 more in 2006. Other All-Americans on the line under Wulff have included Chris Polinder (2001), David Sherrod (2001), Asim Poston (2001), Luke Fritz (2000), Lance Knaevelsrud (1999), Aaron Best (1999), T.J. Ackerman (1998), Jim Buzzard (1996, 1997), Kevin Peterson (1997), Tom Ackerman (1995), Harold Fox (1993, 1994) and Trent Pollard (1993). Eastern offensive linemen have won 17 first team All-Big Sky Conference honors since Wulff arrived in 1993, as well as 14 second team awards and 16 honorable mention honors. In 2003, tackle Kurt Sigler earned second team All-Big Sky honors and was selected to play in four different all-star games (he played in two). Although he did not receive any All-America accolades, Sigler signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills and eventually played for the Spokane Shock in the Arena Football League (af2). Wulff is equally proud of his team's academic accomplishments. In 2002 and again in 2003, wide receiver Kyler Randall was a first team CoSIDA Academic All-America selection, and he and Sigler were honored on the All-Region VIII squad in 2003 for the second straight year. Since 1989, Eastern has had 41 players on the Academic All-Region VIII squad, as well as eight Academic All-Americans. Also, an average of 16 football student-athletes each year are honored on the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team - tops in the league. "We're very proud of our academic accomplishments," Wulff says. "It isn't just about athletics and it isn't just about academics. It's about the whole experience of college, and at Eastern right now our players are getting that. We have student-athletes doing good things on all sides." Wulff had a brief pro career as a center after graduating from Washington State University in 1990. He signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets, but was released after injuring an ankle and a rib in the preseason. He played in spring 1991 with Raleigh-Durham of the World League, then played in spring 1992 with New York-New Jersey. A 1985 graduate of Davis High School in Davis, Calif., Wulff played for three different coaches while he was at WSU. He redshirted in 1985 and started four games at guard in 1986 under Jim Walden. Dennis Erickson directed the program in 1987 and 1988 with Wulff as his starting center both years. In 1988, the Cougars were victorious in the Aloha Bowl as Wulff earned honorable mention All-Pacific 10 Conference honors. Under Mike Price in 1989, Wulff earned second team all-conference honors and was an honorable mention selection on the Sporting News All-America squad. He was also WSU's long snapper during his stay there. Wulff was born Feb. 25, 1967, in Woodland, Calif. He and his wife Sherry have an 12-year-old daughter named Katie and a 4-year-old son named Max. Their second son, Sam, was born on May 19, 2006.