News and notes galore coming out of Pullman

PULLMAN - The first full practice of the week, and therefore featuring the first contact drills, was full of action with big hits being laid. Safety Casey Locker hauled in one of the best interceptions in recent memory. Senior safety Chima Nwachukwu returned albeit with no full contact. The same couldn't be said unfortunately of a linebacker, and he wasn't injured. All that and lots more..

The Cougars were shuffling bodies around the defense Tuesday with just about every position seeing more than one guy seeing action running with the 1's. Those who missed a second straight day included CB Aire Justin (hip), CB Anthony Carpenter (hamstring), and LB Eric Oertel (hamstring).

On the defensive line, DE's Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman have been the starters all season but on Tuesday they got plenty of relief from back-ups Sekope Kaufusi and Casey Hamlett.

At the tackle spot, Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm were fully dressed at practice but were used sparingly, opening the door for DT Anthony Laurenzi, Justin Clayton, and Steven Hoffart to see a great deal of action.

Linebacker Darren Markle saw increased amount of time running with the 1's, and took advantage by recording a sack against the second team, and also adding a forced fumble of RB Leon Brooks that was recovered by safety Deone Buchanan.

At MLB, Hallston Higgins again saw a good deal of time running with the 1's, with Mike Ledgerwood seeing limited action. Higgins, who has really come on as of late, provided the hit of the day when he pancaked Brooks. However, the running back on the very next play, while running with the 2's, made an impressive cut and scored a 15 yard TD against the first team D.

THE LINEBACKERS had an impressive day, but that wasn't the case early on for one of them during a tackling drill.

Freshman LB C.J. Mizell who has seen action in all three games so far this season, put forth in the drill a puzzling, half-speed, lackadaisical effort that had both his coaches and teammates fired up, and not in a good way.

Mizell was asked four times -- yes, four times -- to repeat a simple tackling drill. Each time he provided the same half-speed, non-effort.

Finally, after his fifth turn, and still going half-speed, Mizell was told to run by one of the defensive coaches, which he did. However he ran without increasing his energy level or output.

Teammates and coaches, as you would expect, were not pleased. Mizell has been criticized in his short career for not giving 100 percent during practice -- and that was certainly showcased again, front and center, on Tuesday.

Chima Nwachukwu returned to the field wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, and showed no ill effects of his injured neck that he suffered last Monday. The safeties running with the 1's features Nwachukwu, Buchanan, Tyree Toomer, and Casey Locker. Locker certainly made his presence felt towards the end of practice when against the scout team, he hauled in the play of the day.

QB Connor Halliday fired a bomb downfield trying to find his favorite scout team receiver, Blair Bomber, but overthrew everyone, it seemed. Locker did not give up on the play and continued sprinting before diving full extension towards the back of the end-zone. Somehow he corralled the ball and came down with the pick.

Meanwhile in the secondary, the Cougars continue to gear up for USC. Starting CB Nolan Washington said their preparation and schemes against USC's attack will be useless unless the players can do what has been preached upon since day one: tackle.

"Our three goals this week have been tackle, tackle, and tackle," Washington said. "We have to be physical and this is football 101, this is what you learn when you're six years old, tackling. And that's what we have to do, game tackle."

Meanwhile on offense, WR Kristoff Williams and RB Chantz Staden were suited up but were mostly spectators during Tuesday's session. LG Tyson Pencer sat out for the second straight day with a groin issue.

With Pencer out, Andrew Roxas became the backup for starter Wade Jacobson, and also saw plenty of action at RG running with the 2's.

The offense struggled a little bit getting into a rhythm early on against the scout team playing the role of the USC defenders, but as time progressed so did the productivity.

"We'll be ready to go on Saturday," said Gino Simone.

USC's defense has not shown the dominance they have in the previous years on the defensive side of the ball. So far this season, USC is allowing nearly 24 points , and over 290 passing yards per game.

The last time the two teams faced, it marked the debut of QB Jeff Tuel with the Cougars. It was also Simone's breakout game as a freshman hauling in 8 receptions for 83 yards in the 27-6 loss at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Both CB Tracy Clark and walk-on WR Bennett Bontemps saw time running with the 2's on Tuesday, and Bontemps hauled in several passes from QB Marshall Lobbestael. Earlier on Tuesday, Paul Wulff said both frosh could see their first collegiate action on Saturday.

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