PULLMAN -- With junior outside linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis nursing a sore back and taking the night off, redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi -- fresh off a eye-opening game against Oregon --jumped in with the first-team defense at the WIL position Monday. He was joined in the starting linebacking corps by Myron Beck and C.J. Mizell. Meanwhile, on offense the big news was Jeffrey Solomon's health.

Kaufusi and Mizell were a breath of fresh air for the Cougars Saturday, with the two combining for 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble against the Ducks.

"Very impressed," Cougar safety Daniel Simmons said of Kaufusi and Mizell. "They bring a lot of speed to the lineup so I hope to see more of them because they're emerging and they play fast. We try to mix it up with not necessarily our most experiences but our fasted linebacking core."

Kaufusi continues to also backup Mizell at middle linebacker. He saw plenty of time with the 2s on Monday and was joined there at 'backer by Darren Markle at the SAM and Arthur Burns at the WIL.

Starting corner Nolan Washington (hip) also took the night off, and true freshman Damante Horton stepped in with the 1s, filling in for Washington. Aire Justin backed him up.

Simmons was on the opposite corner running with the 1s with Horton and said the team has that extra bit of swagger heading into Saturday's 4:30 pm contest (Versus TV) in Pullman against Arizona.

"We're way more confident and more comfortable," Simmons said. "That allows you to play faster and make more plays so that's where we're at coming out of Oregon. We have a great game plan for U of A so we'll see how it goes."

For the past few weeks, the major concern and focus of improvement had been open-field tackling. The Cougars showed progress in that arena on Saturday, missing only nine tackles all game, according to Paul Wulff. Simmons said now that the team has improved that aspect of the defense, they must now continue to work on closing out games with the same passion they have starting them out.

"We had our highest tackling percentage that game," Simmons said. "Next step is just finishing because we had them. We were playing good ball, we had momentum. We just have to get wins at this point and close teams out."

ON THE OFFENSIVE SIDE of the ball, receiver Jeffrey Solomon was on crutches Monday but definitive information on his injury was not available at press time, but it is believed to be an ACL issue. He is definitely out for Saturday and perhaps longer. Solomon is third on the team with 17 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown.

Chima Nwachukwu also missed Monday night's practice as he is continuing to recover from a strained hamstring suffered week 5 at UCLA. Wulff announced during his Sunday evening conference that the senior safety is questionable for Arizona. Freshman Deone Buccanon will get the start at strong safety.

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