Cougs get physical, and then some

PULLMAN—Full contact? Check. Intensity levels? Off the charts. Extracurricular activity? You bet. And when the starting QB gets knocked down, well, the offensive linemen, they don't like that at all. MLB C.J. Mizell returned to the fold Wednesday, while DT Brandon Rankin returned to the starting d-line unit, after what he called an eye opening experience running with the 2's the day before.

Wednesday's practice opened up with the first team offense and defense squaring off in 11-on-11's. The defense dominated the drill.

The d-line in particular played rock solid, controlling the offensive line and putting consistent heat on QB Jeff Tuel. Tuel was repeatedly hurried but he moved away from the pressure well – still, he was forced to throw the ball earlier than he would have liked and his accuracy suffered as a result.

Brandon Rankin looked like a man possessed, back with the starting unit after spending most of his day running with the 2's on Tuesday. Most noticeable was the way he was fighting his way through the line.

"I felt like I did really good," Rankin said. "I was getting off the ball, using my hands, using good technique with good fundamentals and doing what I do."

Rankin had taken a backseat to DT Anthony Laurenzi on Tuesday and ran with the back-ups.

It's something Rankin said he won't soon forget.

"Coaches were just telling me that I need to turn my game up," Rankin said. "They put me on second string to let me know that anybody can play in front of me. So I had to turn it up a little more today -- yesterday was kind of an eye opener for me."

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE 11-on-11's, the intensity was ratcheted up further when a scuffle broke loose. It started when DE Travis Long and RB Carl Winston continued their physical play after the whistle.

And a few moments later during the melee, Tuel was thrown to the turf.

LG Wade Jacobson did what he does best -- protect his QB -- and gave Long a hard shove in the chest, which sent the sophomore DE onto his back. The scuffle, however, was short lived. And teammates afterwards were cheering the intensity and fire it brought to the practice field.

And a minor scrum now and then, Paul Wulff said, isn't a bad thing. And there was no need for admonishment.

"Just let them go and hit each other," Wulff said. "This team needs more of that. We've got young guys doing it, which is good -- We want to be smart, and we don't want to hurt our own players, there's no question about that, but no, I didn't say anything to them."

LATER, CORNERBACK, Terrance Hayward stepped up for the defense for the second consecutive day, intercepting Tuel during the 7-on-7 Skelly drill.

Starting middle linebacker C.J. Mizell jumped right back in with the 1's, showing no ill effects whatsoever on the quad injury that held him out the day before. He was backed up by Sekope Kaufusi, who was jumping back and forth at both the WIL and MIK positions.

Wulff said the defense will have to be ready for the Sun Devils – they're fully capable of ripping off large chunks and putting up a lot of points on the board.

"When they take care of the football they've got a really great offense," Wulff said. "They've got some receivers and some running backs that run extremely well. They're dynamic, they're going to score points, they have enough weapons to do that."

THE COUGARS' LAST three games have come against ranked opponents (No. 1 Oregon, No. 13 Arizona, No. 17 Stanford), and they've played five of eight games against ranked opponents. So is there any difference, mentally or physically, in preparing for the unranked Sun Devils?

"No, definitely not," Rankin said. "We proved ourselves against all those teams. Playing against a team that's not ranked will make us play even harder."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • WR Jared Karstetter missed practice due to a case of pink eye. RB Carl Winston saw his practice end early with what appeared to be a leg injury. It didn't appear serious however.

  • Long must be envious of fellow DE Kevin Kooyman's pick against Stanford. Long turned in a great play Wednesday, reading a screen pass perfectly against the scout team and intercepting QB Conner Halliday. He took it all the way back for a pick six. Halliday came right back, however, firing an absolutely perfect ball to walk-on WR Austin Ehlo, threading it in between S Deone Bucannon and CB Nolan Washington for a TD strike.


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