RB Burns drawing notice, gaining tough yards

PULLMAN -- A positive for the offense on Wednesday was the play of RB Arthur Burns. Burns, who recently converted to RB from LB, is still learning the offense and getting back the running back "feel." But he looked like a man on a mission Wednesday, bullying his way through the line and fighting for extra yards. And he earned his Wednesday time with the 1s, too.

Arthur Burns showed a good burst of speed when with the 2's on Wednesday. That in turn earned him time with the 1's. And while in with the 1's Burns continued his strong play. Paul Wulff was among those who certainly took notice.

"Well, he's trying to work himself into the lineup and that's how you do it -- come out every day and practice hard. So he did a nice job (Wednesday and Tuesday). The more he plays the better he gets."

"I'm just trying to not get moved back to linebacker," Burns quipped. "I'm just going hard so I can seal a spot at running back. I wasn't doing too well (moving up the depth chart) at linebacker, so I just want to seal that."

With starting RB James Montgomery out (concussion) this weekend against Cal, did Burns think his performance the past two practice days might gain him some yards come Saturday?

"Maybe, I'm not sure," Burns said. "I'm not anybody to say anything on who's going to be getting playing time, it's all up to the coaches.

"But it would be nice if they gave me some carries on Saturday, though," he grinned.

TUESDAY'S PRACTICE WAS fairly intense but Wednesday saw those levels increase. Again the Cougs went full contact and there were more and more big hits. Physical play has been consistent this practice week despite the number of injuries plaguing the Cougs.

"We have to play physical -- I don't know what else to say," said Wulff when asked if he considered toning down the session with the number of dings and bruises. "If you can't play physical in this league, it's pretty tough to be competitive and win.

"The injuries are going to occur. You have to practice this game, and it's football. You have to be physical and you have to practice."

And Wulff was please with the results on Wednesday.

"I thought it was a good practice, they came out here and slugged through it," he said.

THE HIT OF the day belonged to safety Casey Locker, who absolutely unloaded on WR Blair Bomber while running with the 1's against the scout team.

On the play, QB Connor Halliday tried to connect Bomber across the middle but Locker lowered his shoulder and absolutely leveled him. Locker was in a yellow no-contact jersey Wednesday, but it must have slipped his mind. Bomber, as has been his custom all year long, got back up and went back to the huddle to try and stick it to the defense again.

AT LINEBACKER, Sekope Kaufusi missed his third straight day of the practice week. He was conditioning with other injured players on the sidelines. After practice, Wulff didn't seem too optimistic on the redshirt freshman's availability for Saturday.

"At this point, because he wasn't in contact today, it doesn't look real positive," Wulff said. "His range of motion isn't back in his shoulder and that's what we're waiting on."

With Alex Hoffman-Ellis not going at full contact but still practicing, Mike Ledgerwood has continued to see the majority of the time at the WIL spot.

"CALIFORNIA WILL UNDOUBTEDLY look to run when they meet the Cougars in Pullman on Saturday. RB Shane Vareen is coming off a sub-par performance against OSU but still enters the contest with 774 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Will WSU be ready for Vareen?

"Boy, we're going to have to be," Wulff said."He gets a lot of his yards, a lot of times, on his own. (A play) will be a conventional run but then he takes an unconventional path and makes big plays. We have to be sure tacklers, he always seems to create things from nowhere."

  • Right guard B.J. Guerra went full throttle Wednesday and played without the yellow no-contact jersey he had donned the previous two practices.

  • WR Jared Karstetter was able to return to practice and showed no ill effects of his ankle injury suffered on Monday night. Fellow WR Daniel Blackledge was a spectator again on Wednesday and it's seeming more than likely that the senior won't be able to go on Saturday.

  • The scout team play of the day involved two true freshmen -- walk-on WR Auston Ehlo and QB Connor Halliday. Halliday heaved a bomb downfield, with Ehlo outfighting safety Deone Bucannon for the prize. Ehlo gained just enough separation and then somehow hauled in the pass with one hand, trapping it against his chest in the end zone. Great grab.

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