PULLMAN -- Cougar defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi, fresh off what head coach calls the best game performance by a WSU tackle this season, continued his solid play at practice Tuesday afternoon. In 11-on-11 drills, the third-year sophomore from Placentia, Calif., had two tackles for loss -- at the expense of running backs Chantz Staden and Logwone Mitz -- and was consistent in the pass rush.

The conditions in Pullman were atrocious, with temperatures near freezing and the wind gusting. But Anthony Laurenzi who was named the Cougars' defensive player of the week for his work Saturday against Cal, didn't miss a beat. He saw virtually all of the action with the first-string alongside Bernard Wolfgramm. Brandon Rankin, who has spent most of the season in the starting lineup opposite Wolfgramm, ran with the 2s.

The 6-3, 278-pound Laurenzi has started two of the last three games and has 13 tackles and two pass deflections on the season.

"I feel more confident as I've been playing more," Laurenzi said. "In the beginning of the season I wasn't getting too many reps but as the games progressed I got some more and I'm gaining more confidence in what I'm doing."

Wulff said Laurenzi would likely start at Oregon State on Saturday (1 p.m. kickoff, FSN TV).

"I felt like I did really good against that team (California)," Laurenzi said. "I've had really good practices the last couple of weeks and my technique has gotten a lot better throughout the year."

ELSEWHERE ON THE FIELD, injuries have been a major headache for Wulff over the last several weeks, but plenty of bodies were able to make their return Tuesday. On defense LB Sekope Kaufusi was back after missing last week with a shoulder injury, and saw action backing up both C.J. Mizell in the middle and Alex Hoffman-Ellis on the weakside.

True freshman Eric Oertel also made his return to the field after a lingering hamstring battle. He backed up strongside ‘backer Myron Beck. Meanwhile, with Daniel Simmons quite possibly missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, cornerback Aire Justin spent the day running with the 1s and figures to start in place of Simmons again this weekend. Justin started last week and had the game of his life with an interception, sack, and 33-yard punt return.

On offense, receiver Daniel Blackledge and running back James Montgomery both returned to practice Tuesday in yellow no-contact uniforms, after missing the Cal game with concussions. With Montgomery not being able to go full contact, Staden and Mitz took the majority of snaps with the 1s.

Fellow RBs Marcus Richmond (hamstring) and Arthur Burns (leg) both were injured on Saturday against California, but were able to practice Tuesday without problem.

Building depth and consistency has been a major vocal point for the Cougars over the last few weeks, and early on in the Cal contest, it looked like a ground game was finally apparent.

Even without Montgomery, the Cougars were able to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time since their 23-22 victory over Montana State in week two. Mitz led the charge for the ground game with 54 yards on only 11 carries, while quarterback Jeff Tuel added 34. Starting RT Micah Hannam said that it's something the team must continue to improve upon, and it all begins with the preachings of OL Coach Steve Morton.

"I think it's just that Coach (Steve) Morton been harping on us a lot about pad level," Hannam said. "Nine times out of ten the guys with lower pad level is going to win so, if we can keep our pads low we can run the ball."

NOTABLE: Practice ended 15 minutes early for the Cougar offense, but the defensive unit remained on the practice field and performed 100 (yes 100) up-downs. The whole process lasted right around 10-15 minutes and the players fought till the end.

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