Spring Ball: Day 1

PULLMAN --- Fourteen years as the right hand man of <b>Mike Price</b> came to an end on Tuesday afternoon, as WSU head coach <b>Bill Doba</b> officially took to the sidelines to kickoff the upcoming 2003 season with the first of several spring practices.

Excited? Not Doba.

"Actually it was boring," said Doba, who was the former defensive coordinator for nine of those 14 years. "You don't coach practice you just walk around. It seemed like practice took forever."

While Doba may have been bored strolling from sideline to sideline the rest of the Cougars shook off three months of anticipation.

"These guys were flying around the ball," Doba said. "They were pretty anxious, we could have started at 2:30 (an hour before practice actually started)."

WSU is coming off back-to-back bowl seasons for the first time in their history, as well as consecutive seasons finishing the season ranked in the top-10 of the nation. But the Cougars accomplished those two seasons with five potential 2003 NFL Draft picks including quarterback Jason Gesser, receivers Mike Bush and Jerome Riley, Outland Trophy winner Rien Long, and cornerback Marcus Trufant. The loss of these players leaves the Cougars with several question marks that will be addressed during this spring season.

One of those question marks that could turn into a exclamation point soon is wide receiver Trandon Harvey. The sophomore sat out last year with a knee injury, but was one of six true-freshman to play for WSU during the 2001-02 season. Tuesday, Harvey looked nothing short of polished during his first practice, even drawing the attention of some of the defensive coaches.

"I am 100 percent," Harvey said. "This is going to be a breakout year for me. I was really surprised at how good I felt. I was nervous coming into practice, but once I caught that first ball I was like, ‘I'm back.' "

Harvey drew several "oohs" from teammates and onlookers, burning several defenders and making a handful of athletic catches.


"I didn't hear anything negative all practice," Harvey said. "Just ‘good job,' even the defensive coaches gave me some praise."

Senior quarterback Matt Kegel did not look as though he would be relinquishing the starter role anytime soon.

"It's a different mentality (being the No. 1 quarterback)," Kegel said. "I'm looking forward to practicing every day, getting those mental and physical reps."

While Doba has been a little more open ended on Kegel's hold on the No. 1 spot, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller is more than confident that Kegel can morph into his new role minus any hiccups.

"Matt's showing great leadership and great skills," Levenseller said. "The reason we're so confident with Matt is he's had a great deal of game experience."

Doba was equally impressed with quarterback Chris Hurd, saying he has a "phenomenal arm." He should have plenty of chances to evaluate his three quarterbacks (Kegel, Hurd, and Josh Swogger) as he said he would be spending much of his free time in the offensive coordinator meetings.

"I'll be there a lot, I've got to learn it," he said.

Redshirt senior Virgil Williams received the green light from the NCAA to finish his last year of eligibility. The defensive back's career has been blurred by a myriad of injuries.

"He missed two years with his injury," Doba said. "Normally the rule is if you miss two, you can get one back."

The Cougars will have one less worry this spring, as no players will be sitting out for academic reasons.

"It really has been a good year academically for our kids. The class we just brought in averaged a 3.1 or 3.2, so we've got a little bit better students and I think you have to give some credit to our academic support system," Doba said. " (Associate Athletic Director, Academics) Pam Bradetich and that crew up there are doing a good job of targeting kids and making sure they are getting their work done."

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