Tightening the corners

PULLMAN -- IT'S PROBABLY NOT the oddest couple since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger hooked up in the movie <I>Twins</I>, but it's close. The teacher: <b>Jason David</b>, smaller than most high school cornerbacks at 5-foot-7, 173 lbs. The student: <b>Karl Paymah</b>, 6-feet, 197 lbs., a perfect blend of speed, size and strength.

Seeing the two in street clothes walking around campus one would never guess David as the leader of this duo. But David has proved his worth as one of the top returning cornerbacks in the Pac-10, with seven picks in 10 games last season. Now he is doing his best to prepare protege Paymah to take over for Marcus Trufant, a likely first-round NFL Draft pick.

"Karl's straight," David said. "He's come a long ways from last year, his work ethic is a lot better. By the end of the spring he'll be alright."

Paymah got a head start last season when David sat out three games with a highly publicized broken cheek. David's injury came as a huge setback to the Cougars, who were preparing for a showdown with Arizona State. The two teams were the only remaining undefeated in the Pac-10 at the time. However, Paymah surprised teammates and coaches when he stepped in for David.

"I didn't know what to think last year," David said of Paymah replacing him. "I don't think anyone did. He played great though and he stepped it up."

David's injury is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for WSU. Paymah has been able to step right into cornerback - - a position the Cougars lack depth in - - without having to climb the learning curve that awaits most first-time starters.

"It's all about experience," Paymah said. "You can come in every day and watch film but it's all about being out there and getting a feel for it."

Both Paymah and David are getting a feel for their new secondary coach, Ken Greene.

"I felt like before he came we just played off of experience and just going out there and running," Paymah said. "Now we're learning techniques and basics that we should have learned when we first got here. It's totally opposite of what we learned in the past but now we're putting it to the test."

As for Greene -- the former secondary coach at Purdue and former WSU All-American -- he couldn't be happier with the cornerbacks he inherited. Greene can't stop talking about the potential Paymah has and the talent of David he's had the unfortunate duty of falling victim to.

"I got enough of Jason when we (Purdue) played him in the Sun Bowl," Greene said. "The little weasel had two picks, and ran one back for a touchdown."

Despite David's small frame he has played more like Mighty Mouse than Jerry the mouse, something Greene feels can play to his advantage.

"My best corner at Purdue was 5-foot-5," Greene said. "Looks can be deceiving. If you learn to use your size and quickness to your advantage, size rarely becomes a disadvantage."

What has separated Greene from their former secondary coach is the attention he pays to technique and detail. Greene said that is his main focus during spring drills and the first few weeks of fall practice. Both Paymah and David were skeptical of the "back to basics" approach but said they can tell it is paying off now.

"Every coach has their area of expertise," Greene said. "Like anything you build you have to have a foundation. If you build a good foundation everything else falls into place. We want to work a lot on fundamentals right now so when the season starts guys are disciplined and not having to overcome so many bad habits."

If there is one course David has mastered that he should have no problem passing down to Paymah, it's trash talking.

"Y'all know me, I talk as much as I can and I don't stop until I get off the field," David said. "I don't necessarily talk to get into the other player's head, but mostly because it helps me play better. I'm slowly trying to teach Karl."

As for the more reserved Paymah he said he has picked up a few pointers from the seasoned David.

"When you hear me being loud and vocal, you know I'm in a zone," Paymah said.

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