Defense sings, O struggles

PULLMAN -- <b>Matt Kegel</b> promises the Washington State offense will be potent next year. But if Tuesday's practice was any indication, we might have to redefine the word potent.

Regardless, Cougar coaches and players clearly have few worries about the condition of their offense five months from now.


"Every spring it seems like the defense is a step or two ahead of the offense," Kegel said. "Really all they have to do is run and attack the ball though. The offense has to learn all the ins and outs."


While the offense was learning the "ins and outs" the defense was busy putting the clamps down on Kegel and company. Cornerback Jason David had two picks during a 10-minute scrimmage. The defense recorded four sacks and stumped the offense at least three times for no gains or loss of yards.


The offense didn't help its cause with four dropped passes and a fumble. Moreover, the hosses struggled without the services of All-Pac-10 junior Calvin Armstrong. His  replacement is JC transfer Patrick Afif, who eventually gave way to Spokane sophomore Charles Harris.

"They're struggling," WSU head coach Bill Doba said. "They need to learn the system. But the defense should win, especially times when we (scrimmage) nine-on-seven, like we did ... I'm not worried about the dropped passes though, Coach (Mike Levenseller) Levy will get them catching those."

As for that defense, Robb Akey, the defensive coordinator, had plenty of praise to go around.

"Most of the package is coming together," Akey said. "I really like the emotion and excitement guys are running around with. We just need to work on our execution. We've got a fair amount of experience back, but we also have some young guys we still need to bring up and develop more. I've been real impressed with our safeties and corners. Aaron Joseph played mainly special teams last year but him, Hamza Abdullah and (Karl) Paymah in the corner are making really good progress."

It might only be April, but Kegel is already talking about a third straight bowl trip. Last season was the first season the Cougars went to back-to-back bowls and their chances of making it three straight look promising.

"I don't expect anything less than a major bowl and a Pac-10 championship," Kegel said.

Backing up Kegel's statements is the fact that there is no clear front-runner for Pac-10 championship. Washington, Arizona State, and USC all expect to be competitive again, along with a re-surfacing Oregon State.

"We've been picked last already by some people, but we don't pay attention to that," Kegel said. "We've got enough talent to fill in for everyone we lost."

Several players have commented on the difference the new coaching staff has made. Most notably players have talked about the experience the coaches bring to this team.

"We've got defensive guys here who were offensive coordinators in the NFL," Kegel said. "You can't ask for much more experience and guys who actually played the position than what we have."

All the coaches have also seemed to meld nicely into the system.

"Coach Doba has put together a great cast of coaches," Akey said. "I'm not gonna lie, I've wanted to be in this position, but he's set a good standard for me to follow."

While Kegel continues to take the reigns at quarterback, the race for the backup position continues to be entertaining.


Freshman Josh Swogger had a notable practice connecting on several passes, including a 30-yard pass to Sammy Moore through three defenders during the
daily scrimmage. Swogger's height advantage seemed to work in his favor as well, completing several passes thrown just over the heads of rushing defenders.

Sophomore Chris Hurd was not slacking either, connecting with tight ends Troy Bienemann and Cody Boyd on passes of about 20-yards.

Armstrong came to practice without crutches for the first time since spraining his knee last week.
Saturday scrimmage highlights included Kegel connecting on 10 of 15 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in front of 1,000 fans on Mom's Weekend. But there was no question where the star power belonged --- Jason Gesser was on hand for the contest and spent most it signing autographs.

Sophomore receiver Jevon Miller was the target of the day, catching four passes for 40 yards. Miller also carried the ball on two end-arounds. Fellow sophomore Thomas Ostrander had three catches for 23 yards.

Starting running back Jermaine Green continued to impress this spring, lashing out for 65 yards and a touchdown on his first carry. Running mate Jonathan Smith carried the ball four times for 22 yards and had a 25-yard gain on a screen pass from Kegel.

Defensively, WSU received sacks from Cameron Siskowic, Bryan Boyer, Josh Shavies and Jeremy Bohannon. Bohannon brought Kegel down behind the line on a blitz for a safety.

On Friday, Timberline High jumior-to-be Johnathan Stewart was at the WSU practice. Stewart ran for 1,500 yards last season in just five games before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Stewart will be a highly sought after recruit when he graduates.

Despite earlier reports, senior defensive back Virgil Williams has not been cleared to play yet by the NCAA, but has been by the Pac-10.

Running backs Green and Smith are both sitting out weekly practices to nurse injuries. In their place 5-foot-7 sophomore Lavell Anderson has gotten a lot of reps.

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