DAY 5: Wulff lets fly after mental mistakes

PULLMAN -- For the first hour of Thursday's practice, the Cougars, and in particular the offense, took a step back. Indeed, they looked like the 2-10 team that struggled so much last year. After one of countless mental mistakes, this time by one of the defensive players, Paul Wulff was fed up, and he let his displeasure be known.

Paul Wulff's building frustrations with Thursday's practice reached the boiling point during an 11-on-11 drill. Jeff Tuel hit WR Isiah Barton over the middle, and MLB C.J. Mizell went hard after the receiver and drilled him into the turf.

The problem was, Thursday's session was not a full-contact practice.

Wulff immediately blew his whistle and sent Mizell to the sidelines for the boneheaded play. Wulff was visibly upset and showcased some fire not commonly seen from the head man during practice time.

"It's just not worth getting stupid injuries," Wulff said after practice. "The game's physical enough and things are going to happen naturally and we surely don't want cheap things to happen that are preventable. Once we learn to practice we'll just be that much better."

"I don't know if it's just me and some of the other guys but you have to go all the way in or you don't go at all," DE Ian Knight added. "We have to try and find that balance where you're going hard but you're not going too hard to the point where it's hurting the team."

IN SPRING BALL, in a fall camp, you're going to see those days where the players just don't have it. Thursday was one of those days. The Cougars were sluggish and played error-filled football for the first periods of Thursday's shoulder pads and helmets session.

During special teams drills, punt returners Blair Bomber and Rickey Galvin inexplicably had problems catching the football. During position drills, the WRs were dropping passes left and right. Even Marquess Wilson wasn't immune, when he somehow let a beautifully thrown ball from Tuel fall through his fingers.

"We just started off a little slow," Wilson said. "We're all tired but that's no excuse."

The first team defense clearly had the upper hand and the offense really sputtered during the first 11-on-11 drills. The D did allow some good runs early, but then took over. Defensive ends Knight and Xavier Cooper led the charge.

Knight in particular really shined on Thursday, consistently flying off the edge and getting into the backfield. He recorded a few "sacks" on Tuel, and also was in Position A to meet the Coug running backs at the line of scrimmage.

"I thought the defense was much better today in terms of their intensity and flying to the ball," Wulff added.

And Knight and the rest of the D were very revved up early on.

"We have to (be), that's the only way to play football," Knight said. "You can't come out flat anymore, that's how teams get beat 48-0 nowadays."

Knight, a January transfer from Butler, came into the spring No. 1 on the depth chart and he's shown why through the first two weeks of the spring. He has impressive speed and football instincts. As good as Knight has been, however, he told CF.C he still has plenty of studying and work to get done before he has a firm command of the WSU system.

"It's kind of where one day you think you have it down, and then the next it turns out you don't," Knight said. "You just have to keep going back to look at film – and I have to just keep making progress and see how things go."

THE OFFENSE FINALLY found some rhythm in the second half of the session. The running game started to click more, led by Logwone Mitz who showed good burst and the ability to get upfield.

But it was the aerial attack that accounted for the offense's finest moments, with Tuel and Wilson setting the bar.

Wilson had two TD catches from Tuel, both of which came on deep balls. Wilson burned by CB Damante Horton and S Tyree Toomer, and with the offensive line putting forth solid protection, Tuel had plenty of time. He fired a beautiful 40-yard bomb that landed right in Wilson's bread basket.

WR Gino Simone had a great afternoon. Simone, plagued by concussion problems throughout 2010, had several nice catches Thursday. The most impressive was a 20 yarder when with the 1's. Simone leaped high into the air to make the grab.

Although the offense had a slow start Thursday, Wilson said the offense has made noticeable gains over the first five practices.

"We have a lot of playmakers -- and our run game is a lot better," Wilson said. "Everyone's more efficient on the field."

A SCARY MOMENT came on a running play when left guard Wade Jacobson went down with an apparent knee injury. With Carl Winston running the ball and bodies flying all about, a Cougar defender landed on Jacobson's leg. He had an ice pack wrapped around his left knee and did not return to practice.

Wulff said his players were overanxious, and must learn to be smarter.

"It's just learning how to practice," Wulff said. "We still have a few new players out here and you can't be live all the time so when we're not, we have to figure out the tempo that all 22 on the field match up to. When you have one or two guys who change up the tempo and don't do the same, we get guys hurt and that's what happened with Wade."

"Mature teams and mature programs get that down and we're headed in that direction, we're just not there."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • LB Louis Bland sat out for his second straight practice (knee) and is continuing to rehab. LT David Gonzales was also absent (infection). Wulff said Tuesday he expected Gonzales to return on Saturday the latest.

  • With Jacobson out, the offensive line saw plenty of mixing and matching, which began with LG Tyson Pencer stepping in with the 1's. However by the end of practice, usual center Andrew Roxas had moved to LG, and JC transfer Taylor Meighen had stepped in with the 1's at center.


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