DAY 11: Kristoff Williams goes microwave

PULLMAN—The Cougars came out on Thursday with the energy and intensity Paul Wulff was looking for following a lackluster session on Tuesday. Wide receiver Kristoff Williams was on fire from start to finish, as the redshirt freshman continues to make the case he's ready for prime time.

Indeed, the Cougars came out with plenty of passion on Thursday. Although it was a helmets and shoulder pads only affair, both sides came ready to play, even with several bodies missing.

"They came out with a lot more purpose today," Wulff said. "The came out a lot more focused and I think as a whole, the team practiced well."

Players missing from Thursday's action included LB Sekope Kaufusi (leg), CB Nolan Washington (shoulder), and RB Carl Winston (knee). All players' injuries are nothing serious and at this point appear to be day-to-day.

With Washington out, CB Tracy Clark and walk-on Anthony Martinez stepped in with the 1s and the aerial attack took advantage, particularly Williams.

The 6-2, 201 pound Williams had two primetime receptions during 11-on-11's – both were deep TD hauls. The first came with the 1s on offense and defense going against one another. The offensive line provided great protection for QB Jeff Tuel, and Williams burst passed Clark on a go route for a 35-yard bomb.

"I felt good today," Williams said. "Coach (Todd) Sturdy and Coach Levy (Mike Levenseller) have been on me about my intensity and urgency in practice, along with pad level. I wasn't able to put together everything today but I felt like I did a lot better."

Williams added another 30-plus yard reception with the 1s lined up against the 2s on defense, and with Martinez in coverage. Williams also ended practice with a 10-yard touchdown reception with the 1s vs 1s, beating Clark once again in coverage.

Coming into last season and speaking to Williams' potential, Levenseller told CF.C (as reported earlier) that the coaches thought they'd probably play Williams as a true frosh last year, and redshirt Marquess Wilson. Wilson ended up being the best freshman receiver in the Pac-10, and it also tells you how highly they thought of Williams.

A lingering toe injury put the redshirt on Williams in '10 but he's come on strong this spring. He said the toe still annoys him a little, but it won't prevent him from setting foot on the gridiron.

"It's been a long time for me and it feels great to be back," Williams said. "I feel pretty good on it (toe). I wouldn't say it's 100 percent yet but I try not to think about it because it's feeling a lot better."

OVER ON DEFENSE the secondary struggle against the pass, but CB Damante Horton and S Tyree Toomer were able to make some nice plays.

Horton had a few pass deflections of Tuel, and Toomer secured the sole turnover of the evening for the first team D when he jumped in front of a Tuel pass intended for Williams.

On the defensive line, newly switched from TE Skylar Stormo saw plenty of action running with the 1s at defensive end.

The line is missing several guys this spring and particularly at d-end -- Travis Long (shoulder) and Jordan Pu'u-Robinson (knee) -- and Wulff noted the depth up front is lacking. The upside is plenty of valuable reps for the players lower on the depth chart.

"You know obviously with Travis and Jordan out, and (DT) Brandon (Rankin) out, those are three guys right there that could be in our rotation that are not here," Wulff said. "Obviously that's affected our depth."

"I think (DE) Xavier Cooper and (DT) Toni Pole are two young guys who are getting quality reps and it's only going to help their progression," Wulff said. "Along with (DE) Ian Knight, I think with those three guys, as far as new players, it's extremely valuable in what they're getting right now."

They're also making plays. Cooper, Pole and Knight have stepped up and their progression this spring is evident. Cooper has really emerged on the edge, and even got some reps with the 2s at DT on Thursday. Cooper performed well inside on Thursday, but it's clear that he's most comfortable at DE.

Meanwhile, Knight has been the most consistent DE this spring, and Pole is coming on. He's a redshirt freshman so the issue with him is consistency, but he's made some impact plays this spring.

  • The FG kicking for the Cougs was much more improved Thursday with Andrew Furney, Alex Gauper, and Zach Sampson combining to go 8-for-9 from 30-35 yards out.

  • WR Isiah Myers hauled in the catch of the day during receiver drills when it appeared Tuel overthrew him, but Myers reached out with one hand and hauled the ball in. Myers looked sharp during practice with good route running and solid hands. The true freshman from Florida has truly enjoyed a great week of practice and is putting together a very solid spring on a very deep receiver corps.

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