PULLMAN – Two days into fall camp the Cougs are breaking out the polish sooner, and moving through the to-do list faster, than they have since Paul Wulff and Co. arrived on the scene at Washington State.

-- Practice report: Paul Wulff and defensive coordinator Chris Ball said they were again pleased with practice Monday.

Shoulder pads will be added today after two days in helmets and shorts.

"We cleaned up a lot of stuff from Day One," Wulff said. "They're doing all the right things right now."

"We got a lot in (on defense)," Ball said. "We've been going fast. The kids are in great shape."

Quarterback Jeff Tuel again looked sharp.

Receivers Gino Simone and Marquess Wilson made a number of outstretched, hands-only catches, the type that coaches love to see.

Tuel hit Wilson with a long bomb for the second straight day, this one for a touchdown.

Fifth-year senior Dan Wagner, finally expected to see regular action after the graduation of four-year punter Reid Forrest, handled the punting duties with aplomb.

Wulff said freshman long snapper Alex Den Bleyker looked "very good" and is battling Zach Koepp to replace four-year long snapper Zach Enyeart.

The No. 1 offense and defense remained basically unchanged from the day before, except Elliott Bosch filled in for ill right guard B.J. Guerra most of the practice.

Offensive and defensive linemen again squared off in heated battles between two cones set 6 feet apart.

The offensive linemen seemed noticeably more aggressive and confident with their hands than a year ago, when veteran O-line coach Steve Morton returned to WSU.

True freshman T.J. Poloai might be an undersized defensive tackle his first year in Pullman at 6 feet and 250 pounds. But for the second straight day he impressed with his aggressive style.

"We beat out a lot of people for him," Ball said. "A lot of people were after him from the Big 12 and Pac-10."

"He's going to be a hell of a player," Wulff said.

Statistics rarely tell the entire story in sports, and most athletes and coaches are quick to play down the significance of negative statistics when they're directly involved.

Alex Hoffman-Ellis, of course, is not like most people. The brash, bushy-haired linebacker of the Washington State Cougars rarely holds back on any subject, and he offered a blunt response when asked about WSU's low national rankings in most defensive statistics in recent years.

"The numbers don't lie," Hoffman-Ellis barked after Monday's practice at Rogers Field.

So, Alex, why should things be different in 2011?

"Number one, strength," he replied. "Guys are stronger.

"Number two, health. Our guys are healthier. They're taking care of themselves better, taking care of their bodies in the training room and the ice tub.

"And (last), we were definitely gelling in the offseason. Guys hung out together in mass numbers."

Ball said he is certain which aspect of the defense will be most improved this year.

"Effort," Ball said. "Coaches are working on effort, because we're going to coach it a lot harder. And we've got competition. We've got competition at each position, which is going to create better effort."

Ball said the defense's talent, depth and speed is the best since he returned to WSU to work under then-new head coach Paul Wulff in 2008. He doesn't want to see the defensive line's depth tested too much, however.

"We've got to stay healthy with our interior lineman," he said. "That's probably my biggest concern, the inside players – tackles."

A handful of WSU freshmen have impressive bloodlines.

Linebacker Logan Mayes is the son of former WSU and NFL standout Rueben Mayes, a College Football Hall of Fame running back. Defensive lineman David Davis is the grandson of Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Davis, a defensive end on the great Green Bay Packers teams in the 1960s.

Walk-on running back Kyle Lappano is the son of former WSU assistant coach Tim Lappano, who was an outstanding running back at Idaho. The elder Lappano is tight ends coach of the Detroit Lions.

Linebacker Tana Pritchard is the son of David Pritchard, a center on WSU's 1981 Holiday Bowl team. Pritchard has occasionally been identified as a relative of legendary WSU quarterback Jack Thompson. That is inaccurate, but the families are very close.

  • C.J. Mizell (attending birth of first child) and Anthony Carpenter (flight delay) returned to practice after missing Sunday's opener.

  • Asked to name some of the best leaders among the younger players, Wulff pointed to cornerback Damante Horton, safety Deone Bucannon, running back Rickey Galvin and wide receivers Wilson and Kristoff Williams.

  • Walk-on defensive tackle Chas Sampson, 25, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. He hasn't played football since his senior year of high school in 2003.

  • After practicing in shorts and helmets the first two days, players add shoulder pads Tuesday and Wednesday and full pads Thursday. The first scrimmage is set for next Wednesday.

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