PRACTICE REPORT: Halliday to get starting nod

PULLMAN -- Following his 494-yard, four-touchdown performance during Saturday's 37-27 win against Arizona State, redshirt freshman Connor Halliday wasn't sure if he would receive his first career start this weekend at home against Utah. WSU coach Paul Wulff wasted little time Monday night giving clarity to that situation, though.

"Connor is going to start," Wulff told CF.C immediately after practice.

There was plenty of speculation that senior Marshall Lobbestael would get the start because of Senior Night out on the Palouse, but Wulff decided to go with Halliday, who received the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week award Monday morning.

"I was impressed," Wulff said. "I wouldn't say it surprised me on how poised he was and how he handled himself. Obviously, the production was greater than anyone could have guessed and that was good."

WULFF ALSO GAVE an update on junior quarterback Jeff Tuel, who aggravated his clavicle injury against Oregon State three weeks ago, and continues to suffer from soreness. Tuel has been participating in throwing drills for the past few weeks and still shows flashes. But Wulff said it's likely Tuel won't be showing off his tight spiral until 2012.

"We're going to talk to the doctors about that tomorrow and the next day, but he's still really sore," Wulff said. "It looks very probable that's where it's headed (out for season)."

As for the action on the field, it was a typical Monday night practice for WSU with the 1s on offense and defense matched up against the scout team.

The defense saw the return of LB C.J. Mizell, who missed Saturday's game with a shoulder injury. Mizell saw plenty of action with the 1s, as did Mike Ledgerwood, who started in Mizell's place over the weekend.

The Cougars were without several players Monday night, including WR Marquess Wilson, who was resting his hip, and CB Daniel Simmons. Both players are expected to return Tuesday, and are not suffering any type of injury that would question their status for Saturday. With Wilson taking the night off, Kristoff Williams and Bobby Ratliff saw more action running with the starting wide receivers.

Williams took advantage of his time and provided the play of the night when he reeled in an amazing one-handed catch for a long touchdown pass from Halliday.

THE COUGARS ALSO spent a good amount of time working on punting Monday night. Special teams has been a concern for Wulff and his staff over the last few weeks and those weaknesses were all showcased during ASU. The team usually works on kickoffs during practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Wulff said it will be a major emphasis for the team as they look to clean up that area.

"Well, it's big for us," Wulff said. "We have to find ways to get better, particularly on our kickoff coverage. We're second in the conference in kickoff returns, but last in the conference in kickoff coverage. We've had some big breakdowns there."

As previously reported by CF.C, Wulff left the door open for some more skill players to get reps in kickoff coverage during his Sunday teleconference and he reiterated Monday that he is leaving that window open for the unit to get better.

"Bottom line is we're going to do everything we can to put players on the field to win a game," Wulff said.

NOTABLE NOTE:
  • CF.C caught up with starting safety Tyree Toomer on how the team's confidence is going into the week after the exciting victory over the Sun Devils 48 hours ago.

    "We're feeling good right now," Toomer said. "That win did a lot for us as a program and built our confidence a lot because these last five weeks we've been losing and we hadn't put a full game together. This game we faced some adversity and responded very well to it."

    Much of the focus on the CF.C message boards is how the Cougars have kept their bowl game dreams alive. Toomer said it's been the team's goal since the start of spring ball last year to get to a bowl game in 2011, but the team has only one contest on their minds.

    "We're focused on Utah right now," Toomer said. "We have to take it one game at a time and not look ahead to the Apple Cup. As long as we take care of business against Utah and take it one play at a time, everything will work out fine."

    RUNNING WITH THE 1s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Connor Halliday
    X receiver: Kristoff Williams
    Flanker: Isiah Barton (Note: Bobby Ratliff also seeing action running with the 1s)
    Z receiver: Jared Karstetter
    TE: Andrei Lintz
    LT: David Gonzales
    LG: John Fullington
    C: Matt Goetz (Andrew Roxas also getting reps)
    RG: B.J. Guerra
    RT: Dan Spitz
    RB: Rickey Galvin
    DEFENSE
    LE: Travis Long
    LT: Brandon Rankin (Toni Pole)
    RT: Anthony Laurenzi
    RE: Adam Coerper
    SAM: Sekope Kaufusi
    MIKE: C.J. Mizell (Mike Ledgerwood also getting reps)
    WILL: Alex Hoffman-Ellis
    CB: Nolan Washington
    SS: Deone Bucannon
    FS: Tyree Toomer (Casey Locker also getting reps)
    CB: Damante Horton (Brandon Golden also getting reps)

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