SPRING DAY 3: Pads on and tempers flare

PULLMAN — The Cougs added shoulder pads to the spring football mix on Tuesday and the fireworks soon followed on Rogers Field. On offense, tight end Andrei Lintz turned in a great practice that he capped with a fantastic catch toward the end of the practice. Meanwhile, a Cougar linebacker who at one time was projected to be rehabbing this spring had a big day himself.

The Cougs were in shoulder pads but most players remained in shorts on Tuesday. Regardless, you could hear the pads cracking across campus. Defensive tackle Kalafitoni Pole set the tempo early when he fought through the 1s on the offensive line and pounded running back Marcus Mason.

Only a few plays later, middle linebacker Darryl Monroe, who at one time looked to be out this spring as he healed up from last season's Achilles injury, drilled a Coug back with a hit that had the defense hooting and hollering in celebration.

Monroe, who saw some time running with the 1s with fellow MLB Darren Markle, was aggressive on Tuesday and made plays throughout.

During 11-on-11 drills, Monroe added another big play when receiver Marquess Wilson came over the middle and Monroe drilled him in the chest, giving him a one-way ticket to sudden-stop land.

"I think Darryl's always going to be a physical player," linebackers coach Jeff Choate said. "He's not 100 percent back from his injury yet but he's a very smart kid who's going to have to play some significant downs for us. I've been pleased with his progress so far and we just have to make sure that we don't try to advance him too quick."

TEMPERS FLARED AND as a few small skirmishes broke out. The most notable was between diminutive receiver Blair Bomber and safety Deone Bucannon.

On the play, Bucannon flew over the middle to deflect a Tuel-to-Bomber connection and stripped the ball away. The two got tangled up and continued to battle well after the whistle blew. Both had to be separated by teammates and looked none too pleased as they walked off the field.

Mike Leach said he has no problem with occasional skirmishes because it shows intensity, but he also wants to make sure it's not a recurring problem.

"I've had one's (camps) where there's none (fights) and I've had ones where it's non-stop and you're too undisciplined," Leach said.

THE DEFENSIVE and offensive lines were also battling up front during the day and bodies were flying about. Not unexpectedly, the excitement and energy levels on the day were the highest of spring thus far.

"I think everyone was just very excited to get into pads," Leach said. "I think mentally they're a little overwhelmed but I thought it was a pretty good practice. There were some clouded minds but I haven't had a third day that's much better than this."

"I think that's the way it should be," Choate added. "These guys have been waiting around a long time and have a bitter taste to get out of their mouths from last season's performance. They've got to be hungry to hit because they've been running around the last 3-4 months since Coach Leach got here. I'm sure they're happy to be putting the pads on and it was good to see the enthusiasm."

As for the offense, Leach said that the offense has been introduced once over, and now the next step is just to polish out some minor details.

Lintz looks to be thriving early, however. He not only had his best practice of the young spring, but very well could have had his best practice in a Cougar uniform.

Lintz, who is working with the inside receivers, was showing steady hands and good route running which all paid off in the 11-on-11s at the end of practice.

Lintz had two TD grabs in the final period, one where he ran across the middle and was able to seal a defender, and another grab that was highlight reel material. Lintz was able to get behind the Cougar secondary and headed straight for the end-zone but the ball appeared to sail a bit on QB Jeff Tuel. Lintz continued sprinting and dove full extension to haul in the TD. He also added a 40-yard TD grab earlier in practice during 7-on-7s.

"(He's) A big massive target," Leach said. "He creates space for himself, runs good routes, and is strong. You can move him around and he's a mismatch if a guy is smaller than him. He's a better athlete than most linebackers so I think that's pretty tough on most people. He's also got really good hands."

RIGHT TACKLE Jake Rodgers didn't participate in any of the team drills and spent his afternoon working on the side. Rodgers was seen doing light drills with other injured players and had a boot on his left foot. With Rodgers out, there was plenty of shifting on the offensive line that included LG Chas Sampson jumping in with the first team.

The first team o-line was made up of LT John Fullington, LG Chas Sampson, C Matt Goetz, RG Elliot Bosch, and RT Dan Spitz.

KICKER/PUNTER Mike Bowlin had another impressive day. On punts, Bowlin was taking snaps from both Alex Den Bleyker and Zach Koepp, and continued to boot the ball high into the air with plenty of distance. What's noticeably effective about Bowlin's punts is that he is very quick and catching and getting the ball into the air.

Although the special teams units has yet to spend any time on kick-offs yet, Bowlin was kicking off on one of the practice fields after practice and was sending the ball deep into the end-zone -- sometimes out of the end-zone.

Tight ends Lintz, Max Hersey and Mansel Simmons spent their day working with the inside receivers group during practice. TE Aaron Dunn was not at practice; it was unknown if he might have had a academic/class responsibility. WR Rahmel Dockery, who apparently tweaked a shoulder the first day, was back out on the field.

CB Damante Horton picked off Tuel late in practice when the senior QB was trying to find WR Drew Loftus.

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