Hurd, wideouts look good

PULLMAN -- Perhaps the most impressive of the newest Cougars is QB Chris Hurd. While the knock on smaller quarterbacks (he's listed at a generous 6-2) is that they lack arm strength, that's definitely not the case with Hurd. He's throwing bullets -- so much so that coaches Mike and Aaron Price had to constantly remind him he didn't have to throw so hard.

There were a number of dropped passes, probably due to the fact that most of the incoming freshmen receivers have never experienced such strong throws. Hurd throws an above average deep ball, and his out and crossing passes absolutely sizzle across the field.

Not only that, he looks to be as good fundamentally as any freshman quarterback in recent WSU history.

Another impressive group was the receiving corps. Despite not a single big name in the bunch, it is collectively as polished as any group of freshmen catchers the Cougs have seen in a few years. Trandon Harvey, Marty Martin and Thomas Ostrander all looked impressive, while JC transfers Jerome Riley and Tyjuan Mayfield both look capable of stepping in and contributing right away (Riley in particular).

While the group of running backs lost much of its luster in the wake of the loss of Dwayne Wright as well as Roger Smith, there does look to be a bright spot. Wes Patterson, who was recruited as a defensive back (he only carried the ball 20 times as a high school senior), has been moved to the RB position, and looks to be the most naturally gifted of the entire group, which includes Jimmy Wilson, Allen Thompson, Jevon Miller and Raphael Bolton. Several of those players (including Patterson) are being tested out at both DB and RB.

Kicker Graham Siderius, one of the most ballyhooed of the Cougar recruits, struggled in his first practice in Pullman. He occasionally showed the ability that has many suggesting he could be the team's kicker this year, but often he had trouble getting the ball to fly straight. This would probably be best explained by him pressing a little too much, trying to impress the coaching staff. Expect him to improve as fall camp progresses, or he'll have a heck of a time winning the job from Drew Dunning or Nick Lambert.

One special teams player who really turned some heads was walk-on punter Kyle Basler of Elma, who routinely boomed some very deep kicks. A three-time all-state pick, if he turns out to be as good as he was on his first day, the Cougs may have found a successor for senior-to-be Alan Cox. Basler is a little inconsistent, but that's normal for an 18-year-old punter, and he looks to have great technique.

It was hard to gauge much of the defensive talent, as there were only five players at practice wearing white defensive jerseys. Most of the two-way players spent most of the day practicing with the offense. However, it looks like the team has quite a duo in freshman linebackers Pat Bennett and Will Derting. Both looked solid in their first day of drills, and seem to be getting an understanding of the defense. The mental aspect is probably the toughest test for young linebackers, rather than the physical aspect.

The team has Sunday off, and will pick it up again Monday with a pair of practices. Veteran players will show up on Wednesday (team picture day), and the first day of practice for all players will be Thursday. The first full-contact practice will probably be around Saturday or Sunday.

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