Few openings in Pullman

PULLMAN -- Three practices into the 2001 season, it appears there aren't too many starting spots up for grabs on the Palouse. While August two-a-days typically offer up several battle royales for first-string jobs, all but three positions in this camp aren't anchored by an entrenched veteran.

Middle linebacker, where Curtis Holden was earmarked to roam, is open on defense, while tight end appears the only contentious spot on offense, and kicker the lone opening on special teams.

THE DEFENSIVE ROUND UP

Holden's academic intransigence leaves a gaping hole -- literally and figuratively -- in the Cougar defense. Right now, sophomore Al Genatone is running with the No. 1 unit. Genatone, at 6-0 and 220 pounds, may lack the size of a typical Pac-10 middle linebacker but he has great speed and is developing his instincts. He should be able to hold his own. Regardless, though, he's being pressed in the early going by linebacker-turned-running back-turned-linebacker-again Alex Ngaue. Ngaue, a senior, has looked impressive thus far, and should push Genatone for his job. Champ Simmons' status with the team is still up in the air, both with injuries and with the fallout from his fraternity fracas last spring.

The rest of the starting defense is virtually set, with Tupo Tuupo and Fred Shavies anchoring the ends, and Rien Long and Tai Tupai holding down the tackle spots. The tackles should be able to stay fresh this year, with steadily improving depth that allows line coach Mike Walker to rotate backups Jeremey Williams, Nate Mallory, Steve Cook and (when he returns in September from his knee injury) Tomasi Kongaika.

The defensive secondary is impressive, with Erik Coleman and Marcus Trufant at the corners, and Billy Newman and Lamont Thompson forming one of the best safety tandems in the country. WSU is touting Trufant, Newman and Thompson for All-America honors.

NOTABLE NOTES

Offensive lineman/tight end Josh Shavies, who's been in and out of Price's doghouse, is now off the team for good.

Tali Ena is currently the No.2 QB behind Jason Gesser as Matt Kegel has yet to report to camp due to the death of his grandfather. The coaches expect him back within the next few days.

The team practiced just once today (Friday), but they will resume the two-a-day schedule again on Saturday with an 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. practices. There is also an informal scrimmage tentatively scheduled for Sunday at 2:30 p.m.


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