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Robert Barber and No. 21 returned to the practice field Wednesday

PULLMAN - Washington State fifth-year senior nose tackle Robert Barber got back to work and looks ready to shine when the Cougs (8-2, 7-0 Pac-12) travel to Boulder this Saturday to take on Colorado (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12). Barber’s return is huge for WSU's defense, but did another missing Coug return to the practice field on Wednesday?

Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:

1. It’s like he never even left

The absence of Robert Barber (pictured above left) was felt by all of Cougar Nation but especially by his teammates. When practice kicked off on Wednesday it was business as usual. Barber has always been one of the hardest working defensive linemen to block during O-line/D-line 1-on-1 drills. Today was no different. It was exciting to see him back on the field, and Barber showed exactly what Coug fan’s have been missing for the past three games. His quick feet and violent hands are second to none. His experience and talent couldn't possibly be replaced this deep into any season let alone one punctuated by an eight game winning streak. If there was ever a time that Wazzu needed Barber, it's in these final Pac-12 games where WSU faces two outstanding rushing offenses while on the verge of completing a season legends are made of. 

2.  No. 21 lights up practice

Approaching the practice field Wednesday afternoon, I was caught completely off guard and a bit confused as I watched a healthy Coug receiver wearing a No. 21 jersey (pictured above right) fly around and catch passes from Luke Falk. Trying to shake off my emotional connection to that number, I realized that this was a tribute to River Cracraft and what he’s meant to this football team. Gabe Marks rocked Cracraft’s crimson practice jersey on Wednesday and represented him with honor. Marks had a huge day and pulled in a handful of highlights reel catches just as he has all season. Shoot, his playmaking ability might have even stepped up a notch having No. 21 on his back.

3. Thompson ready for Buff’s pass attack

True freshman and starting safety Jalen Thompson had one heckuva day against a Colorado-scheme air attack. He intercepted two passes and recorded a handful of pass break-ups, many times while playing in man-to-man coverage. Thompson, along with the rest of the Cougar secondary will be key components for this team to have success on the defensive side of the ball this week. Colorado’s quarterback and wide receiving corps have strong chemistry and a lot of experience with each other. Thompson and others are going to have to play their very best to give the Cougs a chance at pulling off a win this weekend.

Here are more highlights and takeaways from Wednesday’s practice:

- During the offense's team period, Gerard Wicks busted out for a big gain on the ground after running behind a key block up the middle set by offensive guard Eduardo Middleton.

- Tavares Martin had a great practice. He showed his explosive ability on several short receptions that went for extra yards after-the-catch.

- Kaleb Fossum sparked the special teams period when he returned a punt toward the sidelines and flat-backed teammate Taylor Comfort, a 260-pound defensive tackle, trying to make a tackle.

- Noah Osur-Myers had a very good day blocking during O-line/D-line 1-on-1 period.

- Paris Taylor jumped a route to make a nice interception against the scout team during the defense's team period.

- Hercules Mata’afa recorded a sack after beating Cody O'Connell during a pass-rush/pass-protection period.

RELATED: CFC TV: Leach says Barber is back where he belongs


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