Spring Ball Day 2: New faces, same swagger on D

PULLMAN --- Nine starters need to be replaced on the Cougar defense this season, but one thing that hasn't left is the stop corps' swashbuckling attitude. On the second day of spring drills, the D -- led by senior free safety <b>Hamza Abdullah</b> -- showed itself to be every bit the vocal, hyper-confident unit the crimson faithful have come to love over the last three years.

That swagger was at center stage of one-on-one receiving drills, with one play in particular serving notice that the 2004 Washington State defense has every intention of carrying on the blasting, blitzing -- and boisterous -- legacy of teams past.

Senior strong safety Jeremy Bohannon, the pride of Richland High, made a nifty play on a slant route, knocking the ball away from the receiver, and touching off a mini-celebration among defensive players. When the receiver tried to argue that he was "fouled," the 6-3, 209-pound Abdullah was quick to respond.

"This ain't basketball. We wear pads in this game!" he proclaimed, sounding all the world like Jason David's heir-apparent as unofficial team spokesman.

The banter back and forth continued throughout passing drills. Cheers from the receiving corps erupted when one of their own beat a DB badly or made a great catch. The DBs rejoiced every time a receiver was shut-down or a ball batted away. And when Marty Martin made a nice grab over the middle, they assured him he wouldn't be making that catch tomorrow when full pads go on.

Abdullah, a fifth-year player from Pomona, Calif., was the most animated of the bunch, encouraging fellow DBs after every good defensive play.

That's in keeping with the leadership role he took on during winter conditioning, making sure people were on time and working hard.

He and Bohannon are ticketed to replace Erik Coleman and Virgil Williams as the Cougars' starting safeties. Bohannon and Abdullah rotated in last season to give breathers to Coleman and Williams, and have been regulars in nickel and dime situations for the past two seasons.

"We've got confidence in them," WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey told CF.C earlier this year. "There's already two years of game experience there. While they're technically new starters, they've been in some big games. I'm excited about what they're going to bring to the table."

IN FULL OFFENSE vs. defense drills on Thursday, the D looked very alert and inspired. Highlights included a tipped Josh Swogger pass that junior cornerback Alex Teems picked off and, two plays later, another INT, this time of a Chris Hurd toss, by senior linebacker Pat Bennett.

Rain began about an hour into the day's proceedings and created problems for some of the receivers catching the ball and making sharp cuts.

It didn't seem to bother tight end Troy Bienemann, however. He caught nearly every ball thrown his way.

As for the wideouts, offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller said Martin and Tramaine Murray have looked good in the early going. He also said with the injuries in the receiving corps some of the younger receivers are going to be getting plenty of reps and chances to prove themselves.

Martin continued to show consistency both running routes and catching the ball, and Murray showed some nice moves. Murray also spent a fair amount of time fielding punts, and is expected to be the Cougars' No. 1 punt and kickoff return man this season.


With Bohannon and Abdullah at safety and returning starter Karl Paymah at left corner, there's only one starting job up for grabs in the Cougar secondary: right corner. Look for a neck-and-neck battle there between Teems and sophomore Don Turner. Wally Dada, currently penned in as Paymah's understudy, could challenge there as well, with Hamza's younger brother Husain Abdullah, now a backup safety, possibly getting into the mix. And in the fall, touted JC transfer Tyron Brackenridge figures to make a strong bid for playing time too.

Will Derting, making the switch from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, said he's enjoying the move and is eager to get the pads on tomorrow.

Kicker Graham Siderius had good distance on his kicks but struggled a bit with the windy weather. Punter Kyle Basler looked solid as usual.

The Cougars will practice tomorrow (Friday) at 3:30 and then on Saturday at 9 am. They'll then have two days off before resuming things on Tuesday the 30th.

Spring workouts will culminate with the Crimson and Gray game on April 17 in Martin Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 pm.

Cougfan Top Stories