Spring Ball Day 5: QB play could stall decision

PULLMAN --- Despite winds that carried a few long balls off target, the three quarterbacks aiming to succeed <b>Matt Kegel</b> as top cat on the Palouse looked good today, easing the Cougars into Week 2 of spring workouts in fine fashion. Head coach <b>Bill Doba</b> said he'd like to have the No. 1 spot nailed down when the session ends on April 17, but thinks that may not be possible. In other news, injuries shelve two potential starters.

First the quarterback situation.

"Chris Hurd is in good shape," says Doba. "We haven't noticed him limping or anything. He looks just fine as far as his leg and he is throwing the ball better with a little quicker release and a little more accuracy.

"Josh Swogger looks like he knows what he is doing out there. He has the swagger, or Swogger, whatever you want to call it. He has a quick delivery."

Doba also said he'd like to get the youngest of the three contenders, second-year freshman Alex Brink, more reps with the first string.

As for last Saturday's scrimmage, in which the the three combined to complete just 10 of 24 pass attempts, Doba was upbeat. "They all made good decisions," he said. "The stats from the scrimmage don't necessarily reflect that but we have some young receivers who dropped some balls."

Swogger, who so far has taken most of the first unit snaps this spring, appeared more comfortable today running the offense and says Saturday's scrimmage -- and the subsequent analysis of the film -- proved a great learning experience for the entire offense.

Swogger teamed up with junior receiver Marty Martin a couple of times today, evoking shades of Kegel-to-Lunde. During one-on-one drills, they connected on a nifty pass play near the sideline and then again over the top of an out-stretched Christian Bass for what in a game situation would have been a long gainer. Martin also made a nice adjustment to catch a TD pass at the end of practice.

John Williams, a 6-2, 205-pound senior receiver from Lexington, Kentucky, also made some nice adjustments on long throws during pass catching drills.

Tramaine Murray again showed some sweet moves running pass routes but had a little trouble catching the ball at times. Cornerback Omowale Dada didn't help Murray, though, playing some lock-down D much of the day.

The rest of the defense continued to swarm to the ball as they have since last week, putting consistent pressure on the quarterbacks and sniffing out every screen pass and quick out. Junior DT Bryan Boyer, out all of last season with an injury, had a sack.

ON THE INJURY FRONT, there was a bit of good news Tuesday (tight end Cody Boyd is back in pads, though wearing a yellow jersey, and receiver Chris Jordan may see some action in another 10 days) but two doses of bad news. Sophomore cornerback Don Turner, battling Alex Teems for a starting spot, appears to be out for the rest of the spring with a bruised Achilles tendon. And junior receiver Trandon Harvey injured a hamstring triple jumping in track & field and may not be back until the final week of spring drills.

Junior kicker Graham Siderius, who has battled with consistency since arriving on campus as a much-touted prep phenom from Reno, put three field goals right through the middle of the uprights during Saturday's scrimmage. "He just needs some experience and confidence. That job is Graham's to lose. He is making a lot better contact and getting the ball up," said Doba. Incoming freshman Loren Langley of Puyallup is expected to battle Siderius for the starting job in August, but based on his performance thus far this spring, Siderius will be the No. 1 guy on opening day.

Doba said the most pleasant surprise of spring workouts so far is grayshirt defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua, who he said " is playing tougher and better than we thought he could this early. He could be somebody pretty special down the road." Doba said the battle for the starting DT spot on the opposite side of Steve Cook is shaping up as a seven-person race.

Linebacker Scott Davis intercepted an Alex Brink pass when Tramaine Murray couldn't find the handle on a screen pass.

Will Derting, moved to middle linebacker this spring after playing on the outside the last two seasons, is looking good. "I think he's found a home in there," Doba said.

Doba cited wide-outs Martin, Murray, Thomas Ostrander and Jevon Miller as some of the younger receivers who have stepped up with the absence of injured Chris Jordan and Jason Hill.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: When asked about his biggest disappoint so far this spring, Doba said, "The locker-room hasn't been very clean."

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