Spring Ball Day 6: Dialing it up a notch

PULLMAN --- There are days when some fans can find it difficult to be <i>completely</i> satisfied with Spring Ball. If the offense looks great, concern immediately turns to the defense's performance. If the defense dominates, then ‘What's wrong with the offense?' is the familiar refrain. But then there are days like Wednesday..

It was a day that saw standout play and strong individual efforts, all practice long and on both sides of the ball. The defense turned in a dazzling play. The offense responded with one of their own. Back and forth it went.

The defensive line dialed it up a notch Wednesday, applying continual pressure and forcing the quarterbacks into making hurried decisions.

However, Alex Brink and Chris Hurd both looked good rolling out of the pocket, making plays to both sides of the field. Brink in particular, (who Doba wants to get some more reps with the first-team offense), displayed considerable elusiveness, completing a nice short pass under duress to Tramaine Murray.

The redshirt freshman also displayed his open field running ability, scrambling ten yards to pick up a first down when it looked like the D would drop him for a ‘sack'.

The defense had a number of standout efforts on Wednesday, including the play of the defensive line. Adam West showed good stuff in one-on-one drills, the former tight end has shown a knack for the DE position so far. The speed off the corners of both DEs Reyshawn Bobo and Mkristo Bruce has been impressive to date as well.

No surprise has been the play of Steve Cook, who is enjoying a very good Spring. What was a mild surprise was coach Bill Doba saying DE Adam Braidwood could move inside to join him. It's a seven way race to play tackle opposite Cook but the head coach made clear its not going to be a race won by default—one of those seven will have to earn it. If not, Braidwood could move to defensive tackle.

The play after Brink's scramble, Josh Swogger stepped in and Braidwood greeted him by breaking through containment to tally a ‘sack' on Swoggs.

Braidwood said he and fellow defensive end Bruce both make plays but have very different personalities. "(Bruce) likes to talk a lot and I'm kind of quiet," said Braidwood. He also said jokingly he enjoys hard core rap music while Bruce listens to country music. When Bruce heard this he responded, "That's Adam, he's good for a laugh."

The 6-5, 264-pound junior from British Columbia said he and Bruce pushed each other hard over the off-season in the weight room, and that the work ethic has continued during the spring sessions.

The prevailing train of thought by many will be this is a ‘young' defense, manned with plenty of new starters who may be on the raw side. Don't try telling that to Bruce, he's not buying.

"I don't feel that young," he said, "I feel a lot more improved." Bruce said he and the defense want, and expect, to excel this season. "We've got big shoes to fill, but the older guys think we can do that."

The linebackers looked especially sharp Wednesday, flying to the ball and making plays on receivers, running backs, the quarterbacks—you name it.

MLB Paul Stevens had a fumble recovery and senior Pat Bennett crashed through the line to garner a tackle for a loss.

The receivers had a good day. Marty Martin had yet another fine catch, (he's making a habit of making the tough catches each day), going over the top of 6-3 Hamza Abdullah.

Martin has stepped up in the absence of Jason Hill and Chris Jordan this Spring. Martin said the receivers are a group determined to always keep improving, always get better, and he enjoys his role as the guy to set the tempo. Precision route running is where he thinks he can influence his receiver-mates best. Martin hopes to be a go-to-guy this fall, citing quickness and speed as two of his better assets.

Martin feels he can make his mark in the slot, citing lessons learned from his mentors, former Cougar stand-outs Jerome Riley and Scott Lunde.

Juniors Thomas Ostrander and Murray showed much improved hands today—snaring some nice passes in tight coverage.

Graham Siderius showed good distance and perfect accuracy on his kicks during the practice, nailing all three of his field goal attempts.

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