Spring Ball Day 9: Swogger gains early lead

PULLMAN -- While it's still only spring and nothing is written in stone, it appears a frontrunner has emerged from the crowded and talented group of Cougar signal callers. But a battle royale continues for the backup QB spot and a certain walk-on keeps on making noise.

Coach Bill Doba likes how the QB position has developed at the midway point of spring ball.

"I'm really pleased with the whole situation," he said. "Josh Swogger is the most consistent with his reads and checks. We will probably start giving him a few more reps and see if can take charge."

While Swogger now appears to be the official frontrunner, the competition for the No. 2 spot is not as clear.

"It's a real battle between Alex Brink and Chris Hurd," Doba said. "Brink gives us a little different speed and a little different style. Chris is more like Josh. Missing all last year hurt him some, but I think he has really improved in some aspects."

And spring passing leader, walk-on sensation Mike Reilly?

"Mike Reilly has great feet and is a really good walk-on," Doba said.

Reilly has hit on 15 of his 18 pass attempts in two scrimmages thus far this spring.

Brink made some nice completions Tuesday including a long pass near the sideline to Tramaine Murray, and showed good footwork as usual. Hurd threw a long touchdown pass to Jeffrey Muai in the corner of the end zone. Reilly made a nice throw to Marty Martin in the corner of the end zone during one-on-one drills, but then later threw an interception to Jeremy Bohannon.

A depleted receiving corps welcomed back Trandon Harvey to practice on Tuesday. He had sat out most of spring drills after suffering a hamstring injury triple jumping for the WSU track squad, but looked comfortable in his return, catching a long pass over the middle from Swogger.

Harvey, a redshirt junior, said he initially felt a little out of shape, but as soon as he put the pads on he felt right at home again.

The Cougar offense is counting on Harvey to become a major contributor in 2004, following the departure of the team's top three receivers.

Harvey has suffered his share of injuries in his three years at WSU. After appearing in the first nine games of the 2001 season as a true freshman, a bum hamstring kept him out of the final three games. A torn PCL on opening day in 2002 put him on the sidelines for the entire year. And last year, nagging injuries kept him inactive for two games.

The pride of Sweetwater High, near San Diego, caught 21 passes last season for 247 yards. His best effort was a four-catch performance against Southern Cal.

Harvey's wants to help raise the bar with the Cougars' younger receivers and thinks the Cougs can pull off a fourth consecutive ten win season.

Running back Chris Bruhn was back at practice after suffering a groin injury during Saturday's scrimmage, and looked as though nothing bothered him at all, ripping off a couple long runs in team drills.

"He will be very, very important to the success of this football team," Doba said of Bruhn. "Chris hits the crease so quickly and he has great burst and great lateral movement. I think we have a good enough line to where he can really run behind them.".

Defensive end Jon Conlin appears to be suffering no ill effects from the season ending knee injury that shelved him for the entire 2003 campaign. The redshirt freshman from Vancouver, BC, is participating in all defensive line drills.

Thomas Ostrander made a nice grab over the top of Husain Abdullah on a pass down the sideline from Swogger. The two also hooked up on the sideline when Swogger rolled to his right and threw a bullet to Ostrander who held on for a long gain during team drills.

Will Derting had an interception when Bruhn tipped up a Swogger pass that was thrown behind him and into the hands of Derting who was closing in fast on the play.

The defensive line looked good against the run for the most part and Adam Braidwood recorded a sack on Brink.

The tight end situation improved a great deal from Saturday. Cody Boyd took off his "skunk," the yellow jersey denoting contact is to be avoided. He had an impressive workout, making a couple of one-handed grabs and catching the ball well away from his body. Fellow tight end Jesse Taylor was also back after sitting out Saturday's scrimmage. Sean O'Connor, who is listed as a center, also saw action at the tight end spot, just as he did in Saturday's scrimmage. "We might even see (O'Connor) jump into a receiver's number and play a little tight end like he did last year," Doba commented. Troy Bienemann is listed as day to day and may not be back for the rest of spring ball due to a concussion he received last week.

Quote of the Day
"We are at the point now where I told (LB coach) Leon Burtnett that I really don't care if I see Will Derting scrimmage anymore, other than the thud stuff. He has proved he can hit and run." Bill Doba

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