15 Days of Spring: Part I

RELIVE THE GLORY of Washington State laying the foundation for the 2004 campaign with this look back at <i>Cougfan.com's</i> day-by-day diary of spring football drills.

(Presented in reverse chronological order.)

DAY FIFTEEN: CRIMSON v GRAY
PULLMAN -- Saturday's conclusion to WSU's spring drills did nothing to clear up the battle at QB. While Josh Swogger figures to hold the edge for now, make no mistake that Alex Brink is right on his heels, setting up what will be a much-anticipated showdown come August.

Head coach Bill Doba said after the annual Crimson & Gray game --- a lackluster 14-3 win for the Crimson -- that he and quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach will talk about it all and then announce on Monday who the No. 1 signal caller will be for purposes of leading summer workouts. All indications are that Swogger, who played in nine games last season, will get that nod.

But come August, it'll be Swogger vs. Brink all over again. Junior Chris Hurd also will be in the hunt, but looks right now to be No. 3 after a decent but unspecatcular spring session that ended on a sour note when he bruised his throwing hand a week ago and has been on the sidelines since then.

Brink looked sharpest on Saturday. And there was no better witness than receiver Marty Martin, who capped a brilliant spring season with 10 catches for 127 yards and two TDs on the day.

He said Brink has impressed him with his reads, audibles, and decision-making in the pocket.

"You can't teach somebody how to be a playmaker," Martin said of Brink, a second-year-freshman from Eugene, Ore.

Brink, the most agile of WSU's top three QBs, picked up 26 yards on one scramble Saturday to set a 40-yard scoring strike to Martin, who snared a screen over the middle and took it to the house.

Brink finished the day 11-for-16 for 151 yards and the TD Martin. He made a number of completions on the run.

Swogger was 7-for-14 for 49 with a four-yard touchdown pass to Martin. He also had an interception. In four spring scrimmages, Swogger completed 24 of 51 tosses for 227 yards and two TDS.

MARTIN MAKES HIS MARK
Martin has literally been like a professor this spring for the Cougar receiving corps -–


Marty Martin (WSU)

instructing the young wideouts how to play at the Pac-10 level.

The junior from Puyallup took advantage of injuries to Troy Bienemann also sitting out contact situations the last two weeks, Martin established himself as the primary target.

Not only has Martin been the most consistent receiver this spring, he's arguably been the biggest playmaker on the entire offense. In the four scrimmages, he has 23 receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns.

GRAY GETS ON THE BOARD
The Gray team, composed entirely of second- and third-teamers, got on the board Saturday courtesy of some trickery.

Freshman quarterback Mike Reilly tossed a lateral pass to John Rasmussen who then turned and threw a 25-yard strike to sophomore Jeffrey Muai. The play was reminiscent of WSU's opening play against UCLA in ‘02 when Collin Henderson fired a TD strike to Mike Bush, in the game that sent the Cougars to the ‘03 Rose Bowl.

The play on Saturday set up a 38-yard field goal by Graham Siderius. (Siderius, playing for both teams, didn't have one of his better days; the field goal was his only one of four attempts on the day. It was a far cry from the scrimmage a week ago, when Siderius drilled a pair of 57-yarders.)

MISCUES GALORE
Mental errors were rampant Saturday. Bobbled snaps, fumbles and dropped passes topped the list. Bobbled snaps had not even been a factor before today–Coach Bill Doba was not especially pleased with how the Crimson team performed overall.

The fumblitis was a new affliction this spring; in all there were six fumbles on the day. Three were bobbled snaps and one was a punt-return where Tramaine Murray did everything right–but the ball bounced up and hit him in the leg.


Reyshawn Bobo (CF.C)

Coach Bill Doba noted the primary problem with the receiving corps is simply that two of the best ones are standing next to him on the sidelines. Jordan and Hill should be 100 percent come fall camp.

One positive from the offensive miscues --- it means the depth on defense is considerable. The Gray D, compised of second- and third-unit players, swarmed to the ball all day long, holding the Crimson offense to zero points through the first half.

Freshman linebacker Chris Baltzer led all tacklers with 8 sticks, while sophomore Thomas Clements tallied 5 tackles and a forced fumble. Freshman walk-on Ryan Kensok snagged an interception, and a fumble recovery on special teams. Freshman pass-rush specialist Reyshawn Bobo had the Gray's only sack and recovered a fumble on a bobbled snap.

GROUND GAME CHURNS
The Cougar running game showed it could grind out the tough yards again this Saturday. Senior Chris Bruhn finished with 88 yards on 9 carries, including a pair of 40-yard romps, one of which was the first play from scrimmage. The other big-gainer took the Crimson inside the 5-yard line to set up the first Martin touchdown.

Senior Allen Thompson continued to showcase his bruising running style with 35 yards on 6 carries, earning every yard by running over and through and on-top-of defenders. Thompson has displayed impressive toughness and grit throughout the spring workouts.

NOTABLES
Adam Braidwood tallied one of the four Crimson sacks on QB Mike Reilly. Former Cougar teammates of Braidwood, such as D.D. Acholonu, told him as far back as last year he'd need to step up and be a leader on D. Braidwood's aggressive nature and high energy make him an ideal QB hunter, and beginning Sept. 3 in New Mexico, it's quarterback season.

Doba said the success of the team all depends on how well his players prepare between now and August. The talent and potential is clearly there, they simply need to continue to get stronger and stay healthy.

Senior safety Jeremy Bohannon had two picks Saturday, both in the fourth quarter against Reilly. Bohannon said defensive coordinator Robb Akey has instilled the "11 hats to the ball mentality" on defense again this season.

Recent Cougar grads Erik Coleman, Scott Lunde, Jonathan Smith, and Drew Dunning were all on-hand at Saturday's game as well as members of the current recruiting class and prospects for the upcoming year.

THE RYAN KENSOK FAN CLUB
Since the release of the Crimson and Grays rosters a few days ago, our inbox at CF.C has fielded several inquiries on an unfamiliar name: Ryan Kensok.

The defensive back is a 2003 graduate of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, who earned a roster spot as a walk-on this spring. And if success breeds familiarity, Kensok's performance for the Gray team—one interception, one fumble recovery, and four tackles—could mean we won't be getting many more "who is he?" emails.

DAY FOURTEEN
PULLMAN—The brief glimpse into the 2004 edition of Washington State Cougar football is coming to a close. Yesterday marked the final day of spring practice before Saturday's annual Crimson and Gray game. And, like Tuesday's practice, both touchdowns and turnovers ruled the day.

The No.1 offense, led by sophomore Josh Swogger, had good success moving the ball. Swogger capped a long drive with a play action naked bootleg left for the offenses' first touchdown of the scrimmage. The defense got a second try to stop the "O" on the goal line, but was unsuccessful, as Chris Bruhn burst through the hole for a short touchdown run.

The Cougars ran the two-minute drill again today, with the offense starting on their own 30-yard line. Each team had two time-outs and the offense needed a touchdown in order to win.

In his second try of the drill, Swogger completed a couple of passes early and was leading the offense inside enemy territory again. Swogger got more and more daring with each down as he slowly moved the ball up the field and into the redzone, but defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua had a sack on Swogger forcing a fourth and long situation.

On the next play Jeremy Bohannon picked off a Swogger pass, but the defense was called for pass interference, and just like that, the offense was back in business at the 20-yard line. After two incompletions, Martin had a catch over the middle to pick up the first down with a generous spot from offensive line coach George Yarno, who was acting as a referee. Now, with 15 seconds remaining, the offense was just inside the 10-yard line and had first and goal. The defense brought the heat, but it was not enough, Swogger dropped back and threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open Martin.

Freshman quarterback Alex Brink again showcased his running ability with the second team on a 12-yard scramble on a third and 10. Allen Thompson had a nice 9-yard run on the next play, followed by a quarterback sneak up the middle to pick up the first. Again it looked as though the offense was moving the ball well, but Brink threw an interception on the next play.

In one-on-one receiving drills, Marty Martin showed he's got the "want to" by making a nice adjustment on a Mike Reilly pass, returning to his feet after slipping, and making a great catch. On the very next play, sophomore Eric Frampton intercepted a Reilly pass by extending out in front of the receiver. Reilly then showed he is able to throw the long ball by hitting junior Thomas Ostrander in stride for a big gain.

Quarterbacks' coach Timm Rosenbach said this weekend's performance from his QB's is all in how they prepare for the Crimson & Gray game and will be a good test to see the mental toughness and preparation at the signal caller position.

He's also excited for Cougar quarterback recruits Cole Morgan and Gary Rogers, who will be in fall camp. "There's a bigger drop back guy (Rogers) and then there's a scrambler (Morgan)," Rosenbach said, "So we've got two different styles coming in." He's excited for the new talent on the Palouse and wants to begin developing them right away.

Yarno is pleased with the improvement on the offensive line this spring, however injuries have been a factor, in the form of Nick Mihlhauser had an outstanding spring and has really developed at center. The coach also spoke highly of utility player Sean O'Conner.

"Sean is kind-of like the sixth man in basketball," Yarno said. "He is such a good athlete and can do so many things."

O'Conner, who has played at guard, center, and tight end, should expect to get substantial playing time this fall at any or all of these positions.

The Crimson and Gray game will take place on Saturday, 1:15 pm, at Martin Stadium.


Alex Brink (CF.C)

DAY THIRTEEN
PULLMAN -- Though spring football is nearly over on the Palouse, the Cougars show no signs of slowing down, even after last Saturday's scrimmage that saw five players come out with injuries. Tuesday's session was an intense two- and-a-half-hour ordeal that eventually ended up in Martin Stadium with an abbreviated scrimmage. Plus, Alex Brink appears to have passed Chris Hurd as top challenger to Josh Swogger.

The day was mixed with solid if not spectacular play on both sides of the ball. The offense would convert on third and long or have a long touchdown completion; then the defense would come up with a big turnover or shut down a fourth-and-one conversion attempt.

Fumbles were the turnover of choice by the defense today, having three forced fumbles and pouncing on two of them. Quarterbacks Josh Swogger and Alex Brink each threw interceptions on the day. Brink threw his during one-on-one receiving drills to junior Nic Scott. Swogger's, while not his fault, was more costly, coming at the end of the scrimmage on a second down play with the offense driving. The sophomore signal-caller threw a ball that hit Tramaine Murray in the hands, but was knocked away by a defender and into the arms of junior corner Omawale Dada.

Head coach Bill Doba said by the end of spring he'd like to have solidified a No.1 quarterback, but still isn't sure who that is going to be. "Right now, I would say Swogger is in the lead with Brink second," Doba said.

He also said quarterback by committee is out of the question. "Teams that I've seen over the years that have done that have had to cut the offense in half," Doba said, "It's tough to get two guys ready to play unless you want to extend practice, and that's against my philosophy."

In addition to the takeaways, the defense stuffed the offense on fourth-and-one a whopping three times, one of which was a forced fumble on running back Chris Bruhn.


Allen Thompson (WSU)

Despite the fumbles and failed fourth down conversions, the running game looked pretty good Tuesday. Bruhn caught a Swogger screen pass and raced up the sideline untouched for touchdown. The senior ran hard all day, pounding into defenders and earning every yard. Allen Thompson looked like his normal self with a couple of decent gains after an ankle sprain slowed him most of last week.

"Both of our running backs (Bruhn and Thompson) have had an awesome spring," Doba said before Tuesday's practice.

Marty Martin did something on Tuesday that he hasn't done in quite awhile: he dropped a pass. Martin actually dropped a couple of easily catchable balls, but made up for it with touchdown reception from Swogger over the middle from about 15-yards out. In one-on-one drills, the receiver made a single-handed grab over the top of a defender and later stretched out his 5-10 frame to make a difficult catch.

Receiver Thomas Ostrander laid out for a couple receptions and scored on a pass from Brink, who practiced primarily with the first team offense today.

Brink got a chance to try going no huddle against the first team defense and just like last Saturday's scrimmage, the offense was hot early before cooling way down. Brink had a decent gain on a pass to Martin and then a long gain to tight end Cody Boyd. The offense was on the move but Brink was sacked on the next two plays, which put them in a third and 20 situation they could not escape from.

Despite suffering an ankle sprain on Saturday, linebacker Don Turner was also back, but only took part in some of the fundamental and individual drills.

Injured defensive back Hamza Abdullah was on-hand for all of practice Tuesday, motivating and cheering on players from the sidelines. "He is a great leader out there. He gets excited about plays, high-fivin' guys and showing a lot of enthusiasm," Doba said of Abdullah.

Secondary coach Ken Greene said Abdullah will be out six to eight weeks with a collarbone fracture, but will definitely be ready for summer work-outs and fall camp. "If this is going to happen, better it happen know than (during the season)," Greene said.

Greene hopes the recruits coming in at fall camp can play a big role for the secondary next fall. He wants his unit to create turnovers and stay healthy in Saturday's Crimson & Gray game.

BATTLE OF THE GUARDS
The offensive guard position likely won't have a definitive first team when spring ball ends on Saturday, but Doba doesn't necessarily see that as a bad thing.

"We have a good battle going," Doba said. "Patrick Afif and Bobby Byrd are both a little dinged up. I don't know if Byrd is going to be able to play Saturday. We have been taking a look at sophomore Riley Fitt-Chappell is in there as well, so we will have four guys battling it out in the fall."

A SPRING IN HIS KICK
Although getting off to a somewhat slow start, junior kicker Graham Siderius has turned in a strong spring performance, earning the praise of Doba.

"He can hit it from 60 yards out," Doba said. "He has a great leg and is kicking the ball very, very well."


Sam Lightbody (CF.C)

EXTRA-POINTS
Doba said DT Sam Lightbody, Swogger, and Abdullah were mentioned by Doba as players who were stepping forward as leaders of the 2004 Cougars…the final practice of spring will take place on Wednesday at 3:30, instead of Friday as originally planned; the Crimson and Gray game will kick-off at 1:15 on Saturday.

DAY TWELVE: SCRIMMAGE THREE
PULLMAN -- In 2003, the Cougars outscored their opponents 123-25 in the first quarter. If Saturday's scrimmage is any gauge, the 2004 offense looks like it too will be able to find the early groove. In the end, though, the defense reigned supreme. Unfortunately, a big injury in the secondary was incurred along the way.

The injury bug hit the Cougs hard on Saturday in the third scrimmage of the spring. It was a physical, pad-cracking affair.


Hamza Abdullah (WSU)

Sarting free safety Hamza Abdullah suffered a fractured clavicle. Abdullah has become one of the leaders on the team, taking charge throughout the winter workouts and beyond.

We'll get to the rest of the injuries later, but first, the scrimmage.

Simulating an overtime situation, the offense began the day with the ball on the 25-yardline of the defense.

On the very first play, Josh Swogger immediately hit paydirt with a 25-yard scoring strike to Cody Boyd. The tight end made a nice adjustment—reaching behind his body and pulling it in with one hand before waltzing in for six. The 6-8, 240 pound sophomore later added a 34-yard reception from QB Alex Brink.

Boyd said he wants to be the go-to-guy on 3rd down and goal line situations this season, but is still working on finding his comfort zone, especially in certain situations. He wants to better know the full complement of plays out of every formation than he does to date—having missed a good portion of the Spring due to off-season shoulder surgery.

The Bellingham native went on to say because of the surgery, he's still working his way into gameday shape. Boyd was the leading receiver on the day with 2 catches for 59 yards.

On his very next pass attempt, Swogger tossed an eight-yard touchdown strike to sure-handed Marty Martin—a perfectly placed ball in the corner of the end zone reminiscent of Swogger's TD pass to Devard Darling against Arizona State last season. Two passes, two touchdowns, and the offense was looking good.

That's when the D tightened up. For the rest of his reps, they held Swogger to 4-12 passing for 39 yards. On the day, Swogs was 6-14, 72 yards, 2TDs.

Swogger said the offensive unit is headed in the right direction, and is anxious to have the full complement of receivers in order to execute to the offense's full potential. "In the fall you'll see what we have on offense, spring is not (necessarily) a very good indicator."

He went on to say it can be challenging coming into the huddle and seeing new faces time and time again, "It's hard to gel and get that chemistry that you need."

Next up, Alex Brink. Chris Bruhn took a screen pass from Brink and weaved in an out of defenders before being taken down just short of the marker. The senior running back had a nice day as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 4 balls for 25 yards.

The Woodland, CA product also turned in the only real rushing highlight of the day—a 15-yard dash out of the backfield when the offense started with their backs against the wall on the 4-yardline. Bruhn finished with 29 yards rushing on 8 carries – and 53 total yards on 12 touches.

RBs Kevin McCall, both of whom led the offense in last week's scrimmage, enjoyed no such success this time around. They finished the day with but 37 yards on 17 carries between the two of them. Twice the defense stuffed the run on 4th and 1 situations.

Brink showed off his fancy footwork again Saturday, scrambling to move the chains and later executing on a play-action bootleg to earn another set of downs. The 6-2 RS freshman from Eugene finished with 29 yards rushing and went 11-20 for 83 yards through the air.

The speedy freshman was not the only QB showing quick feet today. Swogger, more the classic pocket-passer, stiff-armed a would-be tackler on his way to converting a 3rd and 6, drawing hearty cheers from offensive teammates.

Because Swogger stands in the pocket with guys flying all around him, some may not realize just how good a runner he is—Swogs has some wheels and he has some moves. He just hasn't shown them all that often.. yet.

Of Swogger and Brink, coach Bill Doba said, "The two are a great change of pace, Swogger is old-style drop-back type, and Alex gets in there and scrambles."

Mike Reilly continued to produce, connecting on 7 of 9 for 46 yards. The walk-on freshman was also forced out of the pocket a couple of times and reacted well. Reilly is now 22-29 for 195 this spring with a touchdown and an interception.

In the face of a strong pass rush coupled with a "roadblock" mentality to the run game, many quarterbacks might become gun-shy. That was not in evidence Saturday nor has it been the case this Spring. "When you're out there running you can't be afraid to take a hit," Brink said.

Doba acknowledged the offense's early spark, but would like to see a more consistent performance out of the unit. And as well as the defense performed Saturday, Doba also cited the D's mental lapses during the two-hour session.

AFTER THE FIRST couple of series, the ineffectiveness of the offense was largely due to the clamps put on by the defense. Junior Adam Braidwood and sophomore Mkristo Bruce each broke though for a sack today. These were truly sacks—Saturday was the first day of full contact for the quarterbacks, who traded in their yellow jerseys for crimson ones to match their teammates on offense.


Mkristo Bruce (WSU)

The defense also managed a few turnovers, something they were well known for a year ago when they lead the nation in takeaways.

Sophomore LB Brian Hall forced a Chris Hurd fumble, while senior Pat Bennett picked off a Brink pass and returned it 39 yards, evoking shades of the linebacker's INT—also for 39 yards—against Andrew Walter and ASU last season.

With (Hamza) Abdullah out for the rest of spring with the collarbone fracture, senior SS Jeremy Bohannon said he fully plans on stepping up his level of play.

Bohannon's goals include continuing the high level of success established on the Palouse these past three seasons. He also has firmly in mind a desire to instill in the underclassmen the winning tradition—and all that entails—for when after he's graduated.


Jeremy Bohannon (CF.C)

He then ticked off quite a list as he gave credit to his mentors; Lamont Thompson, Billy Newman, Marcus Trufant, Eric Coleman, Virgil Williams. Raises the question, could Quarterback-U also turn into Defensive back-U?

THE OFFENSIVE LINE fell victim to injuries and penalties for a portion of Saturday's scrimmage. Making matters worse for the big skill players, the calls against them came at costly intervals. For example, Brink scrambled out of the pocket shedding a would-be tackler for a long gain that was negated because of a holding call.

In all, there was three holding calls that erased decent gains and three false start penalties. Two guards, Senior Patrick Afif and freshman Bobby Byrd, sat out today's scrimmage.

The defense committed a couple of costly penalties themselves—two 3rd down pass interference calls gave the offense a fresh set of downs.


Calvin Armstrong (CF.C)

Senior tackle Calvin Armstrong said he wants to see the offensive line play more consistently—and it will help when the line can get over the injuries in order to work out the kinks. Currently, the o-linemen are learning Coach George Yarno's new snap count, something Armstrong said will give the offense the advantage of getting off the ball quicker.

The 6-7, 311 pound tackle has made it a personal goal to lead the offensive line this season. "Other guys are going to look up to me, to what I've done in the past and what I'm going to do in the future," Armstrong said, "I lead by action."

ONE DAY AFTER nailing a pair of 57-yarders in the cold, Kicker Graham Siderius was 3-4 on Saturday, drilling FG attempts from 41, 40, and 35 yards, while missing a second from 35 yards out.

INJURY UPDATE Hamza Abdullah -- broken collarbone... Pat Bennett -- ankle sprain...Trandon Harvey -- re-aggravated hamstring injury... Chris Hurd -- hand bruise.

AS HEARD IN CHAT: Defensive coordinator Paul Stevens, who was the No. 2 MLB behind Will Derting, has moved from middle ‘backer to defensive end.

"Paul Stevens is doing great and we are giving him a look at DE right now. He had a good practice (Wednesday), his first at that spot. He will be a good football player for us," Akey said.

OVERALL, DOBA HAS liked what he's seen to this point. "We still need practice and there are still a lot of things we need to fine tune, but the energy has been good throughout the spring. I credit the leadership on this team for that."

Doba further said he would be very glad when the Crimson & Gray game is over, because after today's scrimmage his team is suddenly a little banged up.

The Cougars hold their final two spring practices this coming Tuesday and Friday in preparation for the annual Crimson & Gray Game next Saturday, April 17 at 1 p.m.

QUARTERBACK SITUATION
Chris Hurd is in all likelihood out for the rest of Spring with the hand injury. With Hurd sidelined, Doba said the starting quarterback spot looks to be between Swogger and Brink at this point.


Marty Martin (WSU)

DAY ELEVEN
PULLMAN --- There's a phrase that's becoming a cliché on the Palouse these days: Marty Martin had a good day of practice. The junior receiver from Puyallup looked sharp again today, making tough catches over the middle and in traffic. And taking it all in was a young guy who'd like nothing more than to line up next to Martin this fall: Highly touted incoming freshman receiver Michael Bumpus.


Michael Bumpus (TheInsiders)

Bumpus, one of the most coveted prep wideouts on the West Coast this past recruiting season, will also be at the Cougars' scrimmage Saturday. The 6-0, 190-pounder is on spring break and traveled to Pullman from his home in Culver City, Calif. He said he's looking forward to being part of something special at WSU and helping bring the Pac-10 title back where it belongs.

As for Marty Martin, he's been a sure-handed target for all the Cougar QBs since spring workouts began. Short routes, long ones, in traffic, whatever -- he's delivered in a big way.

Receiver Trandon Harvey, another up-and-comer who figures to see a ton of playing time in 2004, also performed well today, particularly when he went over the top of a defender to snatch a pass out of the air. He's showing no signs of trouble with the hamstring he pulled doing the triple jump.

Quarterbacks and receivers also spent some time working on goal line and short yardage passing routes -- one of the few bugaboos on the Palouse over the last three seasons.

In the five-receiver drills the quarterbacks looked very comfortable, completing their first eight passes. Josh Swogger threw a touchdown pass to Thomas Ostrander in the corner of the end zone and Alex Brink threw a short scoring aerial to Cody Boyd over outstretched defenders.


Graham Siderius (CF.C)

On special teams, head coach Bill Doba had a smile on his face watching kicker Graham Siderius today. The 6-1 junior from Reno who had trouble last Saturday because of a heel injury, hit two 57-yard field goals --- both right down the middle. For perspective, consider that Drew Dunning's longest trey ever was 49 yards.

NOTABLE NOTES:

Although practice was comparatively short today, a few players decided they needed some extra work. Swogger, Troy Bienemann, and Allen Thompson all stayed after sprints and stretches to work on short passing routes.

With a scrimmage on Saturday, the Cougars practiced Friday without pads and focused much of their time on fundamentals.

The offensive line practiced recovering fumbles, which generated a couple of laughs from teammates. Seeing guys weighing 300 pounds scrambling to pounce on a ball smaller than their own head could be considered comedy.

In Saturday's scrimmage, both the O and the D will work in high-pressure scenarios. Doba said the scrimmage will begin in an overtime situation, with the offense starting on the 25-yard-line. After that the offense will begin on its own 5.

DAY TEN
PULLMAN—With a basically brand new air attack and a stout offensive line, the 2004 version of the Washington State offense plans on relying heavily on the ground game. If the performance of the Cougars' top running backs thus far this spring is any indication, the rushing attack will deliver.

Both senior Chris Bruhn and junior Allen Thompson have had strong spring performances, answering one of the questions entering spring ball—can the running game meet the high expectations?—with a resounding yes.

The promise shown by Thompson has been stopped by injuries so far in his collegiate career. Shoulder injuries kept him out of all but one game the past two seasons; a high ankle sprain halted a strong 2001 campaign by the then true freshman. So far this spring, other than a minor ankle injury on the last play of Saturday's scrimmage, the Sweetwater High (Calif.) product has remained physically fit, despite his punishing style of running through and over defenders. And running backs coach Kelly Skipper is very pleased with his progress.


Kevin McCall (WSU)

But more than just Bruhn and Thompson have earned the praise of Skipper this spring. The coach is impressed with the play of redshirt freshman Kevin McCall and thinks the Carson, Calif. native could challenge for playing time. "He's in the hunt," said Skipper.

The running back position is in McCall's blood—literally. Six of his family members, including his father, four uncles, and a cousin, were Div.1A tailbacks.

McCall rushed for 59 yards on 15 carries in Saturday's scrimmage.

PRACTICE NOTES
Tight end Troy Bienemann, who suffered a concussion last week, was back at practice today. Bienemann appeared to be wearing Cody Boyd's dirty laundry; a yellow jersey meaning contact is to be avoided. Boyd, who wore a similar jersey last week, showed good hands again Wednesday afternoon, his second day of contact practice. Sophomore Sean O'Connor continued to get reps as a tight end much, as well.

Wide receiver Chris Jordan, who has been rehabilitating an injured left knee, did some light individual work today.

Sophomore QB Josh Swogger looked good throwing today, particularly on the long passes. He completed a couple of nice deep throws to Tramaine Murray, and one each to Trandon Harvey and Marty Martin.

Redshirt freshman Alex Brink had a series of passes during one-on-one drills that were on the money this afternoon. The first came on a throw over the middle to Harvey; the next was a completion to Thomas Ostrander in tight coverage. Brink threw a bomb down the sideline to grayshirt Scott Selby, who has showed much improvement over the pass few weeks. Brink hit Murray over the middle on play when the receiver burned the defensive back guarding him on the play. Brink continued to shine in 5-on-5 sets, hitting the sure-handed Martin for a long touchdown pass. The duo later hooked up on another TD pass in the back of the endzone from a shorter distance. To cap off a great outing by Brink, he hit Ostrander for a long touchdown pass during team drills.

Martin was a touchdown catching machine Wednesday, in addition to the pair of Brink passes that went for touchdowns, he also hauled in a Swogger TD pass. The 5-10 Martin went up for a jump ball in the back of the endzone and somehow held on.

In team drills, the offense began on their own two-yard line. They appeared to be unfazed by the threat of losing points to the defense, as Bruhn followed blockers en route to a big gain on the first play of the drill.

The defense showed it could be stingy in the red zone today with junior corner Omowale Dada leading the charge. The 5-10 Dada picked off a Brink pass in the end zone and nearly intercepted another, then knocked away a pass intended for Ostrander.

Head coach Bill Doba is pleased with his team's unity and swagger so far, and is excited about the high level of play on both sides of the ball. "You've got to have some success before you get confidence," Doba said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
When asked if he had any predictions for the fall, Cougar defensive coordinator Robb Akey remarked, "We're gonna open up at New Mexico, and it's going to be zero to zero when we kick it off."

Don't miss "Lunch with Coach Akey" in the Cougfan.com premium chat room, Thursday, April 8, from noon to 1 pm.

DAY NINE
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."


Mike Reilly (WSU)

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.

HARVEY RETURNS
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.

TUESDAY PRACTICE NOTES
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.

TIGHT SPOT
The tight end situation improved a great deal from Saturday. 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.


Will Derting (WSU)

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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