Fall Camp: Day 15

PULLMAN--The Cougar defense has not lost its swagger, but after two weeks of workouts, including injuries to captains and emotional leaders--<b>Hamza Abdullah</b> and <b>Will Derting</b>--is the <i>walk</i> for real? Our early camp evaluation of the mean side of the ball comes up with a relatively definitive answer to that question.

The four-man rush has been getting good pressure against the offense so far, especially from strongside end Adam Braidwood's. The big junior has been working his tail off, mowing over the opposition at times. End mate Mkristo Bruce is also coming along well and is going to be a good one.

Ends Adam West and Matt Mullenix have received praise from defensive coordinator Robb Akey for their improved play. Mullenix has made great strides and may be the most improved on the line. Paul Stevens is also coming along nicely. Reyshawn Bobo has been slowed of late by the injury bug, but possesses an uncanny quickness that is exciting to watch.

Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua has also been getting good pressure and continues to get better as camp progresses. Pitoitua seems to have claimed the left tackle spot.

Also inside, Steve Cook has looked really good and appears to be setting the table for an outstanding senior campaign.

Akey lamented the practice time Aaron Johnson missed due to his abdominal strain and told CF.C the injury came at a time when he was making big strides. Odell Howard and Johnson should see plenty of playing time on the inside this season.

Head coach Bill Doba has said because of the youth up front, they will rotate with frequency. Doing so should hold off the injuries that seem to visit the younger players more than the redshirt juniors and seniors. The coaching staff has confidence in the talent represented in the rotation and feels they'll perform well.

Strong safety Jeremy Bohannon has simply been lights out. The Richland senior is always where the action is, almost like a Will Derting in the secondary. Eric Frampton has looked good filling in as the No. 1 free safety for injured Hamza Abdullah, but needs to work on his consistency.

All five —count ‘em, five— corners have shined so far. Hard to say enough good things about Karl Paymah, Tyron Brackenridge, Alex Teems, Omawale Dada, and Don Turner. Each has had brilliant moments and a lot of them.

It is, of course, a huge loss to have All-America candidate Will Derting go down due to injury. The Butkus Award contender is impossible to replace, but the Cougs have absorbed the loss as well as could be hoped for.

Outside backer Steve Dildine has looked great in coverage. He has good instincts and is particularly adept in tight end coverage. Pat Bennett is nicely balanced against the run and the pass, but has been slowed by a hamstring strain. Scott Davis looks good, displaying quickness and sure tackling in the middle. He's still getting his feet wet at Derting's MLB spot, but should hold down the fort admirably until his return.

Brian Winter and Chris Baltzer have been getting more time then anticipated at LB and both are performing well.

Should any redshirts be burned at the LB spot, it would seem likely to be that of Coeur d'Alene's Alex Hamill. He looks the most ready to contribute of the newcomers.

The Cougar D hasn't lost a step as one might've expected with the injuries to Derting and Abdullah. They have consistently played well and continue to fly to the football. Some questions remain, but many more have also been answered. The D still has that swagger and believe they're as good as the three previous editions.

I think they're right.

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