Back in the starting cast

PULLMAN—Two weeks ago, it appeared all but certain a dislocated wrist would sideline Will Derting for a significant portion of 2004. The WSU defense adapted, performing admirably without their co-captain and middle linebacker. But they are undeniably better with Big Will in the lineup. And he will be.

On Monday, coach Bill Doba made it abundantly clear that when the Cougs take the field at University Stadium against the Lobos of New Mexico, Derting will be there and he will start.

Previously, coach Bill Doba had said he'd like Will Derting, after receiving medical clearance, to get in at least two contact practices before playing in the opener against New Mexico.

It turned out the Butkus Award candidate needed only one to convince Doba.

"(Derting) has earned the respect of this football team," Doba said, in announcing Derting will start at New Mexico. "Having a tough guy like him adds courage to everybody."

Derting was sporting a smaller cast at Monday's practice, one that allows him to use his fingers. The previous cast started just below the elbow and covered his entire hand - It looked just like a giant club.

Defensive Coordinator Robb Akey said the use of his fingers should help Derting's ability to shed blocks and tackle.

The team as a whole appears eager to block and tackle someone other than their own teammates.

Players and coaches alike are looking forward to Friday's match-up so they can really test their mettle, Doba said. However, he wasn't particularly interested in predicting for reporters how Washington State would perform. "It's all just speculation, men." Doba said. "We really have no idea (how they'll perform in a game situation). Whether the defense is really good, or the offense is horrible, or vice-versa," he said.

Game situations can only be simulated and are not always an accurate indicator. But as much as one can draw conclusions, the Washington State offense is now clicking. And to say the quarterbacks and wide receivers are on the same page, well, that would be redundant. However, it is the only way to describe recent events on Rogers Field.

True, the "O" has been facing the scout team since last Thursday, but even so, the progress made in the passing game continues to render moot a dismal spring.

No longer are receivers running lazy routes, nor are quarterbacks throwing to the wrong spot. Drops are a rare occurrence and the bulk of incompletions are simply because of tight coverage from the secondary and ‘backers. One-handed grabs, leaping catches, and long receptions are the norm these days as Fall Camp draws to a close.

The receivers' play this fall bodes well for the Cougs headed into the opener against the Lobos, but as coach Doba pointed out Monday, it remains to be seen how the team performs when the opening gun fires.

News and Notes
Wide receiver Greg Prator was the only travel squad player to sit out with injury today; a strained hamstring has the JC transfer listed as day to day. Prator will still travel to New Mexico and coaches will evaluate his situation based on how he warms up during pre-game.

Offensive tackle Sam Lightbody also did not practice, but only because he has a class on Monday afternoons. Monday is a scheduled off-day for the football team during the season so future conflicts shouldn't occur.

A welcome sight was running back Allen Thompson in pads and practicing again today. Thompson has been out since suffering a back strain and mild concussion after a crushing hit earlier this fall. Corner Tyron Brackenridge also returned today and practiced in pads.

Walk-on receiver Blake Ferguson tried his hand at returning punts along with Michael Bumpus, Marty Martin, and Tramaine Murray.

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