Paging Gary Rogers

<b>GARY ROGERS</b>, the much touted freshman quarterback from Mukilteo, Wash., just moved a step closer to joining the select group of Cougar rookies who may have their redshirts burned.

That's because Mike Reilly, a walk on from Kennewick-by-way-of-Kalispell who sparkled in spring workouts, is leaving the team.

"He will transfer at the end of the semester," said head coach Bill Doba. "He wanted a better chance to play. He is a great kid and we love him. We wish him the best."

Reilly's departure means punter Kyle Basler will become the No. 2 holder on PATs and field goals behind quarterback Alex Brink.

And it puts Rogers in the same position Brink was in a year ago -- third string and hoping injuries won't force his redshirt to be burned.

Rogers, who threw for more than 3,000 yards at Kamiak High over the past two seasons, was widely rated one of the top 30 prep QB prospects in the nation last year. He's got a great arm and a Bledsoe-esque frame (6-5, 225).

The only freshman member of the 2004 recruiting class who is guaranteed to play this season is super receiver Michael Bumpus. Three others, DE Jason Roberts, LB Jed Collins and kicker Loren Langley, could join him.

Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua (6-7, 280) is also a true freshman, but enrolled in January and participated in spring drills, so really belongs to the 2003 recruiting class. He will start against New Mexico on Friday.

"I would assume that they will try to run right at him," Doba said of Pitoitua. I think they will test the line to see how well we can defend the run. They do a great job with play action passes and they are a great screen team. They run a hundred different screens."

In his first weekly conference call with reporters, Doba shared insights on a variety of topics. Among them:

The kicking game
"Right now we are still in a little bit of a battle. Loren Langley might have a little bit of an edge, especially on short field goals and extra points. He has great height on his kicks. He gets the ball up quickly. It's a great situation to have. We might wait and see how they warm up Friday. Graham Siderius will kick off. He is also the backup punter. When Graham kicks off, he is also another tackler."

New Mexico's defense
"They are a lot like we are. They have a great linebacker back (Nick Speegle). They lost something like seven of their top eight defensive linemen, and we lost a lot of our guys up front. They have two starting corners back. I don't think they are going to change their scheme a whole lot. It's an excellent scheme and very difficult to run against. They mix their linebackers, bring them in and twist them. The only thing good about opening with them is we get a couple of extra days to prepare our offense to pick up their blitzes and schemes."

Players ready to play somebody else
"Our kids psychologically want to play against somebody else. We have had 41 practices, if you count spring, where we have been going against each other. Whether they are ready to play somebody else, I'm not sure. I'm ready to go and see them play somebody else, I know that."

Cutting down on penalties
"They are really going to be sticky about celebration penalties. Any kind of a pose or fraternity sign is going to get flagged. We put striped shirts on our managers and had our kids hand the ball to them after the play. I've been the highest-paid head linesmen in the country. I stand on the sideline and make sure guys are on the line. Those are simple things we want to eliminate, penalties before the snap and after the whistle."

Officials announcing the offending player's number on penalties in 2004
"They do it in every other sport. I think it's fine. There is a difference of opinion. You want the rules in college football to stay the same and officials in Division III don't have microphones to announce those numbers. But at least I know that the official is sure who jumped offside because they have to come up with a number."

Gambling nature of New Mexico's defense
"It's a big play defense both ways. They will make big plays and we were able to make some big plays last year. It's similar to our defense. It will be exciting."

Outside linebacker Steve Dildine
"Dildine and Pat Bennett will probably share time at that linebacker position. He has some potential. He has great speed. He can run and makes plays. I expect him to probably be offsides on a blitz and I expect him to miss a tackle or two, but he is a unique young man. He is a former BMX bike racer, he is a little bit crazy, and that's what it takes to be a good linebacker. He is the guy that hit Allen Thompson on the play in practice and sent him into Never Never Land. He can deliver a punch."

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