<b>PULLMAN--Thud. The sound a defensive coach loves to hear and what happened when the Cougars got to wear pads for the first time in four months on Friday. The intensity on the field was ratcheted up a couple notches as the d-line went out in search of someone to lay the hat on during Day 3 of the spring session.

Defensively, Friday's standout player would have to be defensive end Adam Braidwood. The 6-5, 264-pound senior was seemingly everywhere on a day that included a sack and two batted down passes.

But easily the loudest thud of the day, and biggest hit of the spring to date, was delivered by defensive tackle Aaron Johnson (6-6, 310, So.)

AJ shed his blocker and proceeded to level the ballcarrier with a crushing stick that had the entire defensive unit roaring.

When Jerome Harrison (5-9, 210, Sr.) was in the backfield, the Cougar running game looked good. In live action, the bulked-up Harrison showed he's lost none of the quickness and elusiveness in putting on upwards of 15 pounds this offseason.

Harrison got the majority of reps at practice on Friday and twice exploded down field after smartly locating the hole and taking it all the way to paydirt.

But when Harrison came out, so did any semblance of a Cougar running attack. Backup running backs were summarily stopped for little to no gain all session long.

The offensive line looks to be performing well in pass blocking, with Nick Mihlhauser (6-3, 283, Sr.). assuming a leadership role up front this year. The center from Arroyo Grande, Calif. said the unit is ahead of where they were at this point last spring. In addition to opening holes for Harrison to exploit, the o-line gave each of the quarterbacks enough time in the pocket and they used it to their advantage.

With offensive line coach George Yarno proclaiming, "This ain't practice, it's a game!", the passes Friday were on target from Josh Swogger (6-5, 247, Jr.) and Alex Brink (6-2, 208, So.) throughout the session, which included some scrimmage time as the day came to a close.

One new Cougar receiver who looks to be making the transition from high school with ease was freshman Benny Ward (6-3, 190). Ward showed considerable speed and soft hands on Friday, adjusting perfectly on a too-deep ball and turning a long incompletion into a highlight-reel catch.

Two other Cougs making a number of clutch grabs were WR Marty Martin (5-10, 186, Jr.) and tight end Troy Bienemann (6-4, 245, Sr.). Four times during drills, Martin roped in balls at full arms length. Bienemann made three grabs of his won during the end of practice scrimmage. All three came in tight coverage and heavy traffic.

Coach Leon Burtnett said in looking ahead, he's excited see what the incoming freshman linebackers, Cory Evans, Greg Trent, Courtney Williams, Jason Stripling and Lamar Brumfield, are going to bring to the table.

Burtnett said the group should fit in nicely at WSU since the starting linebackers -- Will Derting, Scott Davis and Steve Dildine -- are also defined by their speed. Burtnett said the starters are a cohesive group who run, lift, eat and hang out together off the field.

Cougfan Top Stories