Scrimmage One: O'Connor stakes his claim at guard

PULLMAN -- It appears Washington State offensive lineman Sean O'Connor is taking a page from Mark Twain. But where the legendary author uttered the famous words, "Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," the junior-to-be from Redmond simply let his pads do the talking. Saturday in the Cougars' first scrimmage of the spring season, O'Connor made it clear that the two starting guard positions won't be automatically going to Charles Harris and Norvell Holmes.

Head coach Bill Doba said the offensive line was impressive on Saturday and he singled out O'Connor as really "starting to come around at guard."

Given O'Connor's solid work the past two seasons in spot duty on the line and, more so, as a blocking tight end in short yardage situations, that may come as no suprise.

But given the last time the 6-5, 295-pounder made headlines, this was quite a reversal of fortune. Back in January, you see, a local newspaper reported that O'Connor was going to be headed to junior college this season to work on his grades.


The newspaper had its facts fouled up, possibly confusing O'Connor with fellow lineman Russell Foster, who is indeed an academic casualty this season. The paper ran a correction and assistant head coach Robin Pflugrad made a point during a CF.C lunchtime Chat Room session a week later to inform the faithful that O'Connor still was very much part of the team and counted on to play both OL and TE in 2005.

An unfortunate publicity turn, but given O'Connor's serpentine career, it was almost fitting. Coming out of Redmond High he accepted a scholarship to Arizona State, but quickly yearned for the homeland after just a few months in Tempe. So he walked on at WSU in January of 2002 and had to work his way up from the bottom.

He acquitted himself well and earned a scholarship in 2003, playing nine games that season.

And now he's looking to crack the starting line up. The Cougars' offensive line has three starters pretty well locked in -- tackles Bobby Byrd and Riley Fitt-Chappell and center Nick Milhaueser -- but the two guard spots look to be highly competitive. Charles Harris and Norvell Holmes are considered frontrunners, but O'Connor is making his case.

Regardless who starts and who comes off the bench, Doba is pleased with what he's seeing in his hosses so far this spring.

"I've been impressed with the line's assignment play, picking up blitzes and the protection," Doba said after watching his club Saturday. "For this early in the season they've been pretty good."

The third-year Cougar head coach also liked the play of his defensive tackles, especially Ropati Pitoitua and Aaron Johnson.

On offense, Alex Brink handled the majority of the quarterbacking duties and threw one scoring pass to Troy Bienemann from six yards out. Gary Rogers connected on six of 15 attempts for 51 yards and newcomer Cole Morgan completed one of his six passes for seven yards.

Jason Hill was the top receiver on the day, nabbing seven balls for 49 yards, while Marty Martin caught six for 31 yards.

Jerome Harrison was the leading grounder gainer, carrying nine times for 49 yards and hitting paydirt from 20 yards out for the first score of the scrimmage.

Quarterback Josh Swogger, recovering from a broken foot last fall, has only participated in non-contact practice sessions this week. "Josh Swogger in practice looks like he's improved," Doba said. "After a couple of practices it looked like he knocked the rust off today."

NOTES: Defensive end Reyshawn Bobo, looking to become a third-down rush specialist, had two sacks on the day.

Kickers Loren Langley and Graham Siderius booted up a storm, each knocking through three field goals. Langley's long was 53 and Siderius' 41.

The Cougars resume practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, with another scrimmage set for 10 am Saturday.

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