SPRING BALL DAY 11: Battle lines drawn

<b>PULLMAN--Practice on Friday featured extended highlights on both sides of the ball as the Cougs prepared for Scrimmage No. 3 on Saturday. For the offense, they're looking to put up another powerhouse performance like the one turned in a week ago with nearly 500 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns. On defense, the Cougs are dead set on turning the tables and laying some hat.

Senior wide receiver Trandon Harvey is showing added confidence and leadership these days. Coming off a year where he uncharacteristically had trouble hanging onto the ball, Harvey has displayed soft hands this spring in making some tough grabs.

The 5-11, 197-pounder also isn't afraid to mix it up with an aggressive defensive back. Harvey responded to tight coverage on Friday with some physical play of his own in drills, coming out on top during one spirited skirmish to haul in a touchdown grab.

SPEED LOOKS TO BE the hallmark of the Cougar defense of 2005. The d-line was firing off the ball on Friday, applying consistent -- and considerable -- pressure on the quarterbacks and forcing some mistakes including a pick. Linebacker Scott Davis made the lone interception of the day but you can give the line equal credit, as freshman quarterback Gary Rogers was under heavy duress.

Secondary coach Ken Greene and linebackers coach Leon Burtnett teamed up, working to improve assignment recognition in the defensive backfield. The linebackers and DBs were all business during the session.

The defensive backs in particular have been working overtime all this week to try and prevent another outburst like the one last Saturday. There are also depth chart considerations to consider -- especially at cornerback, with Omowale Dada, Tyron Brackenridge, Don Turner and Ian Bell all vying for one cornerback position. To date, no one player has stood out head and shoulder above the others.

If the season started tomorrow, coach Bill Doba has said Dada and Brackenridge are dead even with Bell and Turner not far behind. Bell will sit out Saturday's scrimmage, allowing a turned ankle to heal.

At linebacker, the depth is paper thin behind Davis and Steve Dildine, with Will Derting being held out of contact this spring as his wrist continues to heal. Brian Hall and Alex Hamill have also both been sidelined with injuries this spring. Brian Skjei, Chris Baltzer, Alexis Alexander and Steffan Blume are all expected to see turns on Saturday.

ON OFFENSE FRIDAY, the tight ends turned in a number of nice plays. Cody Boyd caught a long TD pass from Alex Brink during drills, with the junior later adding a nice catch and run to pace the Cougs downfield.

Boyd, who got a late start on spring ball after surgery this offseason on his ankle, has shaken off whatever rust had accumulated and is catching seemingly everything thrown his way of late.

Senior starter Troy Bienemann turned in some of his trademark grittiness on Friday, fighting off tight coverage for a nice gain over the middle.

Notes:
  • As expected, Jason Hill's hamstring pull will keep him out of the remainder of the spring.

  • Defensive end Adam West also has a hamstring pull but could see the field again before spring drills conclude a week from today.

  • Two Cougar o-lineman from the graduating class of 2004 and a WSU legend were in Pullman to take in Friday's practice. Calvin Armstrong and Patrick Afif were both on hand for the work-outs as was the fabled "Throwin' Samoan," Jack Thompson. Son Tony Thompson, who enrolled in January, is a 6-2, 236-pound freshman tight end this season at Washington State.


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