SPRING BALL DAY 13: Defense rises up

PULLMAN -- Washington State's defense, which has taken a beating from the offense much of this spring practice session, stepped things up in a big way on Tuesday. Except for a couple of highlights, the high-octane O had trouble finding a rhythm for the first time in a good 10 days.

The WSU defense appears to be back as the Cougs enter the final week of spring ball. Defensive coordinator Robb Akey saw his charges limit the number of big plays given up on Tuesday -- something they didn't do during last Saturday's scrimmage. But Akey's been pleased with the progress this spring, particularly of the first-team defense as a unit.

Both coach Bill Doba and Akey pointed out most of the big plays have come with the first unit out -- five of the TDs scored in Saturday's scrimmage came against the 2's and 3's. Favorable field position to start drives also gives the offense an advantage.

Akey was also quick to point out that not all positions have been locked down on the starting depth chart. Once all the starting positions are solidified, assignment errors become less prevalent.

The Cougs have used the spring sessions to move players in and out with more frequency than they will later on as depth is a concern at some positions. Safety and linebacker this spring are, respectively, thin and thinner.

With not enough safeties to go around right now, CB Omowale Dada took some turns there during Saturday's scrimmage. The staff wanted to see how Dada, a physical player, would perform at safety and it's also a precautionary move, with the head man saying he wants to find "three good safeties and three good corners."

"There's a little thought to moving him inside," said Doba.

The corner spot also looks to have a little more depth -- Doba said some corners this class could possibly contribute. Incoming freshmen Shelton Danzy and James Bradley are two who will arrive later this summer.

ONE SAFETY who has caught the eye of the Cougar staff this spring is junior Eric Frampton as Doba singled him out before Tuesday's practice.

The 6-0, 206-pounder saw more playing time as the season went on last year and has picked up where he left off this spring.

After Frampton and Husain Abdullah, Doba said the Cougs aren't satisfied quite yet with the players behind them.

"Husain's doing pretty well," said Doba. "And Frampton's doing well. Eric Frampton's doing real well," he said. "As a precaution, we want to see what Wally can do over there."

THE DEFENSIVE BACKS showed better decision-making and play-making skills as a whole on Tuesday. Secondary coach Ken Greene has tightened the reigns of late and gone back to the basics. Tuesday, he saw his players respond with a much more disciplined effort.

Most importantly, they limited their mistakes. Assignment and mental errors due to inexperience have been the bane of the secondary most of the spring.

With so many open positions in the defensive backfield, all the young DB's are eager to stake their claim at a spot in the starting line-up or for significant playing time -- as are the incoming freshmen.

ELSEWHERE TUESDAY ON DEFENSE, the line appllied increased pressure, collapsing the pocket and forcing the quarterbacks to take off running to avoid the sack.

Defensive ends Adam Braidwood and Mkristo Bruce also did a nice job of not overpursuing, containing the QBs after forcing them out of the pocket.

Sophomore starting defensive tackles Ropati Pitoitua and Aaron Johnson spent much of the day in the backfield and disrupting plays.

With those two units clicking, the linebackers weren't going to be left out. The group showed quickness and awareness in defending the run and pass.

The offense did, however, take care of the ball. Nary a turnover was to be found on Tuesday.

Thursday is the last day of practice before the Cougars take the field for their final scrimmage on Saturday.

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