Spring Ball: Day Seven

PULLMAN -- The proclamation by assistant coach <b>Bob Connelly</b> that his current group of beef eaters could be the best offensive line in school history might be easier to agree with if so many of ‘em weren't watching practice from the sidelines.

Phil Locker and Riley Fitt-Chappell are the latest hosses to head for the sidelines. Locker missed practice today with a cast on his left foot, and Fitt-Chappell injured his shoulder midway through the workout. It is unknown when either will be available. If there is a silver lining, this means some younger players who wouldn't necessarily get as much work are getting reps with the first offense.

Locker and Fitt-Chappell join three of their brethren who already are on the shelf.  All-conference guard Derrick Roche had ankle surgery over the winter and won't be back in uniform till August. Josh Parrish is chained to Holland Library for the duration of spring bal to get his grades shored up. And center Tyler Hunt is still feeling the effects of a sore shoulder.

The team closed Friday's short practice with a two-minute drill simulation, as they do fairly often during the regular season. The first-team offense, led by quarterback Jason Gesser, marched down the field quickly to score. A 25-yard touchdown pass from the Heisman candidate to Jerome Riley, who made a sensational diving catch on a fade route, capped the drive.

The No. 2 offense, with Matt Kegel at the helm, struggled a bit but managed to score on a TD pass from Kegel to redshirt freshman Thomas Ostrander of Yakima. The drill is valuable for the players to learn the pace needed to execute a two-minute drill, as well as getting the quarterback accustomed to making the right reads and audibles in that setting. Both quarterbacks looked comfortable in the offense.

The highlight of practice came at it's conclusion, when receiver Curtis Nettles teamed with coach Rob Rainville to win a wheelbarrow race against coach Mike Walker and defensive back Anthony Burnett. The race was just another chapter in the ongoing offense vs. defense challenges, in which each practice ends with a competition between select members of the offense and defense. The games range from punt-catching contests between linemen to one-on-one passing drills between offensive and defensive coaches.

Among other players missing practice due to injury were Mike Bush, Allen Thompson, Jimmy Wilson, Derrick Dillon and Will Derting. Derting, who is still recovering from knee surgery, hasn't practiced since the team started full contact drills last Friday.

The team will practice Saturday morning at 9:30, with a scrimmage to follow around 10:15. Check back tomorrow afternoon on Cougfan.com for a full scrimmage report.



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