Questions on the corner as OSU looms

PULLMAN – A position that has been especially strong at Washington State in recent years is suddenly unsettled as the Cougars head into their first Pac-10 test of the 2005 season. With starter Omowale Dada nursing a sprained knee and top backup Don Turner battling back spasms, cornerback will be a big question mark when the Cougars face All-American receiver Mike Hass and the Oregon State Beavers this Saturday.

The defensive backfield has consistently been a WSU bright spot in recent years, especially when it comes to cornerbacks. Former Cougs are littered all over the NFL's landscape past and present, with Jason David (Indianapolis Colts), Marcus Trufant (Seattle Seahawks) and Karl Paymah (Denver Broncos) currently in The League.

Heading into this season, senior corner Alex Teems was the lone returning starter in the secondary. While the safety positions have panned out well thus far, via Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton and newcomer DeWayne Patterson, corner hasn't been as stable.

Senior Omowale Dada won the starting job in spring camp, and has looked good in WSU's three non-conference games. But Dada injured his knee over the bye week when he got tangled up with receiver Jason Hill in one-on-one drills. Dada missed Monday's practice, but returned the next day. For the past two days, he has been on limited duty, only participating in about half the first-string defense's snaps.

Don Turner is the top backup, but didn't practice during the bye week due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the Sept. 17 game against Grambling State. Turner returned to practice this past Monday and filled in for Dada, but was carted off the field before Tuesday's session came to a close with the aforementioned back spasms. He did not practice Wednesday, and his status for Saturday's game remains unknown.

With Turner and Dada banged up, junior college transfer Lorenzo Bursey has taken the balance of the turns with the first-string defense. Bursey has the speed, athleticism and confidence necessary to excel at the position, but is literally learning as he goes along. Bursey came to WSU as a receiver/running back, and was moved to the defensive side of the ball in spring camp. He looks a solid corner in practice, but hasn't been on the field with Pac-10 caliber receivers in a real game yet. Still, the fact that Bursey has already secured a spot on the second-string bodes well for his learning curve.

Injuries and academic problems continue to ground other prospects at corner. Ian Bell was a solid member of the second unit earlier in the fall, but continues to be plagued by minor injuries that have slowed him throughout his career, and from the looks of things is now a third-stringer battling back from a nagging ankle injury. Tyron Brackenridge showed promise as a JC transfer in 2004, but is out for this season due to academic ineligibility.

That leaves Ryan Kensok as the next cornerback in line after Bursey. Kensok, a sophomore walk on from Spokane's Gonzaga Prep, knows the position but lacks ideal size.

That coaches recently moved true freshman Courtney Williams—a high school linebacker who had already been moved to safety—to cornerback is a good indication that the Cougars are thin at the position. Williams has tremendous athleticism and speed, but if Bursey is learning the position on the fly, Williams is trying to learn it at warp speed.

Against a team like Oregon State, who passes first, second, and third, it's enough to make Cougar fans a little nervous.

The team practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on Wednesday. Thursday's practice will most likely be the usual helmets and no-pads practice.

Jerome Harrison was no longer wearing a yellow "no-contact" jersey on Wednesday. Harrison had worn the yellow jersey the first two days of practice this week, due to reported shoulder and ankle problems.

Freshmen Lance Broadus (groin) and Shelton Danzy (knee) missed Wednesday's session.

The WSU passing game looked good Wednesday, with quarterback Alex Brink on target and in good form.

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