Quarterback controversy? Hardly.

COACH BILL DOBA put an end to any quarterback speculation Tuesday saying Alex Brink was the starter for the Cougs, period. But there will be spirited competition to replace middle linebacker Will Derting, whose injury looks like it's going to have him back later rather than sooner. Another injured starter's status has been upgraded for Saturday, and after a non conference slate that answered few questions, the head man at WSU said a few things about his '05 team have become apparent.

"We're staying with Alex Brink," said Doba. "He had four picks, one probably was his fault. One, he just couldn't see the safety out there and that was the big one, but two others the receiver ran the wrong route. You've got to throw it before the guy's open and he threw the football where he's supposed to."

Doba went on to say any criticism of Brink was misplaced, calling the sophomore on the fast track to development and ahead of where the coaching staff thought he would be at this stage.

"We're not going to be second guessing and all that kind of stuff," said Doba. "He played a great ballgame. He graded out well, read the reads right and I'm going to tell you he gained a little respect. He took a couple shots right in the mouth as he threw the football for one touchdown and another one over the middle."

X-RAYS WERE NEGATIVE on Will Derting, but Doba said he wouldn't be surprised to see the middle linebacker out at least four weeks with an MCL sprain. He later backed off that a little, saying he'd guess it to be 3-4 weeks.

Alex Teems (AC shoulder joint) showed significant improvement during the off-day Monday, with Doba upgrading his status from "very doubtful" to questionable. Don Turner, whom Doba said played his best game in a Cougar uniform Saturday, will start if Teems cannot go against Stanford.

Jason Hill (quadriceps) is probable, with senior Trandon Harvey listed as an "or" starter with Hill on this week's depth chart. Doba said Harvey also had his best game as a Coug this past Saturday. Harvey had four catches for 92 yards in the second half after Hill went down, virtually all of them in clutch situations. Greg Prator will also see plenty of turns during practice. Hill is No. 2 in the nation with 130.25 receiving yards a game.

ON PAPER, the Stanford special teams are a major concern for Washington State this week. After a dismal effort on coverage units, the Cougs face productive Cardinal return units led by T.J. Rushing, No. 5 in the nation in kickoff returns at 33.57 yards a pop. Doba said the Cougs may kick away from him, and also might even borrow a bit from the Stanford return scheme on their own kickoff returns.

Some starters may be inserted in place of the freshmen who struggled when facing Pac-10 competition for the first time, said Doba. DeMaundray Woolridge also is probable to see some time as a return man on kickoffs. Doba didn't mention who Woolridge would take the place of but it would appear it would be Brandon Gibson given the praise Lorenzo Bursey has earned.

Special teams isn't the only area of concern for Washington State, said Doba. Despite a losing record and some key injuries, Stanford is an experience laden team with eight seniors and three juniors on offense, and on defense field six seniors and four juniors with only one sophomore.

"There are some talented kids there but in their defense, this is the third head coach for those seniors," said Doba. "That's a new system, a new coaching staff...and my only hope is they don't quite catch on to the new system until a week later...I know (quarterback) Trent Edwards killed us last year...and those linemen are all back."

THE COUGS MAY operate the middle linebacker position by committee, and four players have an opportunity to see significant turns: Greg Trent, Chris Baltzer, Jason Stripling and Brian Hall. Still, it appears Trent is the leading candidate to start.

"That (Stanford) offense with eight and three is going to go against a defense that will have two seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen," said Doba. "So I'm concerned about that and I think any fool can see that you look up and we'll have a freshman starting probably at middle linebacker and a freshman starting at a defensive tackle position. I would think they might try and run it up the middle."

DOBA HAD SAID he didn't know what kind of a team he had before Oregon State. Among the things he took away from the loss was the knowlege his team will be competetive, has the ability to come back from adversity, that the Cougs are young and will make mistakes and that special teams is in need of some definite changes.

"If we can come back and battle and stay relatively healthy, I think we'll be just fine," said Doba.

Doba said he talked to Kyle Basler and told him he's trying too hard, trying to kick every ball the length of the field. Doba counseled the senior to relax and not try to kill it and good things will happen. "There have been studies done where they tell guys to come out full speed for 10 or 20 yards and then tell them to come out at three-quarters speed and they come out faster," said Doba.

If defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua is ready by Wednesday to participate in contact drills, he'll see limited action against Stanford. If he isn't ready to run and hit by then his return won't come until UCLA.

Pro scouts have shown plenty of interest in Jerome Harrison, said Doba. The senior running back might end up finding his calling as a situational big play or return man at the next level.

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