Injury questions linger at WR; swagger sought

PULLMAN -- The availability of two WSU starting receivers remains in question as Saturday's homecoming game with UCLA approaches. And the sight of one of the starting defensive tackles in street clothes was one of the most noticeable events from Thursday's no-pads practice, but it turned out to be nothing to worry about. Coach Bill Doba talked about the need to get that swagger back, plus all the news and notes out of Pullman.

Jason Hill (thigh bruise) will be a game time decision Saturday and could miss his second straight game.

"I'd say he's doubtful," said Doba.

Hill, whose injury is in the muscle just above the knee, doesn't have full strength back yet. Doba did say he wouldn't be surprised by a sudden improvement. The Cougs' top deep threat, Hill also tried to warm up before the Stanford game last week but was unable to play. He has over 90 degrees of flexibility but the muscle still feels weak, affecting his ability to plant and run.

If Hill cannot go, the starting receivers would be Michael Bumpus, Trandon Harvey for Hill, and Brandon Gibson for Chris Jordan, with Greg Prator also seeing time in rotation.

Bumpus had been battling a sore knee but looked to be going full speed without any problems Thursday. Doba said Jordan has improved throughout the week but will be a game time decision. The junior limited reps during Thursday's session.

"Hopefully we can get that ball to Brandon Gibson a bit more," said Doba. "He's had a good week of practice."

Other players who had missed time earlier in the week -- such as Steve Dildine and Kyle Basler -- were all present on Thursday, although Dildine was also on limited-rep duty.

AFTER MAKING HIS return on Wednesday from a broken leg suffered in August, Ropati Pitoitua was held out of Thursday's walk-through session. Head trainer Bill Drake said it was a scheduled day of rest for the sophomore defensive tackle.

"We've had him on a ‘hard day,' easy day' schedule," Drake said. "[Wednesday] was a hard day, so he rested today."

Pitoitua is expected to take 15-20 snaps against the Bruins.

Also sitting out of practice with an ankle injury was tight end Cody Boyd. The junior will be a game time decision, with Jesse Taylor likely seeing increased playing time.

"Jesse Taylor, I think, has probably improved as much as anybody from last year," said Doba.

DOBA SAID THE Washington State coaching staff and players are just as frustrated as everyone else is after two disappointing losses.

"One of our coaches brought up a good point the other day," said Doba. "He said, 'You know, a game and a half ago walking into the locker room (at halftime) we thought we were pretty good.' And now we're struggling and according to everybody we're not going to win another game and all that stuff. It's amazing what a game and a half can do to you."

"But we've got to remind our kids we were pretty good a game and a half ago. We have to get our chins up off our chests, get our heads up and get after people."

THE COUGS lightened their practice schedule this week but not a whole lot. Doba said the Cougs had talked about taking the pads off Wednesday but with question marks surrounding Pitoitua, Hill and Jordan, the coaches needed to see what they could do.

"We're scratching our heads men, honestly, to try and figure out what in the heck happened to that swagger, but hopefully we'll get that back this week," Doba told reporters Thursday.

NO-PADS DAY is also unofficial jersey-swapping day. Lorenzo Bursey and Scott Davis switched unis for the practice, as did Odell Howard and Ian Bell. But the team's most frequent jersey-swapper -- freshman running back Dwight Tardy -- was wearing No. 31 for the second day in a row. Doba said Tardy, a player the Cougs hope to redshirt, has looked particularly impressive on the Scout Team this week.

WSU OFFICIALS announced today they will increase security for visiting teams, closing off sidewalks around Bohler Gym at the conclusion of future football games and will not allow fans access between neighboring buildings until the visiting team has walked to their locker room. Washington State already has a fenced off corridor for the visiting team during their walk to the entrance to Martin Stadium.

DOBA ASKED reporters to mention he hopes WSU fans will practice good sportsmanship Saturday, referring to an article in an LA-area newspaper that this week alleged racial slurs in a game two years ago in Pullman. Doba said the report was the first he'd ever heard of the alleged incident and hoped people wouldn't get a mistaken impression on this area of the Northwest, saying it was "anything but".

OPPONENTS FOR HOMECOMING and Dads' Day for the next two seasons were announced Thursday. California and Arizona State will come to Pullman for the 2006 and 2007 Homecoming celebrations, while Arizona and Stanford will be foes for Dads' Day games the next two years.

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