PRACTICE REPORT: Hill, defense fired up

PULLMAN -- He doesn't undergo the daily scrutiny of an Alex Brink, or put up the Heisman-worthy numbers of a Jerome Harrison. But anyone who's watched Washington State over the past two years can make a solid argument that receiver Jason Hill is the Cougars most important offensive weapon. Two days before WSU faces Cal on the road, we asked Hill how his bruised thigh was healing up.

Jason Hill suffered the deep contusion against Oregon State three games ago, causing him to miss the Stanford game. He played against UCLA last week, but wasn't able to stretch the field as is his specialty.

When Hill is healthy, the Cougars have one of the more dangerous offensive teams in the country. When he's not, the team can struggle to score against below-average defenses like Stanford.

"I'm about 85, 90 percent," Hill said before Thursday's no-pads practice. Also before Thursday's practice, coach Bill Doba was a little more optimistic, estimating Hill to be about 95 percent. "It goes up and down, depending on how much I'm doing," said Hill. "Hopefully by gametime I'll be in the 90s."

Hill, who has looked much healthier this week in practice, also spoke about the upcoming game against the Bears, one in which the Cougars will attempt to stop a three-game losing streak.

"This game is huge," Hill said. "We can get bowl-ready with this one. We have to win three (more), and we're working on one."

Defensive tackle Aaron Johnson also talked about the importance of this game.

"It's very important, since we've lost the last three games," said Johnson. "We felt like we could have won those games, especially the UCLA game."

Johnson is part of a defense that gave up 44 points to the Bruins, two weeks after allowing the same number to Oregon State.

"We have to hold down their running backs and receivers," he said. "For us (the defense), this is the biggest game of the year so far. We've been fired up to practice all week."

Harrison (shoulder) was again wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, even though there was no hitting anyone for Thursday's session.

Hill, Michael Bumpus and Brandon Gibson were the first-unit receivers. Doba said Chris Jordan has had a "great week of practice", as he continues to recover from a groin pull. Doba went on to say Gibson and Trandon Harvery will get more and more turns and continue to play well.

Ropati Pitoitua is scheduled to get about the same amount of snaps this week according to Doba, although how the defensive tackle warms up will also play a factor.

Running back Kevin McCall injured an ankle Wednesday and will not make the trip to Berkeley. Taking his place on the travel squad will be Dwight Tardy. About the only scenario that would see the Cougs burning the freshman's redshirt would be if Harrison and DeMaundray Woolridge were lost to injury, Brandon Asuega-Stark and Jed Collins couldn't get it done from the tailback spot, and the game was on the line.

As is custom on Thursdays, Scott Davis and Alexis Alexander were two players who switched jerseys for the day, as were Mkristo Bruce and Husain Abdullah.

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