Key players return; rain wreaks havoc

PULLMAN—Wednesday brought some relief to an injury-plagued Washington State team, as a few key players were back on the field after missing practice earlier in the week. The weather, however, was unrelenting, as driving rains made for a shortened practice and appeared to take a toll on the Cougars' passing game.

Among the players who returned to the field from injury or illness were running back Jerome Harrison, receiver Jason Hill, cornerback/kick returner Lorenzo Bursey and running back DeMaundray Woolridge.

Harrison (shoulder) and Bursey (shoulder) were both wearing yellow "no-contact" jerseys, but with the entire WSU team wearing only helmets, shoulder pads and shorts/sweatpants Wednesday, no one was making very much contact.

Bursey has been thrown right back into his role before the injury, lining up with the second-unit defense and returning kickoffs next to fellow return man Brandon Gibson.

IT SEEMS GIBSON has also landed a starting receiver role -- or at least increased playing reps -- on offense, as he's been lining up with the first unit all week. With slot receiver Michael Bumpus (ankle) unavailable, the Cougars current starting receiving corps looks to be Hill, Gibson and Martin. Opening-day starter Chris Jordan has worked with the second team this week, joining Trandon Harvey and Greg Prator on that unit.

Don Turner has seemingly won the battle to start at cornerback if Omowale Dada cannot play this Saturday. And from the looks of things, corner candidate Ian Bell dropped even further on the depth chart. Whereas Bell rotated with Turner on the first-unit earlier in the week, Bell was playing on the scout-team defense Wednesday, while Ryan Kensok spelled Turner with the starters.

Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua missed practice, still on the day-on, day-off schedule he's been put on to recover from a broken leg. Even when Pitoitua has been on the field this week, freshman Fevaea'i Ahmu has remained the starter opposite Aaron Johnson.

With running back Dwight Tardy suffering a knee injury Tuesday, freshman walk-on Isao Puailoa took over the role as Reggie Bush on the scout team, wearing No. 5 on the field.

The second-unit defense that took the field Wednesday was as follows: defensive tackles Odell Howard and Bryan Olson, defensive ends Mike Graise and Matt Mullennix, linebackers Chris Baltzer, Jason Stripling and Cory Evans, safeties DeWayne Patterson and Christian Bass, and cornerbacks Ryan Kensok and Lorenzo Bursey.

A WET FOOTBALL wreaked havoc with quarterback Alex Brink who had an off day Wednesday. Brink made at least a dozen bad throws, leading his receivers too much at times, throwing well behind them at others, and most often sending passes sailing over the heads of receivers of all sizes—from 5-foot-10 Marty Martin to 6-foot-8 Cody Boyd.

Brink didn't throw any interceptions, but did throw a pass that would have been easily picked had safety Eric Frampton not dropped it. Backup Josh Swogger made two or three bad passes, but overall performed about as well as he had the previous day, which is to say Swogger looked sharp.

There is no indication there is a quarterback controversy amongst the staff. The starter Brink, who had an outstanding second half against Cal, again took the usual number of snaps with the first unit while backup Swogger handled the remainder.

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