Derting going Duck hunting

PULLMAN -- Two days ago, after preseason All-American linebacker Will Derting returned to practice for the first time in more than a month, everyone in the know said the prospect of Derting playing this week depended on how his injured left knee responded.

The knee must have responded quite well, because after Wednesday's session, linebackers coach Leon Burtnett confidently declared, "He's gonna play," when asked about his middle 'backer.

Burtnett said Derting did "three or four times" more than he did on Tuesday, when Derting took part in stretches and calisthenics, but little else. On Wednesday, Derting participated in contact drills, knocking pads for the first time in more than a month, but didn't join in the 11-on-11 paces.

Burtnett said the Cougars might only use Derting in certain situations, but that he would definitely be on the field for what will be the final home game for WSU's seniors -- and it certainly didn't sound like he'd be taking just one snap for ol' times sake as had been talked about earlier in the week.

On playing his last game at Martin Stadium, Derting said, "I'm looking forward to it. I've had some real good memories there." Dering said his best memory was last year's Apple Cup win over Washington.

Receiver Trandon Harvey, also a senior, said, "I imagine it will be all emotion," on Saturday. "It'll be my last time walking on the field as a Cougar. Everything has happened so fast, I don't want it to be over."

Freshman linebacker Jason Stripling has returned this week from a leg injury that kept him out against Arizona State. Stripling is the second-unit strong side ‘backer behind Scott Davis, and was also a candidate to fill Derting's middle linebacker spot when Derting first went down with a knee sprain. Freshman Greg Trent has been the man in the middle in Derting's absence.

In other injury news, receiver Michael Bumpus (ankle) did not practice and likely won't play against Oregon. Defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua (leg) hasn't practiced all week either, but Pitoitua didn't practice all last week and still saw some snaps against Arizona State.

Fighting a bitter cold Wednesday, several Cougars wore sweatpants over their football pants and long-sleeved Under-Armor shirts. Backup quarterback Josh Swogger wore gloves all day, a la Tom Brady, but it didn't affect his throws.

Despite the weather, freshman tailback DeMaundray Woolridge showed some impressive hands, making quite a few nice catches out of the backfield.

Early in the season, we spoke with freshman quarterback Arkelon Hall, one of the prizes of the 2005 recruiting class. At that time, Hall acknowledged that he needed to work on his throwing release and footwork.

On Wednesday, Hall said he's been improving with two weeks left in the season.

"My release is quicker and I'm moving my feet a lot better," Hall said. The Fresno native said he's lost 13 pounds over the course of the season, putting him at 211. "I'm a lot more confident. Playing against the No. 1 defense has helped me in the long run."

Hall is the fourth-stringer, with the No. 5 signal-caller Cole Morgan. Third-string QB Gary Rogers actually gets fewer reps in practice than scout-team QBs Hall and Morgan, but is still clearly the man behind starter Alex Brink and backup Josh Swogger.

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