SPRING BALL: Doba says there's work to do

BEGINNING TUESDAY, Cougar football players will compete in organized practices for the first time since November. During the spring session, Coach Bill Doba will be looking to "get better" at a number of spots. Three and possibly four starters are injured, and will be taking it all in from the sidelines. The fullback, not listed on the pre-spring depth chart, could still be part of the Cougar offensive attack. Plus, some quarterbacks other than Alex Brink will be getting a lot of work.

That doesn't mean the quarterback position is up for grabs. It isn't. But Doba wants to establish the No. 2 and 3, so look for Gary Rogers, Cole Morgan and Arkelon Hall to get more than the usual spring allotment of turns.

"It's going to give us an opportunity to get some quality reps -- we've got to define the No 2 and 3 quarterbacks," said Doba. "And every position is always open, but Alex Brink should be our guy."

ALSO LOOK FOR safeties Michael Willis and Christian Bass, and CBs Ian Bell and Courtney Williams to also get plenty of work. All four were praised by Doba as for their offseason dedication on Monday. Still, the goal of 'getting (insert name here) better' was just as oft-mentioned by the Cougar head man on the eve of spring drills.

"We've got to get a lot better (at safety) and of course, corner is our big concern," said Doba. "Courtney Williams is an untapped treasure. I just don't know how good he can be. He had very little playing experience in high school, but he can run really well."

Don Turner and Tyron Brackenridge are the starting CBs while Eric Frampton and Husain Abdullah man the No. 1 safeties on the depth chart. But Frampton may be scarce this spring

HELD OUT OF contact this spring will be Ropati Pitoitua (leg), Jesse Taylor (neck) and Cody Boyd (foot). Pitoitua's leg has been slow to heal, hampered by a staph infection, and he's been prevented from building back up the strength.

"Ropati will not participate this spring," said Doba. He needs it, he really does need to work but his leg is not quite ready."

Frampton (cartilage) may also not be available.

"Eric Frampton may or may not go through spring, we're not sure," said Doba. "It depends on what the doctors decide."

Doba said all are expected to be ready to go when fall camp rolls around. Taylor has been lifting and looks to have gotten much of the strength back from the stinger, and is being held out of contact for precautionary reasons.

With Pitoitua out, look for last year's DT starters to get the lion's share of the reps.

"At defensive tackle, we need to get Aaron Johnson and Ah-ee (Fevaea'i) Ahmu better," said Doba.

AT TIGHT END, Jason Price will get a long look this spring, as will Jed Collins, Ben Woodard, Bryan Baird and Jacob McKinney, whose knee is close but not quite 100 percent. And Tony Thompson, son of Cougar legend Jack Thompson, is also firmly in the mix.

"Tony's worked hard at the tight end position and he's worked real hard at being a long snapper," said Doba.

Despite not being listed on this year's depth chart, Doba said the fullback could still be part of the Cougar offense and certainly in goal-line situations.

"It depends on how good that fullback can be," said Doba. "We're basically a one-back team but we will do some two-back. And it kind of depends on what kind of year Jed Collins has and whether we can put him in motion and let him be the lead blocker."

Doba also mentioned the Cougs may try more of a 'lead blocking approach' where the tight end comes in motion -- something the Cougs used during the early part of the 2003 season.

"Last spring Jake McKinney looked real good as a fullback but he had some knee cartilage and he's been slow to recover. So we have some options there. Whether he lines up (at fullback) or goes in motion, he's still going to be a blocker...and on goal line situations we'll still have the two back set," said Doba.

REPLACING JEROME HARRISON this spring, no small task, will fall upon the shoulders of DeMaundray Woolridge, Kevin McCall and Dwight Tardy.

"We'll see which one of those guys can emerge," said Doba.

Receiver is perhaps the Cougs' deepest position, with four players who can be considered starters; Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus, Chris Jordan and Brandon Gibson. Doba said definitively that Lorenzo Bursey will return to the offensive side of the ball, plus receivers Finas Rabb and Greg Walker have been at WSU since January and will partake in their first spring with the Cougs.

Up front, Doba said the two best linemen from the group will land the center and right guard starting roles to join veterans Bobby Byrd, Charles Harris and Sean O'Connor.

"It will be a good fight between Dan Rowlands and Kenny Alfred at that center position," said Doba. "Josh Duin is also another kid who will be a senior there, and Andy Roof has got to get better. Whoever are the top two guys, one will become a center and the other will become a guard...We're a little thin on the offensive line."

ON THE DEFENSIVE side of things, Matt Mullennix, Lance Broadus and Michael Graise will be competing for the defensive end spot opposite Mkristo Bruce. Mullennix is listed as the No. 1 headed into the spring.

At linebacker, Doba said the goal is to develop guys to be ready to play behind Scott Davis, Steve Dildine and Greg Trent.

"We want to try and get Cory Evans and Jason Stripling better and try and develop some depth," said Doba. "And we've got Alex Hamill and Lamar Brumfield as two other scholarship kids there."

Doba said the kicking game is in good hands, with Loren Langley having "worked hard" in the offseason. Darryl Blunt and Fritz Brayton will do battle to replace Kyle Basler.

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