Spring ball Day 1: Sunny skies match optimism

PULLMAN -- Blue skies and sunshine welcomed Cougar football back to the Palouse as spring workouts kicked off Tuesday afternoon. While starting middle linebacker Greg Trent was absent and is likely out for the spring session with injury, optimism reigned. Quarterback Alex Brink added to the buoyancy, as he came out firing.

Players took the field in helmets, but not pads, and went through a variety of stretches and sprints before heading into position-specific drills.

Notably absent from participation were Trent and senior tight end Cody Boyd. Boyd, sidelined for the duration of spring workouts while recovering from foot surgery, is expected to return in mid-June. However, athletic trainer Brian Oelke said there are "no promises" concerning the return of Trent before the Crimson & Gray game.

Trent injured his foot during winter conditioning. With him on the sidelines, seniors Chris Baltzer and Brian Hall can expect more reps.

Freshman offensive lineman Joey Eppele, who came to Pullman with a pre-existing foot injury, is also out for the spring and expected to return in June.

Outside of these injuries, Olke was optimistic about the overall health of the team, including receiver Brandon Gibson (elbow), QB Arkelon Hall (hand), and cornerback Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring), who all participated in the practice.

Brink showed off his arm, consistently firing bullet passes to his receivers. Backups Hall, Gary Rogers and Cole Morgan also had chances to show quarterback coach Timm Rosenbach their abilities.

At 5-8, 223 pounds, DeMaundray Woolridge, the No. 1 running back coming into the spring, has the responsibility of filling the shoes left by All-American Jerome Harrison. Woolridge didn't let down, bolting through the lines and drills with startling speed and agility.

Despite numerous dropped passes, the receiving corps, including 6-6 JC transfer Finas Rabb (Santa Ana College) and returnees Jason Hill and Chris Jordan, made a series of impressive, highly athletic catches.

Both the defensive and offensive lines were out in force, but without pads and contact drills it was hard to pick out strengths and weaknesses. Don't tell that to defensive coordinator Robb Akey though, whose animated coaching style and enigmatic encouragements could be heard across the field all day.

The secondary, an area of concern following last season's breakdowns, has two starting positions up for grabs at cornerback. Defensive backs coach Ken Greene said he hopes to see young guns Courtney Williams and Ian Bell make a run at seniors Brackenridge and Don Turner. In addition, at safety, he's expecting a step up this spring from backups Christian Bass and Michael Willis.

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