Spring ball Day 5: Advantage O-line

PULLMAN -- The offensive line came out swinging Tuesday as an aggressive group of players, led by senior left tackle Charles Harris, opened holes and laid the hat on a depleted d-line stop corps all afternoon. The battle in the secondary, however, was a different story as a pair of DBs combined to log three interceptions. There's also updated injury news on two starters, one of whom underwent surgery today.

The loss of Fevaea'i Ahmu, out for the spring following surgery Tuesday to mend a broken left foot, is a blow to the development of a talented, but thin, defensive line. Ahmu broke his the fifth metatarsal bone during pass rushing drills Friday.

Ahmu's return date is unknown and will depend on a variety of factors. A quick search shows similar injury rehab times all over the map depending on severity, with some players returning anywhere from 6-14 weeks. Fall camp is about 20 weeks out, which would seem to bode well for Ahmu being ready to go for the start of fall drills in August.

The injury opens up playing time for senior Odell Howard and sophomore Matt Eichelberger, "a good opportunity (for them both)," said defensive line coach Mike Walker.

"Odell needs more reps, just more reps," said Walker. "He has an opportunity to really show his stuff for us this spring, and both of those guys need to take advantage of every rep they get. They are going to get better just by being in there."

ONE PLAYER WHO came in for some praise by Walker is walk-on sophomore Adam Hineline. The former Newport High standout, according to Walker, has put together a great start to his spring.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do, been consistent with his play," said Walker. "He had a great scrimmage last weekend, so with Ahmu and (junior DT Ropati) Pitoitua out, he has been given a great opportunity as well."

HARRIS, THE STARTING right tackle, was joined by fellow senior Justin Luafalemana, redshirt freshman Derek Hunter and sophomore walk-on Tony Thompson in opening up the lanes for running backs DeMaundray Woolridge, and Kevin McCall during a number of short field, 9-on-9 drills.

The biggest hit of the day easily belongs to Harris, who laid out a defensive lineman early in the afternoon that had the rest of the offense shouting.

The day's performance allowed the o-line to exact a measure of revenge for a poor showing in Saturday's scrimmage, handling a Cougar D-line weakened with the absence of the light-footed sophomore Ahmu.

ALTHOUGH THE SKIRMISHES up front belonged to the offense Tuesday, air-game superiority definitely swung over towards the side of the defense on Day 5.

Junior safety Husain Abdullah continues to play well this spring, garnering two picks in 11-on-11 drills. Fellow safety DeWayne Patterson, a senior who effectively spelled an injured Abdullah in the early going last year, also had a pick during the drills.

The rest of the secondary hassled the offense's talented receiving corps all afternoon, including a nicely tipped pass by sophomore Ian Bell that fell harmlessly to the turf.

Late word Tuesday night: OL Kenny Alfred's broken hand does not appear to require surgery. The plan is to continually evaluate and if all goes well, to get Alfred back out for some of the spring in a brace and/or cast although contact would seem unlikely.

Injured senior tight end Cody Boyd (foot), and injured middle linebacker Greg Trent (foot), both arrived at Tuesday's practice sans the large heavy boots they had been wearing all spring. It is still doubtful, however, that either starter will get any contact reps in until this summer. More information on their injuries should be available on Wednesday according to Washington State.

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