Spring ball Day 11: No pads, big intensity

PULLMAN -- A light practice Friday didn't mean light itensity for the Cougars. The afternoon's proceedings were captured nicely by one heated exchange between cornerback Tyron Brackenridge and receiver Chris Jordan following an incomplete pass in 11-on-11 drills.

Players on both sides of the ball worked out with no pads and little contact, but the competition to excel as the spring session turns toward the final stretch was apparent from start to finish. The players were focused and intense.

Receivers Jason Hill and Jordan, both of whom had been out with the flu, were back in action. And fellow receiver Brandon Gibson made what might have been the catch of the spring as a small crowd of parents, in town for Mom's weekend, watched from the sidelines.

Gibson's catch was an impressive display of physical prowess. As he weaved his way through the secondary red zone during 5-on-5 drills he leaped into the air, sandwiched between two secondary defenders, only to find a ball thrown just over his head by QB Alex Brink. Gibson, however, didn't seem to notice as he reached out with gumbi-like extension to pull in the one-handed catch at the edge of the end zone.

The catch created a buzz of excitement across the field when the receiving corps went into an impassioned frenzy as they mobbed the Puyallup sophomore in the end zone.

The day was capped off with a duel between the offense and the defense as an unlikely representative from each side lined up to see who could best field a punt fired from a machine 50 yards away.

The first match pitted defensive tackle Aaron Johnson against offensive linemen Sean O'Connor. In the end it was Johnson who had the upper hand, as he fielded multiple balls cleanly. As a result, the defense busted out an array of jeers as the offense, including coaches and trainers, were punished with a set of up downs.

The second battle was between offensive linemen Josh Duin and defensive tackle Matt Eichelberger. The defense was once again victorious as a roar of "Ike" chants echoed across the field as he caught a ball on the very last face off, setting up a must-catch moment for Duin, who failed to pull through. The defense erupted once again in cheers and taunting, led by defensive end Mkristo Bruce, as the offense engaged in a second and final set of up downs.


Players will be fully suited and padded for Saturday's scrimmage, which is set to begin at 10 a.m.

Offensive lineman Tim Freeberg practiced for the second consecutive day with the defensive line, but fellow OL Colin Donovan, who had taken turns on the DL Thursday, spent all of Friday on the OL.

For the second day in a row, strong safety Geoff Kirkwood practiced punts with the kicking team, suggesting that head coach Bill Doba is attempting to develop depth on a team that includes Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi, and punters Fritz Brayton and Darryl Blunt.

More good news came on Tuesday on the injury front, as the offense welcomed back tight end Jason Price, who had been held out of spring ball recently with a right hammy strain. Price participated in practice in a red jersey, suggesting that his injury is no longer an issue.

Tight end Tony Thompson continued to play an effective longsnapper for the Coug's, sending a number of liners into the chest of both Brayton and Blunt.

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