Scott Davis preps for a return to form

SCOTT DAVIS WAS, as expected, among the Cougs' leading tacklers in 2005, but he just didn't look like the same player The Sporting News dubbed the top defensive playmaker in the Pac-10 heading into the season. Two reasons were obvious: The absence of Will Derting and the general youth of the defense. But there was another -- one Davis kept quiet, and one he refuses to look upon as an excuse.

Davis (5-10, 228) injured his heel during the Grambling State game. Slow to mend, he had to be careful how he practiced, and how he played on Saturdays.

"It lasted for a little bit but I played through it," said Davis. "I had to take precautions before every game and every practice but I don't want to say it really affected me all that much."

The Construction Management major has played through injuries his entire career, Bill Doba told

"He's physical, tough and he plays in pain," said Doba. "And he's what the NCAA calls a scholar athlete. In the weight room, he's one of our strongest guys. He doesn't look like the big, mean linebacker. But he is on the field."

DAVIS, ALONG WITH fellow outside linebacker Steve Dildine and middle 'backer Greg Trent, will be key if Washington State is to improve defensively from last year.

"Steve's probably one of the fastest guys on the defense and he loves to hit -- if there's a chance for him to take a mega hit, he'll definitely take it," said Davis. "And he's a smart player, he knows what he's doing out there. Greg Trent is definitely strong. He picked up a lot last year and this spring. He's an athlete, he can get to the ball wherever it's at. He can make plays."

Trent was a true freshman last season, and Davis said the defense's overall youth showed up on Saturdays.

"I think we had a lot of young players on our team who didn't really know how to play all four quarters, how to turn it on when we needed it," said Davis. "But with the learning experience of last year, and with the learning experience of this spring, I think we're ready to turn it on for the whole season."

Spring performances by DeMaundray Woolridge and Matt Mullennix are two reasons, one from offense and one from defense, why Davis thinks the Cougs will get back to their winning ways in '06.

"Woolridge, I didn't really realize just how fast he was and how solid he is," said Davis. "He's like a little bowling ball coming through there. Mullennix had a good spring. First couple scrimmages he had a couple sacks, a couple tackles for loss -- he really was scoring high."

AS DETAILED IN an earlier piece on Dildine, he and Davis are ultra-competitive. They schedule their lifting sessions together, going at it on every lift. Video games, same thing. The coaches put the kibosh on an extra-curricular boxing match the two cooked up a couple years back. They forgot, however, to check the area pools.

"One time we went over to a swimming pool in Moscow and they had a diving board so we had a big competition to see who could do the most flips or the most dramatic thing off the board," laughed Davis.

ASKED TO COMMENT on linebackers coach Leon Burtnett, Davis again laughs.

"Coach B is great," said Davis. "He's a very truthful guy, he'll tell you exactly how you're playing. I also think he's just one of the smartest coaches out there -- he knows every aspect of the game.

He might get mad if we don't know exactly what play is going to be run, or why they're in this formation. He has football figured out. He's a funny guy, though. He's always cracking jokes."

It's clear the two have a good relationship on and off the field. Last April Fools Day, Davis called and left a message for his mom telling her he had gotten in big trouble and had to go meet with the coaches. She called back immediately.

"I was going to let the joke go for a while so I didn't answer," said Davis. "So she called coach B. Her and coach B are pretty close. They figured out it was April Fools, so coach B calls me into the office and said my mom was driving over and she was really upset. So then I started freaking out. So he got me back on that one."

In this article, however, we gave Davis the opportunity to get in the last friendly dig if he wanted. He did.

"Every time you go in his office he's looking at shoes or suits or something on the internet to try and make him look a little bit better than he does," said Davis. And there was that laugh again.

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