Fall Camp: Day Three

PULLMAN -- Lots to report from Tuesday's practice. The session first felt a tad more relaxed than the first two, but that all changed once offensive & defensive units went to work. Wearing shoulder pads for the first time, both units refused to give an inch during full line and one-on-one drills. It wasn't all about the lines though, as other standouts continued their purposeful, aggressive play.

Once the team was done stretching, the lines went to work under animated direction from coaches Robb Akey, Mike Walker, and George Yarno. Both lines looked happy to be back to hitting, playing aggressively and verbally emulating the enthusiasm of their coaches.

The defense, led by ends Mkristo Bruce and Matt Mullennix, looked to put the offense on their heels quickly, breaking through the lines on several occasions, with the biggest wrap-up recorded by sophomore linebacker Alex Hamill on converted corner-turned-running back Ian Bell.

Once the lines moved to the one-on-one drills, however, players from both sides stepped up and laid some hard hits.

The veritable chess-match between the lines went back and forth right from the beginning, with defensive tackle Matt Eichelberger bullying o-lineman Josh Duin to take down the "quarterback" -- a large pad weighted at the bottom with sand representing the QB; think 80s toy Weebles for you old timers -- behind the line. However, the very next play belonged to the offense; as senior Sean O'Connor held tackle Aaron Johnson off well until the whistle blew to end the play.

The shoving match continued as Bruce made the drill look easy, dodging around Charles Harris to down the "QB" quickly and effectively. Not to be outdone, fellow defensive lineman Fevaea'i Ahmu flew by sophomore Dan Rowlands, crushing the QB pad to the turf.

Johnson, stymied by the offense several times during the drill, finally exacted some revenge at the expense of Justin Luafalemana, virtually walking over the senior to end the play in favor of the defense.

Although the day ultimately belonged to the D, bright spots for the offense were epitomized by several nice outings from Duin, Rowlands, sophomore Andy Roof, and freshman Kenny Alfred

The rest of the team also continued to play with purpose, none more so than the aerial attack of the Cougar offense, with WR-QB tandems shaping up as forecast -- high powered and explosive.

Quarterback Alex Brink connected with receivers Michael Bumpus and Jason Hill for three touchdowns during 11-on-11 and 2-minute drills, at times looking close to automatic in the pocket.

Fellow QBs Gary Rogers and Cole Morgan also looked sharp in the pocket. Rogers connected with tight end Jed Collins several times during the day. Morgan found a receiver in the end zone -- junior Finas Rabb III, a 6-6 transfer from Santa Ana College who put together a fine spring, and is effectively doing the same early-on this fall.

QB Kevin Lopina, a freshman transfer out of Kansas State who will redshirt this season, also seems to be learning the ropes well, hitting Collins, Bumpus and sophomore Benny Ward for a number of completions on the day.

The play of Lopina this fall has pleased quarterback Coach Timm Rosenbach, who likes what he has seen as far as his attitude and approach to the position: "He is very coach-able. He needs another good year in the weight room, could put a little more zip on his passes, but he's got the right build," Rosenbach said. "He's a guy that could really compete for a spot this (next) spring."

  • The first team defense went against the first team offense for a portion of Tuesday's practice. Josh Duin was at center, DeMaundray Woolridge was at running back for the No. 1 offense. Defensively, Don Turner was running with the 1s on defense at the corner spot opposite Tyron Brackenridge.

  • Running backs Dwight Tardy and Kevin McCall both stood out today, with Tardy in particular showing good patience letting the holes develop, then turning on the jets and exploding through the opening. Practice observers proffered Tardy and McCall may have picked up a thing or two from Jerome Harrison last year. Derrell Hutsona also showed excellent burst. Bull-like DeMaundray Woolridge took a different approach, running headlong into the designated gap -- regardless of whether anyone blocked his path or not.

  • When asked if Rogers, an athletic and talented 6-6, 232 pound sophomore will see any early quarter game-time behind Brink this fall -- a la the Jason Gesser-Matt Kegel approach of a few years back -- Rosenbach indicated that isn't in the Cougs' thinking. He offered optimism to Rogers' talent, but was also quick to say it Gesser-Kegel was a different situation and much more experience on the part of Rogers is needed: "We need to get him on the field, we need to push him. Especially Gary, he's got to get ready to play, because when you are in that spot, you are always only one play away," said Rosenbach.

  • The team completed a pair of 2-minute drills to finish today's session. The offense won the first battle on a touchdown pass from Brink, while the D stepped up the second time as a Rogers pass to Charles Dillon sailed harmlessly through the back of the end-zone.

  • For the third straight day, a suited up, but not padded, Cory Evans sat out the days practice. The linebacker is apparently nursing a groin injury, but is expected to return soon.

  • Also sitting out for the third straight day was defensive tackle Bryan Tarkington, a 6-4, 320 pound transfer from Moorpark JC. Tarkington, waiting on transcript issues, will not be allowed to suit up until he receives NCAA clearance.

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