Fall Camp: Day Four

PULLMAN -- Alex Brink and Jason Hill have been exceedingly sharp in the early stages of the WSU fall camp, ever since Sunday's opening whistle. But the story Wednesday out on the Palouse was the defense. The Cougars weren't yet in full pads, but that didn't stop Markus Dawes from laying some lumber. The biggest stick, however, involved Michael Willis, with both hitter and hit-ee slow to rise.

CB Markus Dawes (6-0, 196) stepped in for Tyron Brackenridge on the first-team defense during two-minute drills during Wednesday's session. Brackenridge, the 6-0, 186 pound starter at right corner, sat out virtually the entire practice with a tightly wrapped leg. More on that in the Notes section, but it appears precautionary and not anything that will keep him out for long.

Dawes certainly made his case for playing time on at least one occasion, dishing out one of the biggest hits of the drill, going face-to-face with running back DeMaundray Woolridge on a short gainer for the sophomore up the sideline. Dawes, a stout, athletic junior in his first WSU camp by way of junior college, is expected to compete this fall for the starting left corner position opposite Brackenridge.

Even bigger than Dawes' hit, however, was the one administered just plays later by safety Michael Willis, who literally overturned receiver Charles Dillon as the junior was attempting to rope in a tall Gary Rogers pass.

Sticking his faceguard directly in Dillon's breadbasket, the collision resulted in both Willis and Dillon lingering on the ground for a few seconds. The play drew some criticism from the offense, and cheers from the D. Both Dillon and Willis both appeared none the worse for wear, however, shaking it off and continuing on with practice.

Once the proverbial dust had settled, the offense did not score on either of the two-minute drills, placed back on their heels by a defense that recorded three pass break-ups, plus two "sacks" -- one by defensive end Mike Graise on Rogers, and the other belonging jointly to Mkristo Bruce and Ropati Pitoitua, who both got hands on Alex Brink.

In a number of drills so far this fall, it has seemed the high-octane Cougar offense simply can't be stopped. Brink had been nearly automatic through the first three days -- especially when hooking up with Jason Hill. The senior receiver has already put on display plenty of evidence of why he's an All-America candidate in 2006.

Brink yielded a few more turns than customary on Wednesday to Rogers, and then Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan. But even when Brink was behind center during Wednesday's session, the defense was making their presence felt. This was the second helmet and shoulder pads practice, with the first full pad practice scheduled for tomorrow. Regardless, a number of defensive units stepped up big-time Wednesday to lay out some hard hits.

The offense couldn't be completely stopped, however, as Brink, Rogers, Hall, Morgan and Kevin Lopina connected with a bevy of receivers during the two-minute, 7-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

A couple of standout receptions on the day belonged to Dillon, the 6-0, 190 first year Cougar, who has garnered praise from fellow wideout Brandon Gibson and coach Bill Doba already this fall.

"I am here to play," said Dillon, following the day's session. "I don't plan on sitting on any sideline this year. I want to be a part of this, I want to contribute."

Also contributing early in his time with the Cougs' has been junior transfer running back Derrell Hutsona (Grossmont College) who, in addition to several nice runs early on this fall -- including some where he's stopped on a dime and given would be tacklers nine cents change before continuing downfield -- has been fielding punts with teammates Michael Bumpus and Chris Jordan.

  • Although no official injury news will be made available until tomorrow, Brackenridge's injury is reportedly nothing serious and is expected to return to practice soon. The senior previously had battled a sore hamstring over some of the spring and early summer.

  • Quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach has said the No. 3 QB position battle between Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan should be decided in the next week or so. Both have looked sharp and quick on their feet, but it would be stretching things to say either has had a lights-out fall to this point, in part because this was only the fourth day of camp. Both Morgan and Hall have been getting the same amount of reps in drills, and the race seems as tight now as when it begun.

  • In some other position battles going on this fall, it depends on the drill and point in the practice who might be running with the 1s. For the second consecutive day, senior Josh Duin started at center for the first-team offense during the two minute drills. Dan Rowlands was with the first-string offensive line for a good part of Tuesday's practice. Expect to see Kenny Alfred get plenty of turns as well over the coming days.

  • Senior tight end Cody Boyd, who has participated fully this fall after sitting out all spring with a foot injury, recorded two catches during the 2-minute drills.

  • The two-minute drills opened with a 50+ yard rocket off the foot of sophomore Darryl Blunt, who sent the ball out of the reach of Bumpus and onto the top of a soccer goal located in the back of the end zone.

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