PULLMAN -- Jason Hill has a major bowl game in his sights. Matt Mullennix says the boobirds who think WSU will play Auburn tough for three quarters and then melt in the humidity have another thing coming. And Scott Davis agrees, saying the intense conditioning the Cougs underwent this summer will carry over into the fall. Meanwhile out on the field, QB Alex Brink was once again lights out.
In the back of their collective minds, Jason Hill
said, the Cougs are thinking big, while still realizing the focus must be on the first game -- an away contest at Auburn, the preseason No. 6 team in the nation.
"We're going to take it one game at a time," said All-American candidate and senior wide receiver Jason Hill, following Friday mornings practice.
Reiterating that sentiment was junior starting defensive end Matt Mullennix
, who feels strongly that the way to head into every game this season is to expect to win, not just hope things will go their way.
"Our goal is to win everything," said the 6-7, 257-pound Mullennix. "There is no reason we can't... We are underdogs, as usual."
One of the elements behind the Cougars' confidence is the squad's summer conditioning -- what many players are calling the most intense off-season in memory.
"Coach O (Strength and conditioning Coach Rob Oviatt) made us tough," said senior offensive co-captain Hill. "He put us through pain that you wouldn't feel on the football field, and that is only going to (help us) every game we play."
LB Scott Davis
-- voted one of the team captains on defense along with Mkristo Bruce
-- concurred, saying the Cougs should have an edge going in because of their overall physical conditioning.
"We worked hard this summer, harder than we have worked any summer I have been here," said Davis. "And with the long season ahead of us, with no bye, I think that will carry over."
The veterans have also stepped up in teaching the younger players on the squad the crimson ropes. In turn, they've been impressed with how the rookies have taken to it and performed here in the early going.
"I've just tried to lead by example," said Hill. "I am not much of a vocal guy, so I just try to go out there and do all the right things."
Taking a slightly more verbal approach is Mullennix, who, during practice this fall, has often been seen encouraging and directing younger lineman during drills. Mullennix made it clear from the start there wouldn't be no going about their business by doing things half-way.
"We took them into the huddle, and kind of explained the standard that we have here," said Mullennix. "They are really ready to learn, and willing to listen. They've been great."
All three seniors agreed on something else following practice; Last year is over. This is not the same team, and the biggest difference is confidence, something coach Bill Doba
noted a number of times during the '05 game weeks that the Cougs needed to get their edge back.
"We have a little more swagger than last year," said Mullennix. "And I love that."
It was a quieter morning in terms of live action -- but only in comparison to the previous practices. Still, that didn't slow down the other co-captain on offense -- Alex Brink, who was simply en fuego today. The junior quarterback went 10-for-12 in passing attempts during live action drills. Day Six of fall camp at Washington State is only half over, as the team will again don full pads tonight beginning at 7:30. Check back late tonight, or first thing tomorrow morning, as Cougfan.com will be there for the evening session. There is no respite tomorrow, as the Cougs will hold their first scrimmage of the fall Saturday afternoon.
The defense stepped up with three interceptions Friday morning, two of which ended up in the hands of cornerback Ryan Kensok -- the pride of Gonzaga Prep -- who picked QB Gary Rogers twice.
The kicking game looked solid, with punters Darryl Blunt and Fritz Brayton each looking flawless in practice, sending balls high and true, up to-55 yards down the field. The most impressive punt belonged to Blunt, who secured a high snap about a foot over his head, composed himself quickly and sent a rocket skyward, eventually settling into the waiting hands of Michael Bumpus about half-way through the morning's session.
The place kickers also impressed, with Loren Langley, Romeen Abdollmohammadi, and freshman Carlin Birrell going a combined 6-for-7 in FG attempts.
The run of the day belonged to sophomore DeMaundray Woolridge, who, during drills, showed he also has a little shake and bake to go along with his obvious power. Woolridge faked a couple would-be tacklers, making the defenders dive one way before switching back and picking up the first down and then some. As for the rookies, Chris Ivory already has a bona-fide Pac-10 body. He and Skylar Jessen, also known to have a fast twitch muscle or two, are both working hard and appear to be picking things up nicely.
JC transfer Markus Dawes, a cornerback expected to compete heavily for playing time this fall, sat out for the second straight practice due to muscle strains. With starter Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring) also out due to injury, Courtney Williams lined up opposite senior Don Turner for the first-string defense.
Defensive tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu got some first-team turns as well, lining up next to Ropati Pitoitua at the tackle position Friday morning. The Cougs' starter at defensive left tackle is Aaron Johnson, but Ahmu started all 11 games in place of Pitoitua after the latter broke his leg in fall camp last year. Expect Ahmu to get plenty of turns this season in rotation as defensive coach Mike Walker has at least three bona-fide starters on the line's interior.
Coach Bill Doba offered no further details today on the reports free safety DeWayne Patterson is having academic difficulties, instead saying all questions will need to be posed to his academic counselor. Patterson is practicing.
As released by Washington State late Thursday
Out Indefinitely: Luke Fowler (shoulder), Grady Maxwell (knee cartilage tear), Jason Stripling (shoulder surgery recovery), Greg Walker (thumb fracture).
No Practice: Tyron Brackenridge (hamstring strain), Preston Brooks (hamstring strain), Markus Dawes (muscle strains), Cory Evans (groin strain), Anthony Houston (groin strain), Kerry Maddox (heel bruise).