PULLMAN -- How quickly things change. Monday, news from WSU that two d-line starters were out indefinitely saw angst ripple across the Cougar Nation. Today, one returned to the field –- earlier than expected. To top off the good news, transcripts arrived today on a much anticipated addition to the defensive line. Meanwhile, yet another position battle appears to be shaping up on the Palouse.
Coach Mike Walker said Thursday afternoon 6-4, 320 pound transfer Bryan Tarkington
's transcript from BYU, from which Tarkington had taken an on-line class to complete his AA degree, finally arrived today. Washington State can now go about processing the defensive tackle, a process which could still take a couple days before Tarkington is allowed to take the field.
"Hopefully by Saturday we'll get him admitted, and he'll be out there next week." said Walker.
Out since Monday with a hamstring injury, defensive tackle Aaron Johnson
returned to the defensive line with enthusiasm Thursday. The earlier than expected return surprised and pleased Walker, who, in an interview earlier this week, hoped the junior would be ready in time for the season opener.
"The trainers gave him the option to see how he was going to feel today. He got out there and he did pretty good," Walker said, following the afternoon practice. "He had some good plays out there, better than I expected."
Defensive end Matt Mullennix
, who fractured his hand during the same Monday practice that saw Johnson sidelined, is also expected to return any day and play with a cast.
The return of Johnson will make Walker's job harder he said, albeit pleasantly so, as he now will have to choose between Johnson, junior Ropati Pitoitua
, and sophomore Fevaea'i Ahmu for starting defensive tackle positions once the season starts. Walker said he's confident all three will have an equal opportunity to perform come September.
"It really doesn't matter," Walker said on who would start. "They're all going to play the same, equal amount of plays."
Cornerback was perhaps the most highly anticipated position battle headed into fall camp but coaches Mike Levenseller and Kelly Skipper both said several players have stepped up and made a case for playing time.
Along with listed starter DeMaundray Woolridge
, junior Kevin McCall
, freshman Dwight Tardy
and JC transfer Derrell Hutsona
are all in the mix, said Skipper, while Levenseller said following last night's scrimmage if the season started today, the Cougs would go with a running back by committee approach.
Replacing defensive lineman Mullennix on the first team D while he's been out have been junior Lance Broadus, sophomore Mike Graise and freshman Kevin Kooyman. Although Graise and Broadus have shared the majority of the snaps for the number one unit, Kooyman nonetheless has emerged as a viable asset in Coach Walker's mind. "He's doing some good things out here," Walker said. When asked if Kooyman or fellow freshman Ansley Jean Jacques and Preston Brooks will see some playing time this fall, Walker said "We might have to use one of those guys, we're just not sure who yet…the next scrimmage is going to tell I think."
Hutsona added another reel to his highlight package Thursday, disappearing from view amongst the big bodies before racing the ball upfield for a big gainer.
Impressive receptions and throws also marked the Thursday session, and when those weren't taking place, a litany of pass-break-ups and sure tackles took center stage. Alex Brink and Jason Hill, again looked sharp on a picture perfect pass to the All-America receiver despite blanket coverage from safety Husain Abdullah and cornerback Markus Dawes.
The Cougars gave a day off to some members of the team and several starters, including Woolridge, Michael Bumpus, and Greg Trent.
A full injury report is expected to be released by Washington State late Friday afternoon.