Fall Camp Day 16: Yarno talks depth, names C

PULLMAN -– Monday's day off appeared to be just the salve for the Cougar football team. Players returned to the field Tuesday and the intensity that was lacking a bit on Sunday was sky high on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, George Yarno talked about a concern – depth of the OL – and announced the winner of the center battle. On special teams, the kicking contest took an interesting turn.

Fifth-year senior Josh Duin, the one-time walk on from Covington, will be the guy snapping the ball to quarterback Alex Brink, said Yarno, the Cougars' offensive line coach.

"No question about it," Yarno said. "He's had a great camp. He's done everything right and he's our guy."

Duin was competing with second-year freshman Kenny Alfred. When camp opened, Dan Rowlands also was in the hunt, but he's since moved full-time to guard in the wake of starter Andy Roof's broken thumb.

Duin, who stands 6-4 and weighs 318, earned a scholarship last fall after 3 ½ years of hardscrabble toil. He's seen action in 23 games over the last three years, much of it on special teams.

Duin came out of spring practices as the No. 1 center, but had what was believed to be a tenuous hold on the spot because Alfred (broken hand) and Rowlands (shoulder) missed a large portion of those workouts.

With Duin penned in at center, the Cougars' starting line is set. The tackles are returning starters Bobby Byrd and Charles Harris. One guard will be returning starter Sean O'Connor and the other will be Rowlands and possibly Roof depending on the progress of his recovery from thumb surgery.

After that, however, the experience tails off considerably, with eight freshmen, four sophomores, no juniors and only one senior, walk on Justin Luafalemana, listed on the Cougar roster.

Yarno says the next 10 days will be critical to determining how the depth chart stacks up behind those guys.

"You know, we're still a week and a half away from playing, so we are still trying to develop depth," Yarno said Tuesday. "We've still got some question-marks at the end of the depth chart and we're trying to fill them in, and whoever does the best in the next 10 days is going to get on the bus and go to Auburn."

Although Yarno didn't mention specific players fighting for the additional spots on the depth chart, he did express confidence in the overall development of the unit. "I am comfortable with seven or eight guys that we have, and a couple of other guys need to step up and show that they can play."

Based on reps in camp so far, it looks as if the travel squad frontrunners are sophomores Derek Hunter, Jacob McKinney, Colin Donovan and Nick Cantlon, the senior Lauafalemana, true freshman Micah Hannam and Alfred, a second-year freshman, at center. Others vying for time are Scott Friberg, Joe Eppele, Jimmy MaGee and Robert McNamara.

ACTION ON THE FIELD Tuesday looked reminiscent of some of the action seen earlier in camp, as players on both sides of the ball went at it with fury in 11-on-11 and two-minute drills.

In the end, the offense held the upper hand, as Brink and his understudy, strong-armed Gary Rogers, hooked up with a wide variety of receivers.

Putting in the most impressive performance on the day was senior tight end Cody Boyd, who caught everything thrown his way, including a TD pass. Running back Dwight Tardy also looked impressive throughout the day.

The defense was not without some quality ball of its own. The secondary, now fully healthy -- including the recently injured Christian Bass -– showed great athleticism and a tough-nosed attitude.

Looking particularly sharp was senior corner Tyron Brackenridge, who is back from a hamstring injury. One pass-break-up, with blanket coverage on receiver Andy Largent, was especially pretty.


  • Matt Mullennix (hand fracture) and Jed Collins (broken finger) returned to practice Tuesday night, with Mullennix getting about half the session in. Mullennix's cast size is reminiscient, although not quite as big, of the club Will Derting first wore when returning from a dislocated wrist suffered in the '04 fall camp. The timetable for Mullennix's cast being reduced in size, allowing him more use of his fingers and thumb, is to be determined.

  • Continuing the trend of the last few practices, the secondary put in a little time extra Tuesday, staying on the field after the team huddle to run various drills.

  • The kicking game continued its see-saw like progression, as Loren Langley was extremely sharp, nailing virtually every field goal attempt from a number of different lengths. Conversely, counterpart Romeen Abdollmohammadi – believed the front runner to start with super accuracy in scrimmages -- missed virtually every one of his kicks.

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