Practice Report: Linebackers getting it done

PULLMAN -- Both consistent in play, and also ripe in potential, are the Cougar linebackers. The three up front on the Cougar D are set, while a hard-hitting group of back-ups lies in wait. Coach Leon Burtnett talked about the unit following Wednesday's practice, shedding light on Scott Davis' health, who could see more time Saturday, and how football is sometimes a lot like basketball.

Davis, joined by fellow senior Steve Dildine and sophomore Greg Trent as the starting linebacker trio, did not practice Wednesday after suffering an Achilles sprain in Tuesday's session. The 5-11, 230 pounder was on the sidelines, sporting gym clothes and a boot on the injured appendage.

But the hard-nosed team captain is not expected to miss too much time according to Burtnett, and will suit up for Saturday's game against Baylor.

"He should be alright, he'll be alright," said Burtnett, further answering the query of whether Davis will be ready come game time with a definitive, 'Yes'.

The depth chart shows Andy Mattingly as the No. 2 strongside OLB behind Davis, but when asked who would be first off the bench Saturday should the Kennewick senior be limited, or for rotation purposes, Burtnett said senior Brian Hall, the No. 2 MLB, is the frontrunner.

"It would be Hall, probably right now. He's playing real good for us right now," said Burtnett.

Hall replaced Davis running drills with the 1s in Wednesday's session. Also in the mix and mentioned by Burtnett as performing especially well of late were sophomore Cory Evans, the No. 2 OLB on the weakside, No. 3 MLB senior Chris Baltzer, and true freshman Mattingly, who Burtnett noted is still learning the ropes of the position. "Mattingly's coming along," Burtnett said. "He's got a lot to learn yet, but he's coming along."

The focus for the unit will not change too much for the Baylor game, even though they're likely to play more pass defense against the air happy Bears.

"We're just going to improve our coverages, try to improve on the way we've played them. You know they'll pose some problems for us, we've just got to try and rally to the ball," said Burtnett.

Echoing the sentiment of head man Bill Doba, who mentioned the Cougs will not underestimate BU, Burtnett said the defense is prepared for a high number of completions, given the short dump offs, but hopefully nothing too big.

"They're going to complete passes, they do against everybody. It's kind of like football being played like basketball. You just hope you don't give away the big play, you make the tackle, have them turn the ball over," said Burtnett.

  • Safety Michael Willis (shoulder) continued to practice in a yellow no-contact jersey Wednesday, while cornerback Don Turner (hip contusion) participated in several drills on the day, but did not suit up for the session.

  • Defensive end Lance Broadus is the only player to pull down an interception in two games this season. Several members of the secondary grabbed INTs in Wednesday's practice, most notable of which belonged to safety Husain Abdullah. The junior early in Wednesday's session used tremendous height and reach to pull down a well-placed Gary Rogers pass intended for WR Chris Jordan.

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