Doba: Secondary's biggest test looms

WSU'S SECONDARY, cornerback in particular, was the biggest concern coming into '06. At season's midpoint, however, the DBs are playing well, with corner Tyron Brackenridge an especially notable contributor. With Cal on tap, Bill Doba says the unit faces its toughest test. Also, he notes, extra time will be spent on special teams, which looked shaky at OSU. Plus, Brink speaks and much more.

Since an opening-game blowout loss at Tennessee, Cal has steamrolled five opponents, putting 42, 42, 49, 41 and 45 points up on the scoreboard. Marshawn Lynch gets much of the ink on offense, and deservedly so, but the Bears rank first in the Pac-10 in passing offense and No. 11 nationally, with three good receiving threats in DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan.

"By far," said Doba when asked if this was the secondary's biggest challenge to date. "'SC wasn't bad but 'SC didn't have (Dewayne) Jarrett when they played us...Jackson is special, and he's also a great punt returner and he has awesome speed. All three of those kids are big play guys."

Doba said key is not to allow the Bears a fast start. To that end, a few momentum changing plays like Tyron Brackenridge 's two forced fumbles at OSU would also go a long ways if the Cougs are to upset the No. 10 ranked Bears.

"The thing that we have to do against them is stop that first quarter -- they're outscoring their opponents 77-27 -- and then 94-47 in the second quarter," he said. "If we can slow them down a little bit and get them into the second half, then I think we've got a fighting chance...They've got a lot of weapons, they've got great speed."

Doba also characterized Cal's defense as considerably better than some stats might indicate.

"When you're way ahead of everybody, they're going to throw the football -- you're always going to be ranked low in pass defense when you're winning by a big margin, he said."

THE STATUS OF RECEIVER Jason Hill (shoulder sprain) will probably not be determined until game time. Doba said there's "a chance" he would be available for at least part of the Cal game but much will depend on the practice week. The AC joint sprain isn't as bad as Cody Boyd's was two years ago, Doba said.

Alex Brink said while Hill's potential absence would certainly have an impact, the injuries at tight end (Boyd, Ben Woodard) could be even more deeply felt given the Cougs' wide receiver depth. Charles Dillon is among those who could see an expanded role.

"I think (the TE situation) could be something a little more important just as far as it's affect on on only the passing game but the running game," said Brink.

Doba said with Boyd and Woodard (knee) out, it will affect the Cougs' ability to run some of their two-tight sets and that WSU would probably need to get "a little creative" in certain situations against the Bears.

Jed Collins, whom Brink tabbed the most underrated player on offense at the season's midpoint, looks to start in place of Boyd. Collins will probably come off some of his special teams assignments with the starting role. Tony Thompson, who handles long snaps, will see increased turns in practice this week. Senior Jesse Taylor, if healthy, is another option. Taylor has been out with an MCL.

BOYD'S INJURY MAY NOT BE as serious as originally feared. The swelling was not as prolonged as anticipated by the Medical Staff, leading to the possibility it may not be a high ankle sprain but rather, just a sprained ankle -- albeit a significant enough sprain that Boyd is out for this week.

THE COUGS HAVE had some issues on snaps and center exchanges this season, plus looked to go away from the shotgun at the end of the USC game through the OSU tilt. Doba said the Cougs would be spending extra time this week in an effort to get the wrinkles ironed out.

"Josh Duin was our center, we spent most of the preseason with him and now Kenny Alfred is our center," said Doba. "When he had to pull or reach block, he was stepping and the ball wasn't coming off (to the same place), I think, we can't see it well enough from the tape...and I think it's probably a little bit of both, with Alex pulling away a little early from the center."

  • Doba said the Cougs would also spend extra time on special teams this week. The Cougs' cover teams against Oregon State saw players getting out of their lanes, leading to big returns, especially on punts. The WSU punt team also had some protection issues resulting in a near block that punter Darryl Blunt pulled down and was able to turn into a first down.

  • If Michael Willis (shoulder) is able to come back this week, Doba said he could move into some of Collins' roles on special teams.

  • Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Lynch, bothered by a slow to heal ankle that was re-injured Saturday against the Ducks, will definitely play this week. Cal's No. 2 tailback, Justin Forsett is a talent in his own right. In relief duty for Lynch against Oregon, Forsett rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown in the 45-24 romp over the Ducks.

  • Cougfan Top Stories