Opportunity comes calling for Collins

PULLMAN -- With two of their biggest playmakers not present, the Cougs' Tuesday padded practice was an intense affair, as players on both sides of the ball looked to be playing with increased focus. Still, with seniors Jason Hill questionable and Cody Boyd out, the question now is can Washington State turn up the intensity high enough to send No. 10 California back home with a loss.

Jason Hill, who has a chance to suit up against the Bears, was in street clothes for Tuesday's session after injuring his AC joint in his shoulder on the game's lone touchdown reception in the Oregon State win. Tight end Cody Boyd (ankle) has been deemed out for Saturday.

The opportunity on Tuesday to fill the shoes of the departed starters appeared to fall mostly upon juniors Charles Dillon, a wide receiver, and tight end Jed Collins, although Bill Doba has also said the offense may get "a little creative" this week.

Coupled with the Cougs' substantial depth at receiver, and also considering sophomore TE Ben Woodard (MCL sprain) is also out, the biggest concern for the Cougs' is at tight end.

And that's where the 6-2, 251 pound Collins comes in. The junior has seen significant snaps at the position this year, due to the high number of two tight-end sets the Cougs' have run, and expressed confidence following Tuesday's practice.

"You know we lost a great player," Collins said, talking about Boyd. "But football is a game of opportunities, and it's my opportunity to step up this week."

Offensive Coordinator Mike Levenseller said the fact that Collins is a back-up has little to do with his ability to produce.

"Jed's played well," Levenseller said. "I mean, when there's not a choice there's not a choice. But if you're caught without a choice and you still have Jed Collins, you're in pretty good shape."

Collins won't be alone at the position, Levenseller said. Senior Jesse Taylor (MCL sprain), listed as limited on the Medical Report, nonetheless practiced without any apparent limitations Tuesday. Freshman and deep snapper Tony Thompson also figure into the mix.

The trio was active Tuesday, with Thompson turning in one particularly exceptional play, laying out for a 20-yard Gary Rogers bullet.

ALSO LOOKING SHARP was Dillon, who contributed several highlight-reel worthy catches. Levenseller said the junior and first year transfer has done nothing but improve since donning a Crimson jersey this fall.

"He's getting better every week," Levenseller said. "He's got to keep working, it'll all come together. It's really just an experience factor -- this is a lot different than junior college football and it always takes some adjustment. And he's adjusting well."

Among the receivers off the bench who could also make an impact this week, the names include Benny Ward, Finas Rabb and Andy Largent. The injury to Chris Jordan (knee) moved Brandon Gibson into a starting role earlier this season. Gibson and Michael Bumpus, who leads the team in receptions, also no doubt figure to help pick up the slack if Hill is unavailable or limited on Saturday.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Several Cougs' took to the turf Tuesday following time on the injury list. Junior cornerback Markus Dawes (ankle), sophomore safety Michael Willis (shoulder) and freshman linebacker Andy Mattingly (concussion) all saw action. Of the three, only Willis was wearing a yellow no-contact jersey.

There is no television for the game. Doba said a 3:30 option would not have allowed a broadcast in the state of Washington and moving the game to 7:30 at this late date would have not have been fair to inconvenienced Cougar alums who had already made their Homecoming weekend plans.


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