Smith, Tippins, 1st-team D shine

PULLMAN -- JC All-American <b>Jonathon Smith</b> served notice Wednesday night that the race to win the starting running back role is going to be a hot one. In his first live action as a Coug, the man who broke all of Jackie Robinson's records rattled off several solid runs with some perfectly timed cuts.

He has some of the best feet to grace the Palouse since Michael Black was in town. And Mike Price quipped that Smith's ability to fight through first tacklers is head turning stuff.

The only blemish to the 5-foot-9. 190-pound Smith's evening was a fumble at the end the scrimmage after a monster hit by linebacker Kevin Sperry, himself of former JC star.

His solid debut is all the more notable because the man considered the likely front-runner for the starting RB spot, fellow JC star Jermaine Green, is still bothered by a sore MCL in his right knee. He doesn't have the explosiveness he exhibited in the spring. Other than the knee, however, he looks to be in peak physical shape.

Rest assured, though, Smith and Green will be challenged for the starting job mightily by senior John Tippins. In the No.1 offense's first series against the No. 2 defense, Tippins was a workhorse who led the team the length of the field before Jason Gesser and Devard Darling capped it off with a scoring aerial. The focus on the ground attack may have stemmed in part from the fact that receivers Mike Bush, Jerome Riley, Trandon Harvey and Tommy Ostrander are dinged up and didn't play.

The No. 1 O, with Heisman Trophy candidate Gesser at the helm, squared off against the No. 1 D in just two series, going three and out in the first and garnering a couple first downs before giving the ball up on downs in the second time around.

IN ALL, THE Cougs christened the first full-pads day of fall camp about 60 plays at Martin Stadium. The big winner of the day was the No. 1 defense, which allowed just a handful of first downs.

The starting front four (Fred Shavies, D.D. Acholonu, Jeremey Williams and Rien Long) played as well as expected, wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield. The unit recorded several sacks as well as several more tackles for losses.

The linebackers, the focal point of so many question-marks for 2002, performed well in the, flowing from sideline to sideline to make tackles, covering well in pass coverage, and executing blitze packages very nicely. Junior Al Genatone was probably the most impressive of the group. In the secondary, cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Jason David were in typical lockdown mode, and safeties Erik Coleman and Virgil Williams also played well.

Aside from the Gesser-Darling connection, there was just one other TD drive on the evening as QB Chris Hurd hit true freshman receiver Robert Franklin. Hurd has looked solid in his action thus far, but still appears to be a year away from being Pac-10 ready. Matt Kegel, leading the No. 2 offense, struggled at times, but that was due mostly to the fact that he was facing the No. 1 defense with an overmatched offensive line and third-string receivers. Kegel did have his moments though, making several sweet air strikes despite the lack of resources around him.

Two receivers really stood out in Wednesday's scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Marty Martin, who ran with the No. 1 offense throughout the scrimmage, made some good catches and showed a knack for squeezing out a few extra yards with each run. Walk-on JC transfer Brett Johnson also looked very good, getting the majority of his catches with the No. 2 and 3 offenses. He is a very hard runner, and virtually every time took several tacklers to bring him down. He has a shot at making the travel squad.


Tacoma's Aaron Joseph, the back up free safety behind Erik Coleman, sustained a severe lower-leg bruise Wednesday and is sidelined indefinitely.

Sammy Moore made his long-awaited debut for the Cougs, finally becoming eligible, but because he hasn't had any practices yet, the coaches held him out of the scrimmage. Look for him to return some kicks in Saturday's 9 a.m. scrimmage.

Tight end Eddie Robinson, a transfer from Tulane, made it to campus yesterday. The coaches hope to have him on the field as soon as he clears compliance and becomes eligible.

In case you're wondering, Jonathon Smith's JC credentials are eye popping. Playing in the toughest JUCO conference in the nation, he ran for more than 2,000 yards last season and caught 46 passes for another 553 hashes. He set a league record for TDs (31), a national JC record for single-game all-purpose yards (515) and a state JC record for most all-purposes yards in one season (2,863). One analyst at likened his combination of agility, hands and power to former UCLA and Dolphins star Karim Abdul-Jabbar. Smith runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds.

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