Spring ball Day 2: Yarno, Bruiser talk depth

PULLMAN -- George Yarno and Steve Broussard talked about the WSU running game Friday after practice and the operative word from both -- Broussard speaking from the viewpoint of the backs and Yarno the hosses up front -- was depth. Or perhaps lack of. The Cougs aren't inexperienced in those position groups, but the spring season will determine which youngsters will fill the breach come fall.

"The number one concern would be depth," Yarno told CF.C about the offensive line. "I think they all worked hard this winter. Tomorrow they put pads on and I think we'll know a little bit more. I think their knowledge is good, I think they're working hard. We've got to find 8-to-10 guys we can win with, and that's what spring is about."

The OL returns two full-time starters -- sophomore center Kenny Alfred and senior left tackle Bobby Byrd -- and two part-time starters in junior guards Andy Roof and Dan Rowlands, who split time last season. In addition, there's junior tackle Derek Hunter, who saw time last season when Byrd sprained a knee.

Behind them are big bodies, but no experience, in second-year freshmen Joe Eppele and Micah Hannam, JC transfer Vaughn Lesuma, walk-on sophomore center Jimmy Magee of Ballard, who made a mark in practices last season, and junior Jacob McKinney. Grady Maxwell, a second-year freshman, is still nursing the knee that shelved him last season.

"It'll be a battle at every position," Yarno said. "Of course, some of the veteran guys have an advantage, but hopefully some of the younger guys can push them."

Yarno said who plays where isn't a pressing issue at this point -- he's looking to find gamers now, with defined roles coming later. To that end, Byrd -- a likely honor candidate at tackle in 2007 -- has spent time the last two days working out at guard while others rotated in at his left tackle position.

Broussard, meanwhile, is dealing with the loss of two big playmakers in DeMaundray Woolridge and Derrell Hutsona. Both are academic casualties. Woolridge is attending Spokane Falls Community College's Pullman branch in hopes of being readmitted to WSU this fall. Hutsona is still in school, but won't be on the field this spring in order to concentrate fully on his studies.

"It's hard to say right now since we're not in pads, but ... I would say depth (is an issue)," said Broussard, the first-year WSU assistant who spent the last four seasons at Portland State.

The running back corps returns last year's leading rusher, sophomore Dwight Tardy, but there are only two players (senior Kevin McCall and sophomore Chris Ivory) behind him with actual game experience -- and what experience they have is limited. The rest of the corps consists of second-year freshmen Marcus Richmond and Skylar Jessen, and junior Ian Bell, who spent his first two years on campus playing cornerback. Bell has not yet participated in spring drills, with the word on the street being that his wife gave birth to baby just recently.

ACTION ON THE FIELD Friday was, like Thursday, intense, despite the lack of pads. In 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, the defense looked to have the upper-hand, with several pass-breakups and interceptions, plus a slippery-handed group of receivers.

The first pass breakup on the day came in the 11-on-11 drills, when 6-8 defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua swated down an Alex Brink pass. After that, safeties Christian Bass and Husain Abdullah, as well as cornerbacks Ryan Kensok and Markus Dawes had pass deflections

Grabbing interceptions for the secondary were linebacker Alex Hamill and Abdullah. Both INTs came in 11-on-11 drills, and were the result of bobbled receptions by the intended receivers.

It wasnt all bad news for the offense through the air, however, as tight end Tony Thompson, and wide receivers Charles Dillon, Michael Bumpus, and Anthony Houston all turned in nice grabs.


* Kensok and Dillon had a collision late in the session that left Kensok shaken and on the ground for a few moments. He was helped up by Abdullah and continued practicing uninhibited. Dawes and receiver Keith Rosenberg, also hit the turf hard on a collision in 7-on-7 action but didn't appear any worse of the wear.

* For the second consecutive day, the weather was mild and partly sunny.

* The team will shake up the schedule a little bit and have a morning practice Saturday. The session is slated to begin at 10.

* Given Loren Langley's kicking woes last season, Bill Doba quipped earlier this week that he's received "about 50" queries of would-be kickers looking for work. Doba says he tells them all to send in a tape -- and the kickoffs, he said, better be teed up at the 30-yard line, not the 35, because the 30 is where the ball now will be placed in the college ranks starting this season.

* Mark your calendars: The annual King County Cougar golf classic and evening banquet-- featuring Bill Doba and Tony Bennett -- is May 31 at Newcastle. The event is a fundraiser for WSU's student athlete scholarships.

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