The Rogers Report and other spring ball notes

THE MOST POPULAR player on any football team, the old saying goes, is the second-string quarterback. So after nearly a week of spring practices on the Palouse, it stands to reason that the crimson faithful want, above all else, to know how their favorite Cougar -- junior signal caller Gary Rogers -- is doing.

"Gary's having a good spring," Cougar head coach Bill Doba reports. "Gary just needs to be a little more consistent.

"Sometimes he looks awesome, other times he might miss a guy who was wide open. I think it's (about getting) more turns, more reps, and we're going to try and give him plenty of work this spring -- that's just experience, that's just being out there," the coach says.

"You draw it up on the board, you expect it to be a certain way, and then the Willy linebacker doesn't go out and cover the A-back so you have to be able to recognize that. And that's the thing that (Alex) Brink does so well, he sees the whole field ... and Gary's getting much better at that too," Doba says about the 6-6, 232-pounder from Mukilteo.

In 2006, Rogers saw considerable early action off the bench and completed 18 of 31 passes for 214 yards and 3 TDs. He had a QB efficiency rating of 135.08. Quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach said Monday the aim for 2007 is to get Rogers as much game action off the bench as possible.

The guy above Rogers on the depth chart -- Brink -- is by all accounts having a solid spring, and some strength gains may be a contributing factor.

"I think the thing that probably jumps out as much as anything, Brink looks like he's bigger and stronger," says Doba. "He has a little bit more velocity on the short routes and the outcuts, and he's throwing the deep ball better...I think he's got a bright future."

Brink, a senior, has started 28 games in his WSU career and last season was voted second-team All-Pac-10 by conference coaches. He threw for 2,899 yards in 2006 and needs just 724 more to move into No. 2 past Jack Thompson on WSU's career passing list. With another 1,736 passing yards he'll pass Jason Gesser for the top spot.

Brink has excellent vision, says Doba, noting that part of it is an acquired skill, to know where the safeties are, to recognize the "little" things, like a weakside linebacker who isn't wide enough to cover the slot receiver.

IN OTHER QUARTERBACKING NEWS, Kevin Lopina has a tight hamstring, and probably won't practice in the near term for precautionary reasons. Doba says the sophomore from California will continue to be at practice learning but that the Cougs want to be careful with injuries.

THE TIGHT END SPOT could be one of the team's deeper positions on offense, said Doba. Trevor Mooney has caught Doba's eye, Ben Woodard has shown improvement and newcomer Devon Frischknecht is now in the fold.

"Frischknecht is doing well, he's just learning the system. I'm kind of excited about -- I think Woodard has had a better spring and I think Mooney is going to be really good some day. He's got good hands. He's a little light yet but he's having a good spring so far..But with Jed Collins, Woodard, Frischknecht, Thompson and Mooney, that's five guys," said Doba.


* Offensive lineman Joe Eppele (shoulder) and tight end Tony Thompson (ankle) are dinged up but expected to practice Thursday. Thompson, the Cougs' long snapper, may also get work as the FG/XP snapper, with Peter Hill's knee injury placing his return to the field in doubt.

* Doba says he impressed with the development of linebackers Cory Evans and Andy Mattingly. "They're really starting to be more aware of pass situations, pass drops and reading routes. They look like an experienced group of guys...I think our linebackers are starting to come along, and look more mature, and getting the run pitch right. And our front is doing a better job of keeping those 'backers free."

* At cornerback, where the Cougs need to find two new starters, the quartet of Brian Williams, Markus Dawes, Ryan Kensok and B.T. Walker has yet to make a statement. "I think we're relying heavily on (Chima) Nwachukwu and (Devin) Giles coming in here in the fall and giving everybody competition. And maybe (Terry) Mixon. I think Mixon is more of a safety than a corner but he might have a shot," said Doba.

* At safety, Husain Abdullah has had an excellent start to his spring. Xavier Hicks has gotten better and Christian Bass appears to be, more so than he was before, in the right place at the right time, said Doba. Freshman Cornorris Atkins, while a super athlete, is pretty green right now, said Doba.

* Ideally, Doba said he would like to resolve the kicking battle between Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi by the end of the spring and that special teams will be more of an emphasis than they have been in springs past. The Cougs now have four assistants each taking a part in the special teams coaching.

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