Spring ball Day 5: Wideouts are shining

PULLMAN — The snow and rain that canceled practice on Tuesday gave way to blue skies Wednesday, and the WSU receiving corps -- veterans and youngsters alike -- served up a sunny forecast with one nice catch after another. Coupled with a work ethic that's impressing Mike Levenseller, the grab-masters are shaping up as a true strength. Benny Ward makes his move, while one youngster stands out.

"We're just trying to get better," Levenseller said after Wednesday's workout. He termed the effort "excellent."

"I think there's some proven guys, and we have to find those other guys. And to do that, you've got to get into combat, and find out what happens with a younger guy," he said. "They've got to get assignments down."

A number of players have shined over the last week, including second-year freshman Keith Rosenberg, who had several nice grabs Wednesday. He's blocked well, run good routes and been consistently sure-handed since the spring session began.

Levenseller said the 5-10, 194-pound possession-receiver from Bellevue has been the most pleasant surprise.

He also noted that the entire unit has improved since last fall, ticking off the names of seniors Michael Bumpus, Finas Rabb and Charles Dillon, and juniors Brandon Gibson, Benny Ward, and Scott Selby.

"Right now, there's three guys that are the (starters)," Levenseller said, referring to Bumpus, Gibson, and Dillon. "Charles showed that he can be one of those guys at the end of last season, but Bumpus and Gibson are (definitely) two."

Bumpus caught 60 passes last season -- moving him past brand new Cougar assistant coach Steve Broussard into No. 7 on the WSU single-season list -- and led the conference in receptions for much of the year. Gibson was No. 6 in the Pac-10 last season in receiving yards, with 731 hashes on 40 catches. Dillon caught 15 balls for 119 yards, with 12 of those catches coming in the final three weeks of the season when he replaced injured Jason Hill in the line up.

No one else on the '07 roster has made a game-day catch for the Cougars.

Levenseller said Ward, a 6-3, 186-pounder from Van Nuys, Calif. who has excelled on special teams the last two years, is making a strong statement. "Benny Ward has vastly improved himself, I mean he's had a great attitude, and he's getting better."

On the field Wednesday, the catch of the day belonged to Bumpus, who hauled in a Gary Rogers pass in 7-on-7 drills for what appeared a 20-plus-yard gain. Bumpus was fully extended, about 12 inches off the ground, but held on even while getting hit solidly by cornerback Ryan Kensok.

Bumpus had several other impressive catches on the day, including a bullet from Alex Brink, followed by a defense-splitting dash for a few extra yards.

Not to be outdone, Gibson, the junior deep threat from Puyallup, had a few grabs of his own, but couldn't come up with the pigskin on one play in which he was fully extended on 40-yard bomb from Brink.

The offense also showed some serious blocking acumen on Wednesday. One one play, junior tight end Devin Frischknecht, a 6-3, 250 pounder JC transfer from Snow College, opened the lane for Rosenberg following a pass from Brink by unleashing on Kensok. Kensok was the last defense, so in a game situation the play would have gone all the way.

The running game also flexed its muscle. Sophomore Chris Ivory busted up the gut for some big gains in 11-on-11 drills.

On the other side of the ball, safety Xavier Hicks picked off Brink in the end zone during the same 11-on-11 drills, rising in the air and grabbing the ball over the head of Dillon.

NOTABLE:

The Cougars will practice again Thursday and then square off Friday in the first of three scheduled spring scrimmages. The spring season will conclude April 14.


RECEIVER KEITH ROSENBERG.


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