Spring ball Day 6: Another 'backer emerging

PULLMAN — Washington State has found football talent in some out-of-the-way stops over the years, making places like North Battleford and Okanogan regular parts of the crimson lexicon. Based on the results of the first week of spring practices, the faithful better break out the Atlas again. Everson, population 2,067, has produced a Cougar linebacker who's skyrocketing up the depth chart.

Walk-on Brady Emmons, a 5-10, 211-pound redshirt sophomore from Whatcom County farm country was dubbed Thursday by head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Bill Doba as one of his "favorite guys."

Emmons' play has progressed so well that he looks to be a lock for the No. 2 spot at middle linebacker behind junior Greg Trent. And if he continues at his current pace, said Doba, the Meridian High product also might have a chance for one of the outside linebacking positions. Emmons saw action in six games last season, primarily on special teams, logging three tackles.

With Scott Davis and Steve Dildine now eyeing the NFL, junior Cory Evans and sophomores Andy Mattingly and Jason Stripling are presumed the heirs apparent at OLB, with junior Alex Hamill lurking.

Now comes Emmons, whose hometown is so far off the beaten path that it's closer to Canada than Bellingham. Everson is so small it makes Cody Boyd's hometown, Ferndale -- 15 miles to the southwest -- look positively metro.

"Mattingly, Stripling, and Cory are the three guys working those outside positions," Doba said. "(But) if Emmons picks it up a lot, then we would have to move, probably Stripling in the middle, if we wanted to give Greg Trent a break."

Although Mattingly, a sophomore out of Mead High in Spokane, has continued to improve his play this spring, Stripling, a third-year sophomore coming off a shoulder injury, and Evans, a special team standout, have taken the most turns with the ones.

"I think they're really picking it up well," Doba said of the entire linebacking corps. "The first two bunches have done a good job." By bunches, he's talking about a first string of Trent, Stripling, Evans and a second unit of Emmons, Mattingly and Hamill.

Stripling's shoulder injury, which required surgery and shelved him for all of 2006, is no longer a concern Doba said. "I was worried about his shoulder holding up -- those shoulder surgeries are hard. But he went in there yesterday, laid the wood on somebody, pulled right back and made the tackle so I don't think he's worried about his shoulder -- he looked pretty good."

The same cannot be said for fifth-year senior Chris Baltzer, a middle linebacker who tore his ACL in non-practice drills last September. Doba said Baltzer's knee has not only failed to improve, but actually has gotten worse. "He was going to try to do some running and stuff, and then his knee swelled up and they found he had a stress fracture -- he tried to rehab too soon," Doba said. Despite the setback, Doba said Baltzer is expected to be healthy by the start of fall camp.

THE COUGS WENT PADLESS at Thursday's practice, focusing primarily on technique in preparation for the first scrimmage of the spring Friday at 4 pm. Consequently, the action on the field was more restrained than normal, but several players stood out.

On defense, free safety DeWayne Patterson nabbed the only interception on the afternoon, pulling in an Alex Brink pass that was bobbled by Brandon Gibson.

On the other side of the ball, Brink and fellow QBs Gary Rogers and Cole Morgan were in fine form, tossing crisp passes in both short and long scenarios.

Rogers found senior Michael Bumpus several times -- one a 20-yard rope that threaded tight coverage by corner B.T. Walker.

JC transfer tight end transfer Devin Frischknecht turned in the catch of the afternoon, diving to the ground in 11-on-11 drills to pull in a Brink pass late in the session.

NOTABLE NOTES:

* Thursday marked the first all-team field goal practices of the spring. Loren Langley and Romeen Abdollmohammadi each nailed a pair of 30-yarders.

* Absent from practice were QB Kevin Lopina, who is still recovering from a tight hamstring, and defensive tackle Aaron Johnson, who Doba said is suffering from a sore back and is expected to return soon. Both attended the practice but did not suit up.


EMMONS, left, MATTINGLY AND KREUTZ WARM UP.


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