Spring Ball Day 8: Burtnett talks safety

PULLMAN — The Cougs returned to practice Monday picking up right where Friday's scrimmage ended -- with solid offensive performances all around. Meanwhile, safeties coach Leon Burtnett was laconic when discussing who are the frontrunners for playing time at this point in the spring, saying the positions are still wide-open to any player either in camp at this point, or not.

"Well, it's just spring," Burtnett said, when asked if any particular players have stood out to him at this point in the practices. "We put the kids in a hard situation last scrimmage, because we basically set them in one (on one) coverage. They had a better practice today then they've had, and I think they're beginning to understand what we want, but we need vast improvement in that area. We can't give up big plays."

Although Burtnett said the unit has been playing the fundamentals of the position more soundly of late, the position, in which seniors Husain Abdullah and Christian Bass have been running with the first team all spring, is still an open race.

"At this point I would say everybody is still fighting," Burtnett said. "There is nobody guaranteed a job right now. And those guys coming in are going to fight, because we think we have guys coming in that can play, so that's why I tell them out here everyday: you better improve. I will play the best players, freshman, senior, it doesn't matter; the best players are going to play."

The most likely challengers to compete for starting positions appear to be senior DeWayne Patterson, sophomore Xavier Hicks and incoming transfer Terry Mixon, a two-time JC All-American out of Grossmont College in California.

IN ACTION on the field Monday, quarterback Alex Brink continued his solid spring, offering up sharp, clean passes and solid looks all afternoon.

On the receiving end of those passes was a litany of pass-grabbers, including senior Michael Bumpus, who has stood out this spring. Bumpus one-handed a Brink bomb in on-on-one drills, outstretching a covering B.T. Walker.

Also turning in nice grabs were Finas Rabb III, Charles Dillon, Benny Ward, and Brandon Gibson.

One of Ward's finer grabs came in 7-on-7 action, as he took a Brink lob 15 yards out and fought for a few more yards before being dragged to the turf by corner Markus Dawes.

On the ground game, freshman Marcus Richmond turned in big gainers on the afternoon, tearing up the turf midway through the drills, producing first downs for the offense, going for 10-plus yards.

Editor's Note: Chris Ivory was initially misidentified as also having a good day running the ball in this report. The sophomore running back has returned home to Texas to attend to family matters. Ivory intends to return to the team in the fall according to Washington State SID.

Walk-on transfer Tali Talakai (Jamestown College), a defensive back who has played primarily corner for the team so far, recorded several nice pass-break-ups on the day, including back-to-back deflections on Brink ropes to Dillon and Rabb.

Correction: OL Dan Rowlands is reportedly suffering from a hair-line fracture in his ankle, not his neck as previously reported.

Rowlands and TE Devin Frischknecht were present at the practice but did not participate. Other players absent from the action Monday included corner Ryan Kensok.

The weather for Monday's session was an mixed offering of sunshine, snow flurries and wind, with a session-ending temperature of a chilly 37 degrees. The coldness prompted many players to forego wearing their standard uniforms and instead don sweats and undershirts.

The team will practice again Tuesday at 4pm.

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