Spring Ball Day 9: RB at home, Gibson stars

PULLMAN — The offensive and defensive units traded punches, figuratively, on Tuesday, but the biggest story out of Pullman was the departure of one of the running backs. The loss leaves an already thin group that much more depleted -- only three scholarship RBs suited up on Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, on the field, Brandon Gibson put on a show, while Tony Thompson and Greg Trent laid some hat.

Chris Ivory has left the team for the remainder of spring workouts to be with his family in Texas. His mother is ill and in the hospital.

Head coach Bill Doba said he expects the sophomore to return this summer, which would make him eligible to participate in fall camp.

"He has a family issue at home," Doba said, following Tuesday's session. "(But) we expect to see him back for summer school, hopefully."

The loss is especially disheartening considering the solid play Ivory had exhibited thus far in the practices, including 60 yards on only 8 carries in Friday's scrimmage.

The exit left only three scholarship running backs on the field Tuesday -- sophomore starter Dwight Tardy, senior Kevin McCall, and freshman Marcus Richmond. Present in camp but nursing a hamstring injury is junior Ian Bell. Bell was present at practice Tuesday, but did not suit up and spent the majority of the session running along the sidelines. Redshirt freshman Skylar Jessen was not at practice Tuesday, although he has participated this spring.

One back who was expected to compete heavily for playing time this spring was Derrell Hutsona, but the fleet-footed back is not competing in order to bring his grades up.

Back in January, the Cougars lost DeMaundray Woolridge, their starting back at the beginning of the 2006 season, to academics. He's now attending community college classes in the hopes of being readmitted to WSU in the fall.

In other news related to the unit, runnng backs coach Steve Broussard has yet to return to practice after leaving Pullman over a week ago to attend to his ailing mother in California. Broussard is expected back Wednesday. Graduate assistant Pete Sterbick has worked out with the unit in his absence.

IN ACTION ON the field Tuesday, the offensive and defensive units both looked like they came prepared.

After stretching and running through some series of unit-position drills, the quarterback and receiving unit went against members of the secondary in unit-on-unit action.

The first knock of the day actually belonged to the offense, as tight end Tony Thompson paired up with wide receiver Finas Rabb to lay a textbook block on linebacker Cory Evans. The hit opened a hole for WR Keith Rosenberg, and left Evans on the turf and without a helmet.

In QB-to-receiver drills, Gary Rogers sent a perfect ball deep just over the head of a covering Jason Walters and into the hands of junior WR Matt Sledge.

It wasn't all offense on the day, however, as LB Greg Trent collided with Richmond on a carry in 11-on-11 drills that sent the running back to the ground.

Following an Evans pass-break-up on an Alex Brink rope to TE Ben Woodard, Rogers once again went deep, this time finding WR Brandon Gibson 50 yards for a diving grab into the end zone. The play was at the expense of a covering B.T. Walker, who was right there but simply got beat by the speedy Gibson.

The defense didn't let the play rattle them. Trent once again was involved on a play in a big way, breaking up and almost picking off a Cole Morgan pass just a few series later.

Also turning in strong performances were members of the defensive line, who forced several quarterback hurries and recorded three "sacks" in the drill.

Despite the litany of commendable performances, the play of the day unequivocally belonged to Gibson and it wasn't his diving grab into the end zone. Gibson took a short pass from Rogers 5 yards out and then completely juked the last line of defense in Brian Williams and took the pigskin to paydirt.

Doba said offensive lineman Dan Rowlands (ankle) and Derek Hunter (second-degree MCL) will likely miss the rest of spring as well for precautionary reasons. Despite the predicted absences, Doba said neither injury appears to be too severe.

Also missing practice Tuesday was WR Charles Dillon, who Doba said is suffering from a light concussion and should return soon, dependant on clearance from the team doctors.

The team will take tomorrow off before suiting up again Thursday.

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