WSU spring practice: news, notes & quotes

THE COUGS WILL get some much needed running back help back in the crimson fold next month. Meanwhile, Bill Doba named on Tuesday who he expects to be the team's starting kicker against Wisconsin, details about coach Leon Burtnett's NFL study session, the defensive playbook is about to add a few pages to it and where Doba thinks the Cougs are this spring as compared to last, plus much more.

Cougar running back Chris Ivory has registered for the summer school session at Washington State and will return to Pullman on or around May 5, according to parent Kenny Gilliand. The sophomore was putting together a torrid spring when he returned home to Texas to be with his ailing mother, whose health has since improved, Gilliand told

Doba said he expected the decision this spring on naming a starting kicker to be cut and dried but it hasn't turned out that way. Nevertheless, he said he expects Romeen Abdollmohammadi, who took over the kicking chores last year when Loren Langley struggled, to be the starter against Wisconsin.

Both kickers have only one or two misses in the Cougars' scrimmages but Doba said unless Abdollmohammadi were to suddenly go south in a big way the last week or spring and/or fall camp, he'll be the starter against Wisconsin.

"We'll take them both and see who's kicking that day I guess but right now, Romeen won the job and hasn't done anything to lose it...I thought they'd make the decision for me but they haven't just yet, but again, I think the decision we'll have to go with is Romeen. He's been a guy who has kicked under pressure, he's never missed a kick in a ball game, so that has to be taken into consideration."

As far as leg strength, Doba said Langley looks to have more oomph on field goals, while Abdollmohammadi has the edge on kickoffs, which have taken on added importance this year with kicks being moved 5 yards back. "Both of them are kicking really well," said Doba.

DOBA SAID the Cougs are ahead of where they were last spring, particularly on one side of the ball.

"I think we're a little bit ahead. I think offensively, we're definitely ahead," he said.

Among the reasons for Doba's optimism, Alex Brink has been solid and Gary Rogers has shown improvement, combined with at least three receivers who can have success. If teams loads up on Michael Bumpus, said Doba, Brandon Gibson can make big plays and vice-versa. And Charles Dillon, who has missed time this spring with a mild concussion, is also a guy who can turn in a big game, said Doba.

"One of those two guys (Bumpus or Gibson) should get free and make a lot of catches...Who we throw to will kind of depend on what they do," said Doba.

As Doba alluded to earlier, there will not be a traditional Crimson and Gray game. The final session of the spring will be a scrimmage, with maybe an extra 4 or 2 minute drill.

CAUTION IS THE WATCHWORD when it comes to the offensive line as spring winds down. Doba said they're trying to rest the hosses, with the Cougs a little short due to injury. Those who have been held out of contact with a variety of bumps and bruises are Jacob McKinney, Joe Eppele, Vaughan Lesuma and Derek Hunter. Dan Rowlands and Micah Hannam are both now back from injury.

In the secondary, the cornerback position is the biggest concern.

"We're only as good as our secondary," said Doba.

Brian Williams had a bruised tailbone and a class conflict so Doba hasn't seen him as much this spring as he would have liked.

"Some of the things I saw from him last year I really liked. But he needs to get better," said Doba of Williams, who started in place of Don Turner when DT was injured last season. B.T. Walker and Markus Dawes "are strong" but also need to work on their reads and keys, for example, they might have their eyes in the backfield at times when they should be on the receiver, said Doba.

Ryan Kensok makes plays, but he also gambles, said Doba, and would benefit by being little bit more disciplined and work within the scheme. "Maybe that's why he makes plays, but if you're right half the time, that's not good enough," Doba said.

THE COUGS PLAYED very little man coverage last year, and although Doba would like to play more, he said you have to go with what you're best suited to play. Doba said when they had great corners, they ran cover-4 and maybe only ran cover-2 once all year, the Cougs played one-free and they blitzed, although he hastened to add that since then, offenses have further evolved and he doesn't think that same group could do that again today against today's offensive teams.

To that end, coach Burtnett visited four different pro teams this winter and returned with a lot of zone concepts. This week the Cougs will be looking at some of the different blitz packages and zone pressures and will see how the defense, and the corners, hold up. To this point, the Cougs have not put in a whole lot of the defensive package, and they'll hold a lot of it out until fall camp when the new recruits arrive. But there will be some wrinkles added this week.

AT SAFETY, Doba reiterated Husain Abdullah has had a good spring, Christian Bass has gotten better, and Xavier Hicks has gotten "a lot" better. Cornorris Atkins has work to do, and while Doba said he thought he would be a little further along that he is right now, he also noted he is a true freshman.

The safety and corner positions are expected to receive an infusion of talent this fall when a number of future Cougars arrive in Pullman to begin their WSU careers. Some of those Doba mentioned who could help immediately include Terry Mixon, Chima Nwachukwu, Devin Giles and Romeo Pellum. THE LINEBACKERS, whom Doba took over as position coach this spring in addition to his new duties as defensive coordinator, continue to play well this spring, although Doba noted; "We lost two great ones, I think, in (Scott) Davis and (Steve) Dildine...but I think we're going to be okay."

Greg Trent has become much more of a leader and a vocal leader, and has drawn frequent praise from Doba for his play this spring. Cory Evans has assumed a leadership role as well.

Andy Mattingly had a good practice Monday, Jason Stripling continues to show no ill effects from his shoulder rehab and has "gotten better", as has Alex Hamill, who has made "much fewer mistakes. He probably lacks a little bit of that quickness...but part of that comes from knowing what you're doing and being confident in your assignments, and with repetitions he'll get quicker. He still plays high, and needs to get those pads down," said Doba.

Matt Eichelberger, Kevin Kooyman and Lance Broadus are three on defense who have really stood out to Doba on defense as far as those who have made "great strides". On offense, Doba mentioned Kenny Alfred, Dan Rowlands and Gary Rogers as those who continue to improve, and also both of the kickers.

Incoming Cougar Deon Ford has a little bit of work to do academically, Alexander has a lot of work to do academically. Doba said they might take a look at another JC linebacker "if there's one running around out there," and he noted that the Cougs had found corner Greg Burns in May.

CF.C Senior Editor Barry Bolton contributed to this report.

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