Cougar injury list, travel squad taking shape

PULLMAN -- One day after making his long-awaited practice debut, touted JC transfer safety Terry Mixon was back on the sidelines Thursday. Most of the news on the injury front was of the positive variety, though. Meanwhile, the first moves toward building the 65-man travel squad were taken and a surprising number of true freshmen are still in the hunt.

Senior cornerback Markus Dawes was back in pads Thursday, wearing yellow no-contract jersey as he hopes to crack the starting lineup following recovery from a shoulder sprain. In addition, true freshman wide receiver Daniel Blackledge (hamstring) -- one of the youngsters who may make the travel squad -- was back in action.

And senior defensive tackle Aaron Johnson returned to the field for the first time since last Saturday's scrimmage. He wasted no time getting into the mix, swatting down an Alex Brink pass. Ropati Pitoitua, lining up at defensive end, also got his big paws on a pass, knocking down a Cole Morgan attempt.

As for Mixon, the JC All-American, he returned to street clothes Thursday after participating in full pads Wednesday. He came to camp overweight after he broke his foot during the summer, and then suffered a hamstring injury early in camp. No word yet on his outlook.

Freshman cornerback Chima Nwachukwu was also on the sidelines. His position coach, David Walkosky, said he is not seriously injured, and will be back on the field soon. Senior Ryan Kensok took over at the No. 1 cornerback position.

Nwachukwu has been in the starting lineup at cornerback opposite junior Devin Giles. The two are the starters right now, unless something changes that.

"The starters are the starters you see out there," Walkosky said. "The ones are the ones, the twos are the twos. That doesn't mean they're going to start on Saturday, but that's who they are right now."

"Chima and Giles are the ones out there, [the] two young guys, and they're the ones right now."

Walkosky made it clear, however, that anything can happen.

"Whoever is the best guy come game time will be the starter," Walkosky said.

Xavier Hicks saw more time with the No. 1 defense at the safety position with Alfonso Jackson still out with a concussion. Hicks' fellow safety, Husain Abdullah (shoulder), still dons a yellow no-contact jersey.

With long snapper Tony Thompson out with a sprained knee, Zach Enyeart and Jed Collins have alternated as the team's long snapper. Today, it was Collins who was with the special teams first unit, snapping to junior punter Darryl Blunt.

Offensively, the Cougs' receivers appear to be set, with the top three projected to be Michael Bumpus, Charles Dillon and Brandon Gibson, who is still out nursing a sore knee. Head coach Bill Doba hopes Gibson will be back before the end of this week.

Behind the top three receivers are junior Benny Ward, true freshman Jeshua Anderson, senior Finas Rabb and second-year freshman Keith Rosenberg.

OF THE COUGARS' true freshmen, Anderson and Nwachukwu are locks for the travel squad. But a number of their classmates were wearing crimson helmets Thursday -- crimson headgear being the sign of those in line to travel. The squad is limited to 65 players and more than 65 were wearing crimson Thursday, so more trimming will be done as the Sept. 1 opener nears. But so far, the number of true freshman still in the running is notable. Among those we spotted were RB Logwone Mitz, OL Andrew Roxas, LB Marshal Pirtz, LB Hallston Higgins, safety Deon Ford, DT B.J. Guerra, placekicker Wade Penner and receiver Daniel Blackledge.

One notable hoss wearing the travel helmet was offensive lineman Nick Cantlon, a fourth-year junior from Spokane who turned down Big Sky Conference scholarship offers to walk on at WSU.


* Charles Dillon made a nice leaping grab of a Gary Rogers pass and then raced up the sidelines in a simulated scrimmage.

* Brink hooked up with Michael Bumpus a number of times during the afternoon, perhaps a preview of what will come this season.

* Higgins showed impressive speed when he ran down running back Dwight Tardy in red-zone drills. Higgins raced over to stop Tardy, who thought he had a clear shot to the corner of the end zone. Tardy later ended practice early and iced a sore jaw that was aching from a root canal earlier in the day.

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