Cougs' RB and hoss depth pretty well set

PULLMAN -- Dwight Tardy was on ice Friday nursing a root canal, but the words of running backs coach Steve Broussard were sure to put a smile on his face. Going back to spring workouts, Broussard said, Tardy "has been the most consistent" back in the Cougs' arsenal. The rest of the unit, he added, will need to step it up to cut into Tardy's playing time.

Tardy, a 5-11, 212-pound third-year sophomore from Santa Fe Springs, Calif., was the Cougars' leading rusher last season with 667 yards. While he lacks top-end speed and the extra gear that Ivory possess, he compensates with a hard-nosed style of play.

Overall, said Broussard, he likes what he has seen over the last few weeks from Tardy and fellow RBs Chris Ivory, Kevin McCall, Marcus Richmond and Logwone Mitz.

"I think our energy was good," Broussard said of running back play in scrimmages and practices. "Ball security, I think, was the main [concern]. We had the ball on the ground one too many times so I think we need to clean that up, and I'm gonna continue to stress that and make them conscious of it."

Ivory, a 5-11, 228-pound second-year sophomore from Longview, Texas, is the No. 2 back, Broussard said. "I'm looking for (Ivory) ... to contribute in the run and pass game ... I'm looking for some good things to come from him," he said.

McCall, a fifth-year senior from Carson, Calif., gives the Cougs veteran depth, while Richmond, a second-year freshman, and Mitz, a true freshman, are raw talents who figure to see time on special teams. McCall, who had an outstanding practice Friday, was the Cougars' leading rusher in the three August scrimmages, collecting 99 yards on 16 carries. Mitz, a Redmond product whose father Alonzo is a former Seattle Seahawk, was the second-leading rusher with 68 yards on 19 carries.

The Cougars' running back depth was forecast over the winter to be a team strength, but two major blows were suffered in the spring with the academic losses of DeMaundray Woolridge, the starter in last year's season opener, and Derrell Hutsona. In addition, second-year freshman Skylar Jessen has been out with hamstring problems for much of the past year, while fourth-year junior Ian Bell (ankle) of Woodland Hills, Calif., returned to the field this week for the first time since spring.

THE HOSSES UP FRONT blocking for those backs appear pretty well set as the Sept. 1 season opener at No. 7 Wisconsin looms. The starting five will be junior JC transfer Vaughn Lesuma at left tackle, fifth-year senior Bobby Byrd at left guard, sophomore Kenny Alfred at center, fourth-year junior Dan Rowlands at right guard and second-year freshman Micah Hannam at right tackle. Rowlands was back in pads Friday after sitting out much of the week due to a foot sprain.

The second-unit offensive line goes like this: second-year freshman Joe Eppele at left tackle, second-year freshman Brian Danaher at left guard, sophomore Chris Prummer at center, true freshman Andrew Roxas at right guard and sophomore JC transfer Reed Lesuma at right tackle. Fourth-year junior Nick Cantlon also figures in the mix as a guard.

Three of those backups -- Danaher, Prummer and Cantlon -- are walks on.

HEAD COACH BILL DOBA spent time Friday eyeing his kickers. Romeen Abdollmohammadi and freshman walk-on Wade Penner consistently split the uprights. Abdollmohammadi is the No. 1 kicker, and Penner is donning a crimson helmet, a sign that he would travel with the team. But Loren Langley, the starter for three years before losing the job to Abdollmohammadi at the end of last season, just returned to the field Thursday after going down with a quad injury.

NOTABLE NOTES:

* Tight end Devin Frischknecht showed off his nice hands Friday, reeling in a number of passes, some over the middle.

* Senior linebacker Chris Baltzer, battling injuries for much of the last year, returned to the second team on Friday.

* Safety Husain Abdullah, who returned from the injury list Wednesday, capped a solid three days of workouts with a nifty break up of a pass intended for Michael Bumpus from Alex Brink. Abdullah is the only returning starter in the secondary.

ALUMNI UPDATE:

Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 performer for the Cougs last season, is nursing a triceps injury but has made a strong bid in Kansas City not only for a roster spot but perhaps as the extra DB in the Chiefs' nickel defense. KC head coach Herm Edwards said a week ago that he likes the free agent a lot. "He asks great questions. He's a student of the game. He learns the game quickly. He's very organized as far as his preparation. He's coachable. He's a tough guy," he told the Kansas City Star.


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