Adjustments, injury returns and the pistol

PULLMAN -- A position tweak on D, expected following Bill Doba's Monday presser, was evident Tuesday on the practice field as the Cougs directed all their attention towards San Diego State and Saturday's tilt at Qwest Field. Some welcome returns to full contact were seen, including an expected key contributor who buckled the chinstrap and got some turns with the 1s, plus a long-missed starter.

Safety Terry Mixon, who missed most of fall camp and the first in-season practice with a hamstring strain, was back in action on Tuesday.

Mixon suited up in full pads and even got in with the No. 1 defense during one set of drills. The 6-2, 231-pounder did leave practice towards the end of the session for unknown reasons, though he did not appear to be obviously injured.

It would probably be unexpected to see Mixon start Saturday regardless -- he's had precious little practice time since his arrival and just as importantly, Doba has also been pleased with Alfonso Jackson 's play. At the same time, the Cougs would certainly like to see the two-time junior college All-American get some meaningful game reps as soon as makes sense.

Senior Ropati Pitoitua moved back to his defensive tackle position as junior Mike Graise lined up at defensive end with the No. 1 defense.

Another starting senior in DE Lance Broadus, the starter who has been out with a shoulder injury this fall, was in full pads and participated with the No. 1 defense as well.

If the Cougs go to more of a standard defensive font, Pitoitua fellow senior Aaron Johnson and junior Fevaea'i Ahmu will most likely rotate among the two interior tackle positions. Broadus' status remains doubtful for this weekend, but he is expected to be ready to play against Idaho the following week.

THE COUGS ALSO got a pair of young receivers back from injury on Tuesday. Freshmen Daniel Blackledge (hamstring strain) and Anthony Houston (wrist surgery/hamstring strain) each returned to the field in full contact jerseys.

Both provide even more depth to a position already proving to be important to the Cougs' season. The only receiver left on the injury list is Keith Rosenberg.

SPECIAL TEAMS gave fans a few groans on Saturday as the Cougars lost the field position battle against the Badgers and had their first punt blocked. Darryl Blunt ran the ball for a first down after the ball bounced right to him.

Special teams coach Dave Walkosky opened Tuesday's practice with a high-volume, high energy punt coverage drill. The Cougs, as viewers noted Saturday, are this season fielding an unusual punt formation with four gunners on the outside. A center flanked by two guards is all the team sports in the trenches, with Jed Collins lining up directly behind the right guard.

Defensemen-by-trade Ropati Pitoitua and Aaron Johnson provide support in front of Blunt, who, after booming his first kick of the day on Tuesday, heard praises from Doba saying, "Awesome punt!"

THE OFFENSIVE LINE was a concern among many Cougar Faithful headed into Wisconsin but after their play last Saturday, those concerns may have leveled off. Senior Bobby Byrd had always been optimistic despite going into the season with two new tackles.

"Everybody said they were gonna be a weakness, but from day one I knew it wasn't gonna happen," Byrd said. "Coach Yarno, he gets us well-prepared and I had no doubt that they could do it."

HEADING INTO THIS weekend's showdown in Seattle with San Diego Sate, the Cougs go against a rebuilding defense.

"They're only returning four guys but their schemes are good. They're tough, they come after you," Byrd said.

The Aztecs did not play last week, so WSU does not have current tape of the team. Doba said Monday the Aztecs might throw a lot of different offenses on the field.

  • Alex Brink talked prior to practice Tuesday about the Cougs' newest offensive look, one he estimated they used more than half a dozen times at Wisconsin. Washington State has Brink in the traditional spot under center, in the shotgun and new this season is a pistol formation, where the QB is closer to the center snap --about four yards back -- than in the shotgun. "I think what really helped us was we did all three, we were underneath center, we ran shotgun, we ran pistol. And if we can run all out plays and do it the same out of any of the three, that's the biggest advantage.

  • Fans also noticed nary a snap problem for the Cougs on Saturday, something not always the case last season. "In the offseason, we practiced snaps every day and in talking to Kenny Alfred () about it, he told me 'I just feel a lot more comfortable in there,' and he can make his calls. It's harder than you think...I can tell the difference, things are a lot more consistent, the ball's coming straight up and when he's pulling, the ball's still coming straight up."

  • Backup punter Reid Forrest has punted well the entire fall and looks to be the team's punter of the future. Starting punter Darryl Blunt is in his junior season. Forrest is a freshman.

  • Cougfan Top Stories