New starters, injuries and a suspension

PULLMAN -- The Cougs ended the first practice of the week less one special teamer, as punter Darryl Blunt has been suspended indefintely for "conduct detrimental." Injury claimed a defensive end. Plus, there's a change in the defensive tackle rotation, says line coach Mike Walker. And all that doesn't cover the half of it.

Blunt, who lost his starting punting job at USC, was suspended on Tuesday, said head coach Bill Doba.

"He has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team," said Doba, who did not specify the conduct.

Reid Forrest replaced Blunt against USC after a mishandled snap. An LA newspaper also reported prior to the game that Blunt had jawed with USC players on the field before the game for the second straight year. The following week against Arizona, this past Saturday, Forrest remained the starter with Michael Bumpus also coming in and lining up as the punter.

Doba said on Monday that Forrest was, "doing a nice job. I'd say he's the guy," but was less committal on Tuesday morning (before Blunt had been suspended) on who would handle the punting duties, and it was clear Bumpus figured in the mix. Bumpus' punt attempt last week was designed as a rollout punt-run option -- think rugby style -- but was foiled by a high snap, with starting long snapper Tony Thompson out with a hamstring strain.

"Bumpus can punt," said Doba on Tuesday morning before Blunt was suspended. "He's punted before, he's played soccer and he can takes a little pressure off the protection, it takes a little pressure off the (snapper)."

A CHANGE ON THE D-LINE is in the offing at defensive tackle, said Walker, as the Cougs gave up 221 rushing yards to an Arizona team that usually relies on the pass last week. Fevaea'i (A'i) Ahmu gets the start opposite Ropati Pitoitua, with Aaron Johnson rotating in.

"We're going to try A'i and Ropati, and A.J.'s going to be our rotator guy," said Walker. "So those are my main three right now. A'i's been playing really well."

Walker said backup tackle Matt Eichelberger will see a doctor concerning his sprained knee on Wednesday. His return timetable is unknown as of right now, but more could be known later this week.

The Cougar defensive line also features a young tackle in Toby Turpin, whom Walker praised as a future star.

"He needs to get about 20 pounds on him," Walker said. "As soon as he does, he's going to be a great player."

Walker said Turpin shows great technique and has good mechanics as well.

B.J. Guerra, a true freshman, remains on "red alert" status if anything were to happen to the veteran tackles.

"He's the future," Walker said. "He's going to be good in the future. He's got the body we want."

SIGNIFICANT INJURIES STRUCK the Cougar starters for the first time this year last week as the defense lost safety Alfonso Jackson (concussion, stinger) and linebacker Ken Dunn (hamstring) during the Arizona loss. Both are considered doubtful for ASU and Tuesday, the injuries kept mounting.

Leaving practice early was sophomore defensive end Kevin Kooyman, who sustained a nasty finger injury. It appeared to be a dislocation that went through the skin—much like Mike Graise's injury a couple weeks ago—as a trainer called for help.

Eric Block, a freshman safety out of Bellevue was a player who was going to get a long look this week in practice and who looked like he could make a run at playing time. Alas, Block went down early in practice and left with an apparent ankle injury.

As Doba said would happen earlier in the week, sophomore Xavier Hicks and senior Christian Bass worked out with the No. 1 defense. Cornerback Romeo Pellum, who is coming off a neck injury, worked with the No. 2 defense.

At Dunn's weakside 'backer spot, sophomore Andy Mattingly steps into the breach and gets the start Saturday. Backing up the linebacker corps are Brady Emmons, Hallston Higgins, Chris Baltzer (who did not practice on Tuesday) and Marshal Pirtz, who remains on "red alert."

  • Sitting out Tuesday's practice was starting wide receiver Charles Dillon (shoulder) although indications are he'll play Saturday -- Doba did not mention him Monday or Tuesday as a player whose injury might keep him out. Also on the Tuesday no-practice list was offensive lineman Steven Ayers (shoulder).

  • Quarterback Kevin Lopina, who missed most of fall camp with a torn leg muscle, practiced the entire session in full pads.

  • Freshman hoss Kevin Freitag, who missed all of fall camp and had surgery on his injured knee, took to the field in full pads. Freitag spent his time with the scout team offensive line.

  • Saturday's game will be the second game for the Cougs at Martin Stadium, and the second game for ASU on the road.

    Tuesday's WSU Medical Report:
    OCT. 2: Out Indefinitely – Matt Eichelberger (MCL sprain), Alex Hamill (foot sprain), Skylar Jessen (hamstring strain), Grady Maxwell (knee sprain).
    No Practice – Steven Ayers (shoulder sprain), Chris Baltzer (shoulder nerve contusion), Charles Dillon (shoulder A-C sprain), Kendrick Dunn (hamstring strain), Alfonso Jackson (concussion/neck nerve contusion), Keith Rosenberg (knee sprain), Tony Thompson (knee sprain, hamstring strain).
    Limited – Kevin Lopina (torn calf muscle).

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