Spring Ball Day 2: The Ghost of Ty Paine

PULLMAN – Call the Ghostbusters. Ty Paine is in the house. So are Steve Grant, Samoa Samoa, Ricky Turner and Ed Blunt. OK, not literally. But the spirit of Washington State's greatest option quarterbacks was burning bright inside WSU's indoor practice facility Tuesday afternoon.

With a sudden downpour of sleet, complemented by thunder and lightning, Paul Wulff took the Cougars indoors on the second day of spring football workouts. And soon after, the quarterbacks pulled a chapter out of the Cougar playbook not seen in more than 20 years.

The option.

The no-huddle offense Wulff is introducing is known for multiple receiver sets and a good balance between passing and running.

RICKY TURNER: Optioning up a storm at 1981 Holiday Bowl.

Part of that running on Tuesday included the quarterback option.

Gary Rogers, Cole Morgan, Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael, J.T. Levenseller and Dan Wagner spent a portion of the practice running down the line with the option pitch.

Be still the hearts of Jim Sweeney and Jim Walden.

It is indeed a brand new day on the Palouse.

Rogers, the fifth-year-senior from Mukilteo, is No. 1 on the depth chart, but Wulff said it's far too early to start comparing his signal callers.

"It's so hard to tell (how things will shake out) until we truly start playing a lot more in practices and get through some scrimmages," he said. "They are all going to get better. Right now you've got to look at the three that have been here since last year in Marshall Lobbestael, Kevin Lopina and Cole Morgan. All three of those guys and Gary are going to eventually emerge here and make a lot of strides."

Rogers took the majority of first-team snaps Tuesday and seemed increasingly comfortable calling plays at the line. Morgan ran the high-paced offense for a good chunk of time as well.

OTHER POSITION BATTLES are starting to come into focus. Linebacker Jason Stripling picked up a heavier load than yesterday, alternately with Kendrick Dunn. Stripling saw plenty of action with the second team as well. Greg Trent and Cory Evans are the front runners for the other two linebacking spots.

At tight-end, Devin Frischknecht appears to be holding down the first-team spot, but Ben Woodard and Tony Thompson have seen considerable reps as well. Thompson, perhaps ideally suited for the H-back role in the no-huddle, had a pair of nice grabs working with both the first- and second-team offenses.

The competition at wideout is picking up as well. Receivers coach Mike Levenseller said after practice that he's been impressed with the play of his charges.

"Daniel Blackledge is playing really well, Brandon (Gibson) is doing the things we've expected him to do," Levenseller said. "We threw a lot at them in (the last) two days. I believe that we'll settle down the rest of the week, not add anything new, and give them a chance to right the ship a little bit. We've been throwing a lot of stuff at them, while getting them to play fast. Sometimes it's hard to play fast when you have to think about everything you're doing."

Blackledge, a sophomore-to-be, played special teams last season and turned heads in practice on the flanks. The buzz on him is that he could follow Gibson's path to stardom.

In regards to former defensive back Michael Willis' progression, Levy said, "Mike had a real good first day. Like everybody else, you come to a situation where it's system overload and now it becomes how you handle that. Mike knows that. He plays a position where you have to move a lot -- he has to be a smart football player. I'm really impressed with how he's grown up."

Benny Ward and Gibson looked solid in 11 on 11 work. The duo battled stiff coverage from DB's Markus Dawes, Chima Nwachukwu and Romeo Pellum all day but managed to haul in several throws from Rogers.

On defense, left end Jesse Feagin had a nice day, wreaking havoc in the backfield on a handful of plays. With a few more performances like that, he could give Kevin Kooyman a run for his money on the left side. For now Kooyman, A'i Ahmu, Matt Eichelberger and Andy Mattingly still figure to make up the Cougars' starting defensive front.

* Footwork and technique has been a big point of emphasis at all positions through two days of practices. The first half of Tuesday's work out was almost exclusively focused on technique, while the second half was devoted to implementing the new schemes.

* With starting running back Dwight Tardy recovering from the knee injury sustained against UCLA last season and Chris Ivory practicing part-time in order to get his grades up, youngsters Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond find themselves in prime time in the backfield. "Both those guys are young players and we need them desperately to improve. The nice thing is they are going to get the opportunity because they are going to get a lot of repetitions with Chris Ivory and Tardy out. In the big picture it really helps our football team that they are playing a lot right now," said Wulff.

* Reid Forrest, who became the Cougars' starting punter mid-way through last season after Darryl Blunt landed in the dog house, appears to have the job wrapped up for 2008. Field goals looked to be handled by Wade Penner, the Pride of Corvallis who handled kickoff duties last season. He's being challenged by several walk ons – and another one, whose name hasn't been disclosed yet by WSU, is expected to challenge in the fall.

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