Spring Ball Day 3: Full Contact

PULLMAN--The Cougs donned full pads for the first time on Thursday and for the most part, the offense ruled the day. Gary Rogers looked very much at home in the new, fast-paced offense and Daniel Blackledge turned in the catch of the young spring. Meanwhile, on defense, Markus Dawes looks hell bent on making up for lost time -- watching him do battle with Brandon Gibson has been a treat.

The Cougar offense looked very impressive on the day.

Gary Rogers was in near perfect sync with his wide-outs during team pass especially senior Benny Ward, originally out of Birmingham High in Pacoima, Calif. Ward was forced to fight through stiff coverage from CB Chima Nwachukwu on the day, but still managed to make a handful of catches including a touchdown.

ON THE OTHER side of the field, the matchup of Brandon Gibson and Markus Dawes has been something to watch this week as both have been battling play in and play out. Most everyone knows what Gibson is capable of which speaks volumes as to just how well Dawes has been playing.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ball has been impressed with the play of the defensive backfield.

"We got seven or eight guys that are really competing for a spot, so we got a chance to be alright," Ball said with a confident grin when asked who besides Markus Dawes and Chima Nwachukwu has impressed him. "Walk-on Easton Johnson is doing really well, Alfonso Jackson is doing really well, Eric Block is doing really well and so has Romeo Pellum," Ball added.

ROGERS' FELLOW SIGNAL CALLERS Cole Morgan, Marshall Lobbestael, and Kevin Lopina all got in work running the offense and ran it well. The play of the day -- and of the young spring so far -- came late in practice as sophomore Daniel Blackledge out of Colorado Springs made a breathtaking, diving grab in the end-zone on a long bomb from Lobbestael, while being blanketed by a defender.

Freshman running back Logwone Mitz out of Redmond High also turned in a nifty run, breaking a tackle in the backfield before outracing the defense on a long touchdown run. Sophomore Marcus Richmond had three big gains of his own; two runs and a swing pass which he turned into a huge gain. All of the big plays from Mitz and Richmond came with senior offensive lineman Dan Rowlands leading the way.

WHILE THE OFFENSE ruled the roost on the day, there were some bright spots on defense -- the d-line broke through and disrupted several plays in the backfield. Defensive tackles Matt Eichelberger and A'i Ahmu continued to shine brightest up front, while newly moved DT Andy Roof pressured the Cougar quarterbacks on several occasions during team drills.

DE Andy Mattingly out of Mead High School in Spokane flashed his speed, beating the offense to the edge on a pair of runs.

BACKUP AND WALK-ON QB Dan Wagner out of Jesuit High in Portland worked on punting early in practice and wore a kicker's shoe throughout practice.

Wide receiver Keith Rosenberg out of Bellevue appeared to tweak something midway through practice. No word was immediately available on the injury or severity.

AS REPORTED by CF.C earlier this week, Markus Dawes has been awarded the medical redshirt he has been seeking, and he plans to pursue his second degree as well. The first was in Psychology, his second will be Sociology. Dawes said remaining resilient through his injury riddled career has been a necessity. As he sees it, "when people doubt, it gives you motivation."

Dawes has lofty goals indeed for the upcoming season, including "trying to get first-team all-America and all-Pac-10 honors" along with fulfilling the goals of the Cougar defense of "playing as a team and making plays."

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