SPRING BALL: First week wraps with noise on D

PULLMAN--The Cougs for the first time this year did some light scrimmaging in Martin Stadium on Friday and the defense showed improvement from Thursday. Jason Stripling is making a case to break into the starting linebackers unit, and Jody Sears offers some high praise indeed for middle 'backer Greg Trent. Meanwhile, Rogers to Gibson, Rogers to Ward, oh my.

In pads for just the second time this spring, things got a lot more physical on Friday.

DT Fevaea'i Ahmu, DE Andy Mattingly, and DT Matt Eichelberger each were shaken up a little over the course of the session, but none of the knocks appeared to be anything serious.

After a phenomenal Thursday, the offense seemed a little overwhelmed as they tried more running plays then they had all week.

The defense showed improvement and especially in the depth, on the second and third team units, as safety Eric Block out of Bellevue continued to draw notice this camp with a pair of nice run stops and by intercepting a Marshall Lobbestael pass.

Back-up linebacker Andrew Kreutz had a sack and nice run stuff. And defensive end Jesse Feagin continued finding his way into the offensive backfield, registering a sack and pressuring the Cougar quarterbacks on several occasions.

ON THE OFFENSIVE of the ball, receivers Brandon Gibson and Benny Ward continued to impress -- and QB Gary Rogers really seems to be gelling with "B-Gib" and "B-Weezy" right out of the gate.

Both veteran wideouts hauled in a several deep grabs on the day, including an over-the-shoulder grab by Gibson while tip-toeing down the sideline.

Back-up quarterbacks Lobbestael and Cole Morgan both had their moments and it will be interesting to see how they progress as spring rolls along. Morgan on Friday found redshirt sophomore receiver Greg Walker deep downfield on a pass Walker was forced to make a stellar diving catch on.

Along with Walker's circus grab, running back Marcus Richmond reeled off a play for the highlight reel as well, breaking a tackle en-route to a 80 dash for pay-dirt. It's tough to say right now whether Richmond and fellow RB Logwone Mitz are blazing fast, or if the defense has yet to hit their full stride. Richmond and Mitz are getting more turns this spring with Tardy rehabbing his knee and Chris Ivory a day-by-day decision on whether he practices as he concentrates on his academics.

CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, Cougar alum and corners coach Jody Sears said the defense has come along nicely the first week.

"The defense from Monday to now has made steady progress. They are very, very eager. They are honing into the coaches and what we are trying to teach. (Overall I'm) pleased with the progress the defense has been making," said Sears.

TOP OF THE charts according to Sears, has been the linebackers group, namely Greg Trent.

"Greg Trent is just a phenomenal football player. He's physical and has exceeded all my expectations," Sears said, who added that he's been impressed with the starting outside linebackers from last season -- Cory Evans and Kendrick Dunn.

As for Jason Stripling, who returned this season after missing '07 working on his academics, Sears said he's turning heads.

"Jason Stripling has kind of wiggled his way into the mix a bit," said Sears.

There are a lot of things that will still need to happen between now and the season opener but all things being equal, Strip would figure to have a shot at cracking the starting line-up this fall from this vantage point.

ANOTHER STORYLINE ON FRIDAY was special teams, as the kickers got to strut their stuff for the first time all spring.

While the team didn't punt during the scrimmage, Reid Forrest and Dan Wagner, who originally walked on as a QB, worked with their snappers for a period. Both seem to have pretty good legs, but would appear to need a little work on consistency.

The kickers got to show their stuff in front of the team for the first time, and also with mixed results.

Wade Penner, red shirt frosh Matt Myers and walk-on Dan Rooney were perfect from 25 yards and in during the practice session. During the scrimmaging, however, the trio struggled with the deeper kicks.

Right now, it would seem they need a few more reps with holder Reid Forrest, who struggled at times with getting the snap down. Roof, charging up the middle on one play, blocked a low kick off the foot of Myers.

All told, through one week of spring ball, the Cougars are showing lots of potential and flashes, but there's also plenty of work that needs to be done.

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