For all of week one, Chima Nwachukwu and Markus Dawes played corner with the first team defense while Xavier Hicks and Alfonso Jackson held down the top spots at safety.
During Monday's workout, Nwachukwu, a starting corner all last season, and Jackson, a starting safety last season, traded position. The move, at this stage, is more experimental than permanent. "We're just trying to see if Alfonso can play corner and if Chima can play safety," explained WSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball. The staff, he said, is "trying to get the best 11 out there and put them in the position where they can help the football team." The coaches want to look at film before making any final decisions.
Fundamentals were the emphasis of the early portion of practice. The
offense was drilled on holding onto the football while the defense
practiced stripping and covering fumbles.
The quarterbacks again worked on
footwork and agility, which has been a theme so far this spring. Senior Gary Rogers, who stands 6-5 and weighs 245 pounds, has looked surprisingly nimble.
Offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy has been impressed with Rogers, who fired for two TDs Monday, hitting receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end TE Devin Frischknecht.
"He's doing some great things and we have really been happy with the way he
is progressing" Sturdy said after practice. Of the no-huddle offense the Cougs will deploy this season, Sturdy said, "ideally we want to be a balanced offense.
We want to be able to run the ball and throw it. We're still finding a lot
out about ourselves as far as personnel goes."
The back-up quarterback job is still one of those personnel issues to be
determined. Kevin Lopina, Cole Morgan and Marshall Lobbestael appear to be neck-and-
neck behind Rogers Lopina fired a TD pass Monday to junior receiver Reid McEllrath.
More depth emerged at running back as junior Jace Perry out of Camas found
pay-dirt on nice run.
Monday marked the first time this spring the punt teams were in action. Sophomore
punters Reid Forrest of Ephrata and freshman Dan Wagner of Portland punted a few
times each. Wagner is also a lefty quarterback who wears his kicking shoe
The first three players to return punts were receiver Daniel Blackledge, freshman defensive back Tyrone Justin and Gibson.
The field goal unit got its second set of reps this spring. Wade Penner,
Matt Myers and Patrick Rooney each got a chance to boot.
Rooney just joined the team on Friday and looks to compete for the starting
job. None of the three have been particularly impressive but the
competition should be good for all of them. For the second
time in just two practices, the defensive field goal team blocked a
On defense, linebacker Greg Trent said he is happy with the way the LB unit is
shaping up. "We're going to be looking great. We
got some strong guys coming back, some experienced guys coming back…and
we're getting coached real well," he said. The linebacker spot looks to be one of
the strengths of the team at this point. Along with Trent, the Cougs return veterans Cory Evans, Kendrick Dunn, and Jason Stripling. Stripling didn't suit up Monday and there was no word at practice's end on his status
Running back Chris Ivory practiced for just the second time this spring.
Ivory has been focusing on academics and getting his grades up.
Defensive tackle Matt Eichelberger was on the sidelines without pads
nursing a hit he took in Friday's scrimmage. Sophomore Toby Turpin out of
Los Alamitos, Calif. took Eichelberger's place with the first team. Turpin
is imposing to say the least, having bulked his 6-6 frame up to 268 pounds. The first string d-line looks to be more up in the air as spring rolls along. Besides Turpin,
back-ups such as Jesse Feagin at DE and Andy Roof at DT could be in line for PT if they continue progressing at their current rate.
A bright spot on Monday came in the form of team unity. Toward the end of drills the defensive unit was hootin', hollerin' and generally getting into the competition. After practice, the
team gathered round as the linemen tried to field punts from the Jugs machine.
The o-line battled the d-line with the losing offensive unit ultimately
having to do some up-downs.
Spring Ball: Interesting doings on defense
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