Spring Ball Day 7: Gibson, Rogers sharp

PULLMAN -– Team unity, a big emphasis for Paul Wulff's Cougars this spring season, appears to extend to the entire athletic department. Fotball practice got off to an early start Thursday in order to give everyone a chance to watch the Cougar basketball team take on North Carolina.

With a light dusting of snow on the practice field, the team worked out in The Bubble, but it was tough to gauge how well punters Reid Forrest and Dan Wagner were doing because of the low ceiling.

There was no problem evaluating the kickoff and punt return talent, however. Receiver Brandon Gibson, as he has in previous days, looked sharpest doing both. Others in the mix are receiver Daniel Blackledge and DBs Romeo Pellum, Alfonso Jackson, Markus Dawes and Tyrone Justin.

On the injury front, linebacker Jason Stripling, defensive end Toby Turpin and receiver Keith Rosenberg were sidelined again, but the nature and extent of their woes has not yet been disclosed by the WSU training staff. DE Andy Mattingly, however, was back in action but limited in his work. Fellow DE Kevin Kooyman appeared to have his reps limited as well.

With Mattingly and Kooyman cutting back, Jesse Feagin and Mike Graise saw plenty of work with the ones during team drills. Feagin, as he has since spring workouts began more than a week ago, displayed a nose for the quarterback while Graise looked pretty solid against the run.

The rest of the defense seems to be getting things tightened up a bit. DB Tyrone Justin intercepted a Cole Morgan pass and the rest of the unit kept the run-attack in check. The D has done well against the run and has a good physical presence in pass coverage.

The running game has been a focus all week, with Marcus Richmond, Logwone Mitz and Chris Ivory splitting carries. All have played well.

The run game should improve as the o-line continues to adapt to the schemes of the new coaching staff. "We're learning a new offense with new types of scheme and technique but they're starting to grasp it. We just need to develop some consistency," said offensive line coach Harold Etheridge.

He noted that junior center Kenny Alfred has had a good showing so far this spring and tackle Joe Eppele "has done some good things and shown some improvement working with the twos."

Overall, there's some room for improvement, Etheridge said. The emphasis for the remainder of spring is "understanding the scheme" and "being a lot more disciplined in technique and fundamentals."

As far as the passing game is concerned, senior Gary Rogers continues to impress. He found his main targets -- Benny Ward and Brandon Gibson -- twice each during team drills. Gibson made a nice catch under tight coverage from Alfonso Jackson. Sophomore Daniel Blackledge appears to have solidified a spot with the first team.

* Jackson, a starting safety last year, played cornerback for the third practice in a row, with Chima Nwachukwu, a starting corner in 2007, continuing to work out at safety.

* Former Cougar tight end Jed Collins was spotted in The Bubble working out with a Cleveland Browns scout. Collins isn't expected to be drafted next month but figures to have a choice of free agent offers.

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