Spring Ball Day 10: Cougs heating up

PULLMAN--The WSU coaching staff shook up the practice structure Tuesday. The end results were increasingly physical play, a faster paced environment and the first real scuffle of the spring with tempers running hot. Broussard talks Tardy and Ivory, and find out who DL coach Malik Roberson says is the 'most noticeable defensive line standout' two-thirds of the way through the 15 spring practices.

With a couple weeks remaining in the session, Roberson said he has been impressed with the play of d-tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu and defensive ends Kevin Kooyman and Andy Mattingly.

The Cougars' defensive line in '08 returns only one starter (Ahmu) from a unit that by most measures underperformed last season and is one of the top areas of concern for the Cougs this spring.

The true sophomore from Maple Valley, however, merited special mention from the coach.

"(Kooyman is) the most noticeable standout on the d-line right now," said Roberson. "(As a unit) we're not where we need to be but were showing some improvement out there."

Mattingly played with a lot of intensity throughout Tuesday's practice, notching a sack and putting a big hit on running back Joe Campbell. Mattingly seems to be back at full health after taking some knocks earlier this spring. The junior out of Mead HS in Spokane is listed at 6-4, 241 and plays physical and fast.

"He's got some toughness that he brings to the table which is why I lobbied for him in the off-season and he's brought that. And because of that toughness, he's progressing nicely," Roberson said. "We were short a defensive end spot and we're trying to get our best 11 on the field so there's no reason why Andy should be running with the twos at linebacker if he can function at DE with the ones."

DESPITE THE ATTRITION at running back, Steve Broussard said he sees no cause for alarm. Dwight Tardy has been in helmet and jersey on the sideline for every practice, soaking in the new system. According to Broussard, he's "mentally into it and picking up the new offense." He's also emerged as one of the vocal leaders on the team.

Tardy's knee should be 100 percent come fall and Broussard says the starting job is his. Chris Ivory has looked good the days he has practiced, but he's been a day by day decision for the staff on whether he'll practice or concentrate on his classwork. Broussard is concerned about Ivory academically, saying "He's got to take care of his academics. It does us no good to have him out here and not getting it done in the classroom. Chris' situation is in a dire stretch right now and he's got to take care of that."

THE COUGS TOOK the practice field Tuesday in helmets, shoulder pads, and gym shorts, but the practice was as physical as any so far this spring.

The running back position took yet another hit as back-up Jace Perry joined a group of four on the sidelines. Marcus Richmond was on the field early testing his sore hamstring and for the second straight day was forced to sit out. With now the top five backs on the depth chart out, two walk-ons -- Joe Campbell and Casey Thometz -- were the only rushers in the arsenal.

Still, Broussard isn't complaining.

"Campbell and Thometz are doing a good job filling in and getting a lot of reps which is good for them. We have to work with what we got and I have to coach those guys up the same way I coach the other guys," Broussard said after practice.

The pair, Campbell weighs 163 pounds, Thometz checks in at 200 pounds, took a beating throughout practice with all of the added reps, but both appeared to hold their own and walk away unscathed.

MATTINGLY WAS ONE of several Cougs who set an example Tuesday, helping to lift the the intensity and physicality kicked up as high as it's been all spring. Safety Eric Block laid a big hit on TE Tony Thompson, and LB Kendrick Dunn and OT Vaughn Lesuma got into the first real scuffle of the spring, sparking an overflow of emotion from both the offense and defense. The units battled as hard as they have all spring for the rest of practice, likely a good sign for a team still trying to find their identity.

With Alfonso Jackson, recently moved to corner, in class rather than at practice, CB Romeo Pellum got another chance to put in a lot of work with the ones. Pellum didn't disappoint, making a handful of great plays in pass coverage.

ON OFFENSE, quarterbacks Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina both performed fairly well Tuesday.

Rogers found TE Devin Frischknecht while Lopina hooked up with Reid McEllrath during skelly drills for the only passing touchdowns on the day. Lopina also showed his ability to move outside the pocket with a pair of nice runs.

WR Reid McEllrath made a nice catch on a ball thrown behind him later in practice but TE Tony Thompson made the catch of the day in traffic on a Cole Morgan pass. Thompson is one of three tight ends along with Frischknecht and Ben Woodard who figure to see a good chunk of playing time come fall.

THE FIELD GOAL UNITS got a chance to put in some work at the end of practice. The snapper/holder duo of Zach Enyeart and Reid Forrest seems to have made some progress as they made it through 12 kicks without any major issues.

Walk on Patrick Rooney hit three mid range kicks while just missing a fourth from just inside 50 yards. Matt Myers and Wade Penner both hit two of their four attempts, with Myers connecting on the deepest of the day from nearly 50 yards.

Broussard, also the Cougs' special teams coach, talked about the kickers after practice, saying the position is "Still up in the air, it's just a matter of us as a staff seeing which direction we are going to go, but all three are doing well." Rooney is a walk-on who Broussard recruited out of El Camino JC. "He came up here and he tried to walk on last year. He gave it another try this year and did well. He has a strong leg with good height on it...Myers and Penner are doing an excellent job as well so we are going to have our hands full with making that decision," said Broussard.

LB Jason Stripling did not practice Tuesday with what appears to be some type of hamstring issue. DB Easton Johnson missed his second straight practice with a hairline fracture in his arm, no official timetable for his return. DT Toby Turpin practiced through an ankle injured. DB/return man Tyrone Justin suffered some type of upper leg injury late in practice, no word on his status.

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