Receivers w/ big day in Coug workout, skelly

PULLMAN -- In late afternoon heat beneath the long shadows of an enlarged frame that will house the new WSU scoreboard, the entire Cougar team was on this week to shake off any lingering rust from the holiday weekend. The offense has gone to a no-huddle, high tempo attack and on this day, they lived up to that billing and then some. A jam-packed report on the Cougs' voluntary summer workouts..

Coaches aren't present at these voluntary summer workouts, so Cougar players take it upon themselves to step in.

At the start of the session, the individual groups were split up separately around the field, with Matt Mullennix leading the defensive linemen through some pass rushing drills. Mullennix played the role of quarterback as the d-linemen, facing off against other d-linemen playing the role of an offensive hoss, trained their sights on him. Most of the focus was on technique.

Meanwhile, Chima Nwachukwu led the defensive backs in a series of backpedal drills, and could be seen and heard correcting some of the younger players and encouraging those displaying good technique.

The running backs and receivers worked together on catch and route running drills, with each group catching passes from the quarterbacks, led by Gary Rogers.

LATER IN THE afternoon, they were joined by the o-line and all came together as the team ran through several plays from the playbook, worked on blocking schemes, routes and even threw in a few running plays in preparation for the 7-on-7 skeleton drills known as "skellys." But the focus was on the passing game.

Three offensive units rotated through with Rogers leading the first unit, Kevin Lopina the second and Marshall Lobbestael helming the third team.

Each quarterback worked on every play from top to bottom -- in playcalling, ensuring that each player was in the proper position called for and that the play was executed properly.

Tight end Devin Frischknecht and running back Marcus Richmond took most of the snaps at their respective positions, with Logwone Mitz also taking turns in the backfield. The wide receiver position was bolstered by the return of Michael Willis, who had sat out a couple earlier sessions. Willis took snaps with both the first and second units.

With the full squad assembled, the entire team went through a series of no contact 11-on-11 drills, with each unit taking some snaps.

AFTER RUNNING THROUGH a good number of plays, the linemen completed their on-field turns and the skellys began. The offense established it's supremacy early, with Rogers connecting with Willis on a crossing route in front of Nwachukwu.

The first unit led by Rogers was efficient, and the Cougs' starting quarterback showed good accuracy and touch on most of his throws. It was the wide receivers who really shone in the session, with Benny Ward and Willis each making tough catches heavily contested by the defense. And then there's Brandon Gibson.

Gibson at the session looked to be on a different level than the rest, he made it look easy on two touchdown grabs. The first was a bullet in front of freshman corner Tyrone Justin that Rogers put right on the money. The second was a deep route where Gibson handily beat safety Easton Johnson, hauling in Rogers' pass for about a 30 yard touchdown grab.

ALL IN ALL, it was a rough outing for the Cougar defense. They looked on this day like they have a ways to go, though they were also playing without a number of starters including Markus Dawes, Alfonso Jackson, Devin Giles and Cory Evans, all of whom were either letting a ding or two heal up or had classwork to attend to.

But there were also a few bright spots on D.

On one of his few mistakes on the day, Rogers threw an errant pass that was tipped by Justin and picked off by Nwachukwu. On another play, Myron Beck smartly broke on a Rogers pass and dropped a sure interception that would have gone the other way.

Xavier Hicks also closed just fast enough to break up what would have been a sure Willis touchdown from Rogers.

CB Brandon Jones, who will sit out the '08 season after transferring from Cal, strongly made his presence felt. Although the Cougs practice in shorts and t-shirts during the summer, Jones is showing he is an extremely physical cover corner. While he took most of his snaps against Kevin Lopina and the second unit, Jones showed good cover skills, broke up several passes and forced a couple of throwaways.

THE SESSION ended on a controversial note, with Reid McEllrath pulling down a high pass in the back of the end zone from Lopina. He looked to have landed his first foot in-bounds but Evans, not taking reps but who had instead been serving as defensive coordinator for the workout, disagreed.

As the session came to a close, the offense gathered around Rogers for some words of encouragement, while the defensive backs got a short pep talk from Hicks.

Lobbestael wanted to get in some extra practice after the workout and Willis and tight end Tony Thompson were glad to join him. Willis and Thompson said they agreed that the defense needs some work but opined that when the injured players return, and when the pads come on in August, things will be different.

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