Cougs air it out in voluntary workout

PULLMAN -- If the Cougars' voluntary summer workouts are any indication, Gary Rogers and Brandon Gibson feel right at home in Wazzu's new no-huddle offense. The duo combined for three touchdowns and a bevy of completions in a spirited skelly session earlier this week out on the Palouse. Meanwhile, a pair of tight ends also had very good receiving days.

The linebackers and running backs started the session on the sidelines, while the quarterbacks led by Rogers warmed up by passing to the tight ends, running backs and wide receivers. The emphasis of the early quarterback drills looked to be on the drops, and on a quick, sure delivery.

Junior tight end Tony Thompson showed off his hands by reeling in the first of two one handed grabs during the practice, this one from Lobbestael. Both he and fellow tight end Devin Frischknecht looked sharp throughout.

The defensive backs worked on their backpedal early, and were led by safety Myron Beck. Beck practiced despite some soreness, and with his little brother watching from the sidelines. Corner Alfonso Jackson ran with the defensive backs early but did not participate in the 1-on-1's or the skellys.

D-linemen Matt Mullennix, Jesse Feagin, Kevin Kooyman and Bryce Buslach were in attendance despite the fact skelly is a 7-on-7 drill that requires no linemen on either side of the ball. The group spent the early part of the workout running sprints from sideline to sideline before even jumping in to try their hand at covering the tight ends on short routes.

In the one-on-one action, the tight ends were covered by their more customary adversaries, the linebackers and safeties, while the corners lined up on an island against the wideouts.

EARLY ON, IT looked like the offense would move the ball at will. After getting beaten on the first seven passes, the defense stepped it up a notch.

Newcomer Kevin Frank, one of many Cougar rookies who enrolled early at WSU this summer, broke up a pass to stop the offensive momentum. Tali Talakai then got a fingertip on another pass. But Thompson's second one handed grab came when he reeled in an over the shoulder pass from Kevin Lopina after Thompson earned some separation against LB Greg Trent.

The defensive play of the day came late in the afternoon from Eric Block. The Bellevue safety was covering Jared Karstetter when Lobbestael threw a jump ball, gambling that the taller Karstetter (6-4) would come down with the pigskin. But Block got way up, and made the pick, drawing shouts and applause from his defensive teammates.

IN THE COUGS' seven-on-seven skeleton drills, as has been the theme this summer, Rogers and the offense had their way against the D. The Cougar offense marched down the field methodically, with Rogers spreading the ball around to five different targets en route to a scoring strike.

Gibson was on the receiving end of three Rogers' passes on the drive -- the duo looks to have clearly developed a rapport this summer during the voluntary workouts.

When the day's second unit came onto the field, the defense stiffened, forcing QB Kevin Lopina to a three-and-out on their first series. In these voluntary workouts, a number of rookies and walk-ons are getting in turns with the Cougs' second unit and rookie corner Dan Simmons made a great break on the ball on the Lopina's first pass, though he failed to come down with the pick.

Block then broke up Lopina's second pass intended for Spokane's Karstetter. On the third and final play of the drive, a valiant effort by another freshman, TE Dan Spitz, came up just short despite a diving attempt.

ROGERS AND CREW returned to the field and promptly marched downfield for a second touchdown, this time Rogers connecting on passes to Frischknecht, Anthony Houston and then to Gibson for the score.

Lopina, after a rusty first series, took it to the defense the second time around in skelly, immediately connecting on a long touchdown pass that covered 40 yards-plus.

The next series, the defense was able to contain Lopina and the passing attack. After an incomplete pass and a false start by one of the wideouts, the defense held on and were able to limit Lopina's scramble for only a couple of yards. Linebacker Cory Evans, sitting out the session but still involved as the Cougar "defensive coordinator", applauded the effort seated atop his Gatorade cooler.

Rogers and Lobbestael switched off at quarterback the remainder of the session -- and Rogers connected with Gibson for two more touchdowns, the second coming on a beautiful 35-yard strike over safety Chima Nwachukwu and corner Brandon Jones, who will sit out the '08 season after transferring from Cal.

The Cougs got some welcome news at workout's end when they were told by Rogers that Idaho was on tap for the next skelly. Rogers also made sure to tell them that they should show up early to prepare for the session. The players looked thrilled at the thought of being able to face off against someone other than their teammates for the first time this summer.

EVIDENCE OF the Cougs continuing to bond this offseason was evident at the start of the voluntary summer workout session. Sure, the players were getting into their position drills and doing laps and sprints across the field, but for the first part of the practice everyone took the time to earn a little more about their teammates.

A hot topic was the recent release of the NCAA Football 2009. One of the more noteworthy points of discussion was the absence of QB Marshall Lobbestael on the Cougars roster while Calvin Schmidtke (who signed a LOI this past February but was later dismissed) was on the video game's roster.

It could give Lobbestael a bit more motivation to make sure he isn't overlooked but it doesn't appear he needs it, he has already been putting in extra time with Rogers this summer in order to improve.

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