WR Jeshua Anderson, the Cougs' big play freshman phenom from last season, sat out Thursday's practice with a suspected hernia that was confirmed late Thursday by a WSU team doctor.
No return date estimate was immediately available -- surgery has been scheduled for Anderson on Monday morning and a prognosis will be determined following the surgery.
Another sophomore in the projected starting lineup, Daniel Blackledge, was shut down Tuesday with a hamstring injury. Coach Paul Wulff said Thursday after practice there was no definite timetable for the return of Blackledge either.
Blackledge played primarily on special teams last year and caught only one pass, but Anderson averaged 31 yards on 12 receptions as a key reserve.
"He's a great player, and we can't wait to get him back," Rogers said of Anderson.
Senior Benny Ward and junior Michael Willis, who have a combined total of three career catches (Willis moved from safety during the 2006 season), lined up at the starting wideout spots with All-America candidate Brandon Gibson on Thursday. True freshman Jared Karstetter briefly subbed in for Gibson at one point.
Willis, who sat out last season due to academic ineligibility, Ward and Karstetter have looked sharp during the first three days of fall camp. Ditto for Rogers, a big, rocket-armed graduate of Kamiak High School.
"It feels great being out here with the guys and just leading this team," Rogers said. "This is what I've been waiting for. This is my shot."
THURSDAY's LONE WORKOUT was the first combining all veterans and newcomers, and the first in shoulder pads.
Wulff labeled the 2-hour workout "pretty standard" for the first practice in pads, which means play was spotty on both sides of the ball.
"I thought the defense made some strides today," Wulff said. "They still have a ways to go.
"They're still trying to figure out how to line up correctly. Whoo! They better get a lot better at that fast."
NINE STARTERS return from last year's inexperienced defense -- which posted some of the worst numbers in WSU history.
"I think the defense will definitely be better … they're definitely more mature this year," Rogers said. "They've got A'i Ahmu on the defensive line, who's a great leader. I think he'll definitely do an excellent job bring all these other guys on the defensive line ahead."
DROPPED PASSES AND a lost fumble doomed the offense early in the session, but there was improvement later in the no-tackling practice. The secondary, a major weakness of last year's Cougars, often fared well.
Sophomore Romeo Pellum, starting at left cornerback for the injured Markus Dawes (shoulder), stayed glued to Gibson much of the time. Junior college transfer Myron Beck, starting at free safety for Xavier Hicks (suspended the first three games for disciplinary reasons), expertly stripped the ball from running back Marcus Richmond just as Richmond was reeling in a short pass from Rogers.
Cornerback Devin Giles, who started last year, split time between the first and second units. Alfonso Jackson, moved from safety in the spring, continues to start at one corner spot.
AFTER MISSING SPRING practice, Giles had been working with the 2's the first two days.
Kevin Kooyman, who laid claim to the starting left defensive end job in spring ball, (which '07 starter Matt Mullennix did not participate in because he was not granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA until May 22), remains the No. 1 at that spot. At right defensive end, Andy Mattingly is the starter.
Kevin Lopina, the No. 2 quarterback, continues to demonstrate good scrambling ability but does not appear to have the arm Rogers does. Third-string QB Marshall Lobbestael has a quick release and made some quality throws.
CALIFORNIA QB RECRUIT Jeff Tuel, who has been offered a scholarship by WSU, observed practice with his parents. Scout.com ranks Tuel 58th among senior quarterbacks. He has yet to start in high school after backing up Cal Bears freshman Beau Sweeney, the grandson of former WSU coach Jim Sweeney.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Tuel said he has also received a scholarship offer from Nevada, and Fresno State is the other school he is considering. Tuel said WSU (the first school to contact him) is "a good fit" because the Cougars now employ a hurry-up, no-huddle offense like the one Tuel will operate at Clovis West High in suburban Fresno.
WULFF SAID THE battle to kick field goals and/or kickoffs remains "wide open" between Wade Penner (last year's kickoff man) and JC transfers Nico Grasu and Patrick Rooney. Wulff said reserve quarterback Dan Wagner or "maybe" Rooney will handle the punting duties if Reid Forrest (ankle surgery) isn't ready at the start of the season.