EARLY SESSION: Cougs fire back up

PULLMAN--There was no Sunday morning hangover from Saturday's rough scrimmage outing in the sweltering heat. The Cougs came out fired up, and the emotion Paul Wulff expected to see at the outset yesterday was evident from the get-go on Sunday morning, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And lest attentions start to drift, well, assistant coach Chris Ball took care of that.

Ball, the Cougs' co-defensive coordinator, noticing one player's momentarily lack of focus, immediately called out to him, referring to the player as a "lost milk cow." That got everyone's attention. The defense was locked in, vocal and continued to show heart from that point forward.

The fiery Ball didn't confine his coaching to only the players on the field, exhorting the defensive players on the sidelines to take "mental reps" while watching their teammates executing the defensive playcalls.

CB Markus Dawes, coming off shoulder surgery this offseason and who did not participate in Saturday's scrimmage, took reps with the first team in some drills Sunday. He later returned to the second team during the scrimmaging portion of the workout. The coaching staff said earlier he is not expected to be ready by the opener but Dawes isn't willing to concede just yet.

"I thought I wouldn't be back until the second or third game, but now I should be ready for the first game. All I can say is that it's been a blessing...The heat played a big role in our lack of emotion yesterday..the coaches want us to play with a lot of emotion and feeling. We have the best job in America, and we should love what we're doing," said Dawes.

AN EXTENDED AMOUNT of practice time was devoted to the red zone offense, where the Cougars experienced the most problems during the scrimmage. Indeed, the coaches said the O could have found far more end zone success with better execution.

Routes and positioning was stressed, and several receivers made nice catches in the end zone.

OFFENSIVELY, THE COUGAR running backs spent part of their morning drilling on ball security.

"To emphasize ball security and running with your feet while in a crowd," running backs coach Steve Broussard further explained.

Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory, the Nos. 1 and 2 backs, are sitting with injuries though for precautionary reasons, were it game day they would play. Still, missing reps in practice means there's that much less of a chance to get in synch before the games start to count for real. Broussard noted that while the young guys didn't gain much yardage, they didn't compound the problem by making things worse, with no turnovers by the running backs in the scrimmage Saturday.

"They always come in (to practice) eager to play and learn. It will make our job that much tougher when it comes to putting together a rotation on gameday," said Broussard.

THE FIRST AND second team offensive lines looked like they had a bit more push than Saturday, though work obviously still remains.

Good coverage in the secondary and a valiant individual effort by defensive end Kevin Kooyman resulted in the only "sack" of Gary Rogers during the morning.

SPECIAL TEAMS WAS an emphasis, with the punt and kickoff coverage and return units getting in their reps against the younger players. The coaches are looking at a number of players this camp and Sunday morning on kickoffs, Chantz Staden and Romeo Pellum took most of the reps, while Brandon Gibson and frosh Kevin Norrell took turns returning punts.

Norrell continues to see action at wide receiver with two of three starters (Jeshua Anderson and Daniel Blackledge) sidelined. He made a couple defenders miss on a nice catch and run on Sunday.

"It's a real good experience to play as a freshman. It would've been better to be here in the summer, but while they were working hard here I was working hard as well. I've just been able to come in and pick up some things and learn quickly," said Norrell. Norrell said he hopes to make a mark on special teams this year in addition to any possible receiver role. Paul Wulff said recently he has made no decisions yet on who will redshirt.

"It's (starting punt returner role) still up in the air—I think I've got a shot at it if I work hard," said Norrell.

THE SECOND TEAM offense saw both spotty play and success in the morning session. They suffered their second botched snap in as many days and another exchange was bobbled by QB Kevin Lopina before he got a handle on it. Logwone Mitz split the carries with Joe Campbell in the backfield with Campbell breaking off a nice run in scrimmaging -- but he was then chased down from behind and had the ball knocked out of his hands.

  • After playing in yesterday's scrimmage, Cory Mackay was held out from Sunday's practice though the injury didn't look serious.

  • Wideouts Daniel Blackledge, Michael Willis and Anthony Houston continue to watch practice from the sidelines, getting in some time on the exercise bike. Again, were the season to start today, some or all would have likely suited up.Anderson is expected to miss the first three games following hernia surgery.

  • The third team defense was more in tune from Saturday's scrimmage, forcing several incompletions and nearly intercepting a Marshall Lobbestael pass.

  • Cougfan Top Stories