PRACTICE REPORT: 'Rub a little dirt in it'

PULLMAN -- In a shoulder pads and helmets only session on Wednesday, some Cougars turned in some head turning plays nevertheless. On defense, that honor went to Tyrone Justin. On special teams, Logwone Mitz had another, as did Romeo Pellum. Plus rundowns on the offensive line and linebackers, Greg Trent's thoughts, Jody Sears with the quip of the day and more.

It wasn't full contact on Wednesday but Logwone Mitz still got in a lick or two.

The physical Cougar running back on a kickoff return drill and stepped in front of one of the scout team returners who was moving at full speed. In the battle between unstoppable force and an immovable object, Mitz stood his ground, delivering a hit on the returner that resulted in a loud crack that could be heard across the practice field.

Corner Tyrone Justin, freshly back with the first team defense after sitting out the UCLA game with injury, delivered the defensive play of the practice by returning a fumble to the house.

Justin took the majority of the snaps with the first team one on island, along with Romeo Pellum on the opposite side.

The defensive coaches again stressed running all eleven players to the ball. Co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears turned in the quote of the day on a play where Pellum briefly came up gingerly.

"That's what you call a charley horse. Rub a little dirt in it," Sears helpfully offered.

Sure enough, a few plays later Pellum was back running around. The dirt must have worked.

SENIOR MIDDLE LINEBACKER Greg Trent was flanked by Myron Beck and Louis Bland with the first team for most of the reps -- though Cory Evans looks to be progressing in his return from injury, and ran with the second team. Marshal Pirtz and Mike Ledgerwood split reps at second team middle linebacker, with both looking to make early cases for a spot to replace Trent next year.

Trent said he couldn't name a favorite for the job, but thought that both would have a shot at being the heart of the Cougar defense.

"They're going to battle it out and see who get the spot...They're rookies, but they play like vets," said Trent.

Trent said there has been improvement in practice and last week against UCLA, even though it hasn't shown up in the win-loss column yet.

"(Today) went well, it was our second practice of the week and our second good practice of the week...we're in shorts, but we're definitely running full speed...We're still taking steps, we're starting getting (it) down and they're not scoring as many points as other teams beforehand. We didn't come out with a victory, but we're making strides," said Trent.

THE SHUFFLING ON offensive line looks to have temporarily been halted, with Vaughn Lesuma lining up at left tackle, and a still recovering Andrew Roxas looking more comfortable at his left guard spot. At right tackle, Micah Hannam took most of the reps with the first team as he continues to recover from the ankle injury that has slowed him down the past few weeks.

Center Kenny Alfred (hips) is playing through pain and is expected to play Saturday. Last year, when Alfred was out against UCLA, Andrew Roxas did yeoman's work in the middle of the line in his first college start. Alfred's hips likely played a factor in the number of low snaps when the Cougs were in the shotgun against the Bruins.

AT QUARTERBACK ON Wednesday, Marshall Lobbestael had a mixed day. The redshirt freshman is still getting used to the speed of the game and on several snaps Wednesday, and has been seen on Saturdays this fall, the pass rush got to him before he got rid of the ball. Lobbestael, however, also threw some very nicely placed passes on both intermediate and deep routes. He turned the ball over once, on a play where scout team cornerback LeAndre Daniels made an athletic leaping interception.

Receiver Marcus Richmond was back at tailback, with Chris Ivory and Dwight Tardy both being held out from the practice. Tardy's absence looks to be precautionary, while Ivory was ruled out for Saturday earlier this week by Wulff. Ivory got some running in during practice, while Tardy watched from the sidelines.

Receiver Jeff Solomon had a rough day in practice, with a couple of drops and his face showed obvious frustration. Coach Mike Levenseller took extra time after practice to give Solomon some pointers and help him catch up with the rest of the Cougar receiving corps after being recently being cleared to practice with the team.

The Cougar receivers spent some time working on one-on-ones to emphasize technique, route running and how to beat coverages, with lots of hands on coaching after each rep. Brandon Gibson really shined in the one-on-ones, showing superior technique and route running as he he made it look almost effortless in getting open.

THE COUGARS PLACED extra emphasis on special teams on Wednesday, spreading out the kickoff team to cover both practice fields and give it the feel of gameday.

Kevin Norrell and Pellum both took two turns at returning the football. Pellum excelled, taking the first kick back to the house and the second one for nearly a 30 yard return. Norrell struggled, fumbling and then recovering on his first try and on the second he failed to get in good position to receive the football.

Pellum at cornerback this season has shown both good skills and growing pains as a second year sophomore, and he can certainly field punts and has good instincts on returns. Considering that he is at least partially blind in one eye, it's even more impressive.

Wulff said he learned of it earlier in the spring, when Pellum made a show of noting how he had eye-black beneath only one of his eyes. Wulff said it's a non-issue -- saying he can play either corner spot and that his condition doesn't impact his play. He also noted that Pellum will, on occasion if he gets beat in practice, joke with the coaches that it was because of his eye.

"He's a goofball," said Wulff, with a chuckle.

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