DAY 5: Richmond gallops indoors, news & notes

PULLMAN--The Cougs went indoors due to the elements Thursday but there were still heated battles aplenty in the trenches -- including a battle royale between DT Josh Luapo, all 321 pounds of him, and Andrew Roxas, the first team center in Kenny Alfred's absence. Meanwhile, Marcus Richmond found paydirt, Chris Ball talks Cory Mackay, Xavier Hicks, Chima Nwachukwu, influenza news plus much more.

Josh Luapo showed a good bull rush and swim move to get the better of Andrew Roxas on consecutive plays.

The fifth spring practice featured nearly 80 years of coaching experience looking on as ex-Western Washington coach Robin Ross and former UW and Cal coach Keith Gilbertson were in attendance.

Also a guest at the practice, Bill Moos, an all-conference o-lineman at Washington State during his playing days who later served as assistant athletics director, associate director and director of development at WSU before his stint at Oregon (1995-2007) as their AD.

The trio on the day saw DE Cory Mackay show why d-coordinator Chris Ball and the other WSU defensive coaches are excited about the prospect of him rushing off the edge.

"Corey Mackay's doing a great job...He's battling for a starting job," said Ball. "If he keeps working like he is, he's going to be a really good player for us."

Mackay on one series got the better of OT Joe Eppele, who had been sitting out from practice earlier in the week and showed a bit of rust he needs to work off to improve in pass protection. Mackay applied pressure on several plays during the scrimmage portion of practice and showed great leg drive on his pass rush.

Mackay also shifted inside for a couple of plays and held his ground ably against the larger interior linemen.

BUT THE BEST best performance in practice was turned in by running back Marcus Richmond, entrenched in the most competitive position battle of the preseason.

Richmond showed off great hands and took two catches deep, one for a touchdown another for over 20 yards. James Montgomery, on the other hand, lost a fumble in what was a forgettable practice for the sophomore.

Running back isn't the only position that could get interesting.

At receiver, the Cougars currently have 15 listed on the roster and their highest rated incoming recruit at the position, 4-star 2009 class prospect Gino Simone, also plays the position. Even though Daniel Blackledge, Kevin Norrell and Jared Karstetter have the most starting experience, none of the Cougar wideouts in spring ball were every game starters last season.

And the receiver with the most experience overall, Jeshua Anderson, is currently competing in track for WSU.

CF.C caught up with incoming transfer receiver Jeffrey Solomon to get his lay of the land. Solomon said in his opinion, Norrell and Blackledge have the best route running skills, while Johnny Forzani brings pure speed to the position.

Solomon added that the competition at the position has heightened the competitive spirit in practice -- everyone is trying to get more reps at a crowded position.

IN THE SCRIMMAGE and skelly portions of the practice, Norrell and Blackledge spent the most time with the first team. At tight end, Tony Thompson split reps with senior Zach Tatman.

The running backs rotated taking first team reps between Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz, Montgomery and Richmond.

On the defensive side of the ball, safeties Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu have played with the first unit in consecutive practices and boast the most experience in the secondary.

With the youthful Cougar defense, and with their performances thus far, the duo looks to be as close to starting locks as players can be a third of the way through a spring session where the WSU coaches have said no players came in as assumed starters.

At corner, Tyree Toomer continues to rotate in with Tyrone Justin, Daniel Simmons and Shane Thomas. Thompson played last season as a safety but when cornerbacks Romeo Pellum, Kevin Frank, Justin, and Simmons were suspended at the start of spring drills he shifted over to the island. (All but Pellum have since been reinstated).

Plus, Toomer's skills set, said Ball, also fits the corner position.

"We talked about it and we were a little short there (at CB) when we started practice and he's got great speed and a good feel for the game," said Ball. "He gives us a little bit more athleticism out there. We're trying to get the best players on the field.

"We've got Xavier Hicks and Chima they're doing really good at safety, (so) why keep a good player off the field and back those guys up when we can get another good guy on the field?"

Ball also echoed Coach Sears in singling out linebacker Louis Bland, d-tackle Toby Turpin, Hicks and Nwachukwu as leaders.

THE COUGS HAVE been hit with an influenza epidemic at least six players have missed some practice time this week. WSU is taking no chances, and Andrei Lintz and Anthony Laurenzi were being quarantined from the rest of the players to prevent the virus from spreading.

With the injuries and influenza, almost every player on the roster has been getting a chance to take limited reps -- at the very least on special teams.

And Wulff has placed more emphasis this spring than last year on special teams work, in part to get the young players more practice reps.

  • Cougar recruits spotted at practice today included commits Aaron Dunn and John Fullington.

  • The Cougar receiving corps took extra reps with Marshall Lobbestael after practice, and Lobbestael threw without his brace on. Lobbestael, who is being held out of any contact drills this spring as he returns from a torn ACL suffered last season, continues to look sharp.

  • Wulff confirmed after practice that J.T. Levenseller's injury was a knee bruise that won't hold him out from practice much longer. Andy Mattingly's pectoral injury, however, is worse and his return for the spring is in doubt.

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