WSU Football Notebook: No pillow fights here

A COUGAR ASSISTANT coach was overheard Saturday at Washington State's final scrimmage of the spring season saying a notable difference between this year's last day of workouts and last year's is that "you can actually hear pads popping – last year it was a pillow fight in here." Another keen observer of Saturday's scrimmage, legendary Jack Thompson, said he was struck by three things.

The tempo of the action, the spirit of the players, and the new-found grasp of the no-huddle really stood out, said the record-shattering All-American from the late-70s.

"It's so interesting how you can gauge how things are going by the reactions of the players on the sidelines," Thompson added. "The sidelines Saturday told an interesting, very positive tale. On one side is the offense – all in crimson jerseys and on the other is the defense, all in white jerseys, and every time their respective units did something positive they were all cheering, going nuts. The esprit de corps is really apparent."

The wildest reactions, he said, came on three plays: When safety Xavier Hicks decleated receiver Easton Johnson; when quarterback Dan Wagner hit tight end Andrei Lintz for a 38-yard TD; and when running back Dwight Tardy, going left, looked like he was going to bull-rush the oncoming right corner but instead leaped over him.

"The whole atmosphere was very up-tempo," Thompson said. "There was a lot of great intensity, some real hitting going on that lit up the sidelines. It's good to see ... These guys are much better than they were a year ago. Guys know where they're supposed to be -- this clearly is Paul Wulff's team now. That stamp is there."

Thompson also said he was heartened to see that the "no-huddle" portion of the offense, which the Cougs had to mostly scrap last season, has taken firm hold. "They ran the no-huddle the entire scrimmage -- you can tell the offense can handle it."

He also said the offensive line looked solid, and that rookie receiver Johnny Forzani appears to be even faster than advertised.

The Throwin' Samoan wasn't the only Cougar legend in Pullman on Saturday. So were Ryan Leaf, Jason Gesser, Michael Bumpus, Billy Newman, Brett Carolan, Mark Patterson, John Troppman, John Husby, Chad Eaton and others. They watched the scrimmage and then played in an alumni golf tournament hosted by Wulff at the head-turning new Palouse Ridge Golf Club.

THREE RETURNING STARTERS on the Cougars' offensive line -- center Kenny Alfred, tackle Micah Hannam and guard Brian Danaher -- sat out the spring season with injuries. But there was a silver lining in it all: A ton of first- and second-unit reps for youngsters like Andrew Roxas, Steven Ayers, B.J. Guerra and others. Roxas, a guard last season, filled in for Alfred at center and was outstanding. Dislodging the senior Alfred -- a Rimington Award watch list member last season -- from a starting assignment seems a tough road come August camp, but facts are facts: Roxas served notice that he's a bona fide Pac-10 hoss.

THE COUGARS HAVE MORE depth at running back than at any time in recent memory. Senior Dwight Tardy is healthy, running hard and definitely taking on a leadership role. James Montgomery, who redshirted last season after transferring from Cal, showed this spring that he's the real deal. Marcus Richmond showed off excellent skills catching the ball out of the backfield. And Logwone Mitz, who has nice wheels to begin with, looked even faster because he's making quicker decisions. He's sensing the hole and going without hesitation. In addition, Chris Ivory and Chantz Staden will be back in the fall after sitting out the spring season with injuries.


• A week ago, at WSU's second scrimmage of the spring, incoming Cougars Gino Simone of Sammamish and Jeff Tuel of Fresno were among those on hand. Jack Thompson and Tuel played a little catch on the sidelines. "He's got a gun," Thompson reports.

Robbie Tobeck, the one-time Cougar and Seahawks standout, is one of the new hosts with KIRO Radio's fledgling all-sports format. The Seattle station, which dubs itself 710 ESPN, went all-sports earlier this month. Tobeck has a three-hour slot every Saturday morning on fishing called "The Outdoor Line".

Devin Frischknecht, the WSU tight end who snagged two memorable TD passes in the Cougars' 2007 Apple Cup win at Husky Stadium, has signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins. In two seasons at WSU he made eight starts, catching 35 passes for 412 yards and four TDs. He is the second Cougar to join an NFL roster this week, following receiver Brandon Gibson who was drafted Sunday in the sixth round by the Eagles.

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