CF.C's Best of Spring Football

PULLMAN - With the 15-practice spring football session now in the books, it's time to provide context, insight and analysis as Washington State now points to the upcoming season. First up, takes a closer look at the Best of Spring 2009 -- including best hit, most memorable plays, best nickname, best quotes plus much more.

The Cougs came out this spring with a new attitude -- and it showed up on the field.

Despite youth, injuries and lack of depth, the 2009 Cougar vintage came out with emotion and put together a string of practices that showed growth in almost every area of the team.

Most memorable plays:
Cory Mackay bringing the wood in the second week of practice brought the loudest cheers heard this spring from the defensive sideline. MacKay broke through two blockers to put a monster hit on running back Marcus Richmond.

Kevin Norrell with a leaping grab to bring down a high pass from Kevin Lopina in the middle of four defenders was one of the best looking plays the entire spring in the passing game. Norrell got as high as his 5-9 frame would allow and then some, and brought the ball down for a big gain.

The entire Cougar running backs stable was a running highlight reel, especially Dwight Tardy's hurdling of a defender and Logwone Mitz putting on some sick spin moves in the final scrimmage. The entire first scrimmage belonged to the running backs, and they put together a string of highlights capped by the long touchdown run of James Montgomery in which he broke two tackles and then made two other tacklers miss on the way to paydirt.

Biggest Hit:
Xavier Hicks decleating Easton Johnson in the final scrimmage was the play that everyone was talking about. Even Hicks stopped to check with Johnson after practice to make sure he wasn't still seeing stars.

Best Nickname:
Dan Wagner, the Cougars' backup quarterback who ran the scout team offense last year, was unaware at one point when several players were calling him to run a QB drill against the defense. Wagner didn't notice until the players the yelled "Hefty Lefty" and Wagner looked up. Wagner is also know as "Wag" by several of the players.

Best quotes:
"Maybe I need to change my living, I don't know. Maybe it's a sign from above."
--Linebackers Coach Travis Niekamp on the slew of injuries that hit the position. At one point, eight of 15 linebackers listed on the spring roster weren't participating.

"Obviously he did a nice job...I guess the negative to it is it allows him to hold a little bit more."
--Coach Paul Wulff's quip after cornerback Brandon Jones got the cast off his hand.

"Looked like he'd been doing it for 100 years."
--Cornerbacks Coach Jody Sears on Chima Nwachukwu's performance filling in at cornerback.

Three players to watch for this fall:
There's a slew of them but Cory MacKay had a compelling spring indeed. While the redshirt freshman defensive end has yet to see the field in a collegiate football game, and has already changed positions a few times during his early tenure at WSU as he's gone from 215 pounds as a prep senior to around 260 now, MacKay is too talented to keep off the field. During the spring session, he consistently was in on big plays and showed an uncanny knack for getting his hands up and batting passes during the scrimmages, one of which led to an interception.

Redshirt junior wideout Jeffrey Solomon has taken the long road to where he is today. Solomon showed why this spring he will be hard to keep off the field come fall -- He just keeps getting better. After a sitting out a season to transfer to WSU, Solomon will get his shot with what is a young, inexperienced group, and he made the most of it this April with a tireless work ethic and consistent improvement during each practice.

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Zack Williams. This may be the Cougar offensive lineman you notice most throwing blocks outside the hashes. Williams has lined up a left guard most of spring and he loves picking on linebackers -- he makes a huge effort to make blocks downfield. Williams has the athleticism of a much smaller player, despite his 293 pound listed weight. During the spring, Williams was flying over the pile to make blocks and, at times, blocking as far downfield as 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

With many new faces, a good number of them coming off redshirts and/or transfers, there are several other players to look out for:

Cornerback Brandon Jones, running back James Montgomery, defensive end Casey Hamlett and defensive tackle Josh Luapo are a few that come to mind. While none of these players have played a down for WSU, all four showed they have the ability this spring to press for playing time and after watching the entire spring session, the call here is that at least one of them will unseat one of last year's starters at their respective positions.

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