Fall Camp Day 1: Cougs flying around

PULLMAN -- Chris Ball didn't need to see much -- one practice, to be precise -- to know that he's positive the Washington State Cougars are an improved football team from a year ago. Meanwhile, Jeshua Anderson turned down track offers to go pro, is back at WSU practicing in fall camp, and turned in the catch-and-move of the day. Plus tons of other news and notes from the first day of fall camp.

"A lot better than at this time last year," the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator said after WSU opened fall camp Sunday morning. "We're definitely stronger. We looked good.

"We're starting to look the way we did back in the early 2000's. We had a good summer (of voluntary workouts). They're into it."

-- First session highlights: Paul Wulff has said Gino Simone could play a significant role as a true freshman, and the all-state wide receiver from Skyline showed why Sunday. Simone hauled in a number of off-target passes without a hint of a bobble.

"He's a good player," Ball summed up.

Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael and running back-kick returner Chantz Staden, coming off knee operations, moved well.

True freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel, who LOOKS like a quarterback at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, displayed a good arm.

In 7-on-7 drills, Jeshua Anderson scored a long "touchdown" after catching a short pass from Marshall Lobbestael and putting on a sweet spin move that left cornerback Aire Justin grasping at air.

Earlier, Justin expertly broke up a Kevin Lopina pass intended for wide receiver Daniel Blackledge.

Blackledge, a starting candidate, later made a nice juggling catch while falling to the ground despite tight coverage by freshman cornerback Anthony Carpenter.

Safety Chima Nwachukwu intercepted a high Lobbestael pass that deflected off the hands of starting tight end Tony Thompson.

Afterwards, linemen hoisted 100-pound sandbags and performed pull-ups on the sidelines.

-- All aboard: Ball said there were no last-minute eligibility snafus or other surprises that prevented players from showing up Sunday. That included Anderson, who said he did not decide until mid-July to turn down pro track offers and return to WSU. For more on that subject, click to the CF.C story Anderson toyed with idea of going pro in track.

-- Early looks: The Cougars practiced in helmets and shorts. They'll go tomorrow in the same, add shoulder pads Tuesday and Wednesday, then put on full pads Thursday. NCAA rules stipulate the first four practices of camp are at less than full contact.

The first scrimmage is set for next Saturday.

The opening practice was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., but players were hard at work at the Rogers Field practice facility at least 20 minutes early.

The main practice ended at 11:10, but some players were still working out in some form or another a half hour later.

"We were just flying around," running back James Montgomery said. "It was a good practice."

"We worked a lot this summer on a lot of things," outside linebacker Andy Mattingly said. "We had a lot of unity and leadership from the older guys."

-- Wulff missing: Ball is in charge of the first three practices due to NCAA sanctions against head coach Paul Wulff for rules violations that took place when he coached Eastern Washington. Sunday's practice came off without a hitch despite Wulff's absence.

"Oh, he wasn't out here?" Mattingly joked.

"He's the general," Montgomery said. "It's not a big deal."

-- Tough crowd: Almost from the day they took over following the 2007 season, Wulff and his assistants have been preaching the need for players to get tougher physically and mentally.

"We haven't always had the best talent," Ball said, "but we've been the toughest team year in and year out," Ball said. "We're trying to bring that back.

"It's got to show in every phase: extra effort, playing when you're dinged up a little bit, playing when you're tired.

"You've got to apply it off the field, too. Going to class. You've got a paper to do, you've got to stay up late and get it done. You've got to be tough."

-- Selective memory: Ball said WSU players "have got a chip on their shoulders" after going 2-11 last season, but he doesn't want players spending too much time thinking about last season.

"We can't even talk about last year," he said. "It was a bad thing. We don't even want to mention it.

"We've got to put that behind us and move forward and use it as a learning experience. I think it was a great learning experience. It stunk, but it was a great learning experience."

-- Kickin' it: Punter Reid Forrest is using a small, spongy football to practice some of his kicks and drops. It's easier on the leg and requires more precise execution.

"It makes the regular ball look like a watermelon," Forrest said.

-- Sideline passes: Wide receiver Kevin Norrell and offensive tackle Kevin Freitag did not practice, but watched from the sidelines.

Ball said Norrell, a potential starter, is day to day with a jaw problem. Ball said Freitag, (as previously noted on CF.C), may be lost for the season. The third-string right guard recently underwent surgery for a toe injury that bothered him from time to time last season.

Ball said offensive guard Andrew Roxas (noted in yesterday's CF.C report), a potential starter or key reserve, missed part of practice to see a doctor regarding a lingering illness.

Starting outside linebacker Louis Bland as expected saw limited duty as he deals with a knee injury that threatens to keep him sidelined for potentially at least the season opener Sept. 5 versus Stanford in Pullman.

Also as expected, Jay Matthews and Terrance Hayward, a pair of redshirt freshman defensive backs, wore yellow "hands off" practice jerseys. They're recovering from shoulder operations and might not be ready for the opener.

A handful of spectators turned out under sunny, cloudless skies on a largely deserted campus (classes don't begin at WSU until Aug. 24). Chad Eaton, a former Cougar and NFL defensive line standout, was on hand.

Cougfan Top Stories