CAMP DAY 3: Simmons climbs starting ladder

PULLMAN -- Pads were poppin' and tempers were risin' Tuesday as Washington State practiced in shoulder pads for the first time on Day Three. Dwight Tardy, Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu all had big plays. Daniel Simmons has already made a strong charge up the depth chart, ascending to the No. 1 starting CB post on the right side, plus much more.

-- Getting defensive: One year and three fall camp practices after the Cougars gave up a horrendous 44 points a game, Ball said WSU's defense is "much better.

"They've got a little more ‘want-to.' They saw last year. They don't want to be that."

The Cougars are young and inexperienced at cornerback. And some big news out of Pullman on Day Three -- Redshirt freshman Daniel Simmons has moved ahead of sophomore Aire Justin at right corner.

"It's a battle right now," Ball said. "People are trying to steal that job from him (Simmons) … but he's doing a great job of keeping it. He‘s stronger. He's put on a lot of weight."

True freshman Anthony Carpenter also saw some action with the 1's and 2's this morning.

Brandon Jones, who starred at O'Dea High School in Seattle, is the starting corner on the left side.

Jones played in 12 games as a reserve at California in 2007 in his only college action. He has junior eligibility because he redshirted in 2006 and lost a year of eligibility last season when he had to sit out the year at WSU due to NCAA transfer rules.

-- Push and pull: WSU won't go full contact until Thursday but several fairly brief skirmishes broke out, mostly when defensive players were deemed to have gone too far by their offensive counterparts.

Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said he wants the Cougars "to be smarter" and practice intensely "without creating riots." Still, Ball didn't seem overly concerned about the tussles.

"It's normal," Ball said. ""First day of contact. They've been going against each other all summer with no contact. It's not a big surprise."

Ball smiled before adding, "I used to work for some guys that just let 'em (go) off to the side and let 'em fight. They'd wear themselves out. They get so tired, they can't hurt each other."

-- Hit and Miss Air: The addition of shoulder pads led to more physical play and the first 11-on-11 action. Quarterbacks always remain off-limits in practice in their yellow jerseys, of course, but passers and receivers were quite inconsistent on the day.

Jeshua Anderson made a nice catch of a well-thrown ball by Marshall Lobbestael, but Anderson let another excellent Lobbestael pass slip right through his hands.

Lobbestael also had some poor throws, but he scrambled expertly while under pressure and lofted a perfect touch pass to Kevin Norrell.

Kevin Lopina, who threw 11 interceptions last year, tossed a short pass right into the hands of linebacker Josh Garrett, but Garrett dropped the ball. Lopina also made several fine throws on Tuesday.

On the last play of the practice, J.T. Levenseller delivered a nice ball to tight end Skylar Stormo for the redshirt freshman's second big-yardage catch of the day. However, Chima Nwachukwu stripped the ball from Stormo, and fellow safety Xavier Hicks picked up the pigskin and ran it back for a "touchdown" against somewhat lukewarm resistance.

The strong finish for the defense made up for the second play of 11-on-11 drills, when running back Dwight Tardy dashed around end for a 20-yard TD behind strong blocking against the No. 2 defense.

-- 'Backer scene: Myron Beck, a starter last year at safety and linebacker, is listed on the preseason depth chart as the No. 2 "will" linebacker behind Louis Bland.

However, senior Jason Stripling -- listed as the No. 3 middle linebacker on the depth chart -- is playing ahead of Beck at the starting will spot with Bland limited due to a knee injury.

"Jason's doing a good job … Myron's playing well, too," Ball said.

-- Speedy addition: Alex Hoffman -Ellis, penciled in as WSU's starting middle linebacker, is under no illusion that he has all the answers just yet. After all, Hoffman-Ellis has played only two years of football in his life, and he redshirted at WSU last season after transferring from a California junior college.

"What have I learned (at WSU)?. What HAVEN'T I learned is the better question," Hoffman-Ellis said with a smile.

"I'd say probably the most important thing I've learned is that you can never get confortable with where you're at. You always have to keep improving, because everyone wants that No. 1 (starting) spot. Nobody dreams of being a backup."

Hoffman-Ellis never played football until his senior year of high school, then starred in football and track in his one season at Moorpark (Calif.) JC. Hoffman-Ellis said he was academically ineligible for football as a sophomore and junior in high school, and his parents didn't want him to play as a freshman.

Hoffman-Ellis said he has run the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.54 seconds. He raced back to deflect a Levenseller pass Tuesday, and Hoffman-Ellis' speed could come in handy if he plays between outside linebackers Andy Mattingly and Stripling, who are not the fleetest of fellows in pass coverage.

"He can really run," Ball said. "He's farther along than I thought he would be."

-- The Wulff returneth:
  • Ball has been in charge of the first three practices, but head coach Paul Wulff takes over Wednesday. "We miss having him out here," said Ball, the assistant head coach. The NCAA ordered Wulff to miss the first three practices due to rules violations that took place at Eastern Washington when Wulff coached the Eagles.

    -- Extra points: Ball said no further explanation is planned on Monday's dismissal of senior running back Chris Ivory for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Whitman County Superior Court records say a marijuana possession charge against Ivory was dismissed in June, and a disorderly conduct charge was dismissed last year.

  • Quarterbacks and receivers have been getting in extra work in a short period of time during one drill where five QB's line up in a row and then throw to five receivers.

  • Ball said reserve safety Eric Block is expected to return to practice Wednesday after being called away due to a death in the family.

  • Reserve offensive lineman Andrew Roxas sat out practice when he went back to the doctor due to a lingering illness.

  • Two practices will be held Wednesday. The 1's and 2's work out from 2:30-4:30 p.m., with others practicing from 9-11 a.m.

  • Greg Trent, the seventh-leading tackler in WSU history, dropped by practice Tuesday. Trent said he plans to earn his degree by December. The hard-working middle linebacker attended a Washington Redskins mini-camp in May and said he thought he played well, but he did not get invited to training camp.

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