MORNING SESSION: Young Cougs get a closeup

PULLMAN--In the first of two practices on Wednesday for the Cougs, the morning session ended with wide receiver Esa Johnwell's sensational, fully outstretched grab of a Jeff Tuel bullet. Johnwell, a freshman walk-on, is the stepbrother of former Cougars Hamza and Husain Abdullah. Meanwhile, DE Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, RB Carl Winston and S Eric Block were among the youth making noise of their own.

The morning practice was limited to true freshmen, other young players and a handful of older players lower on the depth chart.

Esa Johnwell's catch, fantastic as it was, came after a notably high number of dropped passes by the crimson youth.

Many of the drops came on short passes by Jeff Tuel that simply bounced off hands.

"My job's to put the ball where it needs to be," Tuel said. "It's obviously raining, so I know there's going to be some drops. My ball's not spinning as well as it normally does."

Tuel added, "I'll bark at the guys just to let 'em know, ‘Let's make a play here.' But I know it's going to happen (drops). We all know that."

Freshman defensive end Jordan Pu'u-Robinson showed a good burst off the edge when rushing the quarterback on Wednesday.

Freshmen running backs Carl Winston and Leon Brooks also had their moments.

Sophomore safety Eric Block made some plays after missing two practices due to a death in the family.

Junior wide receiver Easton Johnson, a safety last season, impressed with a leaping catch on the sideline of a Tuel pass delivered after the QB nimbly avoided the rush by escaping the pocket.

Junior cornerback Anthony Houston, a wide receiver last season, picked off a deflected pass.

-- Wulff back: Head coach Paul Wulff made a seamless return to the practice field Wednesday morning. The NCAA mandated that Wulff miss the first three practices due to rules violations that took place when Wulff was coaching Eastern Washington.

Wulff watched videotape of practices and kept in close contact with his assistants, but he said it wasn't easy missing the first three days of camp.

"It was tough. Tougher than I thought it was going to be, actually," Wulff said.

"I wasn't concerned in terms of how things were going to be done. Everything's pretty scripted out. It's my own personal wants."

-- Scholarship count: The dismissal of senior running back Chris Ivory freed up a scholarship, but because of NCAA number rules, Wulff said he's not certain if will be awarded to anyone this fall.

"There's a possibility," Wulff said. "We're only allowed X amount of initials (newcomers to school) -- 25 initials.

"We've topped that out.

"For us to give a scholarship to somebody (walk-ons this fall), they have to be in our program for at least two full years."

Wulff said he expects to have "close to 80" players on scholarship this season. The NCAA limit is 85.

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