CAMP DAY 9: Trench battles and high intensity

PULLMAN -- With NFL scouts from the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts looking on, both WSU's offense and defense looked sharp in respective drills, which were followed by a series of 11-on-11 scrimmage-type drills. Whereas during Sunday's practices the o-line struggled with pass protection, the hosses showed improvement Tuesday. And the intensity levels were high across the board.

Both Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael had time to find open receivers or check it down to James Montgomery or Dwight Tardy during the morning session -- a far different scenario than either of the two practices on Sunday, the last time the Cougs took the field after an off-day yesterday.

Lopina and Lobbestael ran the offense most of the day in 11-man drills, with freshman Jeff Tuel seeing limited action.

"It's about getting better at it every day, "said sophomore offensive lineman Steven Ayers. "Run blocking has been a strength for us since spring. And pass blocking hasn't necessarily been a weakness but it's been a little harder for us than the run game, so we've just got to get better every day -- with technique and how we approach the game, that's the bottom line."

Ayers said new faces up front have impressed him with their performances thus far in fall camp -- rising redshirt frosh Tyson Pencer among them.

"We've got a couple of freshmen who grayshirted.. Alex Reitnouer and Tim Hodgdon, and they've been playing really well," said Ayers. "Alex had a really good scrimmage. And Tyson Pencer's getting some reps with the 1's, so props to him."

ON THE OTHER side of the football, the Cougs' defensive line has at times shown some weakness with their run stop the past couple of days. However, the unit excelled in that department today, including a goal line stand against the first team offense.

One thing fans will notice about the defensive line this season -- they have put on some pounds and are looking much bigger.

"Everyone put on weight," said 6-foot-6, 260 pound defensive end Kevin Kooyman. "I put on 15 pounds, Toby put on 20 pounds, everyone's moving around really good and even though we put on weight, we're still agile and quick. It definitely makes a big difference."

Similar to Ayers, Kooyman said the new faces on defense have make great additions to the line-up for the 2009-10 season.

"I would definitely say () Bernard Wolfgramm, Toby Turpin, Jesse Feagin, Casey Hamlett (are standing out.) I mean, the whole defensive line is coming together really nice," said Kooyman.

LAST SEASON IT it was evident the Cougar defensive line was not the strongest point on the team. This season, however, d-line coach Malik Roberson said a new found confidence has been in evidence.

He also added that he's been extremely pleased with the strides the group has made in early fall camp.

"The depth is about the same but they had a really good winter and summer so they're coming out aggressive because of that," said Roberson. "They're all pretty much making gains as a unit. And they're doing a great job."

AS FAR AS high intensity levels, the Cougars were not lacking for those on Tuesday.

There were a lot of big hits, including one by safety Tyree Toomer where he absolutely decleated wide receiver Daniel Blackledge in trying to get to ballcarrier Dwight Tardy.

Later in that same 11-on-11 drill, after a Lobbestael pass to RB James Montgomery, wide receiver Collin Huemmer and safety Chima Nwachukwu continued to battle after the whistle. It was a momentary skirmish, as they were quickly separated by teammates and head man Paul Wulff.

Check in later tonight for our report on the Cougs' late practice session.

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