Practice report: Chima freshens up at corner

PULLMAN – Change was the operative word at Martin Stadium on Wednesday. Foremost, perhaps, was crispness of the workout -- the Cougars looked light years better than they did in Tuesday's disappointing session. There were also a couple of noticeable personnel changes. On the offensive line, second-year freshman Tyson Pencer took some reps with the 1's, switching off with Steven Ayers at tackle.

On defensive, safety Chima Nwachukwu spent the majority of practice working with the 1's at corner.

With Tuesday's injury to Brandon Jones (ankle), now no longer looking like a 1-2 day thing, Nwachukwu has been asked to step in to a position he knows well.

"I played there my freshman year and coaches thought I'd just step back in there work on my progressions, get used to the steps and the reads," said Nwachukwu. "Wherever they need me I'm going to play, hopefully Jones can come back for Stanford, but if they need me I'll be ready for sure."

Early on during the Cougs' 11-on-11 drills, Nwachukwu covered wide receiver Jared Karstetter on a series of plays and the intensity level of the two – high - typified the day for the entire.

"It was refreshing to be there jamming guys on the line again, it was a little bit tiring but it was fun," said Nwachukwu with a smile.

With Nwachukwu moving to cornerback, sophomore safety Tyree Toomer moved up to play with the 1's and performed well teaming up with Xavier Hicks throughout the day.

" We're not real deep in certain spots, and Chima's the one guy who has the most experience to play safety and corner so guy's are going to have to step up," said Paul Wulff.

Jones, who suffered an ankle sprain in Tuesday's practice, may not be ready to go for the Sept. 5 season opener. In addition to playing corner, Jones is expected to be one of the Cougs' primary return specialists this season, along with Kevin Norrell and Aire Justin.

"A lot of it depends on how it responds the first two, three days after the injury," said Wulff. "He's in a boot, crutches. It's one of those things where I think it's going to be anywhere from a week to three weeks. It's just a guess, but it's that kind of sprain."

The practice consisted of the usual position drills along with 7-on-7, and 11-on-11's mixed in during the mix. The last 25 minutes featured a mini-scrimmage, with the defensive dominating.

During the first series, quarterback Marshall Lobbestael hit receiver Daniel Blackledge for a 9-yard gain on third-and-10. On the ensuing fourth-and-1 play, Lobbestael fed running back Logwone Mitz with a toss and he was swarmed by a sea of white jerseys that included Dan Spitz, and Toomer. The defensive team exploded in excitement when Mitz went down short of the first down marker. Linebacker coach Travis Niekamp sprinted to his linebacker corps in jubilation.

On the next series, quarterback Kevin Lopina came out with the 2's and looked to cool the defense down, but to no avail. During his series, Lopina was "sacked" twice.

The highlight for the defense came when the first team offense and defense were battling it out later in the scrimmage. Lobbestael was looking to find tight end Tony Thompson, and Toomer jumped up and snatched the ball out of midair.

"I thought they did a better job and that was good to see the defense flying around a little bit," said Wulff. "We're going to need them to play great defense -- there will be times where we're going to have our backs against the wall and they have to help the team out and I thought they did that today."


• OT Micah Hannam and DB Casey Locker did not practice due to illness.

• Running back/return man Chantz Staden, who had knee surgery in the off season, did not participate in running back drills Wednesday. Running backs coach Steve Broussard said Staden, fourth-year senior, would " probably" redshirt. "His knee's not ready, it's not fully healed so 9 times out of 10 he'll redshirt."

• After what Wulff called one the most disappointing practices he's ever had with the Cougars, his players bounced back Wednesday."We came out and the guys did a great job responding and coming back with the mentality to get better and work hard."

• For the second straight year Zach Enyeart, a fourth-year junior from Skyline High, will be the Cougars' snapper for punts and placekicks. The one-time walk-on was awarded a scholarship in May.

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