PRACTICE REPORT: Wulff seeks the best 11

PULLMAN -- At the Cougs' practice today, the starting defensive unit looked a little different than it has of late. And the Washington State offense also saw a few personnel change-ups.

Both Cougar QB's looked sharp today.

Marshall Lobbestael saw an increased amount of time running with the 1's today, after spending most of Tuesday with the second team.

Lopina also got in a good amount of turns with the 1's. While with the second team, he hooked up with Jeshua Anderson on a 20-yarder marked by a leaping, acrobatic catch from the receiver. Anderson was slow to rise but looked fine later on.

During an 11-on-11 against the first team defense, Lobbestael threw a tight spiral that hit the wide receiver square in the hands. But he couldn't reel it in and Xavier Hicks snagged it. Still, it was the D's first and only interception on the day and the QB's remained on target.

DT Josh Luapo spent the entire practice working with the 1's while Toby Turpin spent the day running with the second team.

WITH CUSTOMARY weakside 'backer Louis Bland taking over at MLB today, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Darren Markle worked with the 2's.

"I'm just trying to get the best 11 out there -- our most experienced guys too," said Paul Wulff.

Throughout camp, plenty have been fighting for the starting linebacker positions, including Bland, Hoffman-Ellis, Markle, Andy Mattingly and Jason Stripling.

"We're just trying to get our best three players out there and right now I think our best three are probably Louis, Andy, and Stripling," said linebackers coach Travis Niekamp. "It doesn't mean it won't change. Competition is a good thing and we've got a good battle going."

Possible reasons for the shuffling include a) being prepared if there are injuries and, b) the Cougs might look to rotate a bit more than last year. There's also another choice -- position battles simply remain ongoing.

Is not having a rigid starting line-up this close to Saturday problematic? Wulff doesn't think so, and neither does Niekamp.

"It's a good problem to have and competition is what makes everybody better. The best competitors are the ones who are going to win games for us," said Niekamp.

HOFFMAN-ELLIS, HAVING returned from a foot injury, had been spending a lot of practice running with the 1's in previous sessions. He is slated to start in front of Markle on the depth chart released earlier this week. Wulff said that Hoffman-Ellis will see a lot of playing time on Saturday, whether he starts or not.

"Alex is right there and he could be starting -- he is going to play a ton, too," said Wulff. "He was progressing well but then when he hurt his foot, it hurt him when he missed those practices. But I think he'll come a long ways after he plays in his first game."

Bland said he felt comfortable in the middle today, and is ready to go wherever the team needs him.

"I felt pretty good, the coaches asked me to get out there and I'm going to try my best at it," said Bland.

OVER AT D-TACKLE, Luapo looked good today working with the 1's.

He was consistently putting pressure on the QB -- not something you regularly see from the d-tackle spot.

The defensive line has steadily shown progress throughout fall camp, and while it really can't be known until the first few games are in the books, memories of last season look to be distant ones.

QUESTION MARKS STILL remain as to the secondary.

S Chima Nwachukwu continues to bounce to the CB position, where he spent the majority of today's practice.

With Nwachukwu at CB, redshirt freshman LeAndre Daniels was opposite fellow safety Xavier Hicks.

However, there were also many instances in practice where Nwachukwu would return to safety, and redshirt freshman Daniel Simmons would move into the CB spot. What will it all look like on Saturday against Stanford? Stay tuned.

FRESHMAN LT Tyson Pencer and LB Sekope Kaufusi were not participating in practice on Wednesday. WR Kevin Norrell, battling an illness, also did not practice for the second consecutive day, and was briefly at the practice field in street clothes.

"There's no question it will affect his play," said Wulff of Norrell. "He hasn't been able to practice the game plan but we're hoping to get him out there (Saturday) and he can perform a little bit."

Blackledge and Anderson split time with the 1's in Norrell's absence.

New walk-ons joining the team on Tuesday included:
JR. Anthony Martinez CB from Riverside California ( Colony)
SO. Trase Pickering S from Redmond, Washington ( Redmond HS)
FR. Zach Brevick DL from Snoqualmie, Washington ( Mount SI HS)
FR. Matthew Bock DL from Santa Margarita, California (Santa Margarita HS)
SO. Cory Burk WR from Bothell, Washington ( Edmonds CC)

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