Revamped Cougar o-line faces tall task

PULLMAN -- Washington State will head into USC with the two starting guards who began the season on the sidelines. Don't expect any sympathy or excuses from o-line coach Harold Etheridge, however. Meanwhile, an injured receiver last week is back on the field and wasted little time, turning in the play of the day, plus more.

As expected, customary left tackle Steven Ayers spent Tuesday's practice working at left guard and red-shirt freshman Tyson Pencer was at left tackle, in advance of what is expected to make his first collegiate start. Center Kenny Alfred, RT Micah Hannam and RG Brian Danaher rounded up the first team o-line Tuesday.

Danaher played much of last year as a starter, softening somewhat the blow from both Zack Williams (ankle) and B.J. Guerra (knee) being out for USC. Pencer came in early against SMU following the Guerra injury and played well in his first action protecting the quarterback's blind side.

"He hasn't even tapped into his potential," Etheridge said of Pencer. "Athletically, he's exactly what you look for in a guy. He's phenomenal there."

Still, losing 40 percent of your starting o-line isn't exactly the ideal scenario heading into USC.

Tough, said Etheridge. Deal with it.

"We can't let it affect us. It is what it is, we have to play the hands we're dealt and the train is going to keep moving. So guys need to step up and take the challenge," Etheridge said.

AT QUARTERBACK, Marshall Lobbestael took the majority of snaps with the 1's while Jeff Tuel was with the 2's.

Tuel also saw some action with the first team. Paul Wulff has said Tuel could play, depending on Lobbestael's performance. Wulff said last week the plan was to get Tuel in but the Cougs ultimately stuck with Lobbestael and Tuel's redshirt remained intact.

THE BATTLE OF the defensive and offensive lines was essentially a stalemate in the first practice of the week. The o-line's pass protection was good, and Lobbestael had time to get rid of the ball.

Starting RB Dwight Tardy and backup Logwone Mitz looked good in situational drills they were able to find holes and make some sharp cuts on their way to decent sized gains -- each had a few 10 yard bursts.

THE BEST CATCH of the day belonged to Gino Simone.

Simone sat out last week after sustaining a concussion from an illegal hit against Hawaii. Although Simone he was wearing a no-contact yellow jersey, customary on the first day back following a concussion, Simone had a great day of practice.

Lobbestael hooked up more than a few times with Simone and the brightest moment came when the two connected on a 35 yard strike that saw Simone flying high in the air, outleaping fellow true freshman Anthony Carpenter, and battling for and securing the ball.

Simone has been cleared to play this week at USC.

  • Dwight Tardy and Montgomery were in a fierce battle for playing time before Monty's season ending injury. But they're teammate first. "It's sad, I've seen him about 3-or-4 times (since surgery), I go over there and set his x-box for him, make sure he has games and play a couple rounds of baseball with him."

  • Etheridge said o-lineman Alex Reitnouer, Reed Lesuma, Joe Eppele and Chris Prummer all need to be ready to be called on come Saturday.

  • Reitnouer, a true frosh from Pasadena is undersized but Etheridge said he makes up for much of it with his toughness. "He's a young kid that's got a great future ahead of him," Etheridge said. "He's about 258 pounds but he can make up with it in his demeanor and he's got great work ethic and he'll compete."

  • In the secondary, Daniel Simmons and Brandon Jones ran with the 1's at corner, while Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu filled their usual safety spots.

  • Zack Williams was wearing a brace on his right ankle and did some light jogging, even some wind springs. But it was apparent the discomfort remains. He is expected out another 1-3 weeks.

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