Practice Report: Tuel, revamped OL gel

PULLMAN -- Jeff Tuel, taking his first practice snaps as WSU's No. 1 quarterback Tuesday, didn't disappoint. He opened matters against the No. 1 defense with two consecutive completions and later closed the 11-on-11 portion of the afternoon with "oohs" and "aahs" from teammates as he threaded the needle on passes to Daniel Blackledge and Jared Karstetter.

Against the scout team, Jeff Tuel and Karstetter connected on a post-card perfect bomb for a score.

Neither Tuel nor No. 2 man Marshall Lobbestael threw an interception on the day. Tuel looked poised throughout -- no doubt aided by the consistently solid protection he was afforded from the Cougars' rejiggered offensive line that only features two regular starters: center Kenny Alfred and right tackle Micah Hannam. Filling in around them are tackle Tyson Pencer, guard Alex Reitnouer, and tackle-turned-guard Joe Eppele.

Steven Ayers (ankle), Zack Williams (ankle) and B.J. Guerra (knee) are all out. In addition, Brian Danaher, who started at USC last weekend as the Cougs backfilled at guard for Williams and Guerra, didn't practice Tuesday. There was no official word on his status but it is not believed to be serious.

Williams was not wearing a brace Tuesday on his injured ankle and continued to do some light jogging and wind sprints. Ayers and Guerra were on the sidelines riding stationery bicycles and doing some light lifting.

"It's something that's happened the last couple of years, it's kind of a rough situation but at the same time we have to adapt to it we have no choice," Alfred said of the OL's injury situation. "I was happy with the way guys responded when Zack and B.J. went down and I've got a good feeling I'll be happy with the way guys respond this week too.

The Cougs travel to No. 16 Oregon for a 6:15 p.m. kickoff Saturday.

In addition to protecting Tuel on pass plays, the hosses performed well Tuesday opening holes for Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston. All three backs were able to break free for several gains of 10 or more.

On defense, with tackle Josh Luapo (torn ACL) out for the season, second-year freshman Anthony Laurenzi is getting more reps as he splits time with Toby Turpin and Bernard Wolfgramm. "Anthony brings some quickness and some pass rush to the front and he's fairly athletic so that's been a pleasant surprise," said Cougar defensive line coach Malik Roberson.

Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman returned to practice Tuesday after being out the past few weeks with a knee injury. Kooyman participated lightly in drills, but not the 11-on-11's. Roberson says he's not certain when Kooyman will be ready for game action. "He just came out today to test it out and we'll just go from there," he said. His playing time has been filled by Dan Spitz and Jesse Feagin.

SPECIAL TEAMS CONTINUED to be a focus for the Cougars on Tuesday. Aside from all-world punter Reid Forrest, the Cougars have had breakdowns with special teams since the season began. The woes continued at USC with a missed field goal and missed extra point, plus an all-too-easy on-sides kick and recovery by the Trojans' placekicker.

NOTABLE NOTES:

• Back-up safety Eric Block and starting tight end Tony Thompson did not practice on Tuesday because they were ill. Skylar Stormo took Thompson's reps.

• Usually absent on Tuesdays because of soreness in his knee, LB Louis Bland practiced at full speed and did not look as if his knee bothered him at all. Bland had the hit off the day when he fought through the line and leveled Mitz back about three feet back into Winston.

• A big chunk of the Cougars' wide receiving corps is doing double-time in the "gunner" position on special teams. Gino Simone, Jeffrey Solomon, Daniel Blackledge and Johnny Forzani are the team's main gunners along with cornerback Brandon Jones. Jones and Simone also field punts.

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