Matthews could become 11th freshman to start

PULLMAN -- It's been oft-mentioned that the Cougars are young but to put it into context, consider this... It's looking more and more like Jay Matthews will get the start at free safety this Saturday at Arizona. If that does indeed prove to be the case, he will become the 11th freshman -- yes, 11th -- to start for Washington State this season.

But first, practice started off with a bit of a scare. On only the second play of practice, senior TE/SB Tony Thompson caught a pass from Jeff Tuel over the middle, took a hit and was a little shaken up. Thompson's day ended on that play but the injury, however, doesn't appear to be serious.

Meanwhile, junior safety Chima Nwachukwu did not practice and was on the sidelines supporting his teammates with a black boot on his right ankle. With Nwachukwu listed as questionable, red-shirt freshman Jay Matthews spent the day running with the 1's and explained he looks forward to get the start if he's called on.

"It feels good to be out there," Matthews said, who has played in six games and has six tackles. "It came (by) an unfortunate situation for Chima but I'm excited. And I'm going to seize the opportunity to the best of my ability.

OUT ON THE field, LB Hallston Higgins got some turns in and had one of the session's first big hits when he leveled scout team RB Leon Brooks to the ground. A few minutes later during a punt return drill, emerging FB Jared Byers was matched up against freshman safety Jamal Atofau.

Byers drove into Atofau and de-cleated the Bellevue native flat onto his back. Atofau was visibly upset with the outcome and was restrained by teammates who guided him toward the sideline.

AGAINST THE scout team defense, Tuel looked impressive on some throws including a thread of the needle over the hands of Arthur Burns -- Burns filled in at LB on Tuesday with the scout team, but is usually a RB.

On the other hand though, Tuel was intercepted by freshman D-lineman Matthew Bock, and just a few plays later was nearly intercepted by corner Nolan Washington who jumped in front of a long heave.

Tuel said that as he continues to gain experience and maturity, he is learning from his mistakes.

"I feel I'm improving in learning whether it's the hits I'm taking or throws I'm making," Tuel said. "No matter what's happening I feel like I'm able to taking something positive away from it.

AS REPORTED EARLIER on CF.C, Steven Ayers and Micah Hannam are competing for the starting job this week. Both saw an equal amount of time running with the 1's on Tuesday, and both did a good job of protecting Tuel and opening up some holes for the run game.

At the MLB spot, Mike Ledgerwood and Alex Hoffman-Ellis also saw an equal amount of time running with the 1's. Hoffman-Ellis started last week against Notre Dame, and Ledgerwood started the previous game against Cal when Hoffman-Ellis was out with a staph infection.

CB Brandon Jones, dinged up a bit following the game against Notre Dame, participated fully in practice on Tuesday and showed no signs of injury as he spent the day running with the 1's.

RB's Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston broke free on the day for a couple of chain moving gainers.

While working with the scout team against the first team defense, true freshman walk-on Leon Brooks (5-6, 160) showed an excellent burst of speed as he bolted past the line and was able to outsprint Matthews into the end zone.

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