SPRING BALL: Defense sets tone on Opening Day

PULLMAN — Full contact won't happen for a few days but that didn't stop the Cougar defense Thursday. Co-defense Coordinator Jody Sears called it a great energy session. Indeed, the Wazzu D was flying all over the field. And they had the offense's number for the most part -- the secondary showcased their talent with two interceptions off Jeff Tuel, courtesy of a pair of red-shirt sophomores.

"I'm very pleased after the first day," Sears said, following a day where rain and hail both made an appearance. "The first day there's always a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. I loved the consistency, guys were playing fast. It was good to see, hopefully we can maintain that the next 2-3 weeks."

The first pick on the day came when Jeff Tuel tried to hit WR Jared Karstetter. Corner Terrance Hayward stepped in front of the Spokane native and reeled in a triumph for the second team D.

A few plays later Tuel was picked off again, this time by first team safety LeAndre Daniels. Daniels started the first two games of the 2009 season, only to see his season end with a broken leg against Hawaii.

"We tried to force a few balls there but the great thing was that we were in a position to make plays on defense," Paul Wulff said. "That was good to see and we have a lot more competition in the secondary and those guys got a lot more experience."

Along with Daniels in the first team secondary, S Chima Nwachukwu, and CB's Daniel Simmons and Nolan Washington, saw most of the day running with the 1's.


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  • IT WASN'T FULL CONTACT but for what it's worth, the d-line also had more moments over their offensive counterparts on Day One, putting consistent pressure on starting QB Tuel and back-up Marshall Lobbestael. Among those slipping their adversaries and getting into the faces of the Cougar quarterbacks -- newcomer Brandon Rankin, who saw his first on-field action in a Cougar uniform and showed good explosion and gap-busting skills in the padless practice.

    Rankin, who will work at both defensive end and tackle this spring, spent his first day lined up at DT. He said he is ready to go wherever Co-Defensive Coordinators Chris Ball and Sears need him.

    "I'm used to it," Rankin said. "I play all over the d-line -- I played (DT) in high school and a little bit in junior college."

    Rankin said the size of his new teammates and counterparts won't require too large an adjustment coming out of junior college. But he said he plans on adding to his 6-5, 271 pound frame. Wulff said he's lost 5-10 excess pounds since arriving in January but Rankin says he wants to add muscle.

    "They're about the same, maybe a little bit stronger, but about the same size. I need to gain some weight since I'm playing tackle now," he said.

    Rankin was joined on the first d-line today by DT Toby Turpin, and DE's Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman.

    AS FOR TUEL, apart from the two interceptions, he looked sharp in his first practice. Tuel showcased great zip on his passes, and was hitting his receivers perfectly in stride, including two picture-perfect connections with WR Jeffrey Solomon early on.

    The second year QB said there have been many changes for him since last fall, both physical and mental.

    "I definitely know the offense, I'm feeling a lot better," Tuel said. "I put on weight, I'm around 215 right now (from a listed 207 in '09). I'm feeling more mature, to sum it up. The fact that we came out here and executed some plays and did some things really good, I think that's huge."

    IN FRONT OF Tuel, the offensive line had its ups and downs today. As expected, the starting lineup consisted of redshirt junior Andrew Roxas at center, and joined by LT Steven Ayers, LG Zack Williams, RG B.J. Guerra and RT Micah Hannam.

    Ayers moved all over the line Thursday, switching back and forth from tackle and guard, and Wulff said moving around is something all his big hosses could see over the next few weeks.

    "There's a good chance of it," Wulff said. "They all need to be a little more diverse. We have to have the ability if someone who's not playing well, to be able to play someone who can get in their position and help the football team."

    Absent from practice on Thursday was LT Tyson Pencer because of what Wulff called an academic issue. Wulff also went on to say that there will be some players missing practices throughout spring ball in order to catch up on classwork. Spring ball is critical, but the third year coach is also focused on the student aspect of student-athlete.

    "Mid-term grades, we've got some guys that were struggling so there will be a few guys, anywhere from 6-7 guys, that will miss some practices here and there just to make sure we give them every opportunity to catch up on their grades.

  • DE Sekope Kaufusi dove for a ball towards the end of practice, collided with a teammate and landed awkwardly on his hand. The second year freshman came off the field and his day ended with a dislocated finger.

  • Roxas' practice was cut short after he suffered an apparent leg injury, although it did not appear serious. The center was on the sidelines holding his quad and was being tended to by team trainers. The extent of his injury was not available at press time, but CF.C will have an update on Roxas when available.

  • Washington State's pre-spring depth chart can be found here:


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