DAY 10: One of those days out on the Palouse

PULLMAN—Seems like every team has "one of those days" in spring ball, and this was that day for the Cougs. Taking the field for the first time since a solid Saturday scrimmage, WSU looked to be there from a physical standpoint only. For the first time this spring, Paul Wulff looked truly displeased, though the D did make some huge plays including two by 'backers Hallston Higgins and Darren Markle.

But Paul Wulff was not smiling following Tuesday's session, and injuries were a bit part of why.

DT Brandon Rankin went down with an apparent knee injury on only the second play of practice, and RB Leon Brooks also went down with an ankle injury.

Both were able to return to practice and participate in drills, but they were definitely limited and the lack of consistency in the Cougs' overall performance showed on Tuesday.

"It's one of those practices were you get in it and you realize we've got to grind through this," said Wulff. "And it was also getting to a point where we had six guys nicked up, and thankfully nothing serious, but that's just a prime example of not playing with great intensity.

"It just wasn't a good day emotionally and therefore it wasn't a day were we were able to grow like we wanted to obviously."

Along with Rankin and Brooks, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis injured an ankle, TE Zach Tatman suffered a knee injury, RT Sebastian Valenzuela left practice late with an injury not identified at press time and TE Andrei Lintz tweaked a hamstring.

With Brooks out, RB Logwone Mitz saw virtually all the carries throughout practice, and the power back, who missed some time earlier this spring with a slight concussion, struggled to get into any type of offensive rhythm.

Mitz just didn't have the same bolt and agility that he showed in Saturday's scrimmage and he told CF.C after practice why -- conditioning. He's still working on getting back into primetime shape.

"Tired," Mitz said on how he felt after practice. "I've got to get in shape, and be able to take the workload for the offense -- especially at RB. Whether we've got one, two or six running backs, we've all got to be in shape and be ready.

"I wasn't ready today. But I'm going to try and get better and come out ready on Thursday.

THE OFFENSE AS a whole struggled to get into a rhythm, however there were some big plays that sparked some upside.

The highlight on O was when WR Jared Karstetter sprinted downfield and broke past CB Aire Justin. QB Jeff Tuel spotted the Spokane grabmaster and flung a beautiful 40-45 yard bomb downfield. Karstetter snagged it perfectly in stride for a TD.

Apart from that, however, the biggest plays belonged to the defense.

"We definitely didn't come out here with the right mentality," Mitz said. "We've got to come out here prepared."

OVER ON D big plays were the theme on Tuesday -- interceptions, pass deflections, defensive touchdowns, you name it.

Starting it off was LB Darren Markle. At the SAM spot Tuesday, running with the 2's, the redshirt freshman read the eyes of QB Marshall Lobbestael and made a leaping interception. And then he turned on the jets, racing it back 20 yards to the house.

Markle was swarmed by the entire defensive unit, including coaches, in a boisterous celebration.

"It was a play-action pass, Marshall rolled out I just kind of baited that little flat route," said Markle. "And when he threw it, I just jumped on it and picked on it. It was kind of intense afterwards, everyone celebrating, so that was pretty fun."

MEANWHILE, CORNERBACK Aire Justin nearly had another interception, one that had pick-six written all over it, but the ball fell to the ground after he batted it around several times in midair. LB Hallston Higgins, who has had a solid spring after disappearing into the Cougars' depth chart during his collegiate career, had no such trouble securing the pigskin when his opportunity presented itself.

The senior picked up a ball that had been stripped away from Mitz, and ran it back 15-20 yards for the defensive score. Wulff has consistently praised the play of Higgins during these spring drills, and Tuesday after practice, the case was no different.

"The surprise has definitely been Hallston Higgins," said Wulff. "He's come in and played the MIKE 'backer and he's playing his best football he's ever played.

"He and (Mike) Ledgerwood are battling in there."

WITH HOFFMAN-ELLIS sitting out with an ankle injury on Tuesday, Arthur Burns stepped into the WIL position -- and shined.

Burns was moved over to linebacker last October and he has a great burst of speed, part of what made him such a good running back in high school. And he used that acceleration to make a pair of pass deflections, off of both Tuel and Lobbestael.

"Arthur Burns is coming along as well, which again just give him more reps, which is great," Wulff said. "The more reps that these younger guys can get, the better and it just continues to create more competition."

A POSITIVE NOTE for the Cougars' practice session Tuesday -- the improved performance from the kickers.

So far this spring, it's been a roller coaster ride for the placekickers -- and that may be putting it too kindly. But on Tuesday, they were perfect.

Nico Grasu, Blake Dunn, and Alex Gauper were a combined 6-of-6 to open up the session, the first time this spring they hit on 100 percent.

As expected, C Andrew Roxas sat out the practice Tuesday and he's almost certainly done for the spring with a high ankle sprain. C Chris Prummer continued to see the action running with the 1's on the offensive line in his place. Safety Jay Matthews dinged his surgically repaired shoulder and also may be done. OL Zack Williams, who tweaked a shoulder earlier in the session, could be back in the next few days.

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