Spring ball: D dominates, but O gets in shots

PULLMAN — The sun was shining in Pullman, and linebacker Mike Ledgerwood and defensive lineman Brandon Rankin took the opportunity to bring some heat to the Cougar practice field on Thursday. Ledgerwood dished up a molar-rattling hit on Gino Simone to open the day and Rankin followed up later with a tackle on Logwone Mitz that could only be described as monstrous.

In a helmets-and-shoulder pads-only affair complemented by a balmy 70-degree temperature, the Cougars came out on the sluggish side but warmed up nicely.

The lack of focus early on was illustrated by four straight dropped passes. On one of those, Simone was coming across the middle, couldn't find the handle, and then took the express ride to the turf courtesy of the freight-train Ledgerwood.

Later, in a play that highlighted the defensive line's dominance on the day, Mitz took a handoff and found Rankin in his face almost before he could take one step. The hit was nothing less than earth-shattering and sent Mitz hard to the ground.

That was just a snippet of the D-line's play. They put constant pressure on quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Marshall Lobbestael, with Rankin, tackle Justin Calyton and ends Travis Long, Casey Hamlett, setting the pace.

It wasn't all bad for the offensive line, though. As practice wore on they led the offense on several solid drives.

One included an excellent screenplay for a TD right before practice ended. With the 1s lined up against the 1s, Tuel took advantage of great protection and tossed a perfect screen pass to Mitz, who then rumbled down field, picked up a sweet block from Blackledge on Daniel Simmons, and too the pigskin in for six. The play covered some 40 yards.

"Really at the end of practice in the team segment they (the offense) made some plays," Wulff said. "We weren't very consistent in skelly, we weren't real consistent in blitz but as the practice finished we started catching balls and when you catch the ball we can move the ball."

Indeed, near the end of practice Tuel was firing the ball all over the field.

One of those plays was a thing beauty. Receiver Daniel Blackledge broke free between safety Chima Nwachukwu and cornerback Daniel Simmons and then dove to his side in the end zone to haul in a Jeff Tuel pass that covered 40 yards.

That wasn't the only bright spot for the offense. Running back Chantz Staden (knee) and left guard Zack Williams were both back in action. Staden's knee was heavily taped but he showed great burst and cutting ability. Williams spent the day working with the 2's, though he left the field early because of soreness.

The starting offensive line was made up of LT Wade Jacobsen, LG Micah Hannam, C Chris Prummer, RG B.J. Guerra, and RT David Gonzales.


  • Following an underwhelming practice on Tuesday, Wulff was mildly pleased with Thursday's efforts. "It's kind of weird -- it's 70 degrees out here and we acted like it was kind of hot at the beginning. It was a solid practice, it was by no means a poor practice just a little up and down emotionally. Overall it was a practice we can grow from so it was good."

  • Redshirt freshman cornerback Anthony Carpenter hit paydirt during 7-on-7 drills. When Staden couldn't hang on to a Tuel pass, Carpenter snatched the ball out of the air and took it to the house.

  • LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis was at practice Thursday with a boot on his right ankle. With Hoffman-Ellis out, Ledgerwood moved from the MLB and ran at the SAM with the 1's.

  • Nwachukwu , the senior DB, noted that the defense has an extra spring in its proverbial step. "There were a lot of guys flying around and people were making plays. We've become used to people stopping people at the line and we're a lot more enthusiastic this year as a defense."

  • Simone told CF.C that although the receivers got off to a slow start Thursday, they are showing improvements every day, and have made huge leaps since spring camp began three weeks ago. "I think as a group Levy (WR coach Mike Levenseller) has done a few things to try and improve our hands and you know through that process we've been going through some struggles," Simone said. "I think if you look at us from where we started to where we're at now, we're making progress and I think you saw that through practice today."

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