SPRING: Final practice sees Tuel, DL shine

PULLMAN-- Spring has now officially sprung for the Cougars as they closed out spring drills this morning with a crack of dawn shoulder pads and helmets-only practice. Paul Wulff expressed confidence about the strides the Cougs made during the 15-practice spring session, and offered some closing thoughts on what was, and what's yet to come, for Cougar football in 2010.

"It was good, you know we had a real good winter offseason and we felt the next important step was spring football and we took a step," Wulff said. "We have to build from this point forward when we arrive in fall camp. If we can do that, we'll take a big step for our first game. Very productive spring."

"It was good, I thought it was a good way to end it," QB Jeff Tuel said. "We finished on a positive note, did some good things, didn't do a lot (today) but it was a pretty good practice."

IN AN OFT-REPEATED them this spring, the defense had the upper hand on Monday, and from start to finish.

Leading that charge was DT Brandon Rankin who despite the early hour and that the practice was not full contact, played like a man possessed on Monday morning. Practice began at 6 a.m. but Rankin was electric, busting through the offensive line consistently and man-handling LG Tyson Pencer on several plays.

As a whole, the defense came out ready to prove a point this spring, said Wulff. And that point was that they were ready to put their disastrous 2009 season behind them and prove they have the ability to make plays.

"It was nice to see so many players get comfortable and we're building depth," Wulff said of his defense. "They're flying around, were more active than we've ever been. "

THE NO. 1 OFFENSIVE line on Monday consisted of LT Micah Hannam, LG Tyson Pencer, C Chris Prummer, RG B.J. Guerra, and RT David Gonzales.

The o-line, however, strugged a bit early on with protection, but got into a groove opening up big holes for RB Logwone Mitz and RB Chantz Staden later.

The line has been missing LT Steven Ayers, LG Zack Williams, LT Wade Jacobsen, and C Andrew Roxas for portions of spring camp, but Wulff said, in looking at the bright side, it allowed for plenty of other guys to get reps. And ultimately, it didn't stop the line from making strides.

"I thought a lot of improvement," Wulff said in assessing the line's performance this spring. "The nice thing again is we could function at a higher clip than we ever have with multiple lineman in and out. That was very encouraging to see.

IN THE PASSING GAME on Monday, QB Jeff Tuel continued to take the majority of reps with the 1's. He and WR Jared Karstetter connected on the play of the day -- an impressive fade pass during goal line drills. With CB Anthony Carpenter in coverage, Tuel lofted one to Karstetter in the back of the end zone and the Spokane native dove full extension and hauled it in for six.

The receiving corps as a whole struggled mightily early on this spring holding onto the ball, however Wulff told CF.C he was pleased with the improvement they were able to make in the latter half, and Karstetter was the first name he mentioned.

"I thought Jared Karstetter had a real solid spring," Wulff said. "Gino had done some good things before he got nicked up at the end. Same thing with (Jeffrey) Solomon and Daniel (Blackledge) -- they became more consistent in what they were doing X and O-wise. We've got to get caught up-to-speed, which will help our overall depth at the position."

The Cougars will welcome five receivers this summer as part of their 2010 class -- Isiah Barton, Kristoff Williams, Marquess Williams, Robert, Bobby Ratliff and Blair Bomber are slated to arrive.

"I'm looking forward to working with everyone but especially the receivers," Tuel said of the incoming class. "It's exciting because you don't know what kind of playmakers are coming in and what kind of guys. It creates competition at the position, so it pushes everyone and makes everyone work a little harder."

AS FOR TUEL, he continued to look strong on Monday and he shined throughout this spring.

Wulff made it a point this spring to not offer a 100 percent committal on Tuel being "the guy", but it appears Tuel has done more than enough this spring, and has shown he can be a team leader with his offensive troops. QB Marshall Lobbestael also got some reps with the 1's Monday, threading the needle and showing some zip on his passes.

"We're best buds on and off the field," Tuel said. "He's a great guy and all the QB's were a really close tight knit group. I love that because there's no bad blood whatsoever between anybody. It's awesome -- it's all for one, and one for all."

Wulff, having just completed his third spring camp said that head and shoulders, this spring was the best he and his staff have seen since arriving at WSU. He cautioned that there is still plenty of work left to be done before the 2010 season, but he also said, once again, and as he has all offseason, that the 2010 Cougs are going to turn some heads this fall.

"We're growing, and this is a team again that has a shot to potentially shock some people -- and we're going to take a big step," said Wulff.

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