Fall Camp Day 1: Tuel sharp, rookies eager

PULLMAN – Quarterback Jeff Tuel picked up where he left off in last spring's Crimson and Gray game -- looking good – but the biggest story from WSU's first day of fall football camp was the work of the rookies. Head coach Paul Wulff was quick to point out there were 31 newbies on the field. Among those standing out in that crowd were offensive lineman John Fullington and a host of receivers.

Fullington, a 6-5, 268-pounder from North Mason High, impressed with his hustle and aggressiveness. Meanwhile, rookie wideouts Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff, Isiah Barton and Marquess Wilson served notice that deciding who plays and who redshirts among them this season isn't going to be easy.

"Marquis, Kristoff and Bobby and all the new guys have really impressed... because they all just want to learn," said junior receiver Jared Karstetter.

On one particularly noteworthy play, Tuel rolled out of the pocket and connected with a beautiful pass to Barton, a JC transfer, for a long gain. Tuel led the first unit offense to a relatively mistake-free day. Outside of a few incompletions he was mostly sharp. Seniors Daniel Blackledge and Jeffrey Solomon and sophomore Gino Simone were his favorite targets.

While there were no pads today, there was still plenty of contact and intensity. The starting defensive line – ends Travis Long and Kevin Kooyman and tackles Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm – gave fits to the second-unit offensive line.

Meanwhile, the first-unit offensive line – led by Wade Jacobsen, Zack Williams, Andrew Roxas and B.J. Guerra, with David Gonzales, Tyson Pencer and Micah Hannam rotating in – looked sharp at times and a bit rusty at others. But the bottom line was that Tuel and Lobbestael had time to let plays to develop.

LINEBACKER DEPTH WAS on display throughout practice -- with very little drop off between the 1's and 2's. The No. 1 unit consisted of SAM Myron Beck, MIK Mike Ledgerwood and WILL Alex Hoffman-Ellis, and they were all over the field. The fast moving 2's included Arthur Burns, Darren Markle and Hallston Higgins.

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"The workload and attendance of summer workouts was way up this year, really allowing (us) to hold each other accountable. It really made an impact on the guys to be here, put in the extra work, and be ready," said Hoffman-Ellis.

THE LEVEL OF competition in the defensive secondary should make for an interesting camp if Day 1 was any indication. The entire secondary – whether the 1's or 2's were playing -- was blanketing receivers and showing incredible speed chasing down running backs during drills.

The first unit was CB Aire Justin, S Chima Nwachukwu, S Tyree Toomer and CB Daniel Simmons on Sunday. S LeAndre Daniels, the listed starter at free safety and Jamal Atofau both had strong afternoons.

OFFENSIVELY, THE COUGS looked better than a customary Day 1.

In one instance, the Tuel roll out and throw to Barton was savvy stuff. In addition, there were long catches in traffic by tight ends Andrei Lintz and Skylar Stormo. Freshman tight end Aaron Dunn, the most touted member of the freshman recruiting class, also made a sweet grab on an underthrown ball.

Lobbestael looked sharp throughout. He was practicing without a brace on his surgically repaired knee and had only one slip up -- when Ledgerwood stepped in front of pass. The middle ‘backer's pick ignited a frenzy amongst the defensive squad.

On the next play, however, Lobbestael laced a beautiful pass across the middle to Stormo who snagged it effortlessly despite a hand he broke back in July.

THE COMPETITION AT running back remains unsettled at the outset of camp, but it didn't seem to discourage anyone. Chantz Staden, Logwone Mitz, James Montgomery and Carl Winston all looked good.

Rickey Galvin, the incoming freshman from Berkeley, made it clear he would like his name added to the list by putting together a nice little run off the edge.

WULFF HAS BEEN talking this offseason about increasing the level of competition amongst the players and this camp started it off on the right foot.

"We have a lot of young guys, 31 new guys, taking the field. The veterans have really stepped up and showed them the way, but it was a good practice."

While depth will continue to be a concern, the Cougs' cupboard, particularly at some spots, is appreciably more stocked than the previous two years .

"There are a few positions were we have built up enough depth. No one wants to say that, but there are a few positions were we could handle an injury or two if they came," said Wulff.

As the session came to a close the first team offense ran a play they hope to run several times this season. The offense lined up over the ball on the 1 yard line. Tuel got under center, snapped the ball, and proceeded to take a knee. Everyone raised their arms after running the Victory Play.

Toni Pole, a 6-1, 291 pound incoming freshman DT, took part in his first WSU practice today. As noted earlier on CF.C, Pole missed the summer Alive! session and the early head start that so many of his recruiting class did, while he finished up a couple online classes this summer, but he is now in the fold.

Be sure to check out CF.C's photo essay from Day 1. It's on the front page.

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