Cougs' afternoon practice no snoozer

PULLMAN – At times Friday afternoon, during the second of two Cougar football practices on the day, it was as if a Who's Who meeting had been convened. The sidelines were populated by the likes of Craig Ehlo and Jim Walden one minute, Paul Sorensen, Bill Moos and Donnie Marbut the next. What they saw was some nice special teams work. And a rare sight: A quarterback going after a defensive tackle.

First the special teams.

"Those three field goal kickers – (Nico) Grasu, (Andrew) Furney and (Jake) Miller – were all crushing the ball," said Sorensen, who in the coming days will be penning a column about his overall observations of the Cougs. "They looked great. And Reid Forrest has to be one of the best punters in the nation. The guy crucifies the ball – distance, hang time. He is an artist out there.

"Dave Ungerer, the new special teams coach, is really good. The schemes he's introducing for are going to make a difference," Sorensen said.

The afternoon session, which was a helmets-and-shoulder-pads-affair, began with special teams work. The punt coverage portion of the session was particularly interesting because the "gunner" roles are starting to come into focus. "(Tyree) Toomer, (Jeffrey) Solomon, (Daniel) Blackledge, (Jamal) Atafou are probably some of the top guys we are looking at," Ungerer told

"We are still at the beginning phases of the process. (Aire) Justin, (Daniel) Simmons, and (Chantz) Staden are getting looks too. In this system we want everyone to be able to play so they are interchangeable if needed."

The tempo of practice really got ratcheted up a notch when team drills began. The defense controlled the "3rd Down and Distance" drills, giving the offense very little to work with, though Jeff Tuel opened the proceedings by connecting with Gino Simone up a seam. There was another offensive highlight, this one featuring Marshall Lobbestael, who fired a nice pass to Marquess Wilson who showed great hands while two defenders were all over him.

In the red-zone passing drills the offense began to find its rhythm. Tuel strung together a 4-play drive ending with Blackledge snagging a touchdown beyond the coverage. Lobbestael followed on the next series with a string of completions ending with a short pass to freshman tight end Aaron Dunn before the defense held. David Gilbertson also got in on the action, finding Kristoff Williams who fought his way through Damante Horton into the end zone. On the next play Gilbertson connected with Andrei Lintz for a TD.

Freshman running back Rickey Galvin continued to turn heads. He spent the afternoon with the second-team offense and broke off the left side for a 20-yard gain down to the 2. Lobbestael lined everyone up, took the snap and tossed it to Marcus Richmond who found his way in for a touchdown.

With Galvin's emergence, the logjam at running back has only gotten tighter since fall camp opened. Staden, Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston took snaps with the 1's in the afternoon session. Also in the hunt are James Montgomery and Marcus Richmond.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER Darren Markle had a standout practice and turned one series for the first-team offense into his personal highlight reel. On first down, Markle fought through a blocker to blow up a screen pass for no gain. On second down, Simone caught a Tuel pass but soon found his way into the arms of Markle. On third down, Tuel bootlegged around the end but Markle was there to end it.

During 2-minute drills, it appeared the defense was going to win the day. On the first series, Lobbestael was sacked by freshman tackle Toni Pole and then two plays later Jordan Pu'u Robinson took him down and forced a fumble. Soon after, tempers flared in the pile up and before the dust settled Lobbestael turned himself into a linebacker and barreled into 6-6, 275-pound defensive tackle Dan Spitz. When that was over, Tuel led the first-team offense back out for a six-play drive that ended with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Solomon.

"It is a good thing when their intensity level is high, especially on the second practice in one day," Paul Wulff told Cougfan. "While one play isn't going to make a practice it is a good way to end. We want to make big plays on offense and defense and they are showing they can do."


Offensive tackle Tyson Pencer also was on the sideline in street clothes and appears to be recovering from his stomach ailment. Fellow offensive lineman Tim Hodgdon spent the afternoon practice on a stationary bike, as did defensive tackles Brandon Rankin and Bernard Wolfgramm, center Andrew Roxas and tight end Aaron Gehring.

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