DAY 8, AM session: Defense doesn't budge

PULLMAN—Music flooded Rogers Field during the first of two Sunday practices and it soon become evident the defense chose the playlist -- their play was turned up all morning long. DT Brandon Rankin returned to practice and didn't miss a beat. Kevin Kooyman, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, and Darren Markle continued to make plays, while the offense kept searching for an answer to the first team Cougar D.

"Well, the defense is clearly ahead of our offense at this point," Paul Wulff agreed at the conclusion of the one hour and forty minute practice. "They have been able to play at a higher consistent clip right now. They are keeping it simple, tackling well, and getting into position.

"They are coming along but are not where they need to be -- and they can't be there only nine practices into the season."

THE COUGAR D dominated the morning, holding the offense to only a few bright spots. Alex Hoffman-Ellis showed good speed and intensity with a monstrous hit against Isish Barton. Barton, however, held onto the pass for a first down.

Kevin Kooyman and Brandon Rankin gave the offensive line fits all morning.

Kooyman found his way to the quarterback on multiple occasions and Rankin, playing on the inside, got himself a sack as well.

DE Travis Long wasn't to be outdone, coming off the edge, along with with defensive tackle Justin Clayton, to earn another sack for the defense.

LINEBACKER LOOKS DEEP thus far through camp. And Darren Markle is among those continuing to improve and make his case for playing time.

During Marshall Lobbestael's series with the 2's, he swung a pass to Carl Winston but Markle sniffed out the play and dropped Winston as soon as he touched the ball. Markle had another play where, out in coverage, he helped break up another Lobbestael pass to Wilson with the help of safety Casey Locker.

OFFENSIVELY, THE COUGS Cougs welcomed Andrew Roxas back to practice – this morning he was anchoring the left guard position with the 2's today. He began camp as the starting center but Zack Williams looks to have taken that role and Roxas had also since been dinged up.

The first string offensive line saw no changes a day removed from the scrimmage – LT David Gonzales, LG Wade Jacobson, C Williams, RG B.J. Guerra and RT Micah Hannam.

The biggest change has been amongst the wide receivers.

With Gino Simone and Jared Karstetter sidelined with injuries, Daniel Blackledge, Jeffrey Solomon, Kristoff Williams, Marquess Wilson, and Isiah Barton have had to get comfortable fast.

"The receivers are catching on to things really quickly," Jeff Tuel told CF.C. "The young guys you only have to tell them one time the concept and their job and they usually get it. They are all making plays."

The same can't be said for the pass protection. But for anyone thinking the defense winning the last few days' battles would have shaken Tuel's confidence, he is quick to shoot that idea down.

"I am really comfortable with the whole line. We are all really close and whoever is in there we all really believe in one another. We all have faith in one another and understand we are going to get our jobs done," said Tuel.

Running back Leon Brooks provided one of the offensive highlights this morning, taking a pass for a nice gainer.

Defensive end Long had closed quickly in coverage, but Brooks lost him with a nice cut. Safety Tyree Toomer came up to close the deal, but Brooks put a spin move on Toomer leaving him with nothing to hug but air. The play resulted in a twelve yard gain -- before the rest of the defense swarmed and gang tackled Brooks.

Practice ended with the defense in the center of the field celebrating a solid session while the offense ran end of the day sprints.

The offensive players as a whole looked a little ticked as they walked off the field, as if they weren't ready to concede any more victories to the defense. This afternoon, when the Cougs return for their second practice of the day. should be interesting.

"We just need to keep believing, keep running plays, and keep getting better," said Tuel.

  • The Cougs got one starting DT back this morning and it looks like they might have the other return this afternoon. Starting d-tackle Bernard Wolfgramm began running drills with the defensive line towards the middle of practice – he might be fully participating in this afternoon's session.

  • Safety Jamal Atafou (knee) and receiver Gino Simone (hamstring) spent practice on the stationary bikes.

  • Defensive end Jordan Pu'u Robinson was on the sideline in street clothes and crutches. His right knee was taped. The MRI results are not in yet but at first glance, a quick return doesn't look promising.

  • Offensive lineman Tyson Pencer was absent from practice battling a stomach ailment. Freshman walk on punter Jake Miller was also absent due to personal reasons.

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