Time for Cougs to step up at safety

PULLMAN -- What first appeared a minor injury for starting safety LeAndre Daniels has ended his playing career. Several Cougs missed the workout session this afternoon to rest, but the focus was on the news about Daniels. So who now steps into the breach opposite Chima Nwachukwu, and how well prepared are the Cougs to absorb the loss?

"I think every guy that didn't already know about it ... their hearts sunk as it has with everyone of us," Paul Wulff said of seeing Daniels' career come to a close following a neck fracture. "He's a great guy, a great person, good player and very likeable… The thing we have to look at, although it's not easy at this time, is that all the bad things that could have gone wrong, the worst case scenarios didn't. Football will be taken from him, but nothing else will."

Chima Nwachukwu, entering his senior season, told CF.C after practice that although the news rocked the team, Daniels' spirits remain high and while his tenure with the Cougs may be over on the field, he will always be a part of the team. And indeed, CF.C spoke briefly to Daniels today and he managed a laugh or two.

"We went to go see him in the hospital yesterday and he told us," Nwachukwu said. "Whenever you get news like that, you get heart broken. He's a very spirited guy, we love him to death. He's taking it very well, better than I expected and I'm just glad he'll be able to keep a positive spirit and look on the bright side of things. I'm sure it's hard on him, it's hard on this team, but we're trying to stay positive about it.. he will always be a Coug and we love him to death."

With Daniels out of the mix at safety, freshman Deone Bucannon saw a good majority of time running with the first team. Tyree Toomer would be the expected starter but it's also important to get Bucannon reps since his turns in rotation figure to increase.

Wulff says the entire team needs to step up the intensity to make up for the loss of such a good player.

"They all do," Wulff said. "Every guy that's on this football team is the next guy is in. That's how we have to approach it -- so guys like Deone Buchanan are going to have to step in and play, Casey Locker, Chima, Tyree, (Jamal Atofau) all those guys need to step up and play."

MOVING TO THE action on the field, WR Marquess Wilson continues to shine on the gridiron, with a pair of fantastic grabs today.

On one in particular, Wilson ran down field, leaped high in the air, adjusting his body to the ball, and hauled in a 25 yard reception from QB Marshall Lobbestael.

LB Mike Ledgerwood, DE Travis Long, and RB Chantz Staden were among the notables who missed Friday's practice.

MLB Hallston Higgins stepped in for Ledgerwood, while DE Casey Hamlett saw the action with the 1's along with Kevin Kooyman at DE. Wulff said all were more of a preventative measure in giving these guys some rest than anything else.

"He's got sore knees but he could play," Wulff said of Ledgerwood. "He's been through the whole camp and he needed a day off. Travis Long, same thing, he could have played. But those guys have taken every rep all camp so we gave them a day off because their bodies were pretty sore in spots. All of them should be ready to go, those guys in particular should all be ready for Oklahoma State."

One reserve who might not be ready for the opener, true freshman defensive lineman Toni Pole. After the first few practices, it was apparent Pole was expected to make a push for some playing time this season. But the rookie frosh has been dealing with a slow-to-heal calf injury.

"He's got a tremendous amount of swelling in that lower leg and we just have to get that out of there," Wulff said. "It all depends on how quick he heals and how quick that happens."

THE COUGS DID see a return to the field Friday from WR Gino Simone. Simone has been battling a hamstring injury and missed much of the last two weeks, but he looked impressive today.

Simone spent most of his time running with the second team O, running fluidly up and down the field and showed flashes of his great hands.

"Oh I've been dying," Simone said on missing action on the field. "I'm just so excited to get back into it. The hamstring feels really good, (now) it's just a mental thing getting confident again. Being gone so long it has me more driven to come back and compete."

Simone said with his time off, it allowed him to get in more film session. And on tape, he said, the differences between last year and this year are apparent.

"We're making plays," Simone said. "I think if you look at our practices as a whole, our worst day of this fall was probably better than our best day last year. When you kind of take a step back on that, I think it will show on the field. And we can come up with big plays when our defense needs us."

  • CB Aire Justin continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. CB Daniel Simmons and CB Anthony Carpenter have been seeing virtually all the action with the 1's at the position.

  • FB Jared Byers missed practice and was wearing a boot over his left foot, apparently for turf toe.

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