Cougs talk season opener

PULLMAN -- Game week practices continued in Pullman on Tuesday with the team squaring off for full contact drills and Oklahoma State prep. More injured players returned to the fold, looking more and more like they'll be ready to go this Saturday. The offense found a groove, and CF.C talks to a number of players with the season opener right on the doorstep.

The Cougs went straight to work on Tuesday with 11-on-11's -- first team offense vs. first team defense matching up. Jeff Tuel and the offense held the upper hand, moving the ball around and the line provided solid protection to their starting QB. WR Jared Karstetter highlighted the early tempo, making a nice sliding catch for a 15-yard gain.

RB Chantz Staden went full throttle after missing a few days, and took advantage of some reps with the 1's busting through with a couple of nice runs. He also added a 15 yard TD run against the first team defense while running with the 2's, edging out DT Brandon Rankin in a race for the goal-line.

Over on defense, MLB Mike Ledgerwood seemed to be battling a bump or bruise, which opened the door for Hallston Higgins to jump in with the first team, and the fifth year senior took advantage. Higgins had a sack on QB Marshall Lobbestael and provided the hit of the afternoon during the team's 3-man pursuit drill.

Higgins was running full speed, lowered his shoulder, and absolutely lit up defensive lineman Dan Spitz, knocking him straight to the turf, with an impact that could have been heard all the way in Colfax.

Starting Safety Chima Nwachukwu said that the intensity has been building up for quite some time, and it's time for guys to get excited about laying the hat on the opposing team.

"Tempers have been flaring these last couple of weeks and guys (briefly get) really upset at each other, trying to get a little physical with one another," Nwachukwu said. "It's just good being able to hit another color for once."

Meanwhile, DE Travis Long was rested on Tuesday, allowing Sekope Kaufusi to step in with the 1s. He showed a great burst of speed coming off the edge.

CB Nolan Washington gave it a go on Tuesday and fully participated in the two hour long practice. Washington has been battling a hip injury over the last few days, but looked 100 percent in his work running with both the first and second team defense. Fullback Jared Byers also returned to action, splitting time with Marcus Richmond.

Gearing up to face the Cowboys' offense, it's clear that the defensive focus is on the run and gun style Okie State will bring to the table.

"We know that they're going to hurry up and they're going to try and run a lot of plays on us," said Nwachukwu. "It's going to be hot down there, they have a new offense so they're really excited about that. They're really big on (RB) Kendall Hunter so we know we're going to have to wrap him up. "

When the two-deep depth chart came out, Nwachukwu was the lone senior in the secondary. Matter of fact, he's the only guy listed above sophomore status.

"They call me Uncle Cheem," Nwachukwu said with a smile. "There's a lot of young guys but they've got some talents and that's why a lot of them will be playing."

Nwachukwu knows the feeling of playing at a young age and finding success after being named to the scout.com and Sporting News Freshman All-America teams back in 2007.

"A lot of young guys had to step up and play my first year and we chomped at the bit and we seized the opportunity," Nwachukwu said. "We took notes and listened to the older guys. I think that this year we have some great raw talent in the secondary, probably some of the best guys I've ever played with in high school, college, anything."

Another young guy who has been finding a great deal of success on the fall camp gridiron is true freshman WR Marquess Wilson, and he's expected to make an immediate impact for the Coug offense. Wilson says the most people he has ever played in front of in his career is about 600 fans, and that Cougar WR veterans have helped him markedly on the transition from the high school ranks to college.

"Daniel Blackledge, Jeffrey Solomon, Jared Karstetter and Gino (Simone) all helped me out a lot knowing that I was a young," Wilson said.

LG Wade Jacobson looks to make his FBS debut this Saturday after spending his first two years in the JC ranks with Gavilan. The transition to the big stage might be tough, but the big hoss told CF.C after practice that he's both mentally and physically prepared to give it a go.

"A game's a game, if you know your stuff going into the game it shouldn't be a problem," Jacobson said. "If you know your plays and you know the defense then the game slows down for you. Going in I feel confident. I've been studying the film, I know the plays, what more can you ask for," Jacobson said.

Jacobson also gave kudos to new offensive line coach Steve Morton, who did a lot of mixing and matching throughout fall camp to find his starting line -- and to help them develop across the board.

"This is my first time playing guard in my life and look, now I'm starting -- Everybody can play every position," said Jacobson. "If I were to go down someone could step in for me."

The Cougars went down to Martin Stadium for the final 15 minutes of practice, where the speakers were blaring with screaming fans, providing a taste of the atmosphere at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The first teams met up again head to head where the offense was able to move the chains. The first play was a 15 yard gainer from Tuel to Blackledge and a few plays later, Tuel Hit Solomon over the middle, who then burst upfield for 20-plus.

K Nico Grasu came in to close out the drive with an attempt from 48 yards that fell short, but Grasu got another attempt from long distance and sailed it straight through the uprights.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Former Coug standout C Kenny Alfred was in attendance for today's session and is recovering from hip surgery. Alfred has been rehabbing for the last three weeks and still has about five more to go. It was Alfred's second surgery, and he has decided to call it a career and hang up the cleats.

  • Throughout the football season, every Monday from 10-11 a.m. WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos will host a radio show, Cougar Calls with Bill Moos. Fans can tune in to the program by visiting the University's athletic site wsucougars.com.


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