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This WSU team battling to improve


Before we get into today's football practice – sneak preview: there were three altercations, which means the juices were flowing – this just in on the basketball front …

The Cougars' Aron Baynes had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Australia’s 81-79 basketball loss to Korea in the World University Games opener for both teams Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand. Reports are Baynes has slimmed a little, has not lost any strength and has gained quickness.

Another Coug, Thomas Abercrombie, will play for New Zealand when it faces Canada later tonight.

Now back to football …

Most players added shoulder pads Tuesday to the helmets they've been wearing for the first two days and the hitting took a turn for the louder.

I saw all three shoving matches and thought back to an old high school coach I knew who always, publicly, discouraged such shows of emotion and, privately, reveled in them. They showed, he said, the kids cared. He just didn't want them to "care" so much someone got hurt. That wasn't going to happen today, because all three disputes were stopped quickly.

But they sure fired people up. Especially on the defensive side.

• Speaking of defense, the two initials, B.T. Walker and B.J. Williams, were manning the corners with the first unit today, while Christian Bass joined Husain Abdullah at the safeties. Markus Dawes and Ryan Kensok also ran with that unit at corner. The corners on the second group? Chima Nwachukwu and Devin Giles, both of whom covered darn well in the scrimmage portion. By the way, Abdullah had his second interception in as many days.

One freshman to remember on defense is Hallston Higgins. He's playing middle linebacker behind Greg Trent so he shouldn't see the field much, but when he does he may just be something special.

• I'm just starting to understand the intelligence behind the Cougars running attack and why smaller, quicker running backs can thrive in it. The Cougs' passing game spreads defenders all over the field, opening running lanes in the gaps between the onrushing defensive linemen and the linebackers. The running backs at times seem almost to disappear behind the offensive line, only to reappear in the open spot in the defense. Both Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory have shown a knack thus far for exploding into the secondary when given the seam.

• The player of the day? That award goes to receiver Brandon Gibson. Even though Bill Doba keeps comparing him to Jason Hill and saying Gibson could be one of the best receivers WSU has ever produced, Gibson stays grounded. At the end of practice today I saw him carrying the water bottles off the field. When I mentioned that was a job for the freshmen, he shook his head, smiled and said something to the effect upperclassmen need to do it more.

• There is one more day in half pads and I'm holding my breath. My story for Wednesday is about the importance of staying healthy, and how all the players that are bouncing back from injuries are doing. If anyone gets hurt tomorrow, I know I'll get blamed. Maybe I should wear a T-shirt that reads, "I don't work for Sports Illustrated."

We'll be back in the morning with links to the stories about the Cougs.

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