Brandon Jones, quite possibly the Cougars' best cover corner, wore a boot on his right ankle today, hobbling around the practice field instead of shutting down one side of it. With Jones out, there were changes in the secondary. Read on for that and an update on an ill player.
• Right up front, we'll pass along this piece of news: Coach Paul Wulff was a lot happier after Wednesday practice than he was the day before. "We came out and got better," Wulff said. "The guys did a great job responding and coming with the mentality we'll get better and work hard." All that hard work was needed because it looks like Jones could be out a while. "A lot of it depends on how it responds the first two/three days after the injury," Wulff said. "He's in a boot, crutches. It's one of those things where I think it's going to be anywhere from a week to three weeks. It's just a guess, but it's that kind of sprain." ... With Jones now doubtful for Stanford, the Cougars on Thursday had safety Chima Nwachukwu practicing at his freshman position, cornerback, and moved Tyree Toomer and LeAndre Daniels into the safety spot. Daniels, who has been the nickelback, stayed in that role when needed. "I'm just moving spots and getting used to it again," said Nwachukwu, who worked at corner some in the spring. "It's just for the team. If they need me, I'll play there. Hopefully, B-Jones can come back for Stanford or the next game." If he doesn't, Wulff said there are backup plans. "That's the deal. We're not real deep in certain spots. So Chima's the guy who probably has the most experience to be play safety and corner. Guys are going to have to step up." They did during the scrimmage portion of practice, but we'll get into that in a minute. Right now, we're wondering which position Nwachukwu would rather play. "To be honest, I love safety. Safety is a position where you feel like you're in everything, you're in control and you can be a leader. Corner has its upsides too. It's easier mentally, although harder physically."
• One player who has had his struggles physically this fall is backup center Andrew Roxas. The junior came down with a viral illness over the summer, an infection that still hasn't been diagnosed or isolated. Head trainer Bill Drake said Wednesday that Roxas, who could have seen a specialist in Spokane, Seattle or Los Angeles, chose the latter. So he headed back home to the Los Angeles area over the weekend where he and his family will visit with the doctor. Though he's been improving, Drake said, it's come a lot slower than they hoped. Test results indicate Roxas is getting better but he's not well yet. "As those tests zero out and become normal, and he recovers from the virus, then he gets to come back to school. That's what we hope," Drake said. When Roxas does recover, Drake added, then Roxas and his family will huddle with the coaches, academic advisors and the training staff to decide what's best for Roxas and the team.
• There were some unrelated sicknesses Wednesday, with tackle Micah Hannam, who wasn't feeling good Tuesday, and safety Casey Locker out. "Both of them have flu or influenza, one of those type of things, I'm not sure, but they both are under the weather," Wulff said, adding he hasn't heard any indication that they are suffering from anything other than flu-like symptoms. ... It looks like Jeshua Anderson and Jeffrey Solomon are getting closer as both did quite a bit of straight-line running. ... Marcus Richmond, however, is also out a while after spraining his left ankle Tuesday. He was in a boot. Aire Justin had his left thumb taped but seemed OK.
• The Cougars had five scrimmage possessions to end practice and the defense yielded just four first downs in the 31 plays. It also had five sacks and an interception – Toomer of a Marshall Lobbestael pass that floated over Tony Thompson in the middle. ... There was one possession that matched the starting offense with the starting defense in a one-minute drill. After Lobbestael completed two shorts passes for a first down, a Jason Stripling hit jarred a possible completion from Jared Karsteter's hands before a high snap then cost six yards. Lobbestael teamed with Thompson for 14 on third down but, with the coverage tight downfield, Travis Long got to Lobbestael for the fourth-down sack. "It was good to see the defense flying around a little bit," Wulff said, "like they should and they're capable of. We're going to need them to play great defense. There's going to be times where their backs are against the wall and they've got to help the team out. They did that today." ... The Cougars' practice Thursday will be at 4 p.m. on Rogers Field and will be without full pads. There is a scrimmage scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday in Martin Stadium. ... One link for tonight. ESPN.com's Ted Miller has this piece about Andy Mattingly.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow morning with our usual links. Until then …