As the wind howled outside – at times making the cover of the bubble look like the waves of an ocean – WSU went through a helmet, shirt and shorts practice inside its indoor practice facility. Without pads, the practice was light on team drills, though for the first time this spring, practice ended on a 2-minute drill, with the defense getting a stop on Aire Justin's interception. But there was a lot of technique drills, fine-tuning of plays and the type of detail work a lack of pads can lead to. Thursday's workout was also the spring equivalent of hump day, with spring reaching the halfway point midway through the workout. On the link we have the unedited version of our S-R story, focusing on the halfway point. Then was add some notes, so read on.
• Here's our story ...
PULLMAN – Somewhere around 4:50 Thursday afternoon, the Washington State Cougars passed the halfway point in their 2010 spring football practices.
A little more than an hour later, coach Paul Wulff was asked if his team had accomplished what he wanted after eight of the 15 allotted spring workouts.
"Ya, so to speak," Wulff said before explaining the recent circumstances that slowed progress recently, including injuries at running back.
"But, generally speaking, ya," Wulff continued. "We're getting a lot of positive reps with the players and our practices are productive."
The offense went into the spring wanting to improve the productivity of the running game and that's happening, said starting guard B.J. Guerra.
"We wanted to be consistent running the ball," said Guerra, a redshirt junior from Moses Lake. "We want to positive on first and second downs, (and) give ourselves a chance on third downs.
"And our pass protection is getting better and that carries over to the timing of the routes, the quarterback being able to get the ball off on time."
Thursday's practice was moved into WSU's indoor facility for the first time this spring, avoiding the 50-mile per hour wind gusts that were disrupting life in the Palouse.
And the Cougars held the last of their three mandated helmet, shirts and shorts practices, concentrating on special teams work and execution on both sides of the ball.
Without pads, the hitting was at a minimum, and there was an emphasis on the passing game. Which was good, as four of the six running backs sat out with a variety of ailments.
James Montgomery (knee, leg) has been out all spring and was joined by Marcus Richmond (knee) after last Saturday's scrimmage. Carl Winston (toe, hamstring) and Chanz Staden (knee) sat out after tweaking old injuries earlier in the week.
That left Logwone Mitz and Leon Brooks to carry the load.
"We have had to modify a few things," Wulff said of the limited number of running backs.
Still, Wulff said he's happy with the progress thus far.
"The better you practice, you just keep climbing that ladder of improvement," he said. "For the first time we're not in a hole anymore. We're at ground level and we're starting to grow."
Guerra sees that growth on the defensive side every practice.
"They're executing their blitzes," Guerra said, singling out the play of defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm as a "guy who is going to spark a fire in the rest of the guys."
"And our (defensive backs), I feel like they've gotten a lot better," he added. "They're making plays on the ball and they're not getting beat deep.
"If they continue to do that, we're going to have a great chance to stop some teams during the season."
But there is still a lot of work remaining in the seven practices left, both Guerra and Wulff said, starting Saturday morning with the second scrimmage.
Wulff said this is when the offense has to start asserting itself and Guerra couldn't agree more.
"We have to improve our consistency," Guerra said. "Running the ball, passing the ball, pass protection, just doing everything right on a consistent basis."
• And some more thoughts ... After practice, I asked Wulff to single out one player who was having the best spring. "That's a tough question," he said. So I amended it a bit, asking him to name some players he thought had made some strides. "Starting on defense," he said, "Kevin Kooyman, he's played well. (Middle linebacker) Hallston Higgins has made a lot of personal improvement. He's made a lot of progress, done a nice job. Daniel Simmons has done well, Sekope Kaufusi has done some good things. Offensively, Chantz Staden has played well. David Gonzalez and Wade Jacobson have done some good things. And when he's been out there, B.J. Guerra." Guerra has had to miss some practice because of class, while Higgins, a senior, has made the most of Louis Bland's injury-induced absence to assert himself, battling with Mike Ledgerwood – who was back full-go Thursday after being in yellow Tuesday – for playing time in the middle. ... Defensive lineman Jordan Pu'u Robinson was also back Thursday after having missed most of the spring with a concussion. ... Steven Ayers missed another practice battling the after effects of a concussion. ... LeAndre Daniels, also in yellow Tuesday, was back in the defensive white. ... There was a lot of special teams work once again, with one drill brought in by new coach Dave Ungerer being kickoff coverage with the returners wearing flag-football belts. If players aren't in the exact right spot, it's hard to make a flag pull. ... Kicker Nico Grasu has been booming not only his kickoffs but also his field goals. The senior said a slight adjustment in his plant suggested by the coaches has been the difference, adding height and distance to his placements. ... The Cougars will scrimmage Saturday morning in Martin Stadium. The players will be on the field around 9:30, with actually scrimmaging starting probably a little after 10.
• That's it for tonight. We'll be back in the morning with links. Until then ...