Washington State’s second scrimmage is in the books, or on the web if you prefer. We have our story on the link and our usual web-only notes. Read on.
• Here’s our story for tomorrow’s S-R …
PULLMAN – In the week leading up to the second scrimmage of the spring, Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff emphasized it was time for the offense to take some strides.
After a little more than an hour on a clear, warm Saturday morning in Martin Stadium, did he get what he asked for?
“Absolutely,” Wulff said. “I think we cleaned up a lot of things schematically and execution-wise – we still made mistakes, but from a teaching perspective I think we cleaned a lot of things up.”
In a scrimmage notable for the sound of popping pads, the Cougar offense scored three times. And one of those scores – a 3-yard run by Logwone Mitz – culminated a 70-yard drive matching the top offense with the second-team defense.
But there was one area WSU dropped the ball, literally.
“The obvious (problem) right now is dropped balls,” Wulff said. “That has kind of been a hindrance for us for a while.”
Then Wulff called out the four scholarship receivers – Gino Simone, Daniel Blackledge, Jared Karstetter and Jeffrey Solomon – on the roster, though not by name.
“(It’s) a good thing we’ve got seven new receivers coming if for the fall,” Wulff said. “They are going to (raise) the competition to a much higher level. The performance has not been consistent enough in that position.
“They’ve got to catch them. They have to focus and get their job done. If not, we’ve got to get somebody who can.
The quarterbacks – Jeff Tuel, Marshall Lobbestael and David Gilbertson – finished a combined 16 of 27 for 160 yards, though those numbers could have been higher after at least three drops.
But there were also a couple exceptional catches, most notably Kartstetter’s 12-yard diving touchdown reception of a Lobbestael throw to the back right corner of the end zone.
This was a day to showcase the running backs, though. The two healthy backs – Mitz and Leon Brooks – carried the ball 24 times, something Wulff said was planned.
“We wanted to challenge those guys,” he said. “We want to see them carry it not four or six times in a scrimmage, we would like to see some guys carry the ball 15, 20 times to see how they handle that.”
Bring it on, said the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Mitz, who had 64 yards on 16 carries.
“I feel like I could thrive if I could do that,” said the junior, who missed the first part of spring with a concussion. “At the same time, we need to be in shape for that. With the offense we’ve been running and the way we’ve been rotating the running backs, I’m not used to it.”
He will be, Wulff said.
“There’s no question Logwone needs (to get a lot of carries),” Wulff said. “We need to find out if he’s a Pac-10 player week in and week out. He showed flashes today again.”
One of his flashes came on the first of 52 plays, a 17-yard burst off right tackle. And, like his 3-yard touchdown run on which he was completely untouched, the opening play was blocked well.
“They’re getting after it,” fifth-year defensive end Kevin Kooyman said of the offensive line.
Kooyman and the defense also got after at times, despite the absence of starting safety Chima Nwachukwu, attending a student athletic representatives workshop.
Backups like Jamal Atofau and Casey Locker brought some big hits and starting corner Daniel Simmons came up with an interception, diving to gather in a tipped pass.
“We’ve got to change the momentum and the tempo of the games,” Kooyman said of the defense. “We’re emphasizing coming out a little intense. It’s good to see some people popping pads and getting after it.”
• And some more notes. … With Nwachukwu gone, Tyree Toomer paired with LeAndre Daniels at the safety spots with the No. 1 defense. But it was the play of backups Atafou and Locker, playing with the second group, which shined. Both attacked the run and closed on receivers, delivering big hits. Another defender who seemed to have a big day was middle linebacker Hallston Higgins. The senior, giving an opportunity with Louis Bland out for the spring and Mike Ledgerwood missing for a while, has stepped up, using the extra 5 to 10 pounds he put on over the winter to clog the middle. … The defensive line also had its moments, with Brandon Rankin and Travis Long disruptive at times and Kooyman pairing with Bernard Wolfgramm to clog up the weakside. … There was one temper flareup and it cost the defense two deadball personal fouls (on Rankin and Long it seemed), putting the ball on the 5 in a red zone situation. On the play, starting center Andrew Roxas had his left ankle rolled up on and he had to be helped off the field. He was on crutches with ice on the ankle at the end. … Backup safety Jay Matthews seemed to ding his left shoulder as well and did not return. … The four running backs on the sidelines: James Montgomery, Chantz Staden, Carl Winston and Marcus Richmond. There are three freshmen expected to enroll in the spring. …
• One of the Cougars’ 2009 recruits, Quayshawne Buckley, a 6-4, 280-pound defensive tackle from California that was unable to get eligible for school, is in Pullman, taking some on-line courses and working a job. Wulff said he didn’t know more than that, though Buckley was watching the scrimmage. … Kooyman has earned praise from Wulff for his play, but Kooyman really is just happy to be playing. Last year was expected to be his senior season, but the defensive end was injured early and missed the year. He could have graduated and moved on, but decided to return. “Why not?” he said. “I’ve got to take advantage of the time I’ve got.” … Talking with Mitz after the scrimmage, the conversation veered off the on-field play and into the chemistry developing off the field. “I like this team chemistry we’ve got, or we’ve had going for the past year and a half,” he said. “Obviously, our team is a lot closer and lot stronger than we were eight months ago, a year ago, 18 months ago. We’re about to go into the summer and we’re grinding, working. The summer is only going to make us even closer than we already are. I don’t even know if that’s possible. But as a team, we’re getting closer, we’re getting stronger, and everything is going to develop on the field as those things come together.” … Field goal kicker Nico Grasu struggled Saturday, making just 2 of 7 attempts. He was the only kicker given an opportunity as the other two on the roster, Blake Dunn and Alex Gauper, have struggled as well. Wulff was asked if he was worried about the position. “We want to work on a lot of different things,” Wulff said of spring and the kickers, “and we want to see who we can trust to kick the ball through the uprights. We don’t have anybody right now that is capable of doing it on a consistent basis. That’s just the facts. The guys who are here have got to get better. They have now and next fall to prove they can, then the new people we’ve got coming in are going to have an opportunity to win the job as well.” Two freshman kickers are coming in this fall: Andrew Furney and Jacob Miller of Central Valley High.
• That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow if there is stuff to link. Until then …