COUGARS • UPDATED: 8:05 P.M.
We have a short story for you tonight for a couple reasons. One is the printed paper has only a little space for all the news tonight and the other is John Blanchette has a Cougar-related column for tomorrow, which we'll link in the morning (UPDATE: Sorry, I was misinformed. The column is running Saturday, so no link tomorrow). But after the story, we do have a few notes for you, including a former Cougar star making an appearance at practice.
• We'll start with the story because it won't take you long to read it ...
PULLMAN – It was a well-rested group of Washington State University football players who took the field Thursday for what was supposed to be the final spring practice.
The reason the Cougars were well rested was the reason Thursday wasn't the final practice. That will come at 6 a.m. Monday, taking the place of last Tuesday's cancelled workout. In between, WSU will hold its spring game Saturday evening in Martin Stadium.
Just how well did the refreshed group do? The results were mixed.
"From an injury perspective and getting some work done, for the 13th practice of spring ball, that part was good," said WSU coach Paul Wulff. "We failed in some stressful situations at certain positions, but we were lacking some guys, we just didn't step up with the guys who had the opportunity today."
Both sides of the ball were without players who've been starting much of spring – the offense was without tackle Wade Jacobson (inflamed leg), center Andrew Roxas (high ankle sprain) and receiver Gino Simone (ankle sprain); the defense missing three linemen for long periods due to academic commitments and linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis (high ankle) – but it seemed to effect the offense more.
"Defensively, I felt like we were pretty active all day," Wulff said. "They seemed to be on top of it, that was really good to see."
Saturday scrimmage will start at 5:30 and will be televised in the Spokane area on SWX.
• Former Cougar wide receiver Brandon Gibson was in town for a visit and he stopped by practice. Talked with him for a while before the workout started – and the NFL draft – and wondered if he would sit in front of his TV this weekend saying "no receiver, no receiver," every time the Rams came up. He laughed and said he didn't worry about that. He just is happy to be in St. Louis and have a chance to play. When Sam Bradford's name popped up on everyone's phones, Gibson seemed excited with the pick. Later, he stalked the sidelines and gave advice to the WSU receivers. They seemed to be listening and well they should, considering Gibson is, on the Cougars' all-time lists, second in receptions (182) and first in receiving yards (2,756). ... Gibson got to see an offense running without one starting o-lineman (Jacobson) but with one who has been in-and-out, Zack Williams. The left guard was back and played most downs. Jacobson was replaced by Micah Hannam for some snaps and Alex Reitnouer for others. Sebastian Valenzuela was also back, albeit in a yellow, non-contact jersey. And no, Kenny Alfred was not back. His number, 69, was though, with converted tight end Eliott Bosch wearing it while playing left guard with the second group. ... Speaking of non-contact, Jeff Tuel went down hard in one scrimmage drill, undercut by a defensive lineman. Tuel did get up, though the contact had the look of something bad. ... The best hit of the day was turned in by walk-on linebacker Jim Dahl, who exploded a running back in the end-of-practice situational scrimmage. ... The running back corps was back at full strength with the return of Carl Winston. One of the more interesting drills of the day matched the group with the linebackers for a tackling drill. The idea was to help the linebackers improve their ability to wrap up and for the running backs to explode into contact. When Winston bulled into Mike Ledgerwood, knocking the linebacker back 3 yards, running back coach Dave Ungerer pounded his back, telling him he turned a 3-yard gain into a 6-yard one.
• Ungerer is also the special-teams coordinator and his groups took center stage for much of practice. From early field goal work – Nico Grasu connected on 4 of 6 attempts – to punt drills and kickoff coverage and return, the Cougars probably spent a third of practice time on special teams. With that, Wulff said, they will not do any special team plays in Saturday's scrimmage, other than to kick field goals or extra points if they are called for. ... The last play of Thursday's practice epitomized much of the spring. Travis Long, playing right defensive end, came off the edge, raced in and sacked – by touching – Marshall Lobbestael on a third-down play. Saturday, they'll do it for (somewhat) real. ... One last note: Bud Withers has this story about new offensive line coach Steve Morton up on the Seattle Times website.
• That's all for this evening. We'll be back in the morning with links. Until then ...