Washington State is done hitting for the week and not a moment too soon. The number of players fighting little injuries seemed to be growing as the day went on. For more, and links to our stories, read on.
• Before we get to the notes, we have a link to our story about Chima Nwachukwu and Hallston Higgins, two Texans who will be making their final trip home this week. Nwachukwu sat out practice today with a neck strain. It was suffered Tuesday when he went up high to knock down a pass and fell over another defender and the offensive player, hitting the turf with his head. He seemed fine when we talked after practice yesterday and again when I saw him later that evening, but he wasn’t able to go Wednesday. With the LeAndre Daniels injury fresh in everyone’s mind, I think the Cougars are taking no chances. Coach Paul Wulff said he’ll be evaluated each day to see when he’ll be able to go. … We also have our Pac-10 picks if you want a laugh. … Now on to the notes. Had a fun conversation this morning with former WSU assistant coach Leon Burtnett, now at No. 23 Houston. As most of you know, Burtnett recruited quite a few kids from Texas to WSU in his five years here, including both Nwachukwu and Higgins. We talked a little about the Texas kids, and Burtnett made it clear he feels they did pretty well, what with Greg Trent starting for four years in the middle, Nwachukwu’s long career, the success DeMaundry Woolridge finally had at Idaho and now Chris Ivory making the Saints. I know that was a sore spot with much of the WSU fan base before I got this spot, so I’ll leave it at that. You can add your own thoughts. I will say though Woolridge and Ivory had their academic problems, that is balanced somewhat by Nwachukwu and Higgins, both academic All-Pac-10. … Now back to what happened on the field. Besides Nwachukwu, corner Aire Justin sat out after reinjuring his hamstring. Then, during practice, Brandon Rankin rolled an ankle, though Wulff said that wasn’t serious and Rankin was moving well at the end of practice. Besides that, Bernard Wolfgramm is still taking it easy with his strained rotator cuff (that’s what Wulff called it today) and didn’t do any scrimmaging. Finally, Casey Hamlett seemed to be bothered by a knee, which he had examined by the trainers. … With Nwachukwu sitting out, Anthony Carpenter ran with the safeties today, giving the position a little depth. Carpenter played there all last year while he redshirted. Nwachukwu’s backup is freshman Deone Bucannon, who while not nearly as experienced, is quite a bit faster. … Freshman Eric Oertel got a few snaps with the second defensive unit at linebacker. … The offensive line continued its daily rotation, with Tyson Pencer getting more snaps today with the ones at left guard. … Sebastian Valenzuela was not at practice today after leaving early yesterday with what looked like a concussion. Toni Pole, who is still dealing with the calf bruise, also wasn’t in attendance. … Back to the field, Wulff talked about how practice was a little slower today because they needed to make sure everyone was getting their assignments down. SMU’s run-and-shoot offense is quite a bit different than any spread, so defending it is a mental test. We’ll get into that a little more in Friday’s paper. … With the temperature expected to be in the low ‘90s, WSU will get down to Dallas early enough Friday to take their walkthrough practice at near game time (2:30 p.m.). That will allow the players to acclimate a little to the heat and humidity.
• That’s all for tonight. We’ll be back as usual in the morning. Until then …