PULLMAN – For 13 practices and all but about 25 minutes of the 14th, it looked as if Washington State may have escaped much in the way of major injury this spring.
Then players started dropping.
In the end, of the five who needed assistance from the training staff in a 15-minute period, only one, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Toni Pole, suffered what looked to be a significant problem.
“When it was all said and done out here today, all of them were just minor nicks and bruises other than Toni’s,” coach Paul Wulff said. “I think we will be OK as long as Toni’s isn’t something that will require a big surgery.”
Pole redshirted as a freshman, but the 6-foot-1, 291-pound tackle was running with the No. 1 unit most of spring. He and defensive end Skylar Stormo got caught up in a pile during a nontackling team scrimmage and hit the Rogers Field turf hard.
Both had to be helped off, with Stormo watching the end of practice with ice on his left ankle.
Pole spent a significant time on the turf, had ice applied to his left knee and left on the cart.
Wulff said Pole would have his knee examined for possible damage to his medial collateral ligament, but the severity will not be known until tests are run.
“Until we get a better evaluation, it’s going to be hard to tell,” Wulff said.
Up until Pole left the field, WSU had suffered only one injury during spring that could be considered major, an ACL tear suffered by receiver Blair Bomber that will require surgery after school is out.
Three other players, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, middle linebacker Mike Ledgerwood and defensive back Anthony Carpenter, went down right after Pole and Stormo, but all three seemed fine by the end of practice.
The stretch put a damper on the final day of spring drills in Pullman, a spring that Wulff and his players said helped the Cougars’ consistency.
“Especially these past couple weeks,” sophomore safety Deone Bucannon said. “You could see us grow every day.”
Bucannon said the defense’s biggest strides were up front, with the line putting more pressure on the quarterback.
“That’s a little crazy, because that’s our biggest improvement and we’re still missing big key D-linemen, like Travis Long and Bubba (Brandon Rankin),” Bucannon said. “It helps everyone behind them make plays.”
Long and Rankin both sat out the spring rehabilitating shoulder injuries that aren’t expected to impact summer conditioning or fall practice.
With the defensive line supplying pressure, it’s forced the offensive line to improve in an area more often associated with off-field activities.
“Communicating,” right tackle Wade Jacobson answered when asked in what area the offense improved the most.
But consistency ran a close second.
“Last year, half the people didn’t know what to do,” the senior said. “Now, when coaches ask us in the meetings what they are supposed to do, everyone knows.”
The defense and offense will put those improvements on display Saturday in Spokane as WSU will hold its final scrimmage, the Crimson and Gray Game, at Albi Stadium starting at 3 p.m. Admission is free and there is a fanfest beforehand beginning at 1 p.m.
Both groups head into the final spring workout with the same goal.
“Just have fun,” Bucannon said, speaking for the defense and the youngsters. “This is my first spring game, too, so I’m excited about it. So everyone is going to go out there, have fun and fly around.”
“I just want to have fun,” Jacobson echoed, speaking for the offense and the older guys. “Time’s flying by. All of us seniors, we want to make a statement. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re taking this program somewhere.”
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