Cougars must make final decisions before opener
PULLMAN – As practice wound down Friday afternoon, the Washington State Cougars began the process of getting ready for their football opener next Saturday against Idaho State.
And with that, preseason camp all but officially ended.
So where do the Cougars stand heading into the last week of practice before the Bengals invade Martin Stadium?
Well, they are not as healthy as they were just 24 hours previously.
Two-year starting defense end Travis Long showed up at practice with his right knee in a brace, courtesy of a slightly sprained medial collateral ligament. He was joined on the sideline by backup cornerback Brandon Golden, who had a sprained ankle.
“Both are minor sprains, both should be 3-to-5-day type of things,” coach Paul Wulff said. “(Long) has had every rep at camp, so he hasn’t missed anything. Someone like him, missing today and tomorrow’s practice, potentially, he should be able to pick right up where he left off.”
Long’s injury threw a modicum of uncertainty into a team that has a sense of certainty about almost every position. If the preseason workouts did anything, they answered questions Wulff and his staff had coming in.
Not that there aren’t some spots still in need of answers.
The cornerback position opposite Damante Horton is “up for grabs still,” according to defensive coordinator Chris Ball, “and probably will be all the way up to game time.”
Nolan Washington, Daniel Simmons, Tracy Clark and a late addition to the mix, freshman Spencer Waseem, are all still vying to be the starter.
“Somebody needs to step up and take that spot,” Ball said. “We’re just waiting for somebody to do that. It’s hard to do that when your not healthy, we understand that, but we’re looking for a guy who can line up out there and consistently make plays.”
Both Washington and Simmons suffered hamstring injuries early in camp and only recently returned to practice.
Another spot that was a worry going into camp was the left defensive end spot, on the opposite side of Long.
But Ball said redshirt junior Adam Coerper has wrested control.
“He’s been a great surprise, because coming into camp that (position) was a big, big concern,” Ball said. “We needed to find another defensive end. His body type and his athletic ability (are) really going to help us.”
Ball said he feels the linebackers and defensive backs – other than the one corner spot – are sorted out. There are still some questions to be answered about reserves, especially up front, he said. Yet he’s not worried.
“I feel way better about it than I did at the start of the year,” Ball said of the defensive line. “They’ve really come on.”
The offense faced two questions entering camp and is about 50/50 on the answers.
“There are some ongoing battles with some guys, as they play in games, maybe able to separate themselves,” Wulff said. “You look at center Taylor Meighen, he’s not played in a game. Connor (Halliday) has not played in a game.
“So there are some questions like that.”
Andrew Roxas has pretty much locked down the center battle as Meighen, a junior college transfer, has had to sit the past week with a concussion.
The other uncertainty is behind quarterback Jeff Tuel, as Wulff has yet to pick a backup between senior Marshall Lobbestael and redshirt freshman Halliday. And that decision may not be made for a while.
“We don’t have to make one right now,” Wulff said. “(But) as we move into a few games, whoever the backup is needs to get all those backup reps.
“We do need to make (a decision). But we don’t have the exact answer yet. It’s going to be a process.”