PULLMAN – Somewhere around 4:50 Thursday afternoon, the Washington State Cougars passed the halfway point in their 2010 spring football practices.
A little more than an hour later, coach Paul Wulff was asked if his team had accomplished what he wanted after eight of the 15 allotted spring workouts.
“Yeah, so to speak,” Wulff said before explaining the recent circumstances that slowed progress recently, including injuries at running back.
“But, generally speaking, yeah,” Wulff continued. “We’re getting a lot of positive reps with the players and our practices are productive.”
The offense went into the spring wanting to improve the productivity of the running game and that’s happening, said starting guard B.J. Guerra.
“We wanted to be consistent running the ball,” said Guerra, a redshirt junior from Moses Lake. “We want to positive on first and second downs, (and) give ourselves a chance on third downs.
“And our pass protection is getting better and that carries over to the timing of the routes, the quarterback being able to get the ball off on time.”
Thursday’s practice was moved into WSU’s indoor facility for the first time this spring, avoiding the 50 mph wind gusts that were disrupting life in the Palouse.
The Cougars held the last of their three mandated helmet, shirts and shorts practices, concentrating on special teams work and execution on both sides of the ball.
Without pads, the hitting was at a minimum, and there was an emphasis on the passing game. That was good, as four of the six running backs sat out with a variety of ailments.
James Montgomery (knee, leg) has been out all spring and was joined by Marcus Richmond (knee) after last Saturday’s scrimmage. Carl Winston (toe, hamstring) and Chanz Staden (knee) sat out after tweaking old injuries earlier in the week.
That left Logwone Mitz and Leon Brooks to carry the load.
“We have had to modify a few things,” Wulff said of the limited number of running backs.
Still, Wulff said he’s happy with the progress.
“The better you practice, you just keep climbing that ladder of improvement,” he said. “For the first time we’re not in a hole anymore. We’re at ground level and we’re starting to grow.”
Guerra sees that growth on the defensive side every practice.
“They’re executing their blitzes,” Guerra said, singling out the play of defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm as a “guy who is going to spark a fire in the rest of the guys.
“And our (defensive backs), I feel like they’ve gotten a lot better,” he added. “They’re making plays on the ball and they’re not getting beat deep.
“If they continue to do that, we’re going to have a great chance to stop some teams during the season.”
But there is still a lot of work remaining in the seven practices left, both Guerra and Wulff said, starting Saturday morning with the second scrimmage.
Wulff said this is when the offense has to start asserting itself and Guerra couldn’t agree more.
“We have to improve our consistency,” Guerra said. “Running the ball, passing the ball, pass protection, just doing everything right on a consistent basis.”
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