PULLMAN – Three key Washington State defenders sustained injuries during the Cougars’ physically demanding win over Wisconsin last weekend.
Will they be available for WSU’s next game? Cougars head coach Jake Dickert said it’s too early to tell.
Cornerback Derrick Langford Jr., strong safety Jordan Lee and middle linebacker Travion Brown are questionable to play Saturday when the Cougars host Colorado State.
“All game-time decisions,” Dickert said Wednesday after practice at Rogers Field. “We’re hoping we can get them back out there, and they’re pressing hard to get to that point.”
Langford, the team’s best coverage corner and a preseason All-Pac-12 honorable mention player, came up limping after a collision in the second quarter of the Cougars’ 17-14 upset victory over the Badgers in Madison, Wisconsin. He exited the lineup and disappeared from the WSU sideline for the rest of the quarter.
Langford emerged from the locker room after halftime with a walking boot on his left foot.
Lee, a Nevada transfer whose tackling abilities have been impressive through the first two games of his Cougars career, was shaken up late in the third quarter. The senior walked gingerly to the sideline and didn’t make an appearance in the fourth quarter.
Brown, a junior co-starter at middle linebacker – alongside freshman Francisco Mauigoa – went down late in the fourth quarter and was helped off the field.
The good news: Based on Dickert’s brief update, the injuries don’t seem to be too serious.
But there’s a chance WSU’s secondary will be playing shorthanded this weekend against the pass-happy Rams and their Air Raid offense.
If Langford is unavailable, the Cougars will shift Chau Smith-Wade into the No. 1 CB spot. Smith-Wade played well in that role in the second half against Wisconsin. The sophomore has surrendered just 14 yards on three receptions this season.
Colorado State’s top receiving option, Tory Horton, is one of the most talented in the Mountain West Conference. In just two games this year, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Nevada transfer has registered 255 yards – seventh in the nation – and four touchdowns on 15 catches.
“(Horton) can play anywhere in the country,” Dickert said. “That’s how explosive he is. We gotta make sure we’re controlling the vertical passing game and making them earn their way down the field.”
WSU has respectable backup options at the cornerback position in junior Chris Jackson and Utah State transfer Cam Lampkin. The two shared reps last week, performing to mixed results in relief of Langford.
If Lee is unable to play, the Cougars will turn to either Adrian Shepherd or Jaden Hicks, both redshirt freshmen. Shepherd is listed as the backup strong safety on WSU’s depth chart, but he is primarily a special-teams contributor. Hicks is probably the more reliable choice. He cross-trained at the two safety spots this preseason and has taken on a considerable workload over the past two weeks behind starting free safety Sam Lockett III.
Brown and Mauigoa rotated steadily throughout WSU’s first two games. Both have proven themselves to be capable starters.
The Cougars could add to their receiving corps this weekend. Slotback Robert Ferrel might make his Cougars debut on Saturday.
The senior transferred to WSU this summer, following offensive coordinator Eric Morris and quarterback Cameron Ward out of Incarnate Word. Ferrel, one of Ward’s favorite targets at UIW, was expected to carve out a role in the Cougars’ receiving rotation this year, but he suffered a foot injury in the off-season, causing him to miss fall camp and WSU’s first two games.
Ferrel is practicing and will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s contest, Dickert said.
“He’s been limited the first couple of days (at practice) this week. We’re just seeing how he reacts to everything with his foot,” Dickert said. “There’s definitely a chance you see Rob out there.”Slot receiver Drake Owen sustained an injury in the second half against Wisconsin and could be seen on the sideline in a walking boot. Owen, who has been Renard Bell’s backup for WSU’s first two games, was left off the Cougars’ Week 3 depth chart, released Monday afternoon.
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