PULLMAN – Anthony Carpenter, now back at safety from the corner spot, is making his presence known over the back 40, and turned in the hit of the day on Wednesday. Meanwhile, three freshmen were in running with the 1’s at linebacker, but will that be the case Saturday? And oh by the way, let’s not forget about the offense.
Also at safety, freshman Deone Bucannon is expected to get his second collegiate start on Saturday -- senior safety Chima Nwachukwu (hamstring), who suffered a strained hamstring in Last weekend's loss at UCLA, will miss Saturday's game against Oregon, Paul Wulff said after practice on Wednesday.
With Nwachukwu out, Bucannon spent the day starting with the 1's for the second consecutive day. Anthony Carpenter, a redshirt freshman, spent the day as the back-up, and saw extensive time. He also provided the hit of the day, and it was easily one of the top five seen in all of practice this year.
Towards the middle of practice against the scout team, freshman WR Blair Bomber got into the open field and was racing downhill. But Carpenter cranked up his own wheels, and flew into Bomber with force. Carpenter hit him hard enough that he, Carpenter, remained on the field for a few seconds. But with coaches and players whooping it up, Carpenter got up and eventually returned to action.
During the first series of 11-on-11's, QB Jeff Tuel and the offense had their way against the starting defense to open up practice.
Tuel went 4-of-4 and spread the ball around to his receiving corps. Among his tosses, a completion to Daniel Blackledge, who beat Daniel Simmons in coverage and to Jeffrey Solomon.
The offense looked sound on Wednesday, and Wulff said the Cougs must be able to execute against an Oregon defense that brings so many different schemes and formations.
"They do some non-traditional things on defense," Wulff said. "They do a great job with it. They do zone pressure, they'll blitz everybody and line up in several different positions -- so it's not easy to get a consistent read in terms of where they line up."
At the linebacker positions, WIL Alex Hoffman-Ellis missed his second consecutive day of full contact drills but Wulff said after practice that the redshirt junior should be ready to go on Saturday.
With Hoffman-Ellis out, redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi saw virtually all the reps with the 1's on the weakside. Meanwhile C.J. Mizell saw all the action at middle linebacker with the 1's and should start on Saturday.
"Better, I've seen better things," Wulff said of Mizell and Kaufusi. "They have to work, they have to produce and we have to get them to grow as fast as they are capable of growing."
As for Kaufusi, it's been quite a week, going from DE to MLB, and then also over to the WIL spot. However, he told CF.C he's still adjusting.
"Now that I'm back (at linebacker) I'm confused at times in reading my keys, but everything's starting to come back slowly," Kaufusi said. "It's real exciting for me, I don't know how else to explain it. This is what I want to do, stand up on my own two feet (at linebacker) and run around the ball. I don't really like (the) first contact on the d-line."
At the SAM spot, Jamal Atofau saw plenty of action running with the 1's in place of usual starter Myron Beck. Wulff said Atofau will continue to see more reps as the week goes on.
With Mizell, Kaufusi, and Atofau on Wednesday, the Cougs at linebacker had all freshmen preparing to play the No. 3 team in the nation. Wulff, however, said when you're facing a team like Oregon, it's all about the talent levels.
"I don't know if age matters when you face them," Wulff said. "You have to play fast. And no one has stopped them.
“But we sure as heck can get into a position to make plays. That's what we need to do, it's what we have to do."
But does this youth also provide some excitement in looking towards the future? Kaufusi certainly thinks so.
"Since we're all so young, there's a lot of potential for us going from here on out," Kaufusi said.
DT Toni Pole went full throttle for the second consecutive day. A decision has yet to be officially anounced on whether or not Pole will play, but it appears he could be ready to go.
K's Andrew Furney and Nico Grasu were perfect to open up practice. Both went 4-of-4 and showed plenty of distance on all of their kicks. Wulff announced previously that Furney will handle the field goal attempts, while Grasu will handle kickoff duties.
LB Eric Oertel has been running with the 2's at the SAM spot since his return this week -- it was reported on Tuesday that Oertel saw extensive action running at the WIL but Oertel was actually lined up at the SAM position, while Kaufusi and Darren Markle were running at the WIL.