Cougs bring fire to chilly Martin practice

CASEY HAMLETT

PULLMAN – Martin Stadium has so much snow in it that inmates from the Department of Corrections were enlisted to start clearing the stands Wednesday. Fittingly, much of what they removed wound up on what will be the Husky sideline Saturday. Meanwhile, on the slick but clear Field Turf, the Cougs went at it with gusto. Big hits were all around. Plus, there was a welcome face back in the secondary.

After a series of workouts in the bubble, head coach Paul Wulff on Wednesday put his troops through their pace outside in chilly Martin Stadium. The venue and conditions apparently agreed with the team; the Cougs turned in their more impressive – and intense -- practice of the week.

Senior defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm set the tone early on when he lit up a member of the offense's scout team. A few plays later, safety Anthony Carpenter unleashed on receiver Dontavious Fleming.

The big hits continued throughout the practice. Wulff said he was pleased with the way the team came out in the conditions and didn't lose a beat.

On the defensive line, there was continued shuffling going on. Senior defensive end Casey Hamlett, who had a career day against Oregon State three weeks ago, continued to see plenty of action with the first string in place of Kevin Kooyman. Kooyman saw the majority of his action. running with the 2's opposite Justin Mann.

Wulff was asked after practice if Hamlett is expected to start this Saturday against the Huskies.

"He'll definitely have an opportunity to do that," Wulff said. "If he keeps practicing the way he has and performing then he's going to play. A lot of those defensive linemen are going to rotate in and have an opportunity to play."

A welcome return for the Cougars Wednesday was corner-turned-safety-turned corner Chima Nwachukwu. The honor student dubbed "The Smartest Guy in the Pac-10" by one newspaper, missed practice yesterday due to interviews for graduate school. With Daniel Simmons (shoulder) most likely out for Saturday, Nwahucuwku's return added depth to a position which had been looking thin. In Nwachukwu's first play Wednesday, QB Marshall Lobbestael tried to test the senior, but he swatted the ball away for an impressive pass deflection.

On the depth chart this week, Nwachukwu is listed as the No. 2 corner behind Nolan Washington, with Aire Justin the starter on the other side unless Simmons is ready to roll.

ON OFFENSE WEDNESDAY, QB Jeff Tuel looked sharp for the second consecutive day and his wideouts also impressed. Daniel Blackledge, who has had a strong week of practice, made another great play, diving full extension to corral a deep pass from Tuel.

The Cougars have two days of practice remaining. Questions about rust after such a long wait between games appear for naught, and Wulff said after three days of workouts this week he's pleased.

"Like I've said all along, all we can do is what we can do with this time allotted in the week of preparation," Wulff said. "I think we did everything we possibly can and now it's about continuing to fine tune everything and being sharp when we play on game day."

NOTEABLE NOTES:

  • The snow removal effort from Martin Stadium will continue all week. The "deposits" made Thursday on the Husky sideline Wednesday -- courtesy of giant chutes running down stadium stairs to the field -- weren't there to stay as trucks came in to haul it to the hinterlands.

  • WSU grad and Seattle sports radio host Ian Furness of KJR 950-AM has lined up the Mother of All Lineups for his show today (Thursday). From 1-3 p.m. he'll be talking Apple Cup with six -- yes, 6 -- Cougar quarterbacking legends: Jason Gesser, Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe, Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien and Alex Brink.

  • Speaking of those quarterbacking luminaries, most if not all of them -- along with Bill Moos -- will be taking part this June 25-29 in the second annual Cougar Legends Fishing Adventure in British Columbia. For more information on how you can join them, contact Justin Felker at jfelker@wsu.edu .
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