FALL CAMP DAY 4: backs please Doba; DBs shine

Kevin McCall

PULLMAN – What a difference a few months can make. Back in the spring, Jerome Harrison was a lone sentinel in the Cougar backfield, forcing fullback Jed Collins into a crash-course on playing the "one" in the one-back offense.

Now, four days into fall camp, it's clear the Cougars' backfield cupboard will be fully stocked in 2005. Sophomore Kevin McCall is stepping into the role of Harrison's understudy, but freshmen DeMaundray Woolridge and Dwight Tardy are making strong bids for playing time.

From his perspective as the top cat, Harrison, who piled up nearly 1,000 yards last season, said he's seeing a big difference between the McCall of this year vs. the McCall of last season.

Harrison said today that McCall's approach to the game is more business-like. He's quicker, stronger and more dedicated.

As a second-year freshman in 2004, McCall saw limited action as the No. 4 back behind Harrison, Chris Bruhn and Allen Thompson. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder from Carson, Calif., played in nine games and carried the ball eight times for 40 yards.

It's hard to see the light when you're so far down the depth chart, Harrison opined, adding that being part of the prime time rotation puts a hop in anyone's step.

What would have been a major boost in McCall's development was lost when he missed spring workouts with a suspension stemming from a third degree rape charge that he eventually plea bargained to 45 days in jail.

"He's overcoming it," Harrison said of McCall.

Since returning to the team, McCall has worked as the No. 2 running back. Harrison said the increased reps are making a difference in McCall's development.

Besides McCall, Woolridge and Tardy are getting plenty of work since training camp opened Sunday.

"I'm really pleased with (Woolridge) and Tardy is better than I thought he would be," head coach Bill Doba said. "It's a good group."

The coach said McCall's status as lead reserve is not set in stone and said it's too early to set the depth chart at the position.

IN LIGHT SCRIMMAGE drills Wednesday, Alex Brink completed five of eight passes while Josh Swogger connected on six of 10 tosses. Most of the passes were of the short variety, picking out receivers in the flat or tight ends over the middle.

Brink's best play came when he worked to his strength – improvisation – after being flushed from the pocket to his right. He threw on the run and Marty Martin caught the toss, falling out of bounds after securing the ball. Swogger also found gold with Martin, hitting the senior slot receiver on a deep out that Martin was able to collect in stride before speeding down the sideline for some nice yardage.

Brink and Swogger both made mistakes though, and the secondary capitalized.

In skelly drills, cornerback Don Turner blanketed receiver Benny Ward down the left sideline, tipping away a Swogger pass at the last second. Turner, who is fighting for playing time as the third corner behind Alex Teems and Wally Dada, also broke up a pass intended for receiver Brandon Gibson.

Big plays by the secondary were numerous Wednesday. Reserve safety Christian Bass picked off a Brink toss that seemed to hover in the middle of the field before Bass stepped into it. A few plays later, safety Husain Abdullah nearly pulled in another Brink aerial off a tip and the very next play after that, Teems nearly pulled one in.

Teems looked very sharp on Wednesday. The senior led by example in skelly, covering receiver Jason Hill with nearly perfect execution. As Hill ran a fade, Teems matched him step for step and as the ball approached the two, Teems leapt in the air while turning to face the pigskin and snagged the interception, landing on his back. Picture perfect.

THERE IS NO COMPETITION to be the starting punter, with All-America candidate Kyle Basler back for his senior season. But an interesting battle looms for next season between second-year freshman Fritz Brayton and walk-on Portland State transfer Darryl Blunt. Blunt, who made a booming start Sunday, will redshirt this season. Both of the youngsters have ample leg but need to work on consistency.

As for Basler, he said he has worked on his hang time and is right where he wants to be.

INJURY UPDATE:
Back up outside linebacker Alex Hamill missed Wednesday's workouts. Trainer Bill Drake said he has a right sublexed shoulder similar to the injury he suffered last season to his left shoulder. The severity of the injury was not clear as we were going to press.

There was no word on the status of tight end Cody Boyd. Drake called the situation a "tough case" and said the staff is consulting to determine the best course of action. Boyd has three bone cists in his right ankle that Drake said have been tagged as a probable source of pain for the tight end.

Receiver Chris Jordan missed practice for the second straight day with a right knee capsule sprain. He could practice tomorrow but may be held out until Friday or Saturday.

Offensive lineman Dan Rowlands was in attendance for Wednesday's practice. He is recovering from gall bladder surgery and is expected to miss another two to four weeks.

Receiver Greg Prator (broken hand) is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He is being limited in drills and should have his cast removed in about a week.

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