Spring ball Day 10: Cougs getting healthy

FINAS RABB

PULLMAN -- A day off Wednesday due to inclement weather proved to be just what the Cougars needed as several injured players returned to full practice Thursday. Among those back in action: Finas Rabb III, who wasted little time making his presence known. Meanwhile, Matt Mullennix and Mkristo Bruce stood tall on the defense line, Loren Langley may have found a key, cornerback CB Tyron Brackenridge is busy making up for lost time and a position change could be in store for one or two big bodies.

Finas Rabb, coming off a left hip strain, looked in fine form, picking up the slack in the absence of fellow wide receivers Jason Hill and Chris Jordan, both of whom were sidelined with the flu.

After missing the end of last week and all of this week's practices, a standout afternoon could hardly be expected for the 6-6, 205 pound junior, but that apparently wasn't an excuse for the JC transfer from Santa Ana College.

'The Big Slam' caught every pass thrown his way from quarterback Alex Brink, including a diving grab under coverage from cornerback Ryan Kensok which drew helmet slaps from fellow receivers Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.

Sophomore linebackers Alex Hamill and Jason Stripling have both returned to action, while offensive linemen Kenny Alfred, Colin Donovan and Tim Freeberg (all fractured hands this spring) have not only returned to the field , they're back in full contact drills boasting big ol' casts.

ALTHOUGH LISTED AT offensive linemen coming into the spring, Donovan, along with Freeberg, put on defensive jerseys and tested the waters on the d-line Thursday.

The move did not appear to be because the Cougs just needed extra bodies for a drill, and while any evaluation would be incomplete at this stage, one or both could be in line for a move to defense in '06.

ALTHOUGH THEY PROVIDED evidence they might be getting their timing down, the day didn't belong solely to the Cougar offense, though, as both defensive line and secondary flexed their muscles in 11-on-11 drills.

The defensive highlights began with post season honors candidate and defensive end Mkristo Bruce, one of the most consistent performers this spring, busting through the line and laying a hand on Alex Brink. Although the quarterback was protected by his bright yellow jersey, the play surely would have ended in a sack.

Matt Mullennix, with one of the best motors on the team, continued his torrid spring on Thursday, busting through the line to log a sack on Brink. The Cougars' starting quarterback won his share of battles as well, showing his agility in the pocket and scrambling away from the defensive pursuit on several occasions.

THROUGH THE AIRWAYS Thursday, junior free safety Husain Abdullah grabbed yet another interception this spring, sending the play the other way by snatching an Arkelon Hall pass intended for WR Scott Selby.

Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge showed plenty of flash and no lingering effects from a formerly slow to heal hamstring, sticking like glue and breaking up a pair of Brink passes to Greg Walker and Benny Ward.

AT RUNNING BACK, DeMaundray Woolridge and Dwight Tardy continue to impress.

Woolridge showed he's not just all about straight ahead speed and power when he took a Brink swing pass and put a wicked juke on a would-be tackler, turning a no-gainer into a move-the-chains 10-yarder. Tardy, as has been his custom throughout the spring, broke off a number of nice runs.

AT THE OUTSET of practice, the battle for the punting position again took center stage, with the team opening up the day with special teams work.

In a reversal of Tuesday's performances, Darryl Blunt, who looks to have the overall edge on the competition, nailed three solid punts at approximately 55 yards each with good hang time, while a formerly consistent Fritz Brayton seemed to have some height and control problems, sending the ball low-flying and about 10 yards shorter than his counterpart.

Loren Langley received some one-on-one instruction from Bill Doba Thursday and it looks to have helped. Langley was killing the ball on kickoffs, driving three kickoffs deep into the end zone with plenty of hang time. The junior was good on 2-of-3 attempts and his miss, a 43-yarder, sailed wide left at the last moment. Walk-on Romeen Abdollmohammadi, who has shined brightly this spring, did not kick any field goals during the practice session. His kickoffs, while not un-returnable like Langley's, were all deep with good hang time.

NOTES:

One other interception for the defense happened during 11-on-11 drills when Freeberg swatted away a pass thrown by Brink into the waiting hands of Bruce.

Injury Update: The injury status on Lorenzo Bursey (right foot sprain), Jason Price (right hamstring sprain), Don Turner (left knee), and Courtney Williams (left hip sprain), are all day-to-day with no concrete timetable laid out for their return.

Done for the spring are sophomore Fevaea'i Ahmu (broken foot), junior defensive end Lance Broadus (left groin strain), sophomore linebacker Cory Evans (right ankle sprain), sophomore defensive end Michael Graise (right wrist surgery), and sophomore center Dan Rowlands (left shoulder strain). All are expected to be 100 percent, as is tight end Jesse Taylor, well in advance of fall camp.

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