Spring ball Day 14: Game faces; a QB question

ARKELON HALL

PULLMAN –- The spring season is winding down, but Cougar players were of no mind to put things on cruise control Thursday afternoon in their last practice before the Crimson & Gray game Saturday. Virtually every play in 6-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills was hotly contested, with several impressive plays on both sides of the ball. Jason Hill was the big man on offense while tackle Aaron Johnson paced the D.

The day began like any other practice, with all units running through a number of position-specific drills and stretches. But as soon as it came to time butt heads in 6-on-7 passing dills, the mood changed quickly from practice mode to game face.

The offense, which turned in a less-than-impressive performance Tuesday, came out firing. Quarterbacks Alex Brink and Gary Rogers both connected early and often to a bevy of receivers led by wideout Jason Hill and tight end Jesse Taylor, each of whom grabbed three passes during the exercise.

The defense was on its heels in the early minutes, but came together with its back against the proverbial wall. On four successive plays from the 5-yard-line, the stop corps shut down the air game.

The offense eventually hit paydirt on the fifth and sixth attempts. Hill did the honors both times -– the first score coming on a pass from Brink and the second from Rogers.

After a brief respite, the practice moved to 11-on-11 drills. And then the ground truly began to shake.

Fired up by shouts of encouragement from comrades, the offensive and defensive units each showed off serious athleticism. The red-shirted offense pulled in a number of fine catches and the white-shirted defense dished out some hard hits.

Those drills began when Brink fired an 8-yard pass to tight end Jed Collins, who was almost immediately wrapped up by middle linebacker Greg Trent. Brink was then sacked by left tackle Aaron Johnson on the very next play. And just like that, the intensity meter was at a fever pitch.

With cheers of "Let's go O!" resonating from the sidelines, Brink, Rogers and fellow QBs Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan all found their targets. Hill and the Cougars' corps of tight ends -- Collins, Taylor, Jason Price and Tony Thompson -- all reeled in passes.

Thompson, who has made a number of big plays this spring, had the biggest catch of the day, pulling in a Brink aerial in the endzone and then holding onto the ball after getting drilled by hard-hitting safety Michael Willis.

Despite the quality offensive production, the defense was hardly quiet. Willis had an interception and corner Tyron Brackenridge pulled down two. Johnson, meanwhile, posted two sacks.

NOTABLE NOTES:

The No. 3 spot at quarterback is still very much up for grabs, reports QB coach Timm Rosenbach, who has been happy with the play of both Hall and Morgan. "The goal of spring ball is just to make players better, and they have both done that," Rosenbach said "We'll just keep putting them up against each other and see who comes out on top."

Walk-on safety Geoff Kirkwood continues to practice as a kicker. He sent about half of his attempts through the uprights before practice, and his only attempt during drills barely cleared the heads of the linemen and bounced 10 yards in front of the goalposts.

Sophomore receiver Scott Selby, who was listed on Tuesday's injury report as a "no practice" with a right hamstring sprain, returned Thursday in full gear.

Sophomore Jason Stripling, the No. 2 middle linebacker behind Trent, has reinjured a shoulder and may require surgery.

The intensity of the afternoon was epitomized immediately after the practice, as sophomore offensive linemen Andy Roof could be seen at the west end of Roger's Field tossing his cookies into a garbage can.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for this upcoming Wednesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. PT when Jeff McQuarrie, the producer and director of an upcoming new film about the colorful history Cougar football, will be answering questions in the CF.C chat room. We've had a sneak peak at several segments of the 4-hour film and it is nothing less than amazing. The film will premier later this year, capping years of work by McQuarrie. Along the way, he talked to a Who's Who from the Cougar Nation -- interviewing over 100 Cougar football players and celebrities -- including ABC's Keith Jackson, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Rypien, Jack Thompson, Robbie Tobeck, Marcus Trufant and many, many more. The film also includes a countdown of the 15 greatest teams in WSU history. Head to Legends of the Palouse for more info and plan to check in at CF.C on the 19th at 7 pm.

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