Position battles coming into focus

JOSH DUIN

PULLMAN -- Washington State's fall camp is not yet a week old, but the cornerback and offensive line positions are beginning to come into focus. Indications, albeit early ones, indicate experience is key with a couple of seniors -- C Josh Duin and CB Don Turner -- taking the reigns on the first units.

In what could be deemed something a mild surprise for some in the Cougar nation, fifth-year seniors Josh Duin and Don Turner have emerged as first-unit position holders at center and cornerback, respectively, drawing praise from coaches George Yarno and Ken Greene.

When asked about Duin, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship just last year, Yarno touted the experience of the 6-4, 306 pound lineman as a key factor for the decision.

"He knows the offense," Yarno said, "He's putting us in the best position to be successful, and until someone does better than him, he's our starter."

The center position lends itself to an upperclassman, it's not all about blocking. The center is the one who calls out the blocking assignments for the rest of the line -- something that takes time to master.

Duin's chief competition for the position is from Kenny Alfred, a freshman, and Dan Rowlands, a sophomore who has been lining up chiefly as a guard this fall. But the competition is not over, and Rowlands is also not definitively penciled in at guard.

"He's definitely still in the mix (for the center position)", said Yarno of Rowlands. "But he has to be ready to play at guard as well."

Yarno said the focus this fall camp will be to develop depth on the o-line, to establish 8-to-10 players who can have the ability to be put in at any position. The official depth chart may not be indicative of which backups would see the field should injury befall a starter.

"We'll put the five best players on the field, and the guys that aren't starting, they have to be ready to jump in at any position," said Yarno. "If someone goes down, we aren't looking for the guy behind him, but the next best player on the team."

The corner position for the spot opposite Tyron Brackenridge, who has sewn up on starting position, has Don Turner at No. 1 with Markus Dawes making a decided impression as well.

Greene said he likes the depth being developed, praising especially the play of JC transfer Dawes, whom he compared to senior safety Eric Frampton, saying both players are quick learners and play with aggression.

"Turner's the guy, but that doesn't mean we don't want to develop depth at the position," said Greene, who went on to note he's been "really impressed" with Dawes.

Kerry Maddox has been slowed in the early stages by a sore heel on one foot, and then a sore heel on the other. After he gets healthy, however, Greene said he expects big things from the Texas rookie, both this season and over the course of his career.

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