The starting linebackers for the Cougs' are about as set as can be, with senior outside linebackers Scott Davis and Steve Dildine, and sophomore Greg Trent setting up the middle. After that, however, the Cougs' have talent and potential, but experience is thin down the depth chart.
The second-and-third units boast only one senior, three-year varsity returnee Brian Hall. After that, experience tails off quickly -- senior Chris Baltzer, plus sophomores Cory Evans and Jason Stripling, have all missed significant time due to injury this fall. Evans made his first camp appearance Tuesday coming off a groin strain, taking it slow the rest of the week before suiting up for good and turning it loose Friday morning. Baltzer and Stripling are currently sidlined.
Burtnett said the absences really hurt the unit, with the Baltzer (hamstring) and Stripling (shoulder) retutn timetables uncertain. Bill Doba earlier pegged Stripling's return sometime in mid-September but no official announcement has been made concerning Baltzer, of whom Burtnett said, "will be out for a while."
While Evans has been present at every practice, it couldn't substitute for being out on the field and making plays. The return of the 6-1, 227 pound Evans is big for the unit, said Burtnett, as the true sophomore figures to play a significant role this season.
The unit also boasts several talented but youthful underclassmen in sophomore Alex Hamill and including freshman Andy Mattingly -- Burtnett specifically mentioned Hamill as having put together his best WSU camp to date. Behind those two are walk-ons Brady Emmons, Andrew Kreutz and Sam Tennant.
Despite the relatively thin status of the linebacker corps, Burtnett is nonetheless confident the unit can produce big this fall.
"They're good," Burtnett said. "Losing those guys hurt us. But we've been working hard."
WR and punt returner Michael Bumpus will be out out of action while he rests a strained knee suffered in Wednesday's scrimmage. The fact he's listed on the No Practice section certainly bodes well for his return prior to the opener Sept 2 at Auburn. The junior has been remarkably consistent this fall, catching virtually everything thrown his way. With Bumpus sidelined, any number of players could be shifted around in the coming practice sessions, as the WR unit is arguably the deepest position on the team. Likely candidates to keep Bumpus' seat warm as the No. 1 punt returner until he returns include Derrell Hutsona and others. Some players on the injury list, such as Lance Broadus, are also likely to be held out more for precautionary reasons rather than signaling any lengthy stay on the sideline.
The complete Medical Report from WSU released late Friday afternoon:
Out Indefinitely – Arkelon Hall (8/12 fibula fracture), Skylar Jessen (8/11 hamstring strain), Grady Maxwell (8/11 knee surgery), Matt Mullennix (8/14 hand fracture), Andy Roof (8/11 thumb surgery), Jason Stripling (shoulder surgery recovery), Toby Turpin (8/10 hand fracture), Chris Baltzer (8/16 hamstring strain)
No Practice – Christian Bass (8/11 high ankle sprain), Tyron Brackenridge (8/8 hamstring strain), Lance Broadus (8/17 groin), Michael Bumpus (8/16 knee sprain), Joe Eppele (8/16 shoulder sprain), Ben Huntley (quad contusion), Aaron Johnson (8/14 hamstring strain), Justin Luafalemana (8/16 thumb sprain), Jacob McKinney (hamstring strain)
Limited - Michael Graise (8/12 hip flexor)