PULLMAN -- Bill Doba, true to his Midwestern roots, is typically restrained in analyzing unproven talent. This year, however, Doba has repeatedly hailed Washington State’s recruiting class as the best in his five years as head coach. Sunday afternoon, it took just one practice for observers to see what Doba was talking about. A ton of news and notes from the first day of fall camp on the Palouse.
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Highlight-reel catches by wide receiver Jeshua Anderson and promising play at the all-important cornerback spot by fellow freshman Chima Nwachukwu provided encouragement to Cougar coaches, players and fans at the first practice of the fall.
“Jeshua Anderson, he’s a really quality athlete,” Doba said. “He’s a possible Olympian (in the hurdles), so if he can just run down the field, he’ll scare the heck out of corners.”
“He’s fast and very athletic,” junior wide receiver Brandon Gibson added. “He’s special.”
On and off the football field, we might add. Anderson set the national high school record of 35.28 seconds in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles this year at Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif. He plans to run track at WSU after turning down Reebok overtures to turn pro in track.
Doba said Texas native Nwachukwu (his name is pronounced Chee-ma Watch-uh-koo) “is a kid who has a chance to play.” Few true freshman can handle playing cornerback in the Pac-10, but it is one of the few positions conducive to a true frosh, albeit a special one, starting right away and the Cougars are desperately short of experience and depth in the secondary.
Nwachukwu was a regular at Cougar voluntary summer workouts after enrolling at Washington State early and opened some eyes amongst the Cougar veterans with his play in skelly, the 7-on-7 skeleton drills without linemen the Cougs run during thir voluntary summer workouts.
“He’s going to have a great future here because of his great attitude,” senior free safety Husain Abdullah said. “He’s real humble and just an all-around great guy. He’s a great athlete, and he made some plays this summer that turned a lot of heads.”
THE COUGARS HAD already announced that two junior college recruits failed to quality academically, but Doba said all high school recruits made the grade -- literally and figuratively.
Doba also reported that WSU’s team grade-point average for 76 players attending summer classes was an impressive 3.01.
“It’s probably the first time our team has ever had a grade-point average over 3-point,” Doba said.
However, Doba also announced that redshirt senior defensive tackle Bryan Tarkington became the ninth player off last year’s roster lost to either attrition or failing to qualify academically. That excludes safety DeWayne Patterson, a senior who redshirted last year due to academic shortcomings. The list includes Arkelon Hall, Courtney Williams, Derek Hunter, DeMaundray Woolridge, Michael Willis, Andy Roof, Derrell Hutsona, Jason Stripling.
Doba confirmed that redshirt sophomore Jason Stripling,listed as the starter at the weakside linebacker, may file an appeal with the NCAA to try to regain his academic eligibility for this season. Doba said it was premature to speculate when a decision might be rendered.
Tarkington was expected to play a reserve role after starting three games due to injuries last year.
Doba, who has labeled all the academic failures “embarrassing,” said his staff is more hesitant to gamble on academic at-risk players than in the past. Doba stressed that he believes Cougar players receive outstanding academic support.
“Our academic support group here is as good as any,” Doba said.
QUOTES AND QUIPS:
Doba, turns 67 on Sept. 7, was loaded with energy, enthusiasm and quotes Sunday.
Analyzing the first workout: “The first day is a little frustrating. There’s a lot of teaching and other stuff going on. Overall, I think they had pretty good retention from spring ball.”
Season forecast: “If we can stay healthy and our freshmen and JC kids are as good as we think they are, I think we have a good chance to be very, very competitive.”
On his decision to add his old duties as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach: “I’m optimistic. I’m excited to get to coach again.”
Losing defensive coordinator Robb Akey, Idaho’s new head coach: “Akey is a big loss. He was a great coach.”
On heralded JC safety Terry Mixon not being able to run as much during the offseason as he let a foot heal, this quip: “He’s a little overweight. He’s one Big Mac from being a linebacker.”
His biggest concerns: “Secondary, offensive line.”
WSU’s greatest strengths: “Quarterback, linebackers.” (note: Doba has previously mentioned on a number of occasions the WR corps is the deepest unit on the team)
On senior quarterback Alex Brink: “Alex should have a great year, but he can’t throw if he’s on his back. We might throw from the shotgun (more) just to give him some time.”
Star wide receiver Michael Bumpus missed practice. Doba said he expects him to dress today after clearing up some academic paperwork.
New cornerbacks coach David Walkosky will also take on a larger special teams role, Doba said, coaching the Cougar punt, punt return and kickoff coverage units. Walkosky coached all special teams at Toledo from 2003-06, with the special teams having been a key part of UT's success. Walkosky had also been responsible for the punt returns unit since 1999 with the Rockets blocking 16 kicks during that time. Tight ends coach Greg Peterson will remain the man in charge of the Cougs' kickoff return unit.
Doba said Mixon, like junior defensive tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu, plays with a foot injury that probably won’t ever be 100 percent. He is, however, fully cleared to play and participate, as is Ahmu.
Defensive end Kevin Kooyman sat out some drills after experiencing numbness in his neck when he landed awkwardly during a pass-rushing drill. Trainer Bill Drake said he hopes Kooyman can practice Monday.
Doba said defensive end Lance Broadus is recovering ahead of schedule from shoulder surgery. He was expected to miss the the season opener Sept. 1 at Wisconsin but now looks to have a chance at being ready.
Daniel Wagner, who quarterbacked Jesuit of Portland to a 12-0 record and Oregon state championship last year, is among the Washington State invited walk-ons. He threw 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions last year.
Former WSU starting running back DeMaundray Woolridge, an academic casualty, is headed to NAIA Langston (Okla.) University.
Doba said former Cougar junior offensive tackle Derek Hunter is looking at transferring to NAIA Eastern Oregon.
Redshirt freshman Cornorris Atkins has moved from defensive back to wide receiver.
The Cougars again practice in helmets Monday, add shoulder pads Tuesday and Wednesday, then start hitting in full pads Thursday.
The first scrimmage is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.