LOPINA TO START, LOBBESTAEL LIKELY TO PLAY EARLY
PULLMAN -- The Cougs returned to practice following a day off and Paul Wulff made the announcement on his starting quarterback. But that's only part of the story under center for Washington State. Plus, the Cougars took a huge stride toward full strength with the return of several key players. Here's the rundown on Sunday's practice and more.
Wulff finally answered the quarterback question as to who will start on Sept. 5.
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Both quarterbacks Marshall Lobbestael and Kevin Lopina will be under center week one against Stanford.
“Kevin Lopina will take the first snap of the game, he’ll play at least a couple series and then we’ll rotate Marshall in there and we’re going to give those guy’s the opportunity to prove it in a game so you’ll see both guys get the opportunity to play,” said Wulff.
Wulff also said he's giving the Cougs flexibility in how they use the two quarterbacks.
“Someone’s got a hot hand -- he will stay in the game,” said Wulff. "...No one has separated themselves and so we’re going to in the game and both will play."
LOPINA SAID offensive coordinator and QB's coach Todd Sturdy gave them the news around 1 p.m. that the decision to alternate the quarterbacks had been made. Also, Sturdy called in the two about a week ago and let them know one of them had to step up their game in order to separate themselves.
“When he told us that we both stepped up, we both got better so it was good competition,” said Lopina. “We both made strides this fall we were competing everyday and pushing each other.”
Lobbestael said there's no problem sharing time come Stanford.
“I support the coach’s decision, and I support Kevin,” said Lobbestael. “We talked before practice and said we have each other’s backs and I’m really looking forward to the season.”
MEANWHILE, THERE WAS a practice on the football field, and key offensive players returned -- WR Jeshua Anderson (hamstring), WR Jeffrey Solomon (ankle) and RB James Montgomery (knee) all suited up and returned to full speed today working with the 1’s.
And the news was just as good on defense.
CB Brandon Jones worked with the 1’s on defense, returning from an ankle sprain.
“It’s really good to have Brandon Jones back,"said safety Xavier Hicks. "We have gotten (to the point) where if someone goes down, someone can fill in for them until they return. But Brandon Jones has made a good recovery coming back, and it’s great having him back on the field."
While Alex Hoffman-Ellis is still projected to be the MLB starter on Saturday, Darren Markle has done a great job in his stead and looks to be ready to go if Hoffman-Ellis is not 100 percent recovering from a foot problem.
Markle, a true frosh, continued to see an increased amount of time at MLB with the 1’s today -- and continued to impress, his play including a recovered fumble on a Logwone Mitz run.
Fellow freshmen WR Gino Simone and DE Travis Long are also spending a lot of time working with the 1’s and are projected to be starting against Stanford.
If Markle were to also start, it would be the first time in WSU history where three true freshmen started a season opener, something which speaks volumes of the quality of talent in the freshmen class, but also about the current depth at some positions.
“Necessity, number one,” said Wulff. “And those three in particular are extremely mature; I think they can handle it, no question.”
THE COUGAR DEFENSE looked efficient again in today’s practice including a nice interception from cornerback Daniel Simmons off Lopina intended for Jared Karstetter.
While working with the second team, Marshall Lobbestael also threw a pick when CB Anthony Houston stepped in front of Collin Huemmer.
The offense had a balance of pass and run, but mainly focused on running plays towards the end of practice.
Senior Dwight Tardy looked good, making sharp cuts and finding the open hole often for large gains.
The first offensive line looked much better than they did in Friday’s scrimmage, led by the hard work of LT Steven Ayers, LG Zack Williams, C Kenny Alfred, RG B.J. Guerra, and RT Micah Hannam.
The Cougs have enjoyed a two-QB system before, perhaps most notably with Clete Casper and Ricky Turner under Jim Walden. Wulff, while at Eastern, started the 2003 season with two alternating QB's, ending the year 6-5.
Red-shirt freshman DT Dan Spitz worked with the 1’s with DE Kevin Kooyman, DT Bernard Wolfgramm, and DE Jesse Feagin.
Redshirt Junior WR Easton Johnson did not participate in practice today due to a conflict with paperwork.