SPRING DAY 3: Wulff pleased with both sides

STADEN TAKES HANDOFF FROM LOBBESTAEL

PULLMAN — Helmets were cracking and intensity high on Monday in Washington State's first full-pads workout of football spring practices. Highlights included a big hit by Andre Barrington, steady pressure from Kevin Kooyman, and a sweet pass connection from Marshall Lobbestael to Gino Simone. Head coach Paul Wulff was pleased with the proceedings on both sides of the ball.

"There were a lot of good things, and some things that were typical the first day out but it's pretty clear we're ahead of where we've (traditionally) been at this point," Wulff said. "That's good but we've got a lot of work to do."

The day opened up with a small scare, when starting left guard Zack Williams – an honors candidate -- went down with an injury. He left the field and X-rays were taken.

"We don't foresee it as serious," Wulff said. "It might be an AC joint sprain … but we'll see what the X-rays show."

With Williams sidelined, first-year offensive line coach Steve Morton did some juggling with his first-unit hosses. The 1's were mostly JC transfer Wade Jacobson at left tackle, Steven Ayers and left guard, Andrew Roxas at center, another honors candidate, B.J. Guerra, at right guard, and seasoned veteran Micah Hannam at right tackle. JC transfer David Gonzales also saw reps at right tackle.

The offensive line looked sharp early on, opening big holes for running backs Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston. There was one series of plays where Mitz and Winston had gaping paths to run through and took full advantage.

Roxas, the fourth-year junior who redshirted last season after contracting viral hepatitis and losing 30 pounds, is now checking in at an all-time high 304 pounds. Monday marked his first full-speed practice in a year.

"I love it man, it was killing me last year to just sit out," Roxas said. "I love just being out here with the guys and I love the game. We were hitting heads, we were going at it and it was just a good time out there."

Roxas' time away from the field didn't dampen his fire or his leadership skills. He got into it with linebacker Arthur Burns after a late hit, and later broke up a heated shoving match between Jacobson and defensive end Sekope Kaufusi.

"With that (his dust up with Bruns), they hit one of my running backs late and you don't do that to one of my guys," Roxas said. "You don't hit my QB late and you don't hit my RB late ... We're all a family out here though, and I just wanted to stop that fight (between Jacobson and Kaufusi) because those are two great guys."

THE HIT OF THE DAY was turned in by Barrington, the freshman linebacker from Federal Way, during the "Oklahoma" tackling drill. He pancaked fullback Jared Myer, which immediately had the D swarming him to celebrate the monstrous shot.

In an 11-on-11 drill near the end of practice, quarterback Jeff Tuel led the offense methodically down the field. Among those contributing to the effort was running back Chantz Staden, who is back in action after redshirting last season with a knee injury. He showed off nifty footwork and great speed on two plays. On the first, he ran up the gut and then cut right for a 7-yard gain. A few plays later, he caught a ball in the backfield and scurried for 15 yards, with two to three defenders missing him along the way.

"You know we redshirted him last year so he's had a good year and half now since post surgery so he should be 100 percent," Wulff said of Staden. "He'll give us toughness and a great spark in a lot of different areas we could use him in."

Walk-on running back Leon Brooks capped off the drive with a 4-yard TD run up the middle.

On defense, Kooyman led the way. The senior end from Maple Valley consistently came strong off the edge, giving Hannam and Gonzales all they could handle. Kooyman put consistent pressure on both Tuel and Lobbestael.

He too is coming off a redshirt season necessitated by a knee injury.

"Today was a little rough sometimes but we're headed in the right direction," Kooyman said. "We just started spring ball so everyone's a little rusty. There are some young guys playing offensive line right now and I'm just trying to make them better and get myself better.

JC transfer Brandon Rankin spent much of the day with the 1s at the other DE spot. Defensive tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Toby Turpin were not at practice on Monday because of academic reasons. That opened up the door to extensive first-unit action for third-year sophomore Anthony Laurenzi and second-year freshman Justin Clayton. The offensive line seemed to start strong, but the pressure on QBs and snuffing of the RB's increased over time.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Lobbestael saw some reps with the 1s and impressed on multiple throws. He and Simone had the connection of the day when Lobbestael fired a beautiful 30-yard aerial that Simone caught in mid stride over the hands of CB Terrance Hayward.

  • In special teams action, senior punter Reid Forrest continued to show outstanding distance. He had a pair of kicks that looked to be well more than 50 yards with serious hang time. Back-up Dan Wagner also booted a couple of long ones. Kickers Nico Grasu and Blake Dunn both went 1-for-2 in game-simulation attempts from about 30 yards. Dunn's first attempt was blocked at the line by Laurenzi.

  • The WSU board of regents has approved plans to contruct a new Hilton hotel and convention center on campus east of the Student Recreation Center. Completion is targeted for late 2011. "It brings to us a world-class facility that will provide guests to our campus an additional place to stay for everything from sporting events, to Mom's weekend," says WSU President Elson Floyd.
    TACKLE WADE JACOBSON HAD FIRE IN HIS EYES MONDAY.

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