PULLMAN--In the second official scrimmage, RB Logwone Mitz led the ground attack, and the offense as a whole showed signs of gelling on Saturday. Up front in the trenches, DT Brandon Rankin and OT Wade Jacobson got into it and on defense, Daniel Simmons laid the lumber and Travis Long took a fumble back 40 yards to the house. Taking it all in, class of 2009 DT Quayshawne Buckley on the sidelines.
“I think we cleaned up a lot of things schematically and execution wise,” Paul Wulff said after the helmets and pads were finished cracking. “We still made some mistakes, but from a teaching perspective I think we cleaned a lot of things up."
To open up the first drive, Logwone Mitz provided the Cougar offense with a big burst of speed and showed great agility cutting through big holes provided by the offensive live.
On that opening drive, Mitz rushed for 26 yards on three carries, with a long of 17 hashes. Mitz also added a three yard TD run later in the scrimmage. He finished with 64 yards on 16 carries.
With RB’s Chantz Staden (knee), Carl Winston (toe) and Marcus Richmond (knee) all sitting out Saturday, Mitz and walk-on RB Leon Brooks were the workhorses for the offense Saturday and both performed well.
“We wanted to challenge those guys," said Wulff. "We want to see some guys carry not four or six times in a scrimmage, we want to see guys carry the ball 15 or 16 times to see how they handle that.
“There’s no question Logwone needs that,” Wulff said. “We need to find out if he’s a Pac-10 player week in and week out. He showed flashes today -- I really liked how he ran. I’d like to see him carry 15-20 times a game and do it every Saturday in the season.”
WATCHING THE SCRIMMAGE was DT Quayshawne Buckley. He told CF.C on Saturday that he arrived in Pullman a couple days ago but might not be in town for long -- He said he might stay, or might head home, depending on if he gets one of the in-town jobs he's applied for to earn a little pocket change.
Buckley also reiterated to CF.C he is taking online courses and hopes to be finished with them soon, possibly as soon as the end of this month. Assuming he completes them, he would still need to be cleared by the NCAA and WSU admissions with the goal to enroll later this summer, likely the second WSU summer school session. As for the action on the field Saturday, Buckley was, not surprisingly, enamored with the play of Cougar DT Brandon Rankin.
"That's my boy," Buckley told CF.C. "We're talking a lot, me and him are staying in touch."
AT QUARTERBACK, both Jeff Tuel and Marshall Lobbestael continued to split time running with the first team and both looked good throughout. Tuel again looked sharp with his passes, and showed his mobility throughout by evading defensive lineman, getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run. He showed those skills on a nice 5-yard touchdown connection with WR Gino Simone.
Tuel and Lobbestael combined to complete 15-of-23 passes for 155 yards. Tuel completed 7-of-12 for 84 yards, and Lobbestael went 8-of-11 for 71 hashes.
The Tuel-to-Simone TD was set up after a 15 yard penalty against the first team defense following a skirmish between Rankin and RT Wade Jacobsen, the latter having this spring shown his fire, and becoming involved in a number of fracases, this spring. Saturday, the two went at it physically for about 15 seconds, and were still going at it pretty tough before DE Travis Long intervened and separated the two.
“That happens,” Tuel said. “That’s a part of the game when you go against the same guys nearly every day you’re going to get a little frustrated. Guys get a little fired up and I guess it’s good to see that emotion. Obviously not to get a penalty out of it but it’s good to have a little fire and we expect it to happen, maybe not quite at that level.”
SIMONE LOOKED strong late in the scrimmage but the normally sure-handed sophomore had troubles early on. He dropped two passes from Tuel that spot-on and to the play side. One would have been a sure fire 20 yard gainer over the middle. Wulff said the dropped balls have been a big concern for him this spring.
“That’s kind of been a hindrance for a while -- good thing we got seven new receivers coming in the fall and they’re going to up the competition to a much higher level because the performance is not being consistent enough from that position," said Wulff.
Simone did raise his game to close out practice, however, including the touchdown pass from Tuel. Simone also had the play of the scrimmage when he hauled in a 29-yarder, again from Tuel. On the catch, Simone leapt up, full extension, adjusted, and made an acrobatic catch for the Coug offense, leading in turn to a Mitz TD run.
LOBBESTAEL HAS A touchdown pass of his own, while running with the 2’s. He threw the ball in the corner of the end zone, that WR Jared Karstetter dove full extension for. Although the Coug receiving corps had a few dropped passes on the day, they had their moments, and they're an athletic group.
A scary moment for the Cougs offense -- C Andrew Roxas went down after a Mitz carry and did not immediately get up. The redshirt junior-to-be, who was out all last year after recovering from viral hepatitis, was holding his ankle while on the turf. Roxas was helped off the field by teammates and trainers, and was seen with his ankle wrapped with ice after practice. The good news, however, is that Wulff told CF.C the injury doesn’t appear to be serious and his hoss in the middle should be just fine.
With Roxas out, Chris Prummer took over the center position. Prummer also saw plenty of action with the 1’s before Roxas went down and provided good protection of both Tuel and Lobbestael.
MEANWHILE ON DEFENSE, another strong performance Saturday, even with the offense picking up their game. Bodies were all over the field and big hits were set as the standard with helmets popping consistently.
LB Andre Barrington had the hit of the session, when he lowered his shoulder and buried RB Leon Brooks to the ground for a two yard loss. Big hits are being celebrated by the defense this spring, as big as are interceptions, and CB Daniel Simmons told CF.C there isn’t another feeling on the planet like laying an earth shattering hit.
“You know what, I get the same….” Simmons caught himself.. “You know what, I’m not even going to lie to you. I love hitting,” Simmons said. “If I lay a big hit on somebody, it honestly feels better than an interception. Obviously scouts want to see the interception probably more than a big hit, but a big hit just feels great.”
SIMMONS ALSO HAD the only interception of the scrimmage, picking off Lobbestael after the QB's pass attempt appeared to be tipped at the line.
A monstrous play for the defense came when DE Kevin Kooyman stripped the ball away from Mitz, and fellow DE Travis Long -- who can really run at 6-4, 256 pounds -- picked it up and rumbled down field for 40 yards for a TD.
A MAJOR CONCERN for the Cougars in the past has been the kicking game, and K Nico Grasu continued to struggle on Saturday. Grasu was just 2-of-7 in his attempts including a 27 yarder that is normally a chip shot for the senior.
“We want to see who we can trust to kick the ball through the uprights,” Wulff said. “Right now we don’t have anybody right now that is somebody who is capable of doing that on a consistent basis that’s just the facts. The guys that are here need to get better, they’ve got now and next fall to improve and then the new people we got coming in are going to have an opportunity to win a job as well.”
S Chima Nwachukwu was not present at the scrimmage because he was at the SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Council) convention in San Francisco. Nwachukwu is currently WSU’s SAAC president. With Nwachukwu out, Tyree Toomer and LeAndre Daniels were at the starting safety positions, and both had some big time hits of their own and appeared to be extremely physical throughout.