New Monday practice works for Tuel

JEFF TUEL

PULLMAN — The Cougars donned just helmets and shoulder pads for a Monday night practice but the intensity was high, Jeff Tuel and his receivers were hot, and head man Paul Wulff said he's ready to get the 2010 campaign underway Saturday in Stillwater.

"We've got a lot to prove, obviously," said Wulff. "We're a young team that's got to go on the road and play a quality football team, a team that was in the Cotton Bowl a year ago. It's a great challenge for our team but I think it's a good test for them too. We have to be prepared and have a great week of practice."

Normally the Cougs would run a short practice on Sunday evenings, but this year Wulff decided it would be best to move the session to Monday night and continue unabated throughout the week.

"Every Monday we're going to come out and try to address as much we can about the previous game but more importantly focus on the upcoming opponent," Wulff said. "It gives us coaches more opportunity to give them better and more information for the upcoming game."

On the field Monday, Jeff Tuel and the offense looked sharp.

In 7-on-7 drills, Tuel threaded the needle a number times, including a thing of beauty to freshman wideout Marquess Wilson. With freshman corner Damonte Horton –- who will travel to and likely play at Stillwater -- in coverage, Tuel fired deep and appeared to have overthrown Wilson, but the standout freshman receiver caught the ball in full stride and fell into the end-zone for a TD. Later, sophomore receiver Gino Simone added the play of the night, when he dove full extension over the middle to haul in a 15-yard pass from Tuel.

The offense has had it's ups and downs throughout fall camp but will it be ready to perform consistently come Saturday?

Starting senior running back James Montgomery certainly thinks so.

"Of course," he said. "We just need to tie up these loose ends prepare and we will be alright, we'll be ready."

The team has been studying Oklahoma State film for quite some time, and Montgomery said from the footage he's seen the ‘Boys can run like the wind, but that the Cougs are ready to come out of the gates quickly.

"They're fast and they play hard so we just have to out-run and out-hit them," Montgomery said.

On defense Monday, cornerback Daniel Simmons had the lone interception of the day, although it came against the scout team and freshman quarterback Connor Halliday. Simmons, who missed most of last season with a broken fibula, said the defense is nothing short of ecstatic to see the field on Saturday and the concentration levels are certainly there.

"We're fired up, everybody is locked in and focused at the task at hand," Simmons said. "Coach (Wulff) had a long talk with us before we came out here today and the intensity just needs to build up and build up until Saturday."

Simmons is slated to start at right corner Saturday and Nolan Washington at left. Washington has been bothered of late by a hip -- he suited up Monday but didn't partake in the contact. In his absence, Horton, the true freshman from Oakland, and Aire Justin, the junior who sat out the last week-plus with a tweaked hammy, saw some action running with the 1's during 7-on-7s.

Simmons said of all the young guys on defense performed well in fall camp, but no one has turned more heads than the 5-10, 160-pound Horton.

. "I'm getting some of these young guys ready," Simmons said. "We got Damante Horton, a true freshman who might see the field Saturday. He's the most ready out of the freshman group and he's been awarded a trip to Stillwater and he's definitely ready and I'm confident in his abilities as well.

As for Justin, a 5-11, 163-pounder from Van Nuys, he was running at full speed Monday night, and didn't appear to be affected by the hamstring whatsoever.

Justin's intensity was apparent, too. Toward the end of practice he and receiver Jared Karstetter got into a bit of a skirmish after the two tangled up on the turf. They were separated quickly by teammates quickly, who appreciated the fire from both players. Small skirmishes have been seen throughout camp, but the players say it's all just a part of football, and all are certainly momentary things.

"We're out here at camp so we're tired of hitting each other and there's nothing better than coming into game week, especially in a hostile environment," Montgomery said. "We're going to see a sea of Orange but we're ready for it."

Wulff, entering his third season at the crimson helm, said he's been impressed with the progress his young team has made so far.

"These players have been through a lot this off-season," Wulff said. "We've worked extremely hard and they've done all the right things we've asked them to do. They're growing together as a team. Now we're going to have some big tests in front of us but we've done everything we can at this point to improve."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • In addition to Nolan Washington, freshman DT Toni Pole suited up for Monday night's practice but did not participate in any of the team drills.

  • The team focused part of the practice on special teams and ran through a long list of players at the "gunner" position on punts. Some of the notables there included Daniel Blackledge, Horton, Jeffrey Solomon and Chantz Staden.

  • At return specialist, the Cougars' top two on punts are Washington and freshman running back Rickey Galvin, and on kickoffs it's Isiah Barton and Montgomery.

  • Kickoff Saturday is set for 4 pm Pacific Time. The game will be televised on FSN, with Bill Land and Joel Klatt on the call. Oddsmakers have installed the Cowboys as 15.5-point favorites.

  • The Cougars boast a 68-41-5 record in season openers in their 114-year history. When they open the season on the road, WSU is 20-26-3 all-time.

  • Former Cougar tight end Tony Thompson has rejoined the Cougar family in Pullman as assistant to the director of student-athlete relations, WSU announced Monday. Thompson, who wrapped up his career last season, starts this week.

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