Cougars getting healthier as injured players return to practice
Back in April, Paul Wulff made an alarming observation about his injury-riddled football team's showing at spring camp. "It's hard to grow...
Special to The Seattle Times
PULLMAN — Back in April, Paul Wulff made an alarming observation about his injury-riddled football team's showing at spring camp.
"It's hard to grow when you don't have the pieces to grow with," the new Washington State football coach said.
After practice Tuesday, Wulff recited that same line — only he did so to highlight a different point.
A few key pieces are back — pieces that were badly missed in Saturday's 39-13 loss to Oklahoma State.
Wide receiver Jeshua Anderson took the field for the first time since having hernia surgery the first week of August. Anderson participated only in individual routes, but he is expected to participate in team drills as soon as today.
Punter Reid Forest also returned and was punting for the first time since breaking his left ankle in early July.
"Chances are good he will play," Wulff said of Saturday's home game against California at 3:30 p.m.
Wulff also said receiver Daniel Blackledge is "making some progress" and should be in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Blackledge saw only limited action in last Saturday's game and the majority of camp because of a lingering hamstring injury.
The return of Anderson and Blackledge can't come soon enough for an offense that depends heavily on timing between the quarterback and the receiver.
In Saturday's loss, WSU started two receivers who had never taken a snap as a receiver at the college level — freshman Jared Karstetter and converted safety Michael Willis.
The result was an out-of-sync passing game that generated just 82 yards in the air and 196 yards of total offense. Last season, WSU averaged 388.1 yards.
"Everyone had a part in that — the quarterback, the receivers, offensive line," Wulff said. "They all had a breakdown here or there that didn't allow us to move efficiently."
Anderson would like to play this weekend but still needs medical clearance from team doctors.
"Even once we're healthy, it's still gonna take time to get rhythm," Wulff conceded. "It's one of those deals where we have to keep pressing forward. If guys are ready to go, they'll go. If not, there's really nothing we can do.
"The boat's moving forward, and we've got to keep going."
• Starting left guard Andrew Roxas left practice with team doctors after apparently injuring his right knee. Wulff had no idea of the severity of the injury or his availability for this weekend's game.
"It doesn't look good," he said. "It's one of those accidents that happens: Somebody fell down and fell into him."
• Wulff said he was happy with the team's energy at practice Tuesday. After last Wednesday's practice he expressed frustration with the way the team was practicing.
"A lot of the times [the way you practice] shows up in games," he said. "And it did."
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