The real hitting wasn't supposed to start until Thursday. That's when Washington State will be in full pads. But some times young men have a way of altering plans. A few big plays fired up the offense. A few big hits fired up the defense. By the end of practice, the scrimmage was pretty much full go with a quick whistle and the intensity was palatable. For more, read on.
• We talk about the passion, and how the big guys up front must train themselves to turn it off once they leave the field, in our story for tomorrow's S-R, the raw version of which you can read below. But before you get to that, let's talk about other things that went on in the Cougars' fourth fall practice. ... The number of guys with non-serious tweaks grew long before the scrimmaging started, with people like freshman Bobby Ratliff suffering a groin strain and others, like Alex Hoffman-Ellis (back), Jared Karstetter (hernia), Daniel Simmons (hamstring), Aaron Gehring (leg), Justin Clayton (knee) taking part in only certain segments of practice. Others, like Brandon Rankin, Bernard Wolfgramm and Mike Ledgerwood skipped all or part of the scrimmage sessions to keep them fresh. And ill offensive lineman Tyson Pencer still didn't suit up. Center Andrew Roxas was back on the field for more plays, though. "We're just trying to bring them along at the right pace," coach Paul Wulff said. "They all have got some experience. They're definitely going to need to practice, though, and the more we go without them, the tighter it gets for them. At the same time, we feel like we've given them a little bit each day, slowly increasing their workload, and that's the idea." ...
Early in practice, Nico Grasu and Andrew Furney each worked on their field goals, with Grasu hitting all five attempts and Furney converting three of four. Both pounded the ball well through the uprights even when they stretched out beyond 40 yards. "Like all positions, it's early in camp and we want to make sure every person understands they have an opportunity to earn playing time," Wulff said of the competition. "It's very open and that's kind of how it is for most our positions." But Grasu does have one thing Furney doesn't. "That's always obviously one thing that can help anybody, having experience," Wulff said. "That is usually always a plus for that individual." So where does it stand? "We'll see as we go into the season," Wulff said. "Maybe we'll have a clear cut winner and maybe we won't. It may take some games to give guys opportunities. We'll see how that goes." ...
With the two starting defensive tackles taking a rest day, the door was open for others to walk through. The one who did was freshman Kalafitoni Pole, a 6-foot-1, 291-pound freshman from Union City, Calif. "He's very mature," Wulff said. "He's a great, great character guy. Definitely got some raw athletic ability. He's been a surprise. Not a big surprise, but a surprise. He's got a chance to be an awfully good player." ... Pole is part of a freshman class, some of whom might be called upon to contribute this year. "It's early, but we are going to force-feed some of them that we think will play," Wulff said. He added it's too early to say which ones because "for these young guys, we're asking a lot out of them. We're asking them grind through a type of practice, which is harder than they've ever been through, and then do it back-to-back-to-back-to-back. When someone goes through that for the very first time, sometimes they hit a wall." ... In our story today, we didn't mention another player who is also competing for the middle linebacker spot. Redshirt freshman Darren Markle is in the mix, though he's been seeing more time at the weak and strong side linebacker spots. ... I also missed another story this morning, freelancer Howie Stalwick's piece on James Montgomery's comeback.
• Here is the unedited version of our story that will appear in tomorrow's S-R ...
PULLMAN – Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff has been repeating a variation of the same mantra for some time.
"Whenever you can make some plays and build some momentum, it just picks up everybody's intensity," Wulff said Wednesday, using the day's practice as Exhibit A.
A routine workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts turned intense quickly. It built in a mid-practice passing scrimmage. Daniel Blackledge held off a defender and gathered in a 42-yard pass from Jeff Tuel, then cornerback Terrance Hayward picked off a Connor Halliday pass and turned it into a score.
Each play was followed by a spontaneous celebration.
And that was just the preamble. The intensity hit its peak in the practice-ending scrimmage session.
Freshman Ricky Galvin broke off a 35-yard run that led to a Tuel-to-Gino Simone 8-yard scoring strike. Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael dove for the sticks and a first down, leading to a Marcus Richmond 11-yard touchdown run.
Through it all, as they do each day, the big guys up front traded blows, tried to knock the snot out of each other in drill after drill, then, when the 2 1/2 hour session was done, shook hands and parted as brothers.
"None of the stuff that happens on the field carries over," said offensive lineman Wade Jacobson, the instigator of a handful of scuffles since transferring from junior college last spring.
That was the consensus of opinion from four of the guys in the trenches – two offensive and two defensive – but even so, tempers do get tested.
"When they are dirty," you get ticked, senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman said his offensive teammates. "They hold a lot. You're going to get mad at them, but at the end of the day we are a team."
"You have to have it in your mind, when you step on the field, they are on the other side of the line," junior guard B.J. Guerra said. "You've got to go. You've got to kick their ass."
Which is the way practice is designed.
"You're trying to improve your trade and you have an obligation to play your very best," no matter who is across from you, Wulff said. "You can't get too locked in and have personal battles, because it's not a personal battle. You're working for your team."
"If they are your brother," Guerra said, "you want to make your brother better."
"The way football players are, we're all cocky," echoed sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi. "We like to put it into each other's faces when we beat each other. When I beat him, he comes back at me and makes me better. It works both ways."
No quarter is asked and none given.
"It's football," Jacobson said. "If you feel sorry for them, you're in the wrong sport."
Then practice ends. The same guys who, just a half-hour before, were pushing, shoving and screaming at each other, sit down and share a training table meal.
"On the field, they're the opponent," Jacobson said. "It's our job. If we don't do it, we're probably sitting the bench.
"Off the field we're one big family."
• That's all for now. As usual, we'll be back in the morning with more ...