It's the first week of school. Tuesday was the first practice since school started. So how did it go? “It wasn't very good,” an obviously perturbed Washington State coach Paul Wulff said after it ended. Why was Wulff so upset? Read on to find out.
• Wulff has said before he's glad he's not at a quarter school anymore for one reason. The first week of school is tough on kids. There are distractions – if you can call class and studying a distraction – that weren't around a week ago. At least at a semester school you get it out of the way before games start. Thus Tuesday's off-kilter practice. “It doesn't surprise me,” Wulff said, “but you don't want to waste a day. None of it was obviously where we want to be, but we've just got to regroup and come back tomorrow and get better.” When asked for specifics, Wulff was pointed. “The focus level wasn't good enough,” he said. “Typical young guys, they get distracted. There have been a lot of distractions the last few days and they didn't come out like they had been coming out all the other practices. Again, not uncommon, but it shouldn’t sit well with any of us.” … So what was practice like? There were a lot more drops than we've seen since camp began, with the biggest offender one of the Cougars' best receivers, Marquess Wilson. There were also more miscommunication between Jeff Tuel and his receivers, including one long throw toward Jared Karstetter, who had broken off the route. That ball was intercepted in the end zone by a tumbling Kyle McCartney. There were low snaps, bad handoffs, defensive offsides, a couple of fumbles, a number of muffed punts in drills, and on and on. … There were also some good plays, mainly by the defense. In one team segment featuring the ones vs. ones in third-down situations, the starting offense converted three of nine attempts. There was also one incredibly athletic play turned in by linebacker Sekope Kaufusi, who went high in the air to snag a Connor Halliday pass. But those type of plays were far between. … There were also a lot of new old faces around Tuesday, but the two freshmen everyone has been talking about were not in uniform. In fact, only Alex Mitchell was on the practice field, though he was in street clothes as he awaits clearance. Rahmal Dockery did not attend practice as far as I could tell. Another freshman, Max Gama, was also at practice, but watched in street clothes. The new old faces? Defensive lineman Justin Mann and defensive back Trase Pickering, both who have walked on before, were back in uniform. Also, offensive lineman Joe Kaleta was in shorts and went through drills, but was not yet in pads. … WSU held walk-on tryouts Monday and seven players were picked, though none were available to practice Tuesday. They included quarterback Jesse Brown, offensive lineman Paul Goertz, defensive end Hamzah Griffin, running back Manual Lamson, who was with the team last year, linebacker Paul Lutgen, wide receiver Brett McDonald, tight end Dylan Rabinowitz and long snapper Ryan Saparto. No other information was available. … Three freshmen recruits who did not qualify have picked junior colleges to attend. Demetrius Cherry is headed to Contra Costa, Wendell Taiese to Western Arizona and Brock Lutes to Iowa Western. … Finally, after a few days away from Pullman, we noticed a few guys in uniform that were out before, a couple out who were playing the last day I was here and one player who switched sides of the ball. The guys back include cornerback Nolan Washington (hamstring), who went through drills but was limited in team sessions, and tight end Aaron Dunn (bruised quad). Those out included center Taylor Meighen (concussion discovered Sunday), tackle Jake Rodgers (shoulder), cornerback Anthony Martinez (on crutches after having his left knee scoped), kicker Tyler McNannay (knee) and defensive tackle Steven Hoffart, whose injury was not disclosed. The guy who changed sides of the ball? That would be former linebacker Eric Oertel, who has struggled with hamstring problems since coming to Pullman. He's been moved to running back. He also outran safety Tyree Toomer to the corner of the end zone the first time he carried the ball in a team session.
• That's all for tonight. We'll be back in the morning. Until then …