FROM PULLMAN -- Our hands are thawed and we've got some notes for you from Washington State's first spring practice under coach Mike Leach.
Leach said afterward that this would be the slowest practice of the spring. And there certainly was some confusion at times, in terms of organization, lining up properly, etc. But the pace to this practice was still a bit speedier than what I remember under Paul Wulff. And any time a player wasn't in the right spot, an assistant coach was always right there to remind them with very little uncertainty as to where they were supposed to be. "The transitions are just slow," Leach said. "A lot of explanation in each period -- OK, now we have this period and everybody’s -- like, simpl,y where do you stand is a factor today. Next practice we’ll know where we stand about half the time, (but) quick reminders, they’ll know real quick." ... Regardless, Leach was impressed with WSU's attitude for the first day. He said nobody required extra motivation to want to do their job -- "we didn’t have to spur anybody to (not) be afraid to make a play" -- and that the players were "bouncing around pretty good out there." ... This coaching staff shows a lot of emotion. Lots of talk about how WSU has to get better now, now, now. ... As expected, there was some passing. OK, there was lots of passing. So much that senior safety Tyree Toomer remarked afterward that he could "count on one hand" how many times the Cougars ran the ball in team session. The results were mixed. Connor Halliday threw a couple of interceptions toward the end of practice, including one to Eric Oertel (now a linebacker, again) in the end zone. And Tuel had his struggles during the 7-on-7 period. But each also showed a confidence and willingness to pull the trigger, Leach said, which is all you can ask for at this point. Leach said about one-third of the offense was introduced today, featuring mainly verticals, and that they'll give them another one-third next time out. Tuel said it was a lot more throwing than he was used to, but that's a good thing. ... Halliday took a helmet to his side -- yes, that side -- late in practice, which made everyone gasp a bit. And he said specifically afterward that the hit was in the exact area of his still-healing liver. He admitted that it hurt, but said it's "nothing we can't get through," reminding everyone that "I played a game with it, so I can get through it. It just sucks." ... Also as expected, there are some position changes -- for now -- to note. Oertel is back at linebacker after being listed as a running back, a move Leach said was to Oertel's liking. Also moved to linebacker are Max Gama (listed as a safety), Jared Byers and Corey Laufasa (both listed as a fullbacks). Walk-on receiver Ryan Nungester was working with the defensive backs, as was Kyle Lappano, who is listed as a running back. Dylan Rabinowitz, listed as a tight end, was working with the defensive line. ... A few players were limited, presumably by injury, but we can't be sure because Leach doesn't disclose any injury information. Cornerback Nolan Washington, tight end Gordy Anderson, safety Jack Wilson, cornerback Spencer Waseem, cornerback Travion Smith, offensive lineman Joe Dahl, defensive end Hamza Griffin and defensive tackle David Davis each spent time doing conditioning on the side. Washington and Waseem went through some running and agility drills in the sand pit that was constructed on the west end of the practice field. ... OL Wade Jacobson won't participate in any contact drills this spring as he fully recovers from back surgery, though he took part in everything except the team session. ... WSU experimented with a handful of different offensive line groupings. Dan Spitz (tackle) and John Fullington (guard) worked on the left side. Matt Goetz and Taylor Meighen got work at center. Elliott Bosch, Moritz Christ (guards), Jake Rodgers and Jacobson (tackles), when available, were on the right side. ... Henry Eaddy, Rickey Galvin, Leon Brooks, Marquess Wilson and Gino Simone alternated during a punt return drill. ... Speaking of Simone, he told me afterward that he's down to about 183 pounds from 198 last season, and feels much faster because of it. We shot a video interview with him that we'll post later. ... One last personnel note: we reported yesterday that defensive end Skylar Stormo is no longer with the team, but no reason was given. His mother was kind enough to send us an email this morning with the news that Stormo was forced to give up football after he suffered a back injury in January during a weight lifting accident. He's still in school and is set to graduate in May with a degree in Finance.
All for now.