FROM PULLMAN — Last week I was marveling at how warm it was for November. Today, multiple pairs of pants were necessary. Read on for some notes from WSU's chilly, snow-covered practice.
The work was light, considering it's Thursday and all that entails — lots of special teams, a bit more polishing up of scout work, and then Thursday Night Football with the younger players scrimmaging against each other. But tonight was different, if only because the temperature was in the 30s and the snow really started coming down later on in practice. By the time it ended, there was a thin coating on the Martin Stadium turf. … I asked Jeff Choate afterward about his worst cold-weather experience as a player or a coach. He said he played in a game at Montana-Western when it was about 20 degrees below zero with snow coming down like crazy. To plow the field, they brought in a road grader (thanks, Alex). And if you've ever seen a road grater, you know the blade is slanted at an angle so the snow — or whatever you're plowing — gets pushed to the side. Well, they didn't account for that when plowing the field, Choate said, so when they drew the yard-lines on — in orange paint, no less — the entire field was slanted. Sounds like a fun one. … Otherwise, Choate said he doesn't know if the weather will affect UCLA or not. He talked about having a mindset that it's not going to bother you, which is something coach Jim Mora has emphasized. Mora did the same thing when UCLA traveled to Colorado, refusing to address the altitude with his team and, in effect, ignoring it. If there's any advantage for WSU, it's that the Cougars are practicing in the stuff right now, something UCLA obviously can't simulate. … No real news out of practice. Gunnar Eklund is still sidelined with a right hand injury. Isiah Myers is still limited, and he mostly did some light running on the sideline. Feddie Davey is still on crutches. Nolan Washington wasn't present. … Jake Rodgers has been playing left tackle the past two days with John Fullington moving back to left guard. Could see those two flip-flop again on Saturday.
Afterward, we spoke briefly with inside receivers coach Eric Morris. Here's some of what he had to say.
(What has Brett Bartolone done to stand out this year?) “Just a kid that brings it every single day. He has a mental toughness to him that allows him to push through a lot of things, and he’s a guy that’s just been ultra consistent whether it’s in practice or in games. So he’ll get better and better as time goes on and he's going to end up being a really good player. He does it all for the right reasons. He blocks as good as anybody we have right now on the team. And he probably physically wasn’t ready — he needed an offseason to lift and get his body ready for Pac-12 level — but boy, he just bangs his body around and does all the right things and practices extremely hard every day.”
(How have the freshmen progressed?) “I think him and Gabe (Marks) have done some good things. Those are the two guys that we brought in and both of them have got thrown into the fire so to speak pretty early in their careers and they’ve done a good job of adjusting on the run and stepping up and making some plays when they’ve had opportunities. So I think those two kids will be the building block of catching a lot of balls around here in the future, so they’ll have to continue to have good offseasons and push through and someday — they’re not there yet — I look for them to be really, really good players in this league.”
(On playing so many freshmen) “They weren’t at a disadvantage as far as not knowing the playbook. They came in and they’ve gotten the same amount of coaching in our system as the other guys had, which speaks volumes to them. Usually when you bring freshmen in, they always hit a wall at some point just because their bodies aren’t ready for this level to take a pounding and run as many routes as they have. So it’s been impressive, those three guys have been here day in day out and worked through some nicks and bruises and look for them to have some big careers here, and people that have to be tough and we’re going to count on them in trying to build this program to where we want it to be.”
(On Bobby Ratliff earning more playing time) “Bobby does good things and that’s one thing that him and I talk about a lot is being able to do it play in and play out. He brings a factor where this year against Stanford, he had some unbelievable catches. With him it’s always, if he has his confidence up and is playing fast then he’s a whole different player out there, so he’s going to have a good career here too. He’s a young guy too, someone who’s gotten put into a position where he’s out there on the field and he’s taken it with open arms.”