FROM PULLMAN -- After a relatively healthy first six practices, some nicks and bumps began catching up with the Cougars during Thursday's session. It also rained. Read on.
OK, so the rain wasn't all that bad. It was pretty light until the last few minutes. ... There were some injuries to at least keep an eye on, though. The first was to Justin Sagote, who left the field after a drill, was inspected for a while by a trainer and then had an ice pack strapped to his left shoulder after removing his pads. He left the stadium but returned later, though I didn't see him take any reps. ... Toni Pole also went down with what appeared to be a right leg injury during team session. He was helped off the field by a pair of teammates, then had an ice pack wrapped around his right knee. Pole watched the rest of practice from the sideline. ... Deone Bucannon was again limited and spent practice on Rogers Field working on conditioning drills. ... Senior DT Ioana Gauta didn't participate and I didn't see him there in uniform. Not sure if that's injury related, though Mike Leach's response when asked was that "he’s doing great. He’s doing exactly what we want, and we couldn’t be more excited."
... With Pole and Gauta both out for most of team session, Darryl Paulo got quite a few reps with the No. 1 defensive line. The 6-foot-2, 270-pound redshirt sophomore immediately made a pretty nice play in the backfield, busting through to drop Leon Brooks for a loss (though it should be noted that this was a shoulder-pads-only practice, meaning no leg pads so no full contact, either).
... Rahmel Dockery continues to make nice plays. Dockery was covering Brett Bartolone on a ball thrown by Austin Apodaca down the left sideline, but it was underthrown and Dockery snagged it for an interception.
Leach had more nice things to say about him afterward.
"Real fast, really explosive, the light’s kind of gone on, getting a lot less of the blank look," Leach said. "Dockery can focus for a while and then he can break out the blank look on you, so we’re not getting too much of the blank look, which I think is a good thing, and as a result he’s making a bunch of plays."
... The bullhorn made a return again today, which means Leach must have liked the scoring system the Cougars used during Tuesday's practice. The offense won two out of the three "games" that were played, moving the ball effectively on the first trip, then stalling on the second before Connor Halliday capped things off with a touchdown pass over the middle to Robert Lewis (who Leach went out of his way to praise afterward for picking things up quickly).
Halliday also threw a touchdown pass to Isiah Myers earlier in practice.
... The hit of the day probably goes to Kache Palacio, who planted Marcus Mason. Jeremiah Allison had a hard hit on Rickey Galvin, too, and Casey Locker hammered Bartolone coming over the middle (though he was not flagged for it, because it was not a game and there were no Pac-12 officials in attendance).
... Gabe Marks had another strong showing during 7-on-7 drills -- his diving catch in the end zone would have been on a highlight reel if people made highlight reels of spring practices -- but Anthony Carpenter did get the better of him once on a slant route, reaching in to break up the pass.
... After the offense leaves Rogers Field for Martin Stadium at the beginning of practice, the defense stays behind for a bit for some more drill-work. I usually go to the stadium when the offense does, but stuck around today to watch some of the defensive drills. One was pretty interesting. Four players would line up next to each other (as if composing the defensive line, let's say), give a quick burst into a blocking dummy when a whistle was blown, then chop their feet, in place, until another whistle was blown. Once that happend, they all took off toward the sideline, where three footballs were set a few feet apart -- one fewer football than the total number of people in the drill. But to get to the balls, players had to navigate a mess of pads and other assorted obstacles by either jumping over it, running through it, etcetera. It looked like fun. Players seemed to enjoy it. Winners and losers were noted and future matchups were determined by who won and lost.
... Feddie Davey, Alex Jackson, Chester Su'a, Brent Anderson, Jake Rodgers, Logan Mayes and Robert Barber are still limited and working on conditioning stuff. Mansel Simmons was again absent.
Here's a Q-and-A with offensive line coach Clay McGuire. It's mostly about Joe Dahl and his ascension up the depth chart to the No. 1 unit as a left guard.
(What has Dahl done to impress you?) "Very consistent, and it’s been one of those things, since he started working with the 1s, his mentality and approach hasn’t changed. He’s continued to do what got him in the spot and the position to compete for that spot. But he’s done a nice job, very consistent, very calm player, understands what he’s supposed to do in this offense and gets back there and gets his job done for the most part. He’s kind of a … nothing flashy, but he gets it done, you know what I’m saying? He’s done a nice job and I’m proud of the way he’s been playing."
(Why the switch from tackle to guard?) "He was a kid that we felt was in our top six, seven, could play either tackle or guard and I still think he might be a tackle. But right now we just put him in a position where we want him to compete at and he has ability to move in and out. Right now we’ve got a great competition going at that spot. John’s (Fullington) been doing a good job too. At the end of the day we’re not really loking for hey, you’re going to be in this spot or that spot. We’re trying to interchange these guys where we’re going to get our five best guys on the field regardless of what position they’re playing."
(How has Fullington taken to being with the 2s?) "He’s doing great. He’s come out and competed really hard. He’s done a nice job. He’s gotten better every single day. He gives great effort and he’s continuing to do the things we ask him to do and at the end of the day one of those guys, both of those guys might be in the top five and we’re going to have to move one of them to find a spot for him. Every spot’s up for competition right now and just because you’re playing, let’s say, left guard or right guard or whatever, you’re competing for something in that top five group and we’ll figure out a way to get you on the field whether it’s moving you a spot or bumping a guy out to tackle, whatever it may be."
(Is Dahl in line for a scholarship?) "I would think so. Right now, in my eyes, it would be pretty hard to sit there and see us be able to recruit a freshman to come in who’s better than him. Obviously nothing’s guaranteed in this deal but I would imagine he’s a guy who would earn one pretty quick."