FROM PULLMAN — Well, it's over. WSU's final spring practice is in the books. It was a good one, coach Mike Leach said afterward. Keep reading for details in the form of words and such.
Couldn't have asked for a much better day, weather-wise, which figures. Of course the good weather arrives just as practices are ending. Oh well.
As far as practice, Leach characterized it as one of the Cougars' best of the spring.
“I thought it was good. We had real good work today. Thought it was pretty good,” Leach said. “Every drill was competitive, had a few hollow spots that I wasn’t a huge fan of but I thought (Connor) Halliday had his best drive of spring, that last one.
“I thought it was really good. We deliberately made sure it was long. There’s a thing going on nowadays where, '(it's just) spring and just make sure nobody gets hurt and go through the motions until the season.' Well, that’s crazy. If we’re going to do that, let’s quit having spring. We tried to get as much work as we could, and got a lot of work done. Had a very good spring, and had a very good spring today. This is one of the best practices of our spring. I thought we had a real good spring.”
Asked to name one player who impressed him the most, Leach instead named 12.
“I can’t say any one. Austin (Apodaca) would be one of them. I’ve never had a freshman go out there and play like he did. He didn’t have any reps with the 1s or the 2s last year and came out and had a great spring.
“There’s several. I thought Ivan (McLennan), for a guy that hadn’t played much, had just been here two months or something, I thought he did a lot of good things. I thought (Kache) Palacio improved a great deal and we had several guys improve a great deal. (Xavier) Coop’s kind of starting to take command of some stuff over there. Taylor Taliulu really improved. I think (Rahmel) Dockery’s really improved. I’m obviously leaving some people out.
“I think we’ve improved at every position. I think (Gunnar) Eklund’s improved. I think (Elliott) Bosch has steadily improved. I thought that (Jacob) Seydel came out and we’re talking about a guy that hadn’t been here very long and was kind of seamless as far as adjusting and didn’t always have great days, but his worst days were decent. His worst plays were decent. So I thought he did a lot of good things, receivers kind of up and down. I thought Kristoff (Williams) had a pretty complete spring. Gabe (Marks), probably the most explosive. I thought (Bobby) Ratliff, very consistent and got more consistent. That’s one thing he battled was consistency.”
… As for practice itself, it was pretty spirited, as Leach said. No last-day-of-school monotony despite it being the final practice of spring.
It wasn't full contact — just helmets and shoulder pads — but it was still competitive. Halliday led the offense to scores on each of the drives he commanded during team session.
Apodaca wasn't quite as sharp, but as Leach said afterward, he didn't have much help.
During Apodaca's possession, the offense fell behind 12-0 (going by the point-per-play scoring system Leach uses) at one point, and was made to stop and perform 20 up-downs near midfield after a swing pass from Apodaca clanged off the hands of running back Theron West.
The next play was an interception by Rahmel Dockery.
“It’s back and forth, but that’s kind of competition,” Leach said. “You want it tightly contested. Ours was tightly contested. And I thought we had good effort. Nobody really quit. They kept battling. One side would get momentum, but it was tough to hang onto.”
… Elliott Bosch joined the group of injured players with a walking boot on his left foot, and Eduardo Middleton didn't practice, either. He left the spring game pretty early on and didn't return, though he stood on the sidelines and watched. It's not clear if his absence was injury-related, but considering how few reps he played on Saturday, it wouldn't be surprising.
… As an end-of-spring reminder, here are the other notable names who aren't practicing. It's also worth noting that defensive coordinator Mike Breske said he expects all of them to be able to participate in summer drills: Deone Bucannon, Feddie Davey, Alex Jackson, Mike McAdie, Chester Su'a, Denzell Dotson, Jake Rodgers, Logan Mayes, Robert Barber, Ioane Gauta, Destiny Vaeao, Toni Pole.