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Day 6: Defense wins (most of) the day

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FROM LEWISTON — We're back in Pullman after the sixth day of Washington State preseason camp, and this one didn't go quite as smoothly for the offense. Details follow the jump.


Throughout WSU's 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and pass skel drills, the defense was getting the better of the offense. And coach Mike Leach didn't seem particularly happy about it. More on that in a bit.

But the offense did manage to bounce back and take a victory during 11-on-11 team session.

Said Leach: “I didn’t think we were bad on offense; the defense I thought was real competitive early. Just gave us a lot to deal with, and I thought that they played better than us. But I also thought that we played pretty well. I thought they played really good. Obviously, there’s some stuff we’d like different and then in team, I thought we rose up and I wasn’t disappointed in the defense but that’s the thing — if you’re going to be any good, you don’t let the other guy have momentum for very long, and then they get it a few plays but not very many after that and you seize it back. I thought that went on all day. I thought Connor (Halliday) did a really good job the first round, offensively. Austin (Apodaca) was hot early, and they cooled him off a little bit, but I thought it was good.”

Halliday spoke afterward about the need for the offense to overcome lulls during practice, which is something that riled Leach frequently during last season's slog.

“Today wasn’t a perfect practice, but we took a huge step in being able to … our 1-on-1 and pass skelly period wasn’t perfect, but we did a heck of a job of getting through that and having a good team period, and we haven’t been able to do that since … now. So that was good.”

– One thing that Leach clearly wasn't happy about was the play of Rickey Galvin and Brett Bartolone (the team's primary “H” receivers on the inside) during 7-on-7 period. He stopped the session to send both players over to the scout team, likely to send a message about focus and effort and all of the other things about which he preaches.

To replace them, Leach called over John Thompson, a true freshman walk-on from Spanaway who said he grew up going to WSU games and collecting autographs from players like Michael Bumpus and Jason Hill.

Thompson, who has received a few reps here and there during 1-on-1 drills, filled in fairly well. And he also took some snaps during team session, snagging a short pass and turning it into a decent gain before making another pretty solid grab a little later.

Said Leach: “I thought he responded good. Immediately went out and made plays. John Thompson, as it stands right now, may play ahead of either one of them, and they need to be aware of it. If you loaf around out here, John Thompson’s going to be out there to play. And furthermore, John Thompson might just beat you out to begin with. We’ll see how it all goes.”

We have more about Thompson in Wednesday's paper.

– Bobby Ratliff made a few tough catches early in Wednesday's practice, which wasn't lost on Leach.

“The first half of practice, Ratliff probably had three catches that were better than everybody’s,” Leach said. “Not that the goal is to have three catches better than everybody’s, because part of a great catch is the ball isn’t thrown very good. But luck and skill combined, he had those three best catches the first half of practice. He had all three of them. I thought he came out to play and did some good things.”

– There was a notable position change on Wednesday, as freshman Isaac Dotson was moved from quarterback to linebacker (or safety, as Leach said). He was always considered an “athlete” by WSU on the recruiting trail, and Leach said the move was designed to give Dotson an avenue to see the field sooner.

(Update: Leach referred to Dotson working with the safeties, though he spent Wednesday's practice with the linebackers. So his ultimate destination may be up in the air.)

As it stood, Leach said, he was WSU's 5th-string quarterback. Now, he's at a position where there are some players banged up, and some opportunities for advancement.

“The biggest thing is, as we stand at quarterback right now, he’s fourth or fifth and some of that’s learning curve, no question, because he’s really smart and has a ton of skills,” Leach said. “And some of it has to do with the fact he has skills to be higher on the depth chart somewhere else because he’s going to figure in on special teams. And then safeties, he’s going to be at two or three pretty quick, and then if he really gets in a rhythm, maybe challenge for a spot.

Leach said when he told Dotson about the switch, “he was excited. He wants to get on the field. He wants to get out there and he wants to play.

“It has to do with his unique set of abilities. He went from fifth team to second or third in one fell swoop. That’s several spots.”

– Andrew Furney made three of his four field-goal attempts to begin practice. Mike Bowlin made one of three. Note: our angle was not great, so a misjudgment or two is possible.

– Apodaca had a long throw to Vince Mayle against Daquawn Brown during 1-on-1s. Mayle also made a good first-down catch near the sidelines during team period.

– Deone Bucannon didn't participate in team session for the second consecutive day, though he was in full uniform and did some drills. This time, Bennett Bontemps took his place at safety with the first-team defense. Didn't see Taylor Taliulu do anything during team session. He stood on the sidelines.

– Junior-college transfer Devonte McClain worked at left tackle with the No. 2 offensive line. True freshman Riley Sorenson took a couple snaps there, too.

– Ioane Gauta had a “sack” and Bontemps had a pass breakup toward the end of practice.

– Something you won't see a whole lot: Apodaca hit Gabe Marks in the chest with a pass in the end zone, and he dropped it.

– Apodaca threw back-to-back touchdown passes to Dominique Williams just before practice ended, which helped the offense to their team session victory.

– Junior linebacker Chester Su'a, freshman offensive lineman Matt Meyer, freshman defensive lineman Paulo Lepua and freshman safety Darius Lemora were again absent, though Lemora's absence is injury-related (he was on the bikes the first couple days of practice). And I'm hearing Su'a's absence is not related to academics, as some have speculated. As you most certainly know by now, Leach does not disclose injury information, and very rarely addresses why players miss practice — even if the reason is not injury-related. Seems like that should be pretty well understood by now, but it's worth reminding. 

– Sophomore linebacker Feddie Davey and walk-on linebacker Austin Rapp rode exercise bikes, and freshman safety Paris Taylor was also limited.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple


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