FROM PULLMAN — Preparations rolled on for the Cougars on Wednesday, as the first-team defense continued to prepare for an up-tempo offense with a mobile quarterback. We have a few more notes after the jump, so keep reading.
If you've attended either of WSU's practices the past two days … that means I probably saw you at one point or another, because the only place you can watch is the elevator tower. But it also means you saw the Cougars working on some fast-paced defense, because Auburn coach Gus Malzahn — as well as a handful of Pac-12 coaches — want to snap the ball as quickly as possible on every play.
But as a pair of WSU defensive coaches said Wednesday, it's not just about Auburn. It's about preparing the defense to play as fast as necessary in every game. And about conditioning them so they can last an entire season.
Said linebackers coach Ken Wilson: “I think you work on it all the way up to the last few days, and you worry about it the whole time. We’re doing everything that anybody’s thought of. We’re doing tempo in practice, we’re making them run to the sideline and back between plays, switching defenses every play in some periods, and then we’re making them go 12-15 play drives. We’re doing everything we can do at this point just to keep them in shape and ready to go and trying to get depth so we can see every team that we play this year. There’s a lot of different offenses that we’re going to see. We’re not just preparing these guys for Auburn. That’s our first test, but we’re getting them in shape for a whole football season here.”
As far as preparing for a mobile quarterback like Nick Marshall?
“You have to know your assignments,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to know what gaps are going to be open, (we're a) big blitz movement team so you’ve got to know where those fault lines are in the defense and how long they’re going to be there so you don’t leave before those plays are over. They've got a mobile quarterback but they’ve got talented wide receivers, they’ve got good running backs, so it’s about being responsible and knowing where your gaps are, basically, for these guys.”
Defensive line coach Joe Salave'a said he's trying to get his group up to speed, too. He said their conditioning isn't quite where he would like it to be, but that ideally, he'd like to avoid rotating too many players through the line against hurry-up offenses.
“If we can do without, that’ll probably be the case,” Salave'a said. “But we’ve got to be prepared for anything. The premium is the conditioning. That’s why we’re running our guys after and running extra. We’ve still got to be able to play for a long time at a high level, and that’s the goal whether we rotate or not.”
– Coach Mike Leach was asked yet again if Connor Halliday is officially the team's starting quarterback, and he essentially confirmed it — while also stopping just short of certainty.
“It looks like it, if we were to play today,” Leach said. “We’ll see how he hangs in there the next however many.”
So, yeah, Halliday will start.
– Leach confirmed that Mitchell Peterson, a junior safety, has been placed on scholarship.
The coach said Peterson “works really hard. Real high academics, works hard, very dedicated player, just kind of the type of guy that as far as how he operates and conducts his business, pretty good example to the whole team.”
– Asked why the Cougars' defense can be better this season, Leach said: “I think we’re more clearly defined. We’ve got a little more depth on the d-line. More clearly defined and probably also done a better job of making choices on what we’re specifically going to run, and they transition between stuff a lot quicker because they’re more familiar with it.”
– Leach spoke with reporters for a few minutes about the reporting of injuries that occur in practice. The upshot: injuries that occur during practice are not to be reported, and anyone who violates this policy will lose all access to the program — no coach interviews, no player interviews, etc. So, if you wonder in the coming days why we're not reporting injuries from practice, this is why.
We can, however, tell you that Rickey Galvin and Kristoff Williams rode exercise bikes today.
All for now.