FROM PULLMAN — Washington State practiced for a little more than an hour and a half earlier this afternoon, and we have a few notes to pass along from that session. We also have some interesting comments from coach Mike Leach about an ad placed in The Daily Evergreen for a long-snapper tryout.
Being that this was WSU's mock gameday, there was a more extended 11-on-11 team period than there has been recently. Leach labeled it “pretty good” after a 7-on-7 session that he described as “lousy.”
Connor Halliday threw touchdown passes to Dominique Williams and Isiah Myers, the latter coming on a nice throw to the back left corner of the end zone on a play in the red zone. But he also had a pass intercepted by cornerback Daquawn Brown that would have been returned for a touchdown if it occurred during an actual game.
Austin Apodaca also had a couple highlights, such as a well-placed throw to River Cracraft in the end zone for a touchdown over the coverage of safety Deone Bucannon.
– Kristoff Williams was a full participant in practice. Rickey Galvin and Brett Bartolone went through drills, but I didn't see them take any snaps once 11-on-11s started.
– Speaking of inside receivers, I asked Leach how that competition stands right now. He said that Ratliff and Cracraft are both about even at the “Y” position, meaning they'll likely each get a similar number of snaps come gametime. And Bartolone and Galvin are still fighting it out at the “H” spot, with John Thompson “on their heels.” The same can be said for freshman Robert Lewis at the “Y” spot, though Leach said he's bounced both players around and has messed with some different combinations.
On the outside, Leach praised Myers' ability to bounce back and forth between X and Z, saying he's more adept at being versatile than most guys who try it.
– Had to ask Leach and special-teams coordinator Eric Russell about an ad in the Evergreen seeking long-snappers to come try out on Monday, Sept. 2.
Russell said he didn't know anything about the ad until he was informed by others, but he also said he hopes it encourages competition at that position. Alex Den Bleyker, a junior, will handle WSU's long-snapping duties this season, but competition is thin behind him. Jared Sonneborn, a freshman, is one of three long-snappers on the roster, though one of them, Ryan Saparto, has been sporting a walking boot and has yet to suit up for practice.
“it’s just trying to be as thorough as possible,” Russell said. “Is there somebody here on this campus that’s been a snapper, has the skills to be a snapper and maybe someone can contribute to the program and provide competition for the ones that are here?”
Leach sure thinks so.
“I look at it this way: this university’s 24,000 people,” Leach said. “Out of 12,000 males, approximately, there’s x-number of football players, and of those football players, somebody can long-snap. But what happens a lot of times with a long-snapper is he’ll play some other position, and may not be a college-level guy at other positions, but is a long-snapper. But people don’t necessarily chase around and scholarship long-snappers until they’ve proven themselves for a couple years. They sort of assume, well, nobody’s interested or cares. I don’t know how many guys on this campus can long-snap, but I promise you, there’s at least 20 people on this campus who can long-snap. That doesn’t mean they want to. But there’s at least 20 guys on this campus who can long-snap.”
Leach famously pulled a kicker out of the crowd when he was coaching Texas Tech in 2008, a move that wound up looking pretty good.
He's not necessarily looking for a long-snapper to come in and play this season. The tryout is more about planning for the future.
“All jobs are open but in particular we want a guy that wants to do it, and we can begin developing in particular for a starting job next year,” Leach said, “and then maybe this year, but in particular for a starting job next year.”
– WSU concludes its mock game week with an 8:15 p.m. practice tomorrow.