FROM PULLMAN — Would be hard to ask for better practice conditions in Pullman in March than what we saw today. Well, I guess it wouldn't be that hard to ask. It would just be hard to actually see that request granted. Read on.
Yes, it was sunny throughout WSU's Tuesday workout. No rain, no snow, no hail, no flying cows or tornadoes or anything (sorry, just watched Twister the other night). It was almost nice enough out to make you forget the incessant noise from the construction crews digging away at the Football Operations Building project behind the end zone. But even that just adds to the ambience. … Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the practice, we have an update on receiver Mansel Simmons. He was released from a Spokane hospital today after being treated for head injuries following a fight early Sunday morning in Pullman. Pullman PD Cmdr. Chris Tennant said police still haven't spoken with Simmons about the incident, though they've spoken with a person of interest who is a member of the Idaho football team. But until all sides of the story are recorded — or as many sides as possible, anyway, since there were multiple witnesses — Tennant said he's not comfortable labeling anyone a suspect or speculating about the role any particular person may have had in the incident. So, long story short: no arrests have been made, and there isn't anything concrete to report, other than the fact that police are still investigating and interviewing witnesses.
As for the actual football … It was another so-so day for WSU's quarterbacks, as Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca each struggled at times — their reps were relatively even — but also made some pretty impressive throws. In other words, it was the third practice of the spring.
“I thought they both did good,” coach Mike Leach offered. “Both steadily improving.”
Halliday played quite a bit with what appeared to be the No. 1 offensive line, though there's so much shuffling on both sides of the ball at this point that there likely isn't much significance to that.
There were good plays, such as Halliday's perfect toss to Teondray Caldwell in the left flat that went for a big gain, and not-so-good plays, such as Halliday missing a wide-open Isiah Myers cutting across the middle of the field.
WSU went with two different offensive line units — a whole 10 guys! — which isn't something the Cougars could have done toward the end of last season.
But for now, they have (from left to right) Gunnar Eklund, John Fullington, Elliott Bosch, Matt Goetz and Rico Forbes playing together, and in the second group, Jacob Seydel, Joe Dahl, Zach Brevick, Niu Sale and Eduardo Middleton.
(Jake Rodgers, who figures to be a factor on the line this season, was part of a group of players who didn't fully participate and spent practice with the strength and conditioning staff.)
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said afterward that he's been impressed with how quickly Seydel, a junior-college transfer, has picked up the offense, and said if he continues to progress as well as he has that he'll have a crack at competing for a job on the starting offensive line.
“We’ve got more bodies, which I think is helpful,” Leach said. “We’ve got more bodies, they’re a little bigger than last year, they’re a little stronger than last year but we just need to be competitive and really embrace winning our individual battles.”
… Another JC transfer, linebacker Ivan McLennan, is starting to make an impact, too. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson said afterward that McLennan made a few more mistakes today than he did in WSU's previous two practices, but you can see why he's getting as many reps as he is.
McLennan blew past Eklund on an outside rush that forced Halliday to throw the ball earlier than he wanted to, and he also walloped Caldwell late in practice.
… Anthony Carpenter and Damante Horton played together quite a bit with Deone Bucannon and Casey Locker in the defensive backfield, with Xavier Cooper, Ioane Gauta and Matthew Bock getting plenty of reps on the defensive line. Kache Palacio, Darryl Monroe, Justin Sagote, Eric Oertel, Cyrus Coen, Jared Byers and Tana Pritchard all saw the field at linebacker.
… Joining Rodgers on the sidelines with apparent injures were: S Feddie Davey, CB Alex Jackson, LB Chester Su'a, OL Brent Anderson, LB Logan Mayes and DL Robert Barber.
Here's more of what Leach had to say afterward …
(On the battle between offense and defense during drills) “I felt like it’s pretty even. I felt like most of the drills were even. One on one, the previous one, I felt like we got after them but other than that I’ve been pretty happy with the give and take on either side.”
(Ahead of last year at this time?) “We’re ahead from the standpoint that everybody knows where to line up. We’re not just teaching drills. We’re able to run to drills and execute and build on it. So we’re ahead and we’re still young but our young guys are a year older, most of them.”
(What made Danny Amendola and Wes Welker stand apart when you coached them?) “Tough people. Tireless workers. Always looking for ways to improve as they work really hard one day, then a few weeks later they discover they can work even harder. Wanted the football in all situations. There wasn’t any situations where I don’t know if I want it or I don’t want it. They wanted the ball in all situations and just continue, the biggest thing was they didn’t try to do too much, worried about what they could control and built on it every single day. Stuff didn’t intimidate them. They had good days and bad days but they tried to just improve incrementally. The quick general statement would be focus and toughness.”
(Do you see that from any receivers so far?) “We’re a work in progress.”
(On Rico Forbes returning from injury) “I think he looks decent, but he’s not there. I think he looks decent and he’s off to a good start and has a great attitude and wants to get out there and compete and play.”