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WSU offense, defense trade jabs in the sun

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Mike Leach was sure to point out that the defense played well during team session, and it did. But WSU's offense — the receivers, particularly — had its moments in 1-on-1 drills, too. Read on.


The 1-on-1 period was probably the most noteworthy, if only because it featured the most consistent dominance from a single player we've seen in this young spring. That player, not unsurprisingly, was sophomore receiver Gabe Marks, who torched a number of different defensive backs on a series of vertical routes. Sometimes, the defender was right there and Marks went up to snag the ball. Other times, Marks simply ran straight past the player covering him and caught the ball in stride as he ran into the end zone. His best catch was a leaping grab over Anthony Carpenter, after which he sought recognition from the gathered media by peering up into the Martin Stadium stands and asking “what y'all doing up there?” Don't worry, Gabe. We saw it. … The inability of the defensive backs to cover the vertical routes properly caused defensive coordinator Mike Breske to wonder aloud why they kept getting beat.

… Said Leach, on the back-and-forth between the offense and defense: “One-on-one we had a big period. We pretty much ran one play, just mixed sets. I thought skel we were real streaky. Both sides a little spotty in team. I thought defense played good in team, though. I thought overall the energy is pretty good.”

… The defense did make its plays during team session. Justin Sagote benefited from a great deal of pressure produced by the defensive line and sacked Connor Halliday on a blitz. Rahmel Dockery, getting quite a few reps at cornerback with the No. 2 defense, grabbed an interception on an overthrow by Halliday. Dockery also had another pick earlier in practice and broke up a pass intended for Marks later  in team session, which drew loud cheers of encouragement from his teammates. Xavier Cooper later blew through the line for an easy sack, and Casey Locker had the biggest hit of the day when he hammered Bennett Bontemps on a pass over the middle. Bontemps popped up immediately and tossed the ball off Locker's facemask. … The best play made by the offense during team session was probably Halliday's over-the-shoulder touchdown toss to Kristoff Williams in the front left corner of the end zone. … Joe Dahl has played a significant amount of time with the No. 1 offensive line at left guard in place of John Fullington, who has been working with the No. 2 unit.

On Dockery, Leach said “This was probably his best day. Did some good things today. Real athletic, real fast, at times has been kind of tentative but kind of coming out of his shell. This was probably his best practice today.”

… Theron West, Dockery, Robert Lewis and Rickey Galvin all took turns practicing kickoff and punt return drills. Eric Russell said afterward that it's too early to tell whether Lewis might be a factor there, though his speed will definitely get him a long look. Right now, they're focusing on getting to the right spot and catching the ball — WSU lost 136 yards on punts that bounced and rolled last season, Russell said — so it's hard to gauge anyone's speed and explosion quite yet.

… There were no new additions to the group of players sitting out with apparent injuries — Alex Jackson, Feddie Davey, Chester Su'a, Brent Anderson, Jake Rodgers, Logan Mayes and Robert Barber remain sidelined, and Mansel Simmons wasn't there, either. Deone Bucannon, who left practice with the trainers on Thursday, was back in action and seemed to move around just fine.

… There were a number of former players in attendance, including David Gilbertson (who attended with his parents and sister), Steven Hoffart and Andrei Lintz, who arrived with a Beagle on a leash.

… One more quote from Leach, on WSU's 2.66 fall semester grade-point average, the highest since the school began tracking such marks in 1980: “Happy about it, but we talked about this: if everybody got one grade higher, if the whole group got one grade higher, we’d probably lead the nation. That’s more within striking distance than a person would think. I’ve been a part of it three times. If you get somewhere between 2.9 and 3.0, 3.0 and change, you’ll lead the nation in the public institutions. The privates? Who knows what kind of mischief they’re  up to. I mean, they hide their books and everything else, so they’d probably be a little more forthcoming if they weren’t hiding something. So I think they warrant suspicion.”

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


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