From Pullman -- In the past couple weeks the Washington State football team has held its Thursday Night Football scrimmage on on Tuesday, Saturday, and even on Thursday! Just two days after the redshirts and underclassmen held their weekly scrimmage they were back at it today, and this time the running backs stole the show. Jamal Morrow set the tone early, breaking a few tackles during a nice 31-yard run. Not to be outdone, Gerard Wicks later took a routine running play up the middle, redirected to the right sideline and was gone for a 65-yard score.
During the normal practice session, which began at 11 a.m., the first-string offense took on the defensive starters in 11-on-11 play. Quarterback Connor Halliday finished the session 16 of 20 with a pair of deep touchdowns.
After practice we spoke with running backs coach Jim Mastro and outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons. Those interviews after the jump.
Running backs coach Jim Mastro
(What did you see from the running backs in today's scrimmage?)
Wow. They're both talented kids and the fortunate thing is that we were able to redshirt them this year. It would've been tragic if we had to play them. The big thing is that they're physically capable. The problem when we got here was that the players were pretty good and had talent, but physically weren't as capable. These guys are capable and it'll be an important offseason. They're the future.
(How big is the gap between Morrow/Wicks and the running backs who play on Saturdays?)
The biggest thing is understanding protection. With the freshmen that's the hardest thing to teach them. The guys we have right now are doing excellent at that. In this offense that's the learning curve. You can play a freshman running back here but that's the problem, you've got to protect your quarterback. They're both very football smart but it's fortunate we were able to redshirt them.
(What makes them different?)
Contrasting styles. (Wicks) is more of a bruiser, hard-nosed and can go the distance while, as you saw, Morrow can make anybody miss. He's not really a scatback because he runs hard inside but he's very elusive, shifty, has really good hips. They both play low to the ground, which I love. (Marcus) Mason's biggest problem is that he play 10-feet tall, runs straight up. These guys play the game where it's supposed to be played, that's why they can break so many tackles.
Outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons
(Any reason for the early practice?)
Well, we're going to be playing at about this time next week. If you can get it as close to game time you want to do that. Another reason was just to get them up and moving. They had a couple days off -- we practiced on Thursday and they had yesterday off -- get them up and moving early in the morning today and get back to normal schedule tomorrow.
(Two underclassmen scrimmages this week?)
Well we do it every week on Thursday but with not having a game it's like what we're going to do with bowl practices -- stealing some reps for the younger guys. Because a lot of these guys are going to be depended on to play next fall.
(Drops have been an issue, is anything being done in practice to address that?)
Just came out and did our normal routines. Early on in the game we had some guys who in my opinion were trying to do too much. We've just got to relax and settle down. Once we did we played better.
(Have you had a chance to scout Arizona yet?)
Yeah we looked at them on film. Still holding off until after they play UCLA and then incorporate that with the other stuff we saw. They're a good football team, they've reeled off some impressive wins this season. Their defense does some solid things so we've got to go down there and get in the right mind frame and be ready to work.