FROM PULLMAN — Practice this time of year gets to feeling pretty darn routine. And Tuesday's workout for Washington State was no exception. But there are always nuggets buried out there amid the mundane, and we found a few today. So read on.
– Among the more interesting revelations is that freshman Paris Taylor, who is listed as a safety and has been limited by apparent injury since camp started, is back in action — but not at safety.
Taylor worked with the third-team defense during scout-team preparations today as a sam linebacker.
Coach Mike Leach said he lieks Taylor's size at that position, and that they're just trying to see where he fits best for the future.
I asked if this meant Leach is more sataisfied now than before with the team's depth in the secondary. He said that's not entirely the case.
“Everybody wants more depth. It’s all right,” Leach said. “That and he’s a big guy and looks like a sam. He’s a big safety, and there are big safeties, but he looks like a SAM.”
Of Taylor, linebackers coach Ken Wilson said: “He’s an athletic guy. We’re still evaluating him. He’s trying to get back up to speed, get in football shape. He’s big, he’s active. He’s not scared to tackle. We’re optimistic, but we’re still in the research process with him.”
Is it mostly about size?
“The position’s got to be a good athlete. We’re looking for a big, long guy at that position for the future, and we’ve got some older guys at that position,” Wilson said. “He’s got cover skills. That position does a lot of our pass cover stuff, walked out on wide receivers. He’s kind of a natural. He’s gotten bigger since we signed him, so we’re kind of working on finding his niche around here. We’re trying it and we’ll see what happens.”
You will recall that Feddie Davey also came to WSU as a safety, but has since undergone a similar transition to sam linebacker. Wilson said Davey's recovery from a knee injury suffered late last season has cost him some time, obviously, but that he remains one of the more valuable members of WSU's special-teams units despite being behind schedule at linebacker.
“Those are not easy injuries for linebackers. He started slowly in camp because of it,” Wilson said. “Now he’s getting back up to speed, and I think he can do some stuff for us.”
– Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter both participated in practice today. Washington is back with the No. 1 defense at cornerback. Damante Horton obviously took all of the reps with the No. 1 defense early on, but sat out for a time later in practice while Daquawn Brown took some reps. Carpenter worked with the No. 2 group.
– Jamal Morrow switched back to running back today after spending a few days with the defensive backs. Leach said he'll likely redshirt.
– Asked Leach whether he has an ideal amount of time he'd like to play Austin Apodaca this season. He said he'd like to get him into a game “as soon as possible,” but that the Cougars must have the game in hand first. For now, that sounds like the only scenario where you'll see Apodaca, barring injury to Connor Halliday.
– Wilson said Cyrus Coen might have had the most impactful game of any of WSU's linebackers against USC, noting his sack and tackle of Marqise Lee at the 12-yard line on USC's final kickoff return late in the fourth quarter.
He also praised the play of Darryl Monroe and Justin Sagote, but indicated that he might try to rotate a bit more at those positions in the future.
“I think the guys that are starting are doing well and progressing. We’re still looking for depth and trying to get some guys in there,” Wilson said. “Hopefully the next 3-4 games we can round out and not have those guys play so many snaps.”
The Cougars have also learned something from their first two opponents, Wilson said.
“I think it showed our guys how pyhyscial we can be,” he said. “I think they thought they had a good camp down in Lewiston. We were hard on them, did a lot of banging down there. But I don’t think they knew that they could do that until they got out there against two good, physical teams. Now they know they can stand in there against those guys, we’ve got to keep getting better at the whole package.”
– The scoreboard is nearing completion — looks like just some paneling work remains to be done — and the sound system is awfully impressive. I was standing on Rogers Field as they were testing it out for a bit, and I can tell you this — if you're on campus during a football game, you're not going to have any problem hearing anything coming from the stadium speakers. They are LOUD.