From Pullman — The pads went on Tuesday’s and the Washington State football team had easily its most spirited practice of the spring. There was constant hollering from the sidelines, a few light scuffles broke out and the coaches didn’t seem to mind a bit.
Our practice report is after the jump.
The WSU baseball team was at practice today, and gathered in a circle with the football team for the first “bull in the ring” session of the season. The intense drill, in which two players try to push each other backwards, surrounded by their teammates, set the tone for the day.
“Thought we had a good day today,” coach Mike Leach said. “Execution pretty good, like I said it looks like they’ve had a pretty good offseason so we’ve just got to continue to improve from there but I thought it was a good first day in pads.”
With the pads on the Cougars shook up practice a bit, spending more time focusing on special teams and wide receiver blocking. Leach said that would largely be the case for the rest of the spring practices and that there are certain drills that the Cougars can only do once they’re fully suited up.
“In particular the offensive line and the defensive line, their day is more productive,” he explained.
Another new drill was a temp drill, in which the first and second team offenses lined up side by side and ran plays against the defensive backups in rapid succession.
While most of the team did special teams drills, backup quarterbacks Luke Falk and Tyler Bruggman took turns trying to throw a football into a trash can placed in the corner of the end zone from the 10-yard line. They each had around 30 attempts and Falk had the only “make” while both quarterbacks knocked the can over a few times.
Starting quarterback Connor Halliday watch the action with a special guest, Jason Gesser, who quarterbacked the 2002 Cougars to the Rose Bowl.
“(Leach) has always invited me out but I’ve never had a chance,” Gesser explained after practice. “But now, living in Pullman and having a chance to come out to practices and see what’s going on – I know basically the whole staff and say ‘what’s up’ to all those guys, a handful of players already. So it was just one of those times where I actually had time to come out.”
Gesser seemed particularly impressed by the nearly finished Football Operations Building, which looms over the field.
Halliday didn’t partake in the trash can drill but left no doubt he can make the throw. At one point during WSU’s 7-on-7 drill the Cougars moved to the 10-yard line and Halliday completed three straight passes over the heads of defenders into the corner of the end zone.
He finished the drill 13 of 20. Bruggman went 15 of 20. Thus far Bruggman and Falk have alternated practices as Halliday’s primary backup, with the difference being that the primary backup gets reps in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team sessions.
Halliday hooked up with receiver Drew Loftus numerous times in today’s practice and twice during the final team session. Loftus and Halliday worked out together often over winter, routinely going and throwing passes by themselves.
“He’s a heck of a receiver and he’s a lot faster than anybody gives him credit for so be looking out for him,” Halliday said.
In the team sessions Halliday finished 9 of 15 with a touchdown to Kristoff Williams. Taylor Taliulu also intercepted him on a deep pass. Cornerback Tracy Clark broke up a pass by making an athletic move to get around the receiver in the middle of the field.
Bruggman had a stellar day in the team session, going 8 of 14 with three touchdowns, including an 80-yard pass to Vince Mayle, who used his newfound speed (he lost 19 pounds in winter conditioning) to get behind the defense and outrun the secondary for a score.
He also found Daniel Lilienthal for a touchdown and then another short touchdown to Mayle in the practice’s final play.
Limited in Tuesday’s practice were wide receivers John Thompson, Gabe Marks and Isiah Myers, offensive lineman Cody O’Connell and quarterback Connor Ennis. Players I didn't see at practice were quarterback Domenic Rockey, offensive lineman Clayton Simundson and wide receivers Micah Brown and Donovan Aldridge.