From Pullman -- Washington State finally put on full pads on Thursday. The coaches put on headsets and officials were in uniform. The reason for the extra accoutrements? The Cougars had their first live-tackling session of spring. More on that after the jump.
The day began in a somewhat sloppy fashion for the Cougars, particularly along the offensive line. WSU was in the middle of it's run and screen drill when coach Mike Leach stopped the drill to lay into the young offensive line, which was holding less than its own against WSU's veteran defensive line.
Linebacker Darryl Monroe took advantage of their poor play to stick running back Jamal Morrow in the backfield. He showed off his versatility on the next play, running step by step with Morrow on a go pattern to the end zone.
The offending unit was made to do up downs and then sent to an end zone for extra reps while the rest of the team moved on to special teams.
"I thought they lumbered out here to get through the drill but I did think they responded and did some good stuff after that," Leach said.
Backup punter Thomas Fossedal had the day's biggest punt, which traveled at least 45 yards. But Wes Concepcion routinely send his punts around 40 yards.
One player who showed up ready to practice was safety Beau Glover and the only "lumbering" he did was the wood he laid on running back Teondray Caldwell during the run and screen drill. He also broke up three passes in 7-on-7's and another in the team period, drawing praise from teammates and coaches.
"I’m just trying to earn a spot on this team right now, just trying to show I belong out on the field," Glover said. "I have to finish those deflections, have to make some picks out there but that’s what film’s for and I’ll come back on Saturday and hopefully make some of those plays."
It was an ice bath kind of day for the running backs, who found little wiggle room with the offensive line struggling. They didn't fare too well in the receiving game either, with linebacker Chester Su'a blowing up freshman Jamal Morrow, then standing over the running back and making an exaggerated slashing gesture to hammer the point home.
In fairness to the offensive line it underwent even more shakeups today, with Devonte McClain seeing significant time at left tackle.
Gabe Marks has been limited throughout practice but he donned the pads today and showed didn't appear rusty during the WR vs. DB drills. However, following that drill he left practice and returned later with his pads off. We can't know whether that was the plan all along or if he aggravated his previous groin injury.
Kristoff Williams and Tracy Clark battled throughout the day and Williams was the undisputed winner of the matchup. He beat the cornerback on consecutive plays to the end zone in the 1-on-1 session, and then abused the entire defense in the live team session, coming up with three touchdowns. He recently moved from the inside Y receiver position to the outside Z receiver position and the switch appears to be paying dividends.
"None of those young guys can guard him, just physically," quarterback Connor Halliday said. "It is what it is and hopefully those younger guys in the secondary see that and see they need to gain a little weight before next year."
Freshman Calvin Green also had a nice touchdown on an out route.
In the team session Halliday went 12 of 20 with three touchdowns, two to Williams and one to Vince Mayle. The backups looked good as well, with Luke Falk probably having the better day. Falk finished 5 of 7 with a touchdown to Williams following a deep sideline throw to Mayle. Tyler Bruggman went 5 of 8 with throws of 20 and 30 yards to Tyler Baker and Robert Lewis, respectively, although most of Lewis' yards came after the catch.
Bruggman was also sacked by Ivan McLennan.
Thursday was also the first time the kickers attempted field goals in a game setting. Freshman Erik Powell made all three of his attempts with a long of 43 yards, while punter Wes Concepcion missed from 46 yards out. Receiver River Cracraft was the holder for both kickers.