There was a lot to like in Washington State's first practice of the 2014 campaign. The seniors played well, some of the freshmen look like seniors and there wasn't a single death due to bugs or heat. At least not among the reporters there weren't.
The coaches seemed to have a pretty high opinion of today's practice as well. Find out what they said, and what we saw, after the jump.
So I suppose you'll be wanting to know about Connor Halliday. He is a fifth-year senior starting quarterback and all that. Halliday looked very good, just like he did in the spring. After practice defensive tackle Xavier Cooper and receiver Vince Mayle (who is also his roommate in camp) each said variations of “I think he's the best in the country.”
I don't know if I'd go that far, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was the most prolific quarterback in the country by the season's end. In fact, I'd be surprised if he wasn't.
Unofficially (and today these numbers are especially unofficial) Halliday completed nine of 15 passes in a version of the “skeleton” drill in which there were eight defenders and five receivers, including a back. One of the passes was a nice completion in front of Tracy Clark to Gabe Marks, who looked fine after being limited throughout the spring.
Safety Beau Glover filled in for the still-limited Isaac Dotson at strong safety. He struggled a bit in the drill, drawing the ire of defensive coaches, and responded nicely by breaking up a deep pass to River Cracraft (who is now No. 21, FYI.) Halliday responded to that by completing a deep pass to freshman Calvin Green over Glover for a touchdown, ending Halliday's portion of the drill.
(Regular readers of the blog will know that Green, a freshman who enrolled last season, has played very well since arriving at WSU and is very highly thought of by the coaches.)
Falk, the de facto backup because of the transfers of Austin Apodaca and Tyler Bruggman, entered fall camp with a bang, completing his first four passes in the drill, including a touchdown pass to Dom Williams. He also (again, quite unofficial) went nine of 15.
In the “team” portion of practice Halliday went eight of 11, throwing a touchdown but also getting picked off by Taylor Taliulu. I couldn't see the interception very well, sorry. He was also sacked by Destiny Vaeao and Kalafitoni Pole.
Falk had a little bad luck in the team session, his first two passes were dropped by Green and Tyler Baker, respectively. He was also sacked and coughed up the ball. He responded well, however, completing his next five passes and finishing six of 11, with a nice touchdown pass to Drew Loftus, who made an even nicer catch, going to the ground in the back of the end zone.
Now for some notes:
— Some of the incoming freshman won't need much time with strength coach Jason Loscalzo to look like Pac-12 football players. Kingston Fernandez and Chandler Leniu are really big linebackers, listed at 6-2, 254 and 6-0, 250, respectively.
— Along with Dotson, Brett Bartolone, Cody O'Connell and Parker Henry were limited.
— I received a fair amount of questions about whether Deion Singleton and Barry Ware were going to show up so I figured I'd address that here. Singleton was there, Ware was not. However, Leach said after practice he expects Ware to join the team soon.
— Inside receivers coach David Yost was in crutches and a boot thanks to a broken leg. Leach doesn't discuss injuries, even with coaches, but did hint that, “Some people want a golf cart worse than others, I suppose.”
— I didn't see freshman Peyton Bender do much today, it looks like they're going to ease in the first-year players. While watching the skeleton drills I did catch him throw one deep ball on another field, though. It was a completion and he throws a pretty ball.
— Loftus, as you can probably tell from his mention earlier in the practice report, was a full participant in the practice despite his arrest last week.
— Cracraft isn't the only player with a new number. Others include: Daquawn Brown (No. 4), Chester Su'a (No. 6), Tracy Clark (No. 22), Gerard Wicks (No. 23), Jamal Morrow (No. 25), Marcellus Pippins (No. 27). FUN FACT: The last two WSU receivers to wear No. 84 as freshmen (Gabe Marks, River Cracraft) have changed numbers after their freshman season.
— Centers Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson will continue to alternate, just like in the spring. Today was Flor's turn.
And now for some quotes:
Linebacker Darryl Monroe
“We're glad to be back out. We're glad to be isolated, pretty much from society out here and just be with our brothers so now it's easier to focus on our playbook, quality time, chemistry and just hone in on football.”
“Last year was just a taste, it was like a little drop of blood to a shark. He's fiending so now we're fiending for success, so right now the sky isn't even the limit. We're trying to go past that, go to outer space. We're trying to blow the doors off this whole thing but right now we just have to take it one day at a time and we'll get there eventually.”
Defensive tackle Xavier Cooper
“We condition all summer but you can never get in football condition until you physically get out there so my legs are a little tired today but we'll get in the ice bath and start taking care of our bodies. We'll get through it.”
“I'm a very competitive guy and I feel like we're overlooked. People still don't respect us and I think that's why we come out here and work so hard. That's why I play with the passion I do because I want to win.”
“We haven't had the best past. Since coach Leach got here we've worked to get WSU back to a winning tradition. I feel like a lot of people are biased because they think we're just going to be mediocre this year, mediocre because of what they've seen in the past. But this a totally different team and if (people) can't see it, they must not be watching real football because we've transformed from being physical, to fast.”
“This year I think is going to be that step where we all put it together because we've got the experience this year, everybody's bought in, nobody's on the outskirts and everybody's together so this year I think is the year we prosper.”
Head coach Mike Leach:
“A lot of times first days are out of control and sloppy. We were aggressive and in control, but sloppy at times, and so I'm happy with it. I thought we did pretty good.”
“It's better than last year's and I thought we had a decent one last year but it's better than last year's. Part of it is that we've got a lot of returning guys so you can line up and execute plays at a little bit faster rate because there's not as much teaching involved and they had a really good summer.”
“I think it's a starting point. I think they see it as a starting point. I think everybody that was here last year that was able to go from start to finish got better and when you first start camp that's where you make the biggest gains so I think there's an appreciation for that. No matter who you are, camp kind of sets a theme for the rest of the season.”