Mike Leach says that fatigue sets in on day three of camp for average football teams. That means these Washington State Cougars are no average team, they made it to day four. The Lewiston heat took its toll on the players, as both Gabe Marks and Sulaiman Hameed needed some extra stretching during practice, probably for cramps. Other players occasionally would head to sideline to take a knee with their helmets off, staring into the muggy distance.
Perhaps no unit was more exhausted at the end of the day than the offensive line, whose coaches are starting to grow weary of the veteran defensive line always coming out on top. These dog days will be over soon, though, according to Leach. And the Cougars will be better for it.
"I think just four days in a row is a part of it," Leach said after practice, with eight more consecutive days to follow. "They'll get their legs back under them sometime in the next couple of days."
More on practice after the jump.
-- The Cougars devoted much of practice to converting third-down situations. The 7-on-7 period did not go very well, as the Cougars converted just four times and failed to convert six times, leading to Leach doling out 12 up-downs for the offense -- two for each failed conversion -- and the threat that a similarly poor performance would yield three up-downs for every failure to reach the sticks.
-- There were more limited players today (another side effect of the heat/fatigue, perhaps?), although Darius Lemora shed his yellow jersey and was flying around. Beau Glover, Parker Henry and Colton Teglovic spent practice walking around the outer track with heavy bags full of sand, occasionally raising them above their head in exercises designed to get some work done while the players were out.
-- A couple new faces on the return teams today. River Cracraft and Keith Harrington fielded kicks, along with Marcellus Pippins, Robert Lewis and Jamal Morrow.
-- Based on returnees and spring performances it would be easy to assume that the offense was going to be the strength of the Cougars. That should still be the case, but the defense isn't backing down at all in the team period, and is often coming out ahead. That was the case today as the defenders won 28-24. Cyrus Coen had the highlight of the day when Connor Halliday scrambled to his right and tried to find a receiver running along the back of the end zone. Coen ran underneath the route and caught up just in time to snag Halliday's pass while tapping a foot inside the end zone to secure the interception.
-- Gerard Wicks continues to play well in practice. He breaks off a couple long runs every day and often scores from around 10 yards out. After practice running backs coach Jim Mastro said, "He's just so powerful. When he puts his toe in the ground and a vertical seam opens he takes it. Those arm tackles, he's just running through them. Other guys can get through them, he just gets through them in a different manner. How downhill he is, how decisive he is, he's just got to work on his pass-catching skills but he's come light years in a year."
He added, "He's physical and he's never afraid. With those two things I can coach the rest."
-- After practice defensive line coach Joe Salave'a was asked if having his veteran unit go against a young, learning offensive line might hamper his guys' development. He said, "That's one of the challenges for our young guys is to make sure that no matter what we got we're putting in good, quality work. Now you're always going to suffer because you can't really emulate game time conditions and speed. But we're going to crack the whip on these boys and whether they're little kids or older men they still have to strike and bloody their nose.