The Cougars went live for the first time today, scrimmaging for 62 plays. After practice we asked players and coaches their thoughts on the scrimmage, tackling for the first time and more.
Stats from the scrimmage are available here, and the interview transcriptions are after the jump.
Coach Mike Leach
(Thoughts on the scrimmage?)
Thought it went pretty good, thought we had really good energy out there, thought guys flew around. I think we still need to sharpen technique, assignment stuff a little bit. We didn't really bust anything but just getting in position, reacting to stuff quickly and just sort of transitioning on things but I thought it was a good scrimmage.
(Did either side win?)
I thought it was pretty even, I thought the whole day was pretty even. The offense moved it steadily, didn't always get it in. I thought the defense, the d-line I thought played pretty good but I thought just overall pretty steady work.
(How did the quarterbacks play?)
I thought they did good. I thought they did good. I thought Connor got sloppy on the one he threw to them but I thought the did a good job running the unit and I thought falk had a lot of composure out there, missed a couple guys but I thought overall all the quarterbacks did good.
(What about the running game?)
Well, we haven't gotten as much work on it as we'd like, just trying to get enough O-linemen, things like that but I thought Wicks looked pretty good running the ball.
(How much weight do you put into the scrimmage versus regular practice)
A lot less than you guys would think. It's basically another practice, just sort of another form of it but it gives you an opportunity to see a guy in full contact and how he reacts and some guys elevate and some guys withdraw a little bit. And so I think it's important to do it so that they, you know you get the same performance each time as far as that goes and so I think it's an important step. It's, in our mind it's another practice, too.
(Was the depth chart where they would stand if a game was held today?)
It's pretty similar to where they're at right now.
(Do you see a confidence/performance boost when a player is moved up to run with the 1's or 2's?)
Sometimes, because he's trying to hang onto it. But we're pretty competitive at a lot of positions so they're fighting like crazy to hang onto it's been really competitive at those positions and you have guys really pushing each other.
(What did you see from Peyton Bender on those two touchdown passes?)
I thought he did a good job. The ball comes off his hand real quick, real sharp. And he's a guy that for a freshman is really composed. I mean, in high school he ran an offense that's very similar to what we do so we had some familiarity but to adjust to college as quick as he has, I think has been real impressive.
(Do you think the quarterbacks had enough time to throw?)
Not all the time, not all the time. I thought the O-line with the 1's played pretty good, a little spottier with the 2's. And some of it has to do with the D-line and some of the depth we had there.
(How did you feel about the hitting today?)
I thought it was good, I thougth they did a good job. Missed a couple tackles because of angles and things like that but it's just like I say, everybody's got to sharpen on something.
(Are false starts an issue?)
I think it's been an issue in practice but, you know, as they get wired up scrimmage-wise, we've got to sit still. We were offsides some too, which, we've got to take care of that.
(Is Gabe Marks running with the third string a reflection of how other receivers are playing?)
I think (Isiah) Myers is playing really well and so is Kristoff (Williams), and then the other thing is they got really good work this summer and I think the're playing really well. That's been a competitive position but Myers has been really hot lately.
(Gabe took a pretty good shot today, is he OK?)
Yeah, yep everybody is 100 percent.
(Any idea how many freshmen will play this year?)
No, it's just simply if you're in the two-deep you play, if you're not you don't, then you redshirt.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske
(Thoughts on the scrimmage?)
There were a lot of positive plays out there, I think you can see our legs are a little big heavy after a solid week of hot weather and hot work. But the major thing we wanted to see defensively was alignment assignment, our effort and then really our first day of tackling. We don't do a lot of tackling in camp but this was our first opportunity and some good things out there and then there were some things where we got out of control and give that a lot of credit to tired legs.
(What did you like on defense?)
Well I liked all three groups. Played together with a lot of energy, when they gave up an explosive play they'd go to the next play and recovered.
(What are you seeing out of Cyrus Coen lately?)
He's a senior. He's showing he's bought into coach Leach's system, he's playing at a very fast rate and one of our leaders on our defense. He's very productive and today he had a pick-six down in the red zone and that's a huge play for any defense. No field goal, no touchdown.
(Chandler Leniu had an active scrimmage. What are you seeing out of him?)
Well he's running in the third group. Freshman. And really still learning the system but he's a talented young man. He's still got to shed a few pounds and this beautiful weather is helping down in Lewiston, and start playing faster but he'll be a great player for the Cougs.
(Is it pretty close between Tana Pritchard and Chester Su'a at Will linebacker?)
It's close. Coach Wilson's been alternating them every other day and seeing how they react to that, running with the first group and running with the second group. We still have a lot of time left in fall camp and a lot of quality reps to go.
(Pat Porter ran with the 2's today. How did you think the freshman played?)
He struggled a little bit today, in terms of that, but he's working with his technique and that type of deal and we've got to keep going over that. But he always goes to the next play. That's what I love about Patrick. You've got to be that way as a corner, you've got to forget in a corner.
(Defensive line helps the young backs?)
It's key, it's just like offense. Everything starts with the offensive line and it's the same on the dark side, everything starts on the defensive line. And we've got eight quality people there and that's going to allow us to get quality reps, keep guys fresh when you get into the fourth quarter and hopefully we continue that.
(Ivan McClennan pushing Palacio for his spot?)
Again, we'll find out. There's a lot of competition, this was just our first scrimmage. We evaluate every day, we've got practice tomorrow and we'll continue to do that but both of them are certainly contributing to the Coug day.
(Darius Lemora ran with the 1's at safety today. What are you seeing out of him?)
Darius ran with Taylor (Taliulu) today, redshirted last year. Had a good spring and again, he's behind in terms of learning the defense just because of his age. But he's got a lot of spunk, he's a very aggressive player and has great speed. He's just getting better each day.
Quarterback Connor Halliday
(How was the scrimmage, in your opinion?)
It went alright, we played pretty well. I thought we flew around good. I think we, you know, need to be able to make the plays that are out there but (it was) a good, competitive day.
(Were you satisfied with the play of the offense?)
Definitely satisfied. I mean I think we left some plays out there. We definitely got to play as a group a little bit more. You only get so many chances to make plays, you know, at the college level, when you get that chance you've got to make it. But other than that we competed really hard and that's all you can ask for.
(What happened on Coen's interception?)
That was just a little rollout read. River's got a five-yard out, that was covered, Kristoff's got a 15-yard comeback, that was covered and my over route was next. Cyrus was playing the five-yard out and just jumped back underneath it, I never saw him.
Linebacker Darryl Monroe
(What did you think of the scrimmage?)
I think it went pretty well. Not a lot of missed assignments or alignment errors, it was pretty crisp. But in any scrimmage there are still things we need to fix but for the most part on defense we flew around, made a lot of plays and the defense looked great today.
(Did the defense win?)
Oh, absolutely. Since we've been out here I think we won pretty much every day, which is great because when you've got a lot of young guys come in on this defense you think, 'Oh, their competition level (isn't good),' or they can get intimidated at the college level but these guys came to play with high competition and intensity.
(How does it feel to hit again?)
It feels good. There's nothing like hitting someone else who's not your teammate but it still feels good because you know you've got those players who all look good in just jerseys and whatnot but when the pads come on, that's when you get like the closest to in-game feel and you can just get the right examples and stuff and know what you really need to correct.
(Now that you can get again, how much did bulking up help you?)
I feel like everything is a lot easier right now. Just shedding, getting off blocks is easier. Snatching receivers down is easier. Even like in special teams when we do one-on-one punt drills, just clubbing the guy by, watching him go five yards, I can definitely feel the difference and I love it so I'm just going to keep working and transferring it to gametime.
(Did the defensive set the tone early with stops?)
Absolutely, because you have some guys who may come in not as confident or just bright-eyed, bushy tailing, just not knowing what to expect. And then you have the older guys who knew what we were capable of, it's just like hwen you have a young receiver and you want to give them those easy throws, or a young quarterback and you want to give them those easy throws to get their confidence up? It's the same way with a defense, you know, you just got those few plays and got those few wins over a good offense and get the confidence up of the young secondary so it's like, 'OK, we can really play,' and just keep transferring it over day by day it goes in and out.