After a pair of shortened practices -- one for rest, one for scrimmage -- Washington State resumed its normal camp schedule on Sunday. The offensive line took a more familiar form as well with the return of Joe Dahl at left tackle, who had been limited most of this week. Dahl's return slid Gunnar Eklund back to his familiar role at left guard, and Devonte McClain, who had also been limited, returned to bolster the depth.
Quarterback Connor Halliday celebrated their return by torching the defense during team period. All that and more, after the jump.
Practice began, as it so often does, with the field goal kickers taking some reps and the specialists had one of their best days of camp. Erik Powell hit what was essentially an extra point before moving back and nailing a pair of 40-yarders. Quentin Breshears then came in and made kicks from 25, 35 and 40 yards.
The battle between Riley Sorenson and Sam Flor to start at center may be coming to a conclusion, with Sorenson taking first-team reps in yesterday's scrimmage and again today.
"I think it's pretty even, we'll still evaluate," Leach said after practice, "I thought Sorenson played better today."
He later added that Sorenson is, "... a little more consistent and when he plays athletic he does a good job."
There was some injury news on Sunday. While Mike Leach said after yesterday's practice that Gabe Marks was 100 percent after getting leveled by Chandler Leniu, it looks like they're proceeding with caution since Marks was in uniform but no pads on Sunday, and didn't do much. Charleston White was limping pretty badly after seemingly turning his ankle while covering Connor Simpson on a deep route, but he looked fine later when he ran with the first unit at cornerback in place of Daquawn Brown, who ran with the twos. Freshman cornerback Kevin Griffin also appeared to tweak something during team period and was limping. I didn't see him return to the field, but there were only a few plays left.
Isaac Dotson was again limited. He spent much of fall camp in a yellow jersey, then had it taken off and practiced with the ones for a few days, but Darius Lemora started at strong safety in yesterday's scrimmage and again today. Asked about the turnover at safety Leach said, "We've zeroed in on some guys pretty good I think, and also want to evaluate. But I think Sulaiman's (Hameed) doing a lot of good things and so does Lemora. And then kind of the leader back there I guess is Taliulu."
The Cougars spent some time practicing punts with Jordan Descalo and Wes Concepcion. Special teams coordinator Eric Russell said that competition is wide open after practice, but noted that while Descalo appears to have a bigger leg, Concepcion's average is likely still higher because he has been more consistent.
Skyler Cracraft, brother of River, appeared to block one of Concepcion's punts.
Both quarterbacks looked sharp during team period with Halliday completing his first five passes, all to different receivers. Luke Falk completed his first seven passes, with three going to Vince Mayle. On the opposite side of the field the offensive and defensive lines ran a drill where a defender would go 1-on-1 with an offensive lineman to try and sack Erik Anderson. From my vantage point it appeared that the offensive line did not know who would be blocking each rep until the defensive lineman came at them.
Dahl showed some rust in his first day back and was beaten pretty handily by Destiny Vaeao during the drill.
The Cougars also spent a lot of time working on kickoffs and it sounds like they will tomorrow, as well. A number of different return combinations were used, with Rickey Galvin, Calvin Green, Teondray Caldwell, Kristoff Williams, Theron West, Marcus Mason and Charleston White all getting opportunities to return. Green and Williams appeared to get the most reps.
During the team session Halliday completed his first five passes, including a 40-yard touchdown bomb to Vince Mayle who easily out jumped Griffin for the ball. Dahl had a false start on the next play, and two plays later Ivan McClennan came up with a sack after Riley Sorenson's snap rolled along the ground before reaching Halliday.
The next pass was incomplete and then Griffin had a nice stick on Mayle to stop him at the line of scrimmage after a short pass. With the offense near the goal line, Halliday again excelled, running into the end zone untouched on one play from about five yards out, then throwing consecutive touchdown passes to Drew Loftus, Green and then Loftus again on a nice fade.
"I thought he threw it pretty good," Leach said after practice. "I thought as a team we were a little sluggish, which is to be expected to a point but we've got to be able to push through. I thought he threw it good and I thought he kept things ignited pretty well."
Falk's team session started poorly with consecutive incomplete passes behind the line of scrimmage, so, fumbles. His third pass was broken up by McClennan, who timed his hit with the receiver very well. After a short run by Theron West, Falk made a nice play to roll out of a collapsing pocket and hit Tyler Baker. Later in the period, he too his Loftus for a touchdown.
After practice Leach said that he expects cornerback Sebastian LaRue will have to sit out this season, although he has not yet heard from the NCAA a final word on the Texas A&M transfer's appeal. LaRue has missed the last few days of practice while dealing with a personal matter.