There was a lot going on at practice today. The Pac-12 Networks were in town filming and Rick Neuheisel took a keen interest in what the Cougars were doing, observing the drills closely, particularly the ones involving quarterbacks.
The Cougars also made use of the scout teams against the first string for the first time, which always creates some confusion. After practice coach Mike Leach had a bucket of water dumped on him for a good cause, which you can watch here.
The coaches acknowledged that there are always a few dud practices at this time of the year. But that doesn't mean they're happy about it.
“I didn't think it was a very good practice. I thought we started out pretty good, didn't do a good job of finishing practice,” Leacj said. “Today was the first day we traded scouts so sometimes, a lot of times that has an impact. It shouldn't, it shouldn't but yeah I thought both sides were soft in the team period. Prior to that I thought we were doing some good things but we have to be better than that tomorrow.”
More after the jump.
The dissatisfaction with practice was felt on both sides of the ball. After practice defensive coordinator Mike Breske said:
“Well today it was down, our defensive unit … we were just – I attribute a lot of that to exchange of scout teams and that but we can't let that happen. We've just got to power through it and get something out of the day.”
One positive for the defense was the return of Isaac Dotson, who has been limited for much of the fall.
“I saw some good things, a little rust on him and that type of thing,” Breske said. “But he was moving around and I'll have a chance to watch film on him tonight.”
Erik Powell took some kicks to start practice, seeming to hit from about 30 and about 40 yards out. He also had one kick blocked.
Hitting was the theme of the early individual drills on defense, and every station had a tackling component during the drill circuit. The Cougars worked on wrapping up, driving a ball carrier backward and form tackling onto a mat, and some, well, hitting.
Gabe Marks was again in a yellow jersey but ran some routes with the scout team, catching a nice pass from Peyton Bender for a touchdown from about 30 yards out. Other limited Cougars were Drew Springfield, Cody O'Connell, Frankie Luvu and Brett Bartolone.
There was also a position switch today, as Teondray Caldwell was wearing a white defensive jersey and will get looks at safety. The fact that Caldwell, who started five games as a sophomore, is now a safety, shows just how good the running back depth is right now, and how the team can use all the defensive backs it can get.
Then we saw a booming punt period. The hang time wasn't always great, but the punts had some real distance, often going over the heads of the return men. Jordan Descalo took the first punt and it went about 60 yards from the line of scrimmage, with Marcellus Pippins returning. Wes Concepcion went next, hitting a solid punt to Jamal Morrow, who muffed it.
Descalo's next punt wasn't so great, only about 35 yards to River Cracraft. Concepcion followed with a dud of his own, again about 35 yards, that was muffed by Pippins. Then the punters really started putting a leg into it.
Descalo hit another 60-yarder, which Concepcion followed with an even further one that bounced into the end zone for a touchback. Yep, 80 yard punt. Descalo had the day's worst punt, traveling about 30 yards and going out of bounds.
Then the skill positions broke into seven-on-seven while the offensive and defensive linemen did their drill in which the defenders all appear to fire off the ball, but only one actually tries to sack Erik Anderson, creating a one-on-one matchup with an offensive lineman.
Halliday's second pass was picked off by Pippins, but he responded well by completing his next 10 passes, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Vince Mayle, before Isiah Myers dropped a pass. Halliday completed three more after that before another pass was dropped.
Luke Falk threw the ball well, completing five passes after a drop and throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Rickey Galvin.
On the other side of the field, Peyton Bender was very sharp, completing 15 consecutive passes at one point. However, the young receivers and Bender definitely still need more time together, evidenced by some miscommunication and a couple disjointed routes.
The starting offensive line struggled against the older, more powerful defensive line. More often then not, it appeared the individual offensive lineman had to hold the defender to prevent an easy sack.. One-on-one isn't necessarily an even battle since the defender has a target and more freedom to use his hands.
The difference between the backups was even more pronounced, with Darryl Paulo, Lyman Faoliu and Robert Barber routinely getting the best of their opponents. One young offensive lineman who looked good was Carlos Freeman, who stood up Ngalu Tapa in their matchup. Sean Krepsz also had a good rep against Barber.
The Cougars went into a kickoff drill after that with Powell and Quentin Breshears alternating reps and Keith Harrington and Marcellus Pippins alternating return reps. Powell was typically able to get the ball to or almost to the end zone, and the coverage teams routinely tackled the returners before they got to the 20-yard line. Pippins had another muff.
Team wasn't a good session for the offensive line, which gave up a shared sack to Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole on the first play. The Cougars had some short passes or passes to running backs that went nowhere, and the offensive line was made to do up-downs.
Later there was some shuffling in the unit, with Jacob Seydel sliding out to right tackle and Eduardo Middleton filling in at right guard. Devonte McClain saw time at left guard.
Gerard Wicks continued his impressive fall with a pair of explosive runs, knifing through the middle of the defense on each.