Washington State's good luck with the weather ran out on Friday, as the Cougars practiced in Lewiston heat that reached the upper-90s.
The team still seemed to have more energy than they did on Thursday, which is good since Friday's practice might have been the last normal practice of fall camp. The team will scrimmage on Sunday (probably around 3-3:15 p.m.) and Saturday's practice will be light in preparation for said scrimmage.
Here are the highlights and observations…
-- Charleston White came to camp late but has been making up for lost time with his play, inserting himself squarely into the mix for playing time in the defensive backfield. Robert Taylor get more looks at cornerback (he ran with the ones again today) may in part be due to White showing up and playing well at safety. White made a particularly nice play during one-on-one's, sticking to Renard Bell on a vertical route and making an interception.
-- Bell got his back, however, shaking White on a zigzag route in the end zone and scoring.
-- The Cougars spent more time on their 11-on-11 run game drill than they have during any other day of camp, and the offense really struggled to get much going against the defense. Some of that is doubtlessly due to the fact that the defense knows a run is coming, but I also felt the defense was outplaying the offense at the point of attack. The left side of the offensive line seemed to struggle more than usual.
Furthermore, Darrien Molton has been playing really well in run support for a true sophomore cornerback. When running backs try to bounce outside he manages to maintain leverage and push them out of bounds after minimal gain or, a couple times, for a loss.
-- Saw some interesting defensive groupings during the skeleton drill today. At one point it was Frankie Luvu and a bunch of freshmen going against the starting offense. Later, I saw true freshman Jahad Woods playing inside linebacker with the starting unit.
I've noticed that the defense seems to go for the strip more often under Alex Grinch, and even more so during this preseason camp. It paid off on Friday when Paris Taylor ripped the ball away from Isaiah Johnson and the freshman receiver made a nice catch.
-- Old Robert Taylor is going to give special teams coordinator Eric Mele a difficult choice at kickoff returner. Tavares Martin was very good last year and should be better this year, but Taylor has been very impressive in practice, even just against the scout team. Taylor is very quick and sees holes develop quickly. James Williams is also in the mix.
-- Logan Tago started at Rush linebacker today with Dylan Hanser backing him up. Interestingly, I thought Hanser had one of his better days of practice. Nnamdi Oguayo is a good player, but he might need another year or two to eat and get bigger. He's listed at 227 pounds, which means he'll probably be more like 215 by midseason.
-- So many WSU games came down to the final seconds last year, so it's a good thing I suppose they're getting so many similar situations during team period in camp. On Friday the offense took a 23-22 lead when Luke Falk threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Tavares Martin and built on it when Falk scrambled from three-yards away for a score.
But Mike Leach offered the defense double-or-nothing on one play and Shalom Luani broke up Falk's pass to Martin, tying the score. Obviously you can't end on a tie, the offense ran one more play. Gerard Wicks was stopped for a loss so the defense won, 25-24.