PULLMAN – It’s the third week of Washington State’s spring football practices, and for head coach Paul Wulff, that means it has to be the best week.
Spring football is more than half over, and while the Cougars have shown some improvement since the first day, there’s still a long way to go, Wulff said.
“We just gotta have a good, hard week of practice,” he said. “It’s a very, very, very important week. We need this to be our most-improved week, as a football team and individually.”
The team is coming off its first full scrimmage Friday, in which the defense dominated. In 90 minutes, the defense limited the offense to two touchdowns – both rushing. Two interceptions and four sacks were highlights.
Backup running back Logwone Mitz had a big day with 44 yards on two carries, but hurt a big toe on a 46-yard touchdown run. He was on the sidelines but not on the field Monday, as was fellow back Marcus Richmond (hamstring).
That thins out the Cougars’ running back options. Christopher Ivory, who has practiced sporadically due to academics, had a touchdown Friday but was not at practice Monday. Dwight Tardy (knee) was suited up but was not wearing pads.
Rounding out the injury list are defensive end Jesse Feagin (knee, out for spring), walk-on defensive back Easton Johnson (stress fracture in forearm) and banged-up linebacker Andy Mattingly.
“We’ve got some (injuries); they don’t seem to be long-term,” Wulff said. “You know, nothing that should, at this point – cross your fingers – affect us in the fall.”
Running a drill, wide receiver Kameron Thurmond pulled a leg muscle at practice, and Michael Willis got shaken up catching a touchdown pass from Kevin Lopina over an ensuing defender.
The defense was pumped up running drills, especially after many of them won battles in a new sumo-wrestling-like circle that pitted them one-on-one against the offense.
Standouts Chima Nwachukwu and Alfonso Jackson switched positions – Nwachukwu to safety and Jackson to cornerback – in another of Wulff’s spring adjustments. Nwachukwu, who played safety in high school, said he likes the open field better.
“Either way, it’s all good. It’s all football,” he said. “I love it.”
Nwachukwu snagged an interception from Gary Rogers at practice. He said the defense’s recent success can be attributed to new tactics being introduced.
“I know we’re stronger as a unit,” he said. “We’re more together, on the same page.”
That seems to be the theme as the Cougars move through spring ball. Rogers said the offense is still trying to get over the learning curve of the coaches’ new strategies, and everybody is still figuring each other out.
“Everybody’s gotta be on the same page to make a play happen,” he said of the offense. “So when that comes together, it works well. But when it doesn’t, I mean, obviously, we have a little of the shakes.”
The offense must be patient in learning Wulff’s new no-huddle, spread offense, and the Cougars have been watching examples on film, Rogers said.
But Rogers likes the new offensive strategies.
“For the offense, there’s still a learning curve,” Rogers said. “I feel like now, just everybody’s starting to come together, and just starting to get over that hump with the new offense and stuff like that.
“It takes a little bit of time, you know, and I think we’re coming along pretty well. I mean, it’s going to be good, in time.”
“We definitely have some kids who are playing pretty well,” Wulff said, “and we have a lot more kids who need to continue to grow and develop. And the only way for that to happen is just more practice time.”
Junior-college transfer Myron Beck, a redshirt sophomore defensive back, is impressing Wulff. … So is Andy Roof, who moved from the offensive line to the defensive line this spring after being suspended by the university last season. … The next scrimmage is Friday.