PULLMAN – The pass was low and a bit to the inside. No matter. Jeshua Anderson went to the turf, got his hands low and scooped it in. Ten-yard completion.
Not to bad for a “track guy.”
Washington State University’s two-time NCAA 400-meter hurdles champion is also Washington State University’s most experienced wide receiver. And, in this his junior season, it’s starting to show.
On a cloudy Thursday afternoon, Anderson not only made that catch, he turned in arguably his best practice of the year, though he just called it a “better day.”
With the Cougars’ depth chart crowded with young receivers, Anderson needs more days like this, to satisfy his own competitive nature and to make WSU better.
“Right now, I’m doing pretty good,” Anderson said after the veterans finished their afternoon half of another split day of practice.
There was some question over the summer whether Anderson would even be in football pads, a full set of which the Cougars wore for the first time Thursday.
After winning his second consecutive NCAA title, Anderson ran 48.77 seconds in the national championships, good enough for fifth, but not good enough to qualify for the world track championships. His school record is 48.47.
That result might have made a huge difference for Anderson’s pocket book – and WSU football.
“The door (to turn pro) opened, but I had a long talk with my parents and they told me come back another year and see how everything goes,” Anderson said of professional track. “I wasn’t able to make the world team, so that kind of put the dotted line on me coming back.”
With the decision made to return to WSU, Anderson and his dad Tim spent a week or so in the backyard just playing catch, working on making Jeshua’s hands better. Just like they did when they both were younger.
“My dad would just throw the ball really quick and have me catch it at the highest point,” Anderson said. “A few little drills I used to do as a ‘youngin.’ We’ve got that father-son relationship which is real good.”
That work has already paid dividends, as Anderson is snagging balls that might have fallen to the turf a year ago. But it’s another area of receiver play that has been a point of emphasis thus far: blocking.
“This year I’m a lot stronger, so that’s really helping me a lot,” Anderson said of a skill WSU prizes. “Now it’s just me making up that space with the defender and make sure I strike him. Now I’m doing pretty good at it.
“It’s something I’m really working on. I’ve got that attitude it’s something I need to do.”
Combine that element with the deep threat Anderson’s speed projects – he’s averaged 15 yards on each of his 45 career catches – and the Cougars have a polished offensive threat. Plus the receiving corps takes a step up.
“Those guys, we’ve challenged them all a little bit,” coach Paul Wulff said. “They need to step up at a higher clip to block, No. 1, … and two, make plays.
“In this league you’re not always going to be open. You got to make plays when people are on you.”