PULLMAN – Sunday wasn’t a day of rest for the Washington State University football team.
It was a day of change.
The tempo during the day’s second practice – the Cougars spent the morning workout without pads – was intensified, as coach Paul Wulff wanted to see how his team handled pressure.
And there was a change on the roster as sophomore quarterback J.T. Levenseller left the team, telling the coaches he intends to transfer.
Levenseller skipped the scrimmage Saturday as he contemplated his future – the official word at the time was he missed due to illness – then told Wulff on Sunday morning he was ready for a change.
“He’s going to transfer,” Wulff said. “The bottom line is he’s looking to play now and have an opportunity to contribute.”
Levenseller took the grayshirt route after graduating from Pullman High in 2007. He enrolled at WSU in spring 2008 and was ticketed to redshirt last fall.
But injuries to Gary Rogers, Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael forced Levenseller to burn his redshirt. He appeared in four games, attempted 34 passes, completing half for 134 yards.
Levenseller came into the fall third on the depth chart behind Lopina, a senior, and Lobbestael, a sophomore, designated co-starters. As workouts progressed, freshman Jeff Tuel moved up the depth chart, even getting a few snaps with the starting offense Sunday.
One unique aspect of Levenseller’s status with WSU is dad Mike is the Cougars’ long-time receivers coach.
How is everyone handling the younger Levenseller’s decision?
“It’s OK,” Wulff said. “You know, I think he’s a great kid, he’s a really good football player. He’s going to help somebody.”
Following what Wulff felt was a positive scrimmage, the coaches decided to up the ante a little Sunday afternoon.
“We did some things different today,” Wulff said, “trying to put a lot of pressure on the players, through conditioning and executing under a lot of duress.
“You know, it didn’t go as well as we wanted.”
Especially for the offense.
For the first time this fall, Wulff lined up the team and had the players run 10-yard sprints until they were dragging. Then the whistle blew and a situation was introduced, with the starting offense at its 1-yard line.
The first play James Montgomery took a handoff from Lopina, burst left through a big hole and went the distance. During the ensuing celebration 60 yards downfield, cornerback Brandon Jones and guard Zack Williams got into it. Meanwhile, Wulff was blowing his whistle, indicating holding on tight end Zach Tatman and calling the play back.
Order was restored, Wulff chastised Williams for taking his helmet off and the ball was finally snapped again. This time safety Chima Nwachukwu ran down Dwight Tardy in the end zone for a safety. From there, even after the situation was changed to a 2-minute drill, the defense made most of the big plays.
“It’s a big area we know we have to improve as a football team,” Wulff said, “practicing under duress and having the confidence to perform when we’re tired.”
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