PULLMAN – David Gilbertson is an obvious, if overlooked, beneficiary of one of Washington State’s more frustrating injury situations this spring.
With sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday limited as he recovers from the liver laceration that ended his 2011 season, Gilbertson, a redshirt junior who came to WSU as a preferred walk-on in 2009, has taken all of the reps with the No. 2 offense this spring.
And he’s done that well enough to inspire confidence that he could prove a capable backup to senior Jeff Tuel, if that need ever arises.
“He’s stepped in, very knowledgeable, good command of things,” coach Mike Leach said after Tuesday’s practice. “Didn’t have a great day today, but really has played well throughout the spring.”
“They probably didn’t really know too much about me,” said Gilbertson, who has appeared in just one game in his three seasons with the program. “There’s probably not much film from what they saw when they came here, so I think I’ve shown I can play a little bit and, hopefully, they like what they’ve seen so far.”
So, is he considered a competitor for the backup spot? Leach isn’t conceding anything, saying that yes, Gilbertson is competing. But so is everyone else.
“They’re all competing,” Leach said. “At the end of this, they’re going to go throughout the summer and the offseason and then when we get into camp, we’re going to have them fight it out then, too. The idea is just to get everybody as many skills and opportunities to develop their skills so that they’re fueled up to work hard in between, and then tee it up and battle away.”
Of course, if the season started today, Tuel would be the team’s starter and Gilbertson the presumed backup. But come fall? Halliday doesn’t appear to be conceding anything yet.
He hasn’t been able to participate in any team sessions since taking an accidental hit to his side during the first practice of the spring. But he said he’s picked things up well just by throwing during 7-on-7s – “I’ve had a good spring,” he said – taking mental reps, waiting for the day he can throw without pain and become a full participant again.
“It’s just tough,” Halliday said. “Who cares what you do in skelly, you know what I mean? You’ve got to do it in a team aspect. That’s the frustrating part of it, but we’ll come out here in fall camp and have some fun.”
By then, the effects of his liver injury could be behind him. Halliday said doctors told him to expect sixth months of pain. He noted that Friday will be the five-month mark, though that first-practice blow didn’t help matters.
“I’m getting through it. The hit I took earlier pushed me back pretty far, so that was frustrating,” Halliday said. “I’m getting through it. It’s coming along.”
The route combinations in Leach’s offense are similar to what Halliday was used to as a standout at Ferris High School, which could make it easier for him to make up for lost time during the summer.
As Leach has said this spring, every throw they can get under Halliday’s belt will help, since he hasn’t been able to do much since the injury.
Frustrating as that’s been for Halliday, it’s been to the advantage of Gilbertson, who, like Tuel and Halliday, sees himself in a competition, too.
“You always have to feel like that,” Gilbertson said. “Any position in football, if you’re not competing, you’re not getting better. Always having something to push yourself for is what you aim for.”
Notes: Leach said he still isn’t sure of the format for Saturday’s spring game at Albi Stadium, but that the No. 1 group will “a lot” of the scrimmaging. … Leach was asked Tuesday about receiver Marquess Wilson, and whether he compares to former Texas Tech standout Michael Crabtree. Leach responded: “No, he doesn’t.” The coach elaborated: “Now, he could. He could. But the biggest thing on doing that is he’s got to have the same work ethic and right now his work ethic doesn’t equal – great receivers have great work ethic. Right now, his work ethic’s average.” … Linebacker Chester Su’a and safety Casey Locker were not at practice. Linebacker Darryl Monroe was the most notable of a large group of limited players. Leach doesn’t discuss injuries.