PULLMAN – Most newcomers at the Division-I level enter their first season of college football with the knowledge that it might be a while until they get on the field.
Unless, of course, they’re already two years removed from high school and have the build to prove it.
That may be the case for junior offensive lineman Niu Sale, who in just his third practice for Washington State was working out with the No. 1 offensive line at right guard on Saturday.
Sale, a transfer from Los Angeles Harbor Community College, is one of five junior college transfers who signed as part of coach Mike Leach’s 2012 recruiting class and are now participating in WSU’s camp.
Leach says five is typically the maximum number of JC players he wants to sign in each class. And it’s no secret that the goal, in general, is for each of them to play sooner rather than later.
Those in camp this year – nose tackle Ioane Gauta, kicker Mike Bowlin (an early signee who enrolled in January), running back Theron West (a teammate of Sale’s at L.A. Harbor) and linebacker Justin Sagote – have either drawn praise from Leach or shown flashes of potential.
Sale may have come to the forefront the fastest, though.
“Anytime you recruit a JC kid, you’re recruiting him to come in and play,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “So of course we’re going to get him in here and see what he can do, and see if he can push one of those guys and take their spot.”
WSU’s offensive line personnel was affected a bit by the absence of senior Wade Jacobson and sophomore Jake Rodgers on Saturday. Rodgers was tending to a personal matter, and Jacobson is expected back today, McGuire said, after missing two consecutive days of practice.
Still, Sale appears to be a part of WSU’s plans going forward. The 6-foot-3, 334-pound native of Los Alamitos, Calif., said he played strictly left guard in junior college, but that he’s been pleased with his progress on the other side of center.
“He’ll be OK. It’ll take him a little bit,” McGuire said. “That’s the only spot he’s playing right now and throughout this camp he’ll get pretty used to playing on this side.”
His last school ran the ball a lot more, too, Sale said.
“It’s a little different because in JC, 80 percent of the time they made me pull, and now it’s mostly just pass blocking,” he said. “But I kind of like it a lot.”
McGuire said he was impressed with how well Sale adapted during WSU’s first two practices of training camp, though things became more difficult for him Saturday as he was forced to digest three days’ worth of new plays.
But it’s still been a promising start.
“He’s done a pretty good job, and reps are just going to make him better,” McGuire said.
Leach identified Gauta and Sagote as two of the newcomers who have impressed him the most thus far. And Bowlin was recruited with the express purpose of taking over the team’s kickoff and punt duties this season.
Freshman cornerback Ray Ford, who was added to the team’s roster Saturday, was present at practice but did not dress. Paperwork and physical examinations still need to be completed before he can practice, Leach said. … Freshman receiver Alex Jackson, who was expected in Pullman on Saturday, was not at practice. Leach said he didn’t know if Jackson had made it into town or not. … Single-game tickets for WSU home games went on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, with 1,102 sold in the first 15 minutes they were available. A school spokesman said about 3,600 had been sold by 5 p.m., more than 1,200 of those for the Seattle game against Oregon on Sept. 29. Last year, the school sold 700 total tickets on the first day of single-game availability.
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