PULLMAN – Like most other things about Mike Leach and his offense, the goal for quarterback Jeff Tuel in today’s scrimmage at Martin Stadium will be simple.
“Just keep rolling,” the senior quarterback said Friday following the Cougars’ ninth practice of training camp.
“Just move the ball and be efficient. Take care of the football and be efficient, and really just move the ball and score touchdowns. Nothing special or fancy.”
It will be the first live scrimmage of WSU’s first camp under Leach, who said the first-team offense and defense will face off for about 30 plays, the second-team units will do the same, and the third-teamers will get in about 10 plays or so.
Practice is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., though Leach said some drills will precede the actual scrimmage portion. A fan autograph session will follow at about 5:30.
“Really just go in the stadium, live experience,” Leach said, asked what he expects to gain from the live work. “We’ve been getting bits and pieces during the week, which is good.”
Perhaps, too, WSU coaches will get a closer look at some players who have seen increased playing time during team sessions the past couple days due to a few presumed starters sitting out with injuries.
It will be another chance for freshman Gabe Marks, likely the most impressive offensive player of camp thus far, to prove his worth as a potential starter at outside receiver. Redshirt sophomore Kristoff Williams and redshirt freshman Dominique Williams have been limited by injury, presumably, though Leach does not discuss such things.
And with Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper sidelined recently with undisclosed ailments, junior college transfer Ioane Gauta (pronounced U-WAHN-ay NOW-tuh) should see most of the snaps at nose tackle with the first-team defensive line.
“It’s really good because I get to go against our ones on offense, so I get more of a read and I can work on my game more with the ones,” Gauta said. “We connect more as a defense, I can tell what the linebackers are thinking, and the D-ends and the bucks (linebackers). It’s much easier.”
Just don’t expect today’s’ results – positive or negative for either Tuel or redshirt sophomore Connor Halliday – to trigger much of a reaction from Leach in regards to his quarterback battle.
If there even is one. Leach won’t say one way or the other.
“I’ll handle that inside. We’re just still evaluating and still watching them throw,” he said.
“It could be a few days. That’s up for grabs a little bit week for week,” Leach said, asked when he expects to name a starter, before making his second maternity reference in as many days. “We will adjust the reps at some point. I don’t have a time frame. You guys can have a contest like betting when some lady’s going to have a baby or something if you want to. I just look at the reps and figure out what kind of work we need to get done.”
Tuel’s work was fine on Friday, when the No. 1 offense ended practice with Tuel throwing three consecutive touchdown passes from inside the 5-yard line – the first to senior Gino Simone, the second to junior Bennett Bontemps and the third to sophomore Isiah Myers.
Tuel noted that despite running the same plays repeatedly during team session, the offense still had a productive day.
“We came out here and ran three plays and went up and down the field and scored quite a few times and did really well,” Tuel said. “We can make it as simple or as hard as we want, just depending on how the guys respond and how we come out to play. I feel like we’re maturing as a football team and understanding how to come out and play our best.”