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Cougar learn simplicity of passing game

PULLMAN – Before the Air Raid revolution at Washington State, it would have been a sin for a receiver to miss any part of the quarterback’s play-call in the huddle.

“Last year, there was a lot more wording in the plays and whatnot,” said sophomore receiver Kristoff Williams. “They would have a line call. The signals were a lot longer.”

And now?

“One signal signals the whole play,” Williams said, smiling. “It’s one, simple thing.”

That, of course, is one facet of new coach Mike Leach’s offense. He doesn’t like to overcomplicate things, and that’s obvious when you consider the fact that he expects to have the basics of his entire offense installed by the end of WSU’s fourth practice of the spring. More or less, anyway.

“All is a relative term,” Leach said. “As long as you go, you’re still working on improving, (but) the basics of the scheme, we’ll have it all in.”

The Cougars conducted their second practice on Saturday, Leach saying afterward that he’s introduced about two-thirds of the offense so far. He said he was pleased with the way the players are responding, saying he saw plenty of retention and very little hesitation.

WSU’s defense seemed to have the better day – safety Tyree Toomer and linebacker Chester Su-a each had interceptions during team session – but receivers Williams, Marquess Wilson and walk-on Drew Loftus also impressed with tough catches while being tightly covered.

Each of those players is 6-foot-2 or taller, as is Dominique Williams, a redshirt freshman who made some nice grabs on Thursday. And Leach says he has an appreciation for the way his “big-bodied” receivers are able to use their bodies to come down with the football.

“If you can do it big, do it big,” Leach said. “But as you run and do agilities, weight tends to come off. It’s ‘as big and as fast,’ but fast is the first priority.”

That’s something senior receiver Gino Simone worked on during the offseason after catching just four passes in 2011. He said he weighed as much as 198 pounds last year, admitting “that took a step from me” and that his goal was to get lighter and quicker before spring practices started.

Now, at 185 pounds, he can feel the difference.

“This new staff has put a huge emphasis on being fast,” Simone said. “Coach (Jason) Loscalzo, since he’s been here, has made a huge difference. If you just come out here and watch, the speed of this team is way different.”

It has to be, considering the number of routes this group runs per practice.

“It definitely was a lot more running than I experienced last year,” Williams said. “Today was a lot better once you get things going. The first day is always the worst.

“You definitely are tired at times. There’s times when you don’t have the energy, but you’ve always got to run full speed because whether you’re getting the ball or not, the offense is based on spacing so you’ve got to be in your spot in order for everything to flow right.”


Redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday didn’t practice Saturday after taking an accidental hit to the side on Thursday. He still spent most of the practice on the field, wearing his jersey and a pair of sweats, and made a couple of throws. “He’s here and he’s doing what we want him to do. Like all the Washington State Cougars, he’s as healthy as can be and we couldn’t be happier,” said Leach, who does not discuss injuries. … Other Cougars players who were limited included cornerback Nolan Washington, cornerback Spencer Waseem, wide receiver Rahmel Dockery, cornerback Travion Smith, offensive lineman Joe Dahl, defensive end Hamza Griffin and defensive tackle David Davis. … Walk-on quarterback Jesse Brown wasn’t at practice. Leach said afterward Brown was tending to personal matters. … Offensive lineman Jake Rodgers limped off the field after another player rolled into his knees. … Tight end Gordy Anderson, safety Jack Wilson and safety Jordan Simone are no longer on the team. The departures of Anderson and Wilson are health-related.