PULLMAN – The Cougars are resting their bodies during the bye week, but only when the coaches are off recruiting.
After playing seven consecutive football games to open the season, Washington State has finally been able to take a few practice days off, a needed respite for a team that had 11 limited players during Thursday’s practice and a handful of others that didn’t appear to be present.
The team has only practiced twice since last Friday’s Stanford game, and will hold one more practice Saturday before resuming its normal schedule in preparation for an Oct. 25 home game against Arizona.
But those two practices have been two of the team’s most physical since the end of fall camp, with the starting units spending more time than usual practicing against one another, some live hitting and a pair of full-contact underclassmen scrimmages.
“It gives our guys a chance to get a sense of competing and a little bit better tempo,” defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said. “But it still comes back to us having that maturity, mindset of executing our jobs at a very high level and high speed and velocity.”
The team has spent much of its time focusing on fundamentals that often get overlooked during the rush to prepare for an upcoming opponent. Rather than work against a scout-team offensive line mimicking some adversary’s offensive scheme, Salave’a’s unit has drilled in striking, shedding blockers and ball pursuit.
What the Cougars’ drill specifically is informed by the ability to self-scout and spend time that is normally reserved for looking at an opponent’s tape by looking back at the first half of the season to see at where the Cougars are weakest.
“Anything from our alignment, assignment, technique and those things,” Salave’a said. “And it’s glaring how much those things weren’t properly executed over the course of these last few games.”
The extra week also allows the Cougars to spend more time looking at players that have not contributed much this season, but may have improved enough since the beginning of the year to warrant a second look.
Jacob Seydel has seen time with the starting unit at left guard this week. While Seydel may not be ready to displace longtime starter Gunnar Eklund, he’s apparently done enough to raise the possibility.
“It’s too hard to tell right now,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “(Seydel has) practiced well and does some good stuff and he’s fresh right now.”
In good standing
Last year’s WSU football graduation rate of 57 percent was a 4 percent increase over the previous year, according to the NCAA’s annual report. According to head coach Mike Leach, the team should see a much bigger jump this year when the graduation figures are released.
“Our graduation rate, which comes out shortly, is going to break the record all-time here,” Leach said after Wednesday’s practice.
To break the record will require a sizable jump for the Cougars. In 2008, the football team graduated 68 percent of its players, the second-highest mark in the Pac-12.