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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


The first day in Pullman

As promised, here is a look back at Washington State’s first day of football practice. I’m not going to cover anything in-depth that Glenn Kasses covered either in his story or his blog this morning, both of which are worth following the links to.

But there is so much going on at the first day of practice, redundancy will not be a problem. In fact, winnowing down pages and pages of notes is the bigger problem.

So let’s make it a seven-on-seven drill.

There are five quarterbacks running (if you want to call it that – “It was a hard summer,” starter Alex Brink said of the Cougars’ conditioning. “You lose a little bit in a week, but not enough to make you feel too winded. It’s different, I don’t do a lot, obviously, I work on my drops. Everybody that actually runs, ran just fine.”) around in yellow jerseys, though only four are eligible to play this year.

They are: returning starter Alex Brink, backup Gary Rogers, redshirt freshmen Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan, and Kansas State transfer Kevin Lopina, who must sit this year. (One-day impression: Lopina is the real deal. His mechanics are solid and his arm strong enough.)

Brink is the unquestioned leader, not only of the quarterbacks but of the offense. Rogers, he of the strong arm and 6-foot-7 body, is the No. 2 guy, with the real battle between Morgan and Hall for the third spot.

One drill was interesting. Quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach brought out two huge inflated red balls (sort of like the ones they sell for Pilates, but larger). The quarterbacks and Rosenbach made a large circle, with one in the middle holding a football. That quarterback took the throwing position, his feet moving and his eyes up, as if searching down field for a receiver. The others took turns throwing the ball at the quarterback in the circle. His job was to avoid the ball (the rush), keep his balance and his feet moving, and refocus downfield. This would go on for at least 30 seconds. Funny thing. Hall, the quickest of the quintet, seemed to have the most trouble avoiding the balls.

It’s been at least 24 years since I’ve attended a practice for a big-time college football team (and you Duck fans, no jokes about having that streak still alive). Little has changed – the big, red ball drill notwithstanding – though I was surprised by one thing.

The Cougars aren’t very big.

According to Kasses, that’s not unusual. The emphasis isn’t on the 6-8, 325-pound guy – possibly because there just isn’t that many of those guys out there and available for WSU.
That’s not to say there isn’t some impressive physiques – Mkristo Bruce (a svelte 6-7, 249-pounds, if such a thing is possible) comes to mind – but for sheer bulk, well, the Cougars aren’t going to break any scales.

Which might explain this next note.

Despite the heat, despite the three-hour practice, despite the conditioning, I only saw one guy (he shall remain nameless) have to use a trash can for the time-honored football tradition of … you know, cleansing his digestive system.

The conditioning for the heavies – the quick guys were in the weight room, the two groups will switch spots today – wasn’t of the same genre you might remember from high school.
Instead of gassers or bear crawls or any other end-of-practice conditioning drill that made you want to kill that smug coach with the smirk on his face – you know the guy I’m talking about, every team had one – the Cougs’ drills were a combination of running and agility – with the emphasis on the latter.

“The big guys, that’s a lot of pounding with the wind sprints and it’s hard on their legs,” coach Bill Doba explained. The new drills allow them “to keep their heart pumping for an extra 10, 15 minutes without beating up their legs.”

Even the dry heat was taken into accou

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