FROM PULLMAN -- If you polled observers of Washington State's training camp and asked who has impressed the most on the offensive side of the ball thus far, the answer would probably be the same across the board. And Gabe Marks continued his tear on Friday. Read on.
It's getting easier and easier to believe that Gabe Marks could start at outside receiver opposite Marquess Wilson on Aug. 30 in Provo. The freshman has looked that good in drills, 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and team session. Coaches have said they're impressed with how polished his skills are, and Marks has shown the kind of consistency you'd expect from an older player. His ball skills have been outstanding, especially under tight coverage. It's to the point where you expect him to catch everything thrown his way, because he almost always does.
On Friday, Marks caught long passes over potential starting cornerbacks Damante Horton and Daniel Simmons, as well as a long pass in the end zone over freshman Ray Ford, despite the fact that Ford had position on him.
"He’s played really well, he just needs to keep improving," coach Mike Leach said after Friday's practice. "Came here, played pretty well, actually has had more work than a lot of guys and hasn’t really fatigued much so he came in good shape, and he had real precise receiver skills and just on a skill level ahead of some of the guys we have."
... Leach had some choice words for his offense on Thursday, but it appeared to respond pretty well today. Jeff Tuel was sharp leading the first-team offense, and finished practice by throwing three consecutive touchdown passes from inside the 5-yard line. Last time the Cougars performed that drill, the defense won two of three times. This time, Tuel found Gino Simone in the back of the end zone, then rolled right and threw back to the front left corner of the end zone for a touchdown pass to Bennett Bontemps, and ended practice by finding Isiah Myers on a slant over the middle against Tracy Clark. The defense was the one doing the up-downs this time.
Tuel said Leach's tirade yesterday was necessary.
"It was all good criticism," Tuel said. "We were flat as an offense and we needed a little kick in the butt, honestly. You hate him when you have to do the 50 up downs or 30 up downs or whatever it is, but you go back and look at the film and when he gets on us and rips into us, it’s what we need. I understand the method to his madness, really."
... There's still quite a bit of mixing and matching personnel during team session, though the starting units look about the same with the exception of some injuries. With Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper looking on from the sidelines, Ioane Gauta and Steven Hoffart played with Matthew Bock on the first-team defensive line. ... To give an example of how fluid things are at times, there was one play in which the "starting" defensive line played with Jeremiah Allison, Khalil Pettway, Corey Laufasa and Travis Long at linebacker, Nolan Washington and Tracy Clark at the corners, and Deone Bucannon and Anthony Carpenter at safety. ... There was again some chippiness throughout, with a small skirmish breaking out on the far side of the east practice field involving Gunnar Eklund, Adam Coerper and a handful of others, though it was difficult to tell from that far away. ... Jeff Tuel and Logan Mayes got into it a bit during team session, but again, nothing major.
... OL Taylor Meighen appeared to be hobbling a bit after practice, and spent team session riding an exercise bike. Others who were limited: DT Toni Pole, TE Andrei Lintz, LB Darren Markle (who wore a walking boot), WR Kristoff Williams (who wore a different jersey number while working out on the side the entire practice without pads), RB Teondray Caldwell, OL Niu Sale, WR Dominique Williams (who still wears a soft cast on his left hand) and DL Xavier Cooper, who wore a walking boot. OL Rico Forbes came out to watch the final part of practice, still on crutches with a large cast on his right leg. ... Wenatchee OL Cody O'Connell, who is committed to WSU, attended practice.
... As for Saturday's scrimmage, Leach said the No. 1 offense and defense will face each other for about 30 plays, followed by the No. 2 units doing the same, followed by 10 or so plays for the No. 3 units.
All for now.