FROM PULLMAN -- Thursday means light work for Washington State, and that was the case again this afternoon. Not a whole lot to report on the practice front, though we did speak with linebackers coach Jeff Choate afterward, and have his comments below. Read on.
Practice included typical special teams and scout work, and it appears Wade Jacobson will be WSU's starter at right tackle on Saturday. He went through the whole week at that position and seems to be moving without much trouble. ... On that note, WSU has remained relatively injury free the last couple weeks. Jeff Tuel even practiced without a brace on his right knee for the first time I can remember since he injured the knee against Eastern Washington. Players such as Henry Eaddy and Darren Markle still spend time on the exercise bikes during practice. ... Thursday also means Thursday Night Football for WSU. Today, that session was capped by Alex Jackson, who intercepted Cody Clements and returned the pass about 70 yards or so for a touchdown. Theron West also caught a touchdown pass earlier in the scrimmage.
Here are Choate's comments:
(On Cal's running backs) "Skill positions in general are really, really talented for California. All three of the backs they put out there are capable of taking it the distance. (Brendan) Bigelow had that highlight reel run against Ohio State and when he’s on the field you can expect him to touch the ball. He probably doesn’t get as many plays as (Isi) Sofele and No. 9 (C.J. Anderson), but he’s certainly capable of taking it the distance and they all kind of bring a different style and a different skillset."
(Does Cal look like a better team than its record?) "If you were asking Jeff Tedford that question, I think he’d probably say 'we only played in spurts.' You can see that, you see the potential they have as a team, you see the talent that they have, you see how they played in the hoseshoe against Ohio State and how they executed last week against UCLA, and I’m sure they’re hoping they’ve hit their stride and gotten through some of those bumps and we’re going to have to play really well. In terms of skill talent this is probably as good as we’ve seen outside of Oregon."
(They're that good?) "Absolutely. Oregon State had really good players, but they didn’t have the three backs that these guys have. These guys have Keenan Allen, they have No. 6 (Chris Harper), they have No. 1 (Bryce Treggs), they have a stable of tight ends. They’ve got a lot of good players."
(Are you encouraged by last week's performance?) "Last week doesn’t get you a whole lot. All that is, is in the rearview mirror. This is a what have you done for me lately business, and I’m very much a realist in terms of the fact that we’ve got to be able to execute this week. That’s what we want to be remembered by for the next seven days, really the next 14 days because we’ve got a bye week coming up. We want to leave this thing on the field and make sure we have some momentum coming out of the bye week."
(How have the linebackers progressed at the midway point?) "I think they’ve played well. We meet together as a front seven every day. This isn’t a linebacker meeting, a d-line meeting, it’s every single day we’re in there together trying to make sure we’re on the same page. We come out, we get extra walk-throughs, these kids are committed to being good. I think they’re starting to like one another and having a little bit of fun. We’re trying to develop a little bit of swagger on the front seven, and those are the things we’ve got to do if we’re going to have a chance to compete. We’re not at the point in this program right now where we have the talent to go out and just mail it in against anybody. We’ve got the ability to beat anybody we play and we’ve also got the ability to get beat by anybody we play. It’s just about what we take to the table every day. Linebackers as a whole, shoot, they’ve made strides, but we’ve got half a season to play. We’ll find out. I think Justin (Sagote)'s done a really good job of coming in and bringing energy. Darryl Monroe’s a super, super smart kid. For a young guy he brings a lot of football intelligence, and you’ve got a guy like Cyrus (Coen) who’s probably one of the more athletic guys on the team. We found some ways to get him involved, and the twos behind them are getting almost as many reps as they are. So I think we’re building depth within that group and I think it’s been good for us."
(What was your role in the change in preparation last week?) "I know how you’re supposed to prepare to be a championship team, and I just made sure that they understood what I expect in terms of their preparation, and I think that’s all you can do as a coach is say, ‘this is what it needs to look like.’ And they’re either going to embrace it or they aren’t, and to their credit they decided they were going to embrace it and they were going to take some leadership and some ownership on their own and it needs to be an all the time thing, not a some of the time thing. Hopefully they’ll realize that if they prepare better, they have the opportunity to perform better, and they’ll decide they like playing better."