Washington State's depth is starting to catch up to the starters. Or maybe the backups just had a good day. Either way, Wednesday's WSU football practice saw some big plays from players you don't normally hear about.
Our practice report is after the jump.
The Cougars have a lot of good wide receivers. Heck, Isiah Myers leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards and three other players average 80-plus receiving yards a game. With productive second-stringers like Calvin Green and Robert Lewis, it's unlikely that anyone will question the fact that 5-foot-10, 157-pound freshman Zaire Andre seems destined for a redshirt year on the scout team.
Maybe they should?
Scout quarterback Connor Ennis found Andre behind the defense for a pair of 40-yard touchdowns against the defensive regulars, and Gabe Marks hit him for another on a deep pass that was contested by Charleston White.
None of Andre's catches were uncontested, and he showed a good ability to track the ball in the air and adjust his speed accordingly.
Marks also had a 40-yard receiving touchdown of his own on a pretty, 40-yard pass from Peyton Bender.
Bender, another freshman who currently appears to be redshirting, had another 40-yard touchdown pass completed to Barry Ware, a freshman who arrived on campus just last week.
On the defensive side of the ball David Bucannon, this guy's little brother, had a nice interception off backup quarterback Luke Falk. The quarterback tried to hit a receiver on an intermediate route – it looked like a curl from where I stood – but Bucannon sprinted up from about 10 yards back and stepped in front of the receiver just as the ball arrived.
Jeremiah Allison will play extensively against Oregon, but he's a backup, and he had a really good day of practice. He's moved over to Will linebacker with Chester Su'a limited and it's a good place for him to use his speed both in blitzes and chasing plays from the backside. He had a couple tackles for loss on Wednesday and sacked Ennis.
Ivan McClennan had a sack on Bender that led to an interception for defensive lineman Lyman Faoliu.
Still, the regular starters had their moments as well, and nobody had a better day from my vantage point than Connor Halliday. The Cougars' starting quarterback had a lot of zip on his passes today, even the ones deep downfield. He threw a 35-yard strike to Drew Loftus that barely seemed to make any arc and zipped another pass through a tight window 20 yards to Myers for a touchdown.
The Cougars also spent a fair amount of time working on kickoff coverage. They devote a lot of practice time to coverage units in general, and coach Mike Leach acknowledged after practice that they likely spend more time practicing special teams than most teams.
"We put top guys on there and we have done some good things there," Leach said. "… I think it's true that you should put your best players on whatever unit you have no matter what it is. I don't know that everybody shares that on special teams. We do, but if a guy can't start on offense or defense, then why could he start on special teams?"