Sat., April 4, 2015
WSU quarterbacks spending time under center
Over the course of 1,011 snaps last season the WSU quarterbacks received the ball under center just once. Expect that number to go up drastically next season.
The Cougars have devoted a short portion of each spring practice I've seen to practicing under-center handoffs. The centers, quarterbacks and backs practice primarily dives plays to help the players get used to the new timing and quarterback depths, although they have been expanding to more stuff.
Expect them to add quite a bit, however, as both Mike Leach and running backs coach Jim Mastro said that Washington State's offense could line up in an under-center formation as often as one quarter of the plays next season.
For more on WSU's new look on offense as well as thoughts from the players and coaches, check out my story in tomorrow's paper.
In the meantime, here's what else I saw at practice on Saturday morning …
-- As always, we'll begin with the players of limited participation: Nate DeRider, Brett Bartolone, Andre Dillard, Pat Porter, River Cracraft, Robert Barber, Ngalu Tapa, Reece Alvarado and Frankie Luvu all donned the yellow jerseys on Saturday.
-- A freshman kicker from Burien, Daniel Garcia, got the call today at the start of practice. He looked pretty sharp in warm-ups, but missed his first and closest kick. The 5-foot-7 kicker recovered nicely, though, making his final two.
-- Freshman Deion Singleton is starting to play fast after being away from the game for awhile. If you remember, Singleton was one of the prize recruits a year ago and a Signing Day surprise for the Cougars, but never made it into camp. He's there now, however, and is starting to look the part.
He broke up a pair of passes during the WR vs. DB drill, both of which were hitch routes. Because of his athleticism, Singleton is able to stay close to the receiver, turn when he turns, and get some momentum going the opposite direction. That being said, he's still got some learning to do, as we saw when Robert Lewis turned him around with a quick faint on a short route in the end zone.
-- Isaac Dotson had one of his best days and making his case to lock up the starting free safety spot. When you look at Dotson you imagine a big, lumber-laying safety and, to be fair, his favorite player to emulate is Kam Chancellor. He does use his size well and breaks up passes by running through receivers instead of trying to bat a pass away.
But what he's gotten better at, and what's starting to set him apart, is his ability to cover receivers. Offensive players generally have an advantage in the WR vs. DB drill because they're acting while the defense is reacting, they know where the play is going to go, and they have a lot of space to get open. So it was notable when Dotson broke up consecutive passes and generally did a nice job of sticking to his man.
Backup nickelback Colton Teglovic also had a good day, intercepting a pass.
-- Now for the quarterbacks. Luke Falk was especially sharp during the skeleton drill, completing his first 10 passes and completing 14 of 15. The incompletion was kind of weird in that Falk just threw it low to the middle of the field near nobody, maybe throwing it away of assuming a player was going to be there.
Bender finished 12 of 15 with the interception to Teglovic. He also had the best pass of the period, lofting a throw deep over two defenders and directly into Tyler Baker's breadbasket for a score.
Bender has looked really good at those 25-30 yard throws, maybe even better than Falk. But Falk appears to have a big upper hand in the red zone and goal line situations and threw consecutive touchdowns to Dom Williams and Daniel Lilienthal from about seven yards out today.
Bender went first in the team drill and went 11 of 15. He had a nice pass up the seam to Tyler Baker for about 25 yards and finished the period by finding a diving Baker in the back of the end zone, who made a great catch that drove him painfully into the upright.
Falk's team session began with a sack by Kache Palacio, who seems to have adapted nicely to his new role as a "Rush" linebacker. He found Gabe Marks on the next play and the two seem to have a good thing going, connecting four times during the period. Falk completed all 13 of his passes, scoring when Dom Williams took an intermediate pass, made one move and ran 10-15 yards for the score.
-- I hadn't mentioned this earlier but Nick Begg has been working out as a receiver/tight end. Begg has worked out with that group before and with the offensive line. Leach has said that Begg could even end up on defense, so no matter what, he'll finish his career as the definitive expert on the team's position coaches.