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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


WSU offense explosive, but with miscues

Washington State's offense showed it can score from anywhere on the field on Tuesday. That'll be important if it can't clean up some mistakes.

If it hadn't been for wide receiver drops and false starts by the starting offensive line, it would have been a banner day for the Cougars offense. After practice, Mike Leach said that the drops were more of an individual problem.

But when asked if the false starts were due to the Cougars playing around with some snap counts – as a couple of the offensive linemen suggested – he replied, "No, we're playing with making those guys do up-downs when they jump offside."

All that and more in today's practice report:

-- The Cougars are always 100 percent healthy, but today they were even healthier. Sulaiman Hameed, Frankie Luvu and Robert Barber were all as active as I've seen them, although Barber is still somewhat limited. Still limited today were Brett Bartolone, Alijah Lee, Nick Begg, Nate DeRider, River Cracraft, Philip Schulte and Jeremiah Mitchell. Hameed ran with the twos at safety.

Chandler Leniu also saw a lot of time with the twos at middle linebacker, Dylan Hanser was in there at Rush linebacker and Kingston Fernandez was with the second unit at defensive end.

--Moritz Christ was pulled out of a drill early and made to do up-downs after he jumped offside. The Cougars had a lot of false starts in the scrimmage on Saturday and the coaches appear to be taking more steps to address them, although the issue remains apparently unsolved.

-- I've written before about Barry Ware and how the talented freshman receiver looks like a future contributor but that he needs to tighten up his routes before he's going to see playing time. Well, he ran one of his best routes of the spring during WR vs. DB drills today, a comeback route near the sideline in which he turned on a dime to get the receiver behind him and used his body to maintain leverage the rest of the route, giving himself just enough space to make the catch and step out of bounds. When he starts doing that consistently he'll be hard to keep off the field.

Also, they really aren't kidding about this "Dan Post" thing. Daniel Lilienthal ran two routes during the initial portion of the WR vs. DB drill, both of them posts.

-- David Bucannon looked good in man coverage while breaking up a shallow crossing route.

-- One player that I've been impressed with lately while watching practice is Marcellus Pippins.  In my two-deep projections I had him backing up a junior college transfer next year, but I think I'll change that in my post spring projections. Not only is he playing well, breaking up passes and intercepting two of them in Saturday's scrimmage, but he's emerged as a leader here in his first year of college football.

From where I stand in practice, I'm usually pretty near Pippins and can see/hear his interactions with the team.  Lately, he's been doing a lot of teaching, telling the other cornerbacks – none of them are younger than he is – the intricacies of the defense such as whether or not a coverage calls for the defender to force the receiver inside or outside, what the DB should expect from the receiver, how far to play off the line and things like that.

Based on his play late last season and the leadership role he's taking on in the spring, I expect he'll have a lot of opportunities going forward.

-- Pippins and Gabe Marks were the two return men during the punting drill. However, the drill was primarily aimed at coverage.

-- Now, for the quarterbacks, both of whom suffered because of some receiver drops.

Luke Falk started slowly during 7-on-7, completing a short pass that was credited as a defensive stop, and then another pass to Calvin Green, before throwing an incompletion, having a pass dropped by Gerard Wicks and then overthrowing a pass that was easily intercepted by Isaac Dotson.

He recovered easily enough, completing his final 12 passes and airing it out a bit more than he has recently, throwing touchdowns to Gabe Marks and Tyler Baker.

Quick digression: Baker has consistently played really well this spring with River Cracraft out. While Cracraft is going to be one of the hardest players on the team to unseat, I have to imagine that Baker has carved out a significant role for himself next fall because he's fearless over the middle, has good hands and has been very good in the red zone. Now, back to the quarterbacks.

Bender's first pass of the session was right to linebacker Kyle Newsom, who dropped it. After another incompletion, he completed his final eight passes. However, two of those were considered defensive stops and Bender was a little too eager to make the check-down, it seemed. At one point he missed a receiver that was wide open downfield and instead threw to the flat, which prompted Leach to stop the drill so he could correct him.

Falk came in for some third-down 7-on-7 work, converting on three of seven plays. However, John Thompson dropped one pass that would have been a conversion and dropped or fumbled another. Dotson also broke up a pass in the end zone that Lilienthal got his hands on.

Bender's first pass was another to Newsom, who again couldn't haul in the interception. His next was over the middle to Baker, who made the catch while diving and splitting two defenders.

Bender's first pass of the team period went to Thompson, who had another drop. Bender went back to Thompson on the next play, however, and the receiver reeled it in for a moderate gain. Bender finished 10 of 15 with touchdown passes to D.J. Thompson and Gabe Marks, who pushed off when making his grab. D.J. Thompson also dropped the final pass of Bender's series. During the drive, Keith Harrington ripped off a run of 20 or so yards.

Falk's series was marked by explosive plays. His first pass was a short one to Jamal Morrow, who got to the sideline and went untouched 83 yards for a score. After completing a 15-yard pass to Marks he found John Thompson, who either went 75 yards for a score or about 20 and stepped out of bounds, we never got a consensus and you can't trust Graham Harrell on these matters, because he's always lobbying the scorekeepers on behalf of the offense.

Then, things got sloppy for the offense. Calvin Green dropped a pass and Gunnar Eklund false started and a coupe plays later Falk was sacked. Kyrin Priester and John Thompson each dropped passes and, after Falk hit Baker for a 17-yard touchdown and a pass to Morrow, Darryl Paulo and Destiny Vaeao combined to sack Falk and force a fumble.

Ultimately, Falk finished 11 of 15 and threw a pass that went off John Thompson's hands and was intercepted by Jeremiah Allison in the end zone. The final three passes occurred after Leach called a timeout. The first was a touchdown pass to Dom Williams in the end zone over Pippins. Falk tried the same play on the next pass and Pippins broke up the play, maybe committing a little interference in the process.

Falk found Marks on the opposite side for a touchdown to end practice.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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