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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


WSU practice notes: Quarterbacks on point, Ngalu Tapa a problem

Peyton Bender and Luke Falk were able to pass in stifling heat on Tuesday. But the whole offense had to deal with Ngalu Tapa.

The 314-pound redshirt-freshman nose tackle was a dominant force on the fourth day of Washington State's preseason camp. Granted, as WSU coach Mike Leach would surely point out, the Cougars are only in shells and it's easier for defensive linemen to get penetration when the players aren't wearing all their pads.

But it was still impressive to see Tapa blow up a swing pass to speedy receiver Keith Harrington during team period, sprinting from his position in the middle of the defensive line to the sideline in just a couple heartbeats.

Tapa also performed well during early run-game drills. He has mostly seen time with the second unit so far in camp and conditioning may still be a factor. But when he's on the field, he's a large problem for opposing offenses.

Other notes from camp:

-- The temperature soared into triple-digits today but the Cougars seemed to handle it well. There are four or five nutrition interns running around with electrolyte-packed water bottles to make sure everyone stays hydrated. You can read more on them and WSU's hydration program in tomorrow's paper...

-- The same players were and weren't at practice today. Sulaiman Hameed, Matt Abramo, Amosa Sakaria and T.J. Fehoko were limited. There was one returnee on Tuesday, however, in sports information director Bobby Alworth, who missed the first three days of camp while attending some major family event or something.

-- Erik Powell looked sharp again while kicking field goals, nailing a 44-yarder with plenty of room to spare.

-- It looks like the defensive coaches are trying out Isaac Dotson at nickel. While they expect the nickelback to cover slot receivers, it appears the coaches prefer a bigger, almost linebacker-sized player at the position.

-- Darrien Molten was thrown in with the ones at cornerback at times today and the results were a mixed bag, which is normal for a freshman. He's a good athlete but is still getting used to the speed of the college game. On one play in particular during the skeleton drill, Molten had a chance to break up a pass but appeared to pull up as to avoid nailing the receiver. The coaches corrected his priorities.

-- Luke Falk was sharp during skeleton, completing 12 of his first 13 passes. The lone incompletion came because of a pass breakup by Parker Kirkland and Falk followed that play with a deep touchdown completion to Robert Lewis.

Peyton Bender wasn't as sharp as Falk during his skeleton session, although he did throw a few really nice passes.

-- One of Bender's passes was broken up by inside linebacker Aaron Porter, who saw time with the twos today. Porter is a junior college transfer whose career started at UCLA and he figures to play this season.

-- The Cougars did some punt drills and it appears that Keith Harrington and Gabe Marks are the favorites to start as return men.

-- Bender's first play of team period was something to watch. The quarterback scrambled around to the left, then went back to his right and found freshman receiver Kyle Sweet in the middle of the field. Sweet changed the defenders' angles with a quick cut to the outside and appeared to beat them to the sideline. I don't know if he would have scored in a game situation, but it's  possible. Bender threw two more touchdown passes, both to Tyler Baker. The first likely would not have counted because an offensive lineman jumped offside, but the second was a beautiful ball thrown to the right pylon that drew a lot of praise from receivers coach and former QB Graham Harrell.

-- Falk leaned on the running game during his time behind center, a quality that drew praise from Mike Leach after practice. Leach said that he expects Bender will check into more run plays as he becomes more experienced.

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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