Washington State held its first Thursday Night Football underclassmen scrimmage this week. Dylan Hanser and the defense did not give the offense much to work with.
To be fair to quarterback Tyler Hilinski, he was put in a difficult position at the outset, since center B.J. Salmonson's snaps routinely whistled past his ankles. Hilinski made a poor shortstop and Hanser took advantage.
On the first play, the snap got behind Hilinski and Hanser raced by to recover the fumble. On the next play, Hilinski field the low snap but bobbled it, and had no choice but to try and gain yards with his legs. Hanser met him before the quarterback could get back to the line of scrimmage. After a merciful rushing play in which running back James Williams picked up about seven yards, Hanser sacked Hilinski on his next drop-back.
The offense moved the ball slowly down the field, with Hilinski rarely throwing more than a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage. His best stretch came shortly after the offense crossed midfield, quickly getting into the red zone with passes to Erik Anderson and Kyle Sweet that went 11 and 10 yards, respectively. Williams chipped in with a 10-yard run.
Although the offense then struggled in the red zone, it was eventually successful when Hilinski found Anderson in the end zone from eight yards. The walk-on made a nice high-point catch under duress to secure the touchdown catch.
Christian Jorgenson, a walk-on QB from Bellingham, brought the offense back down the field. Jorgenson struggled to get into a rhythm and was intercepted by David Bucannon, but Williams kept the offense moving with runs of 24 and five yards.
Before the scrimmage, WSU held a fairly normal practice that had a particular emphasis on special teams. As is typical on Thursdays, the Cougars were serenaded by classics such as French Montana's "Off the rip" and piped-in crowd noise.
As for special teams, we're starting to receive some clarity as to who will do what in the opener against Portland State. Erik Powell seems set to handle kickoffs and field goals, Zach Charme will punt, Kyrin Priester will handle punt return duties and Tavares Martin Jr. appears to be the No. 1 kick returner. That said, I think the Cougars will employ a few different looks during kickoff returns, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Martin Jr. and Priester back there together, too.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch confirmed after practice that he's gravitating toward using a safeties lineup of Shalom Luani and Taylor Taliulu, with Isaac Dotson at nickelback, although he still anticipates Darius Lemora playing frequently. When asked about freshman cornerback Darrien Molton running with the starters in practice, Grinch said that he will not have players run with the first unit to try them out, that it's something they must earn, so it's possible the freshman will start.
Cole Madison had a yellow practice jersey but was a participant and Tyler Baker practiced without a no-contact jersey for the first time in a week or so. C.J. Dimry, Suli Hameed, Logan Tago and Matt Abramo are still limited.
In case you missed our note yesterday, wide receiver Zaire Andre has left the program. While Barry Ware has not been at practice yet in 2015, I'm hearing there is still a chance he returns to the team