Washington State had its first practice following a scrimmage on Tuesday, and the depth chart looked a little different.
Perhaps the Cougars coaches liked what they saw from certain players during the scrimmage, or maybe they didn't like what they saw from others. Maybe it was always the plan to shake things up at this time – today was the ninth of 15 spring practices, including the Crimson and Gray game.
Whatever the cause, there were some shake-ups in the two-deeps today. Here is what I noticed:
- Nnamdi Oguayo ran with the ones at rush linebacker, while Dylan Hanser played with the backups.
- Nate DeRider backed up Frankie Luvu at weakside linebacker.
- Nick Begg, the tight end convert who had a pair of sacks in the scrimmage, ran with the twos at defensive end.
-Andre Dillard practiced with the starters at left tackle, and with the twos at right tackle. That second unit also featured Cedric Bigge-Duren sliding in to play left guard, with starting left guard Cody O'Connell playing left tackle.
The offense played well for the most part during the skeleton drill, a highlight being Kyle Sweet tracking a deep ball and adjusting with defenders in the area to haul in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Luke Falk. The highlight for the defense was Aaron Porter's interception of Peyton Bender's pass. Although the offense won the drill on points, it was also the unit doing up-downs afterward.
-- It has been said before but it bears repeating, the team does seem to have way more energy this spring. I think it's due in part to the new coaches, who are pretty spirited throughout practice.
-- Kaleb Fossum, Tavares Martin and James Williams were the starting kick returners during the kickoff drill today.
-- The team period played out like much of the season did today, with Luke Falk leading a great final drive after the offense dug itself into a hole early. Tyler Hilinski was under constant pressure during his time leading the offense, giving up sacks to Ngalu Tapa (two of them), Hanser (two more) and one to Logan Tago. Hilinksi also had a pass that was nearly intercepted but dropped by Jalen Thompson, and he was picked off by DeRider who read the quarterback's eyes as he locked onto a receiver going over the middle. Hilinski did throw a touchdown pass to River Cracraft, who turned an intermediate pass into a 35-yard score with some nice open-field moves. Jamal Morrow and John Thompson took handoffs into the end zone.
The defense was well ahead on points when Falk took over, but the quarterback got the offense close with a series of explosive passing plays. He hit Gabe Marks for about 25 yards, Isaiah Johnson for a similar gain, and then John Thompson for 10. Begg got a hand on Falk shortly after, a sack I would credit to the secondary for locking up the receivers for five or more seconds. The running backs did work once the offense got close to the end zone – Morrow scored from 12-yards out and Wicks scored from seven on the next play. Falk also threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis, but the defense was still ahead 30-29.
The offense got one final opportunity, but Parker Henry broke up a pass in the end zone to seal the win for the defense.