Washington State held its first practice of the 2016 season in Lewiston, Idaho on Saturday. Here’s what I noticed.
-- Let’s get right to it and talk about the wide receivers. With the exception of Gabe Marks, the Cougars are pretty young at outside receiver. They’re also very talented, and very, very tall.
For a little perspective, heading into practice I felt that Tavares Martin was pretty set as the starting X receiver. After practice, coach Mike Leach said that Martin had a pretty good practice, and that X might be the most contested position on the team. And I agreed with him! How can both things be true?
First thought from #WSUCougars practice: If the outside receivers formed a D1 basketball team, it would be set at small forward.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) August 7, 2016
Well, a lot has to do with the play of C.J. Dimry, a fifth-year senior who has never played in a game for WSU. If that sounds a little off, let’s back up a bit. Dimry was a junior college transfer last season who was injured on the first day of fall camp and out for the season. He came back in the spring and … injured himself on the first play. He’s already made it through one practice intact, so maybe he’ll stay healthy for his senior season.
If he does, he gives the Cougars a 6-foot-6 weapon who can do a lot more than catch jump balls in the red zone. During the one-on-one period, he went up exclusively against established, starting cornerbacks and I don’t think he lost a battle. He’s a good athlete (I heard something about him jumping onto a 42-inch platform while holding 40-pound dumbbells?) and was able to get behind defensive backs on deep balls. He’s got good hands, made a couple one-handed catches and can basically pluck the ball out of the air about three feet before a defensive back has a shot at it.
Now, the massive caveat is that doing it on the first day of practice when the team isn’t even in pads yet is very different than doing it in games, and we’ve all seen guys who looked like NFL players in camp who didn’t do anything in the spring. But, yeah, there’s some potential there.
Rounding out the basketball team the Cougars are trotting out at outside receiver are Isaiah Johnson(6-foot-3, 216-pounds) and Dezmon Patmon (6-foot-4, 207), a pair of true freshmen who are both likely to play this year. Johnson has made obvious strides since spring ball (he enrolled early) and seems like he moves a lot smoother (again, no pads). Patmon made some nice plays and seems to have made an impression on the coaches already.
-- Some more good news: Isaac Dotson was out there at linebacker and was not limited in any way. Dotson, a redshirt junior, has struggled with a significant number of injuries in his career, and I have to confess I wasn’t sure we’d see him back out there. In this case, and only in this case, I was of course very happy to be wrong.
-- The defensive backs seemed more physical today than I remember them being in the past, to the point where I think there would have been a fair amount of laundry on the field if the zebra herd had been around. Ultimately, though, it looked like a more confident, assertive bunch, especially Treshon Broughton, who was starting alongside Darrien Molton at cornerback. I thought Broughton in particular had a pretty good day, although he too sometimes struggled against the big receivers.
-- Safety Charleston White and defensive end Garrett McBroom were not at practice. They are both expected to be key contributors on defense this fall, but I wouldn't worry about their absences. I expect them to show up in Lewiston next week.
-- Kaleb Fossum, who is confusing everybody by switching his number from 38 to 83, will hold kicks again this year, despite probably taking a bigger role as a wide receiver as well.
-- Kirkland Parker took advantage of an overthrow by Luke Falk and came up with an interception. Then Falk threw a touchdown pass to Martin, who made a great high-point catch. Parker also intercepted Tyler Hilinski, who locked onto a wide receiver.
-- That’s all for today. Check back in tomorrow, and every other day, for more coverage of WSU’s preseason camp in Lewiston.