Sun., Aug. 7, 2016
Highlights and observations from WSU’s second day of camp
Washington State held its second practice of the preseason camp in Lewiston, Idaho on Sunday. There was some rain and thunder early in the day, but the same came out by early afternoon. Here are a few things I noticed during practice:
-- So Tyler Hilinski has a pretty big job this year. The redshirt freshman gets to back up starting quarterback Luke Falk, and if things were to play out exactly like they did last season at that position, they would include needing to throw a crucial touchdown pass in a critical road win, closing out the second half of a win and starting a big game on the road.
Ideally, Hilinski can get a few quarters of game action during WSU's nonconference games, and have some experience by Pac-12 play. We won't know how good he is for sure until he throws against real competition, but he had one of his best practices I've seen on Sunday, and gave some indications he'll be up to the test.
From a purely throwing-pretty-passes-with-lots-of-arc-that-land-gently-in-the-receivers'-breadbaskets standpoint, Hilinski looked as good as I've seen him. He threw a few bombs during the skeleton drill, including a deep strike to Gabe Marks that any geometry teacher could have used as an example of a perfect parabola. He also threw a bomb to Tavares Martin that must have gone about 40 yards.
Interceptions were an issue for Hilinski in the spring, and he threw a couple during Saturday's practice. But he took care of the ball on Sunday, and during the team period he put together a nice drive that ended with touchdown passes to Kaleb Fossum, Isaiah Johnson, River Cracraft and Keith Harrington, with the offense moving five yards closer to the end zone after each play.
-- The Cougars are doing a lot of shifting on the lines. The offensive line is building depth by having the backups try different positions, and it's been interesting to watch guys like Cedric Bigge-Duren try out multiple positions. Speaking of which, Cody O'Connell spent some time at left tackle when running with the twos today. He struggled a bit with Rush linebackers, but he's not a bad athlete. That was apparent when he played left guard while running with the ones, and was consistently getting down field to run interference for running backs.
-- River Cracraft had a good day catching the ball, and made the catch of the day during the one-on-one period, going to the ground to make a one-handed catch while fighting off Kirkland Parker with his other hand.
-- While Hilinski put the offense in good position, the defense actually won the team period thanks to some timely sacks of Luke Falk once the offense was in the red zone.
-- Deion Singleton, who at 6-foot-2 has a little size himself, seemed to figure out tall receiver C.J. Dimry, who had a dominant practice on Saturday. Rather than trying to outleap Dimry or even beat him to the ball, Singleton attacked the ball once it hit Dimry's hands, punching the ball out before the receiver could secure it. He did this a few times during the one-on-one drill.
-- Leach listed the team's three hardest workers a few days ago, a list that included Gabe Marks, Parker Henry and Darrien Molton. Marks and Molton matched up all day on Sunday, and it was a fun battle to watch. Molton broke up a pass on the last play of the team period that was intended for Marks, who loudly insisted he was interfered with. Marks was probably right, to be honest.