Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Highlights and observations from WSU practice

Washington State's star wide receiver, Gabe Marks, fully participated in the Cougars practice on Thursday for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury during practice on Aug. 8.

Marks had partially participated in previous practices, but taken off his pads once the Cougars completed warm-ups

"It's good to be practicing," Marks said. "It's good to be practicing and getting back out there."

Marks had the first catch during the team's seven-on-seven period, going up between two defenders to complete the reception for a gain of about 15 yards. He also took reps as a punt returner during special teams drills.

While Marks, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist last season, is undoubtedly the team's best receiver, he is going to have to earn his reps back. Isaiah Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 216-pound problem for defenses, is emerging as perhaps the team's second-best pass-catcher.

On the first play of team period, a lite version of a scrimmage, Johnson took a screen pass and went 30-yards downfield, thanks in part to some excellent downfield blocking from center Riley Sorenson. It was the same play Marks turned into a 43-yard score last year at Arizona.

"I want to earn my spot, you know," Marks said. "I don't like getting stuff just because. I want to work for it. I haven't been able to really be working for it, so it's good come back out here and just try to help the team."

Here are some other observations from WSU's practice:

-- The whole thing only lasted about an hour and a half. The Cougars are starting to get on their normal schedule, so consider this a normal practice without the Thursday Night Football underclassmen scrimmage.

-- The Pac-12 Networks in in town filming Pac-12 Football Training Camp, so make sure to check that out if you're a subscriber.

-- Tyler Hilinski connected with Gerard Wick on a deep throw for a 37-yard touchdown, one of the longest passes I've seen Wicks catch while under duress from a defender.

-- I can't say enough about the camp Jamal Morrow is having, and it might turn out that he becomes the primary running back of the three. Lately, when Falk gets to the red zone during team period he starts to turn to the run, and he's constantly had success with Morrow (Wicks has also had a couple scores in there). Today Morrow ran one in from 12 yards out, and he continues to be a force in both the running and passing games.

-- Saw a lot of special teams work early in practice. My thought is that the Cougars need to dramatically cut down their operation time or their may be some blocked punts. Of course, if the punts don't start going farther and taking longer to fall, perhaps Mike Leach just won't ever punt.

-- Jalen Thompson and Hercules Mata'afa both had productive days. Mata'afa collected a couple sacks, while Thompson made yet another jarring hit to keep an offensive player out of the end zone during team period. He's got a knack for protecting that goal line, I tell ya.

-- Robert Barber had a dominant day during one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive line. True freshman offensive lineman Frederick Mauigoa had a good rep, recovering after initially being blown backward by Ngalu Tapa and stopping the defender's progress.

SportsLink is your portal into sports news around the Inland Northwest and beyond. You'll find updates, notes and opinions, and plenty of reader feedback.

Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.