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Report from WSU’s Saturday practice

I was at Martin Stadium on Saturday morning, and so were the Cougars. Here's what I saw during their second practice of spring.

-- The defense had a good day overall, despite not being able to get too physical because the players have not put pads on yet. Defensive tackle Robert Barber in particular had a good day, chasing down some plays behind the line of scrimmage and tossing running back James Williams a good yard or two in the air on one tackle for loss.

A young defender to watch is safety Jalen Thompson. The early enrollee had a couple interceptions during skeleton drill on Thursday, his first college practice, and moved well again in the secondary today, running with the twos during team period. He'll have plenty of opportunity to contribute early at safety, which is one of the few positions where the Cougars still need bodies. That holds doubly true for the spring, because I have not yet seen Isaac Dotson (who might be moving to linebacker) or Suli Hameed at practice yet. No word on why they're out; maybe they have classes or maybe they're needed on the international space station.

Shalom Luani also had a good day of practice, stepping in front of Kyrin Priester to intercept a ball during the one-on-one drill, and laying some familiar lumber during the other parts of practice. Charleston White intercepted Falk during seven-on-sevens, coming up from his safety position to make a nice play on the ball.

-- Offensively, it was one of those days where Luke Falk seems a little off but then performs really well during the final drive, making it a tough day to judge overall. While he missed his targets early, the running backs picked up the offense with a couple nice runs during team period. Gerard Wicks asserted himself first with a 73-yard touchdown run (Derrien Molton technically touched him about 20 yards from the end zone but I like Wicks' chances to score if it was a game).

A few plays later, right tackle Cole Madison pulled to the left side and sprung James Williams, who made it about 25-yards before he was tripped up, probably to Madison's relief because the big man was five yards in front of the back and gearing up to run his first-ever 50-yard sprint.

-- The Cougars had an extended special teams period during Saturday's practice. I noticed Isaiah Johnson, Kaleb Fosum and River Cracraft returning punts.

-- The whole how-will-four-running-backs-get-enough-reps question may have resolved itself. I have seen Keith Harrington at practice, but I have not seen Keith Harrington practice, if you get my drift.

-- Tyler Hilinksi got the first shot leading the first team offense today (Peyton Bender went Thursday, so expect those two to trade reps) and his drive started off very nicely again the second defensive unit. Even when the starting defense came in, Hilinski continued to throw well, and hit Johnson on a short pass that the freshman receiver turned into a decent gain, fighting his way through traffic.

But White got his second interception, coming up in front of Priester to snag Hilinski's pass. Barber then stopped Tavares Martin on a sweep play, then tossed Williams backwards on a run.

-- Falk's drive started off slow but he played better in the red zone, particularly when he started going back to the Gabe Marks well. His first touchdown came on a bubble screen to Fossum, who juked back outside the defensive back and scored easily. Falk's second touchdown came thanks to a bad decision – he scrambled all the way to his right and threw back into the middle of the end zone. The pass was deflected, but Marks caught it on the rebound for a score. The offense went again and Falk threw a quick hitch to Marks, who scored again. The final play was pushed backward by a false start, and it may have cost the offense a touchdown. Falk hit Marks, who was hit near the end zone. I couldn’t tell if he got in.

-- The Cougars will hold their next practice on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Pick up a copy of the Spokesman-Review tomorrow to see out feature story about how WSU groomed a 240-pound basketball player into its next left tackle.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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