One third of the way through spring practice, Washington State University players and their coach, Mike Leach, are saying all the expected things about focusing on the now, honoring a process and trying to improve every day.
But somebody is going to have to emerge and become the next Gabe Marks or River Cracraft, and after a brisk two-hour workout Saturday in blustery overcast weather that felt like football season, Leach was complimentary about the ongoing effort to replace last year’s star receivers. He noted Kyrin Priester and Dezmon Patmon have had moments this spring, and the receiver corps in general has taken advantage of experience to look pleasingly polished at times.
“I’m not disappointed, “ Leach said. He approved the purposeful tempo of practice. “Gauge it from that.”
No statistics were kept, but the Cougars did work live as a team in the final practice period Saturday.
Quarterback Luke Falk, who is going to have to throw to these people for real next fall, said after the workout “for the sixth day, we’re doing some really good things.” In terms of replicating the confidence he had in last year’s receivers and the imposing passing game that produced, Falk said in the team and skeleton periods Saturday “we’re seeing sparks of it. We haven’t put it together completely.”
Priester accounted for one of those flashes with a sliding catch in the end zone on a ball thrown by sophomore Tyler Hilinski that sent celebratory “whoops” from teammates echoing through empty Martin Stadium. No one is burdened by a belief that he has to become the man, according to Priester. “We’re all just learning from each other, working with each other every day.”
Hilinski helped burnish a few resumes Saturday. In addition to the score to Priester, he also sprinted out under pressure and threw a touchdown to Kyle Sweet and another to Renard Bell.
“Tyler really got hot in the team period,” said Leach.
Sean Harper is seeing all this from the other side of the ball. The junior from Hartwell, Ga. signed with WSU out of high school but detoured through junior college to improve his grades.
In his initial experience as a Coug, he is also making a switch from cornerback to safety. He looked quick and smooth in drills but did get left behind in coverage on several plays.
“I’m just learning, getting my techniques right,” he said. But he already knows what spring ball is about. “We try to push the threshold,” Falk said.
Leach said of his players “we’re trying to equip them with as many tools as possible so they continue to improve over the summer.”
For a guy like Harper, this means “just get better. Every day, come to work. Come ready. Just come play.”
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