LEWISTON – A slight breeze whipped through the Lewiston Orchards Friday afternoon, making day one of Cougar camp at Sacajawea Junior High bearable and maybe even … pleasant?
The thermometer flirted with 100 degrees, but it felt more like a steady 90 as Washington State plugged through drills wearing only shoulder pads during their first day of practice in the Gem State. The Cougars will go through the motions seven more times at Sacajawea before taking Aug. 12 off and returning to Pullman on the 13th.
Here are five observations from Friday’s session:
Pippins gets the best of Taylor … or does he?
Oddly, the Cougars have gone three days of fall camp without a brawl – or really anything resembling a brawl. One drill at the end of practice did cause some contention between offensive and defensive counterparts, though.
During “make or miss” – a drill that pits one offensive player against one defensive player, the goal being for the offensive player to power through the defensive obstacle, or juke him out of his shoes – senior corner Marcellus Pippins went head-to-head with freshman receiver Davontavean “Tay” Martin.
After the whistle sounded, Martin lunged powerfully at Pippins, knocking him back, but Pippins poked the ball loose just as Martin was crossing the “goal line.” Or did that happen after he crossed?
“I believe that he did score on the first one,” outside receivers coach Derek Sage said. “If you go back and watch the tape, I believe the ball crossed the plane without him extending the football and then the ball came out. So it’s all up to Pac-12 footballs that are in the box.”
Coaches let the players take their bout to a second round, which was won definitively by Pippins, who stuffed Martin into the grass at the point of contact.
“I’d have to say Pippins (won),” WSU coach Mike Leach said before immediately retracting that verdict. “The first one, Tay might have scored before the ball was stripped, so it might actually be 1-1.”
Defensive backs make mark
Pippins’ (alleged) victory was one of many for the Cougar secondary on day three.
The group came up with a handful of takeaways – many of which came when WSU backup Tyler Hilinski was behind center, but a few were with the Cougs’ top gun, Falk, on the field.
Kirkland Parker made a sweeping interception of Hilinski over the middle of the field and Isaiah Love later bit on an underthrown ball from Falk to come up with a clean pick near the edge of the field. Grant Porter did the same on the other end, stepping in front of Hilinski’s pass attempt to swipe it out of the air.
All of those plays came after a skeleton period that saw the Cougar receivers mostly put the DBs in a blender. Alex Grinch brought the defense into a huddle and challenged them to play with better speed. They responded, all right.
“It’s all about playing the next play,” Pippins said. “Receivers are going to make plays and we’re going to make plays. They throw the ball most of the time so they’re going to make plays, it’s just up to us to respond back.”
Young wideouts light it up
On Thursday, a Twitter follower asked me to assess the play of freshman receiver Jamire Calvin. Calvin had been solid, but not extraordinary through the first two days. That apparently changed when the Cougars traded artificial turf for natural grass on Friday.
Calvin’s best asset is his speed and the Pasadena, California, native reeled in pass after pass while going head-to-head with, and generally blazing past, a few of WSU’s top defenders.
“Very quick, good stop and start,” Leach said of Calvin, who could play either inside or outside for the Cougars, but remains inside for now. “Can stop suddenly and start suddenly. Very elusive. The other thing, pretty knowledgeable and kind of a real hungry to be coached kind of guy.”
Martin also impressed throughout and had a leaping one-handed grab for a touchdown during skeleton.
“He’s playing real hard and real intense,” Leach said of Martin. “And he’s not one of those guys that’s afraid to go out there and show what he can do.”
Jones booted from team
WSU defensive back D’Jimon Jones is no longer with the team after a violation of team rules, Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times reported.
Jones had a chance to crack the Cougars’ two-deep at nickelback this fall, but was kicked off the team before the start of fall camp. It’s not clear what rules Jones violated.
On June 1, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that the former Federal Way High QB appeared in Whitman County District Court “to answer misdemeanor vandalism charges stemming from a March 4 incident on campus.”
According to the newspaper, Jones was caught on cell phone video allegedly urinating in an elevator and damaging a paper towel dispenser. Jones was not arrested, per the Daily News, and it’s unclear if that incident is at all related to Jones’ dismissal from the WSU program.
Bledsoe swings by
Former WSU and New England Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe popped in to watch the Cougars and his son, walk-on quarterback John Bledsoe.
Bledsoe spent part of the practice talking shop with current WSU quarterback Luke Falk, who eclipsed Bledsoe in career passing yards last season, then met with Leach after the head coach finished interviews.
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