LEWISTON – There are few teams in the country who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to trade their own offensive line for that of Washington State.
The Cougars have a consensus All-American at right guard. That’s Cody O’Connell. They have the nation’s highest-rated offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus. That’s Cole Madison. And the tackle opposite Madison was also recognized by PFF, as a 2016 All-Pac-12 second teamer. That’s Andre Dillard.
Suffice it to say, WSU’s first-stringers are some of the best out there. The backups still leave much to be desired.
On Monday at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston, the second-string offensive line had a difficult go of things during the team period and miscommunications led to frequent breakdowns, giving quarterbacks little time to throw and running backs no room to run.
“I thought our first group was good and I thought our second group was awful,” WSU coach Mike Leach said after day six of camp and day four in Lewiston. “So, we’ll probably make some changes with the second group. Put some other guys up there because we’re not entirely getting what we’d like out of that second group.”
So the backup line that takes the field Tuesday could look entirely different than the one that played on Monday. For now, the second-teamers are: Liam Ryan, Cedric Bigge-Duren, Noah Osur-Myers, Robert Valencia and Josh Watson. And the first-teamers: Dillard, O’Connell, Frederick Mauigoa, B.J. Salmonson and Madison.
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said that the lapses were mental, and actually atypical of his second unit.
“I mean yesterday they came out and had a great day, they executed very well,” he said.
“It’s one of those things, they came out and maybe they thought they were a little better. Whatever it was, it’s probably mental, but today we weren’t very tough. We didn’t execute well in that group, it was pretty disappointing to see.”
Other notes and observations from Monday’s practice…
While we’re still on the subject of the O-line, the Cougars got a visit from former center Riley Sorenson on Sunday. Sorenson learned in June his cancer had returned and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. It goes without saying, but players and coaches were delighted to see him on the field once again: “I’ve been the one trying to draw inspiration from him,” McGuire said. “He’s been the strongest kid I’ve ever been around. Mentally, he’s on a level I wish I’d get to someday. He’s overcome a lot.”
Tavares Martin Jr. hasn’t had a bad day so far, but the junior receiver was particularly strong Monday in 11-on-11. He dusted a corner on a fade route down the right sideline and there wasn’t a soul within 10 yards when he reeled in Tyler Hilinski’s long TD pass. Martin came down with another TD later on, leaping high over a defender to snatch Luke Falk’s throw to the far left corner of the end zone.
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