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Scout work begins for Washington State two weeks ahead of season opener

Washington State running back James Williams carries the ball during practice Aug. 2 in Martin Stadium. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Jeff Choate and Montana State won’t be strolling into Martin Stadium for another 18 days, but Washington State got their first glimpse of the Bobcats on Tuesday afternoon in Pullman.

Which is to say, they installed the sets and schemes they expect to see from Choate’s team when the Cougars and MSU meet in the season opener on Sept. 2.

The Bobcats run a spread option-heavy offense spearheaded by Big Sky Freshman of the Year Chris Murray, so on Tuesday at Martin Stadium, WSU quarterbacks Connor Neville and John Bledsoe both imitated the MSU sophomore as part of the offensive scout team. On the other end of the field, the defensive scouts worked to get Luke Falk and the offensive starters ready for the Bobcats.

It was clunky, which means it was on par with what coaches expect from the first day of scout-team installation.

“That’s always sloppy the first time around,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “Getting the scout lined up so he knows his role. And offense playing hard. Offense or defense, either one. And I thought both offense and defense struggled with that, whether it was our scouts or their scouts. So we’ve got work to do.”

WSU practices at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 2:30 on Thursday and 3:30 on Friday. The Cougars will scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. All practices are still open to the public.

Below are some notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice:

  • Defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo didn’t participate in team or scout periods, but the sophomore did partake in offensive line against defensive line drills for the first time in over a week and appears to be on the mend.
  • Rush linebacker Dylan Hanser, who’s also been limited as of late, made a return to practice in full. Chima Onyeukwu and Frankie Luvu had been splitting reps with the first team, so with Hanser back, the Cougars have three capable starters at the position.
  • The second-team offensive line configuration looked like this Tuesday afternoon: Abraham Lucas (left tackle), Liam Ryan (left guard), Noah Osur-Myers (center), Alec Kuzmack (right guard) and Josh Watson (right tackle). The shuffling within that group continues, but right guard Robert Valencia should be the next man in should one of the five starters go down.
  • During the scout period, it was Hunter Dale – not Kirkland Parker – working with the first team. The position battle at nickel still seems far from settled.
  • Running back Gerard Wicks was limited for the second consecutive practice. The last full-contact practice Wicks participated in was Friday’s scrimmage under the Martin Stadium lights. He rushed six times for 46 yards in the mock game.
  • Tuesday’s top highlight came during the team period on an outside run from Keith Harrington. The tailback cut inside, then outside to catch Onyeukwu on his heels and blow right by the linebacker. A chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” came from the offensive sideline, but linebacker Dillon Sherman cracked Harrington as he barreled toward the sideline, giving the defense reason to howl.
  • Luvu busted through the offensive line for a sack on Hilinski during the team period. Earlier, during O-line/D-line drills, Luvu issued a special challenge to left tackle Andre Dillard. Dillard shielded the linebacker during their first duel, but Luvu sped around the 306-pound lineman on try No. 2 to “sack” John Bledsoe.
  • There were two interceptions in a three-play span during the team period. Senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins jumped Luke Falk’s pass attempt to Isaiah Johnson-Mack for a takeaway. Two snaps later, Onyeukwu showed good instincts to diagnose Falk’s shovel to James Williams, stepping in front to grab the ball before it could reach the tailback.