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WSU football holds its first practice in pads of the spring

WSU Kyrin Priester (1) runs the ball off a catch during WSU practice on Thursday, Aug 13, 2015, at Sacajawea Middle School in Lewiston, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU Kyrin Priester (1) runs the ball off a catch during WSU practice on Thursday, Aug 13, 2015, at Sacajawea Middle School in Lewiston, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Mike Leach, not a huge fan of change.

For example, the Washington State football coach is not big on rule changes. To his mind, years ago football was defined by a certain set of agreed upon rules that made a certain amount of sense and was a pretty good game. But nearly every offseason the NCAA or NFL tries to change the game by creating new rules.

“We have all these rules committees and they get together and they’re determined to have an impact on things, so just football in general needs less rules,” Leach said Tuesday. “They need to figure out a way to have less rules, rather than more rules. We need to figure out a way to have less.”

One thing Leach can control his practice routines, and oh are they ever routine. To see one WSU spring football practice is to see every WSU football practice. Variation is the enemy of clarity, so the thinking goes, and expertise and mastery can only be attained through repetition.

But of course, every spring the players are different, the coaches are often different and of course the results are different. There is information to be gleaned from WSU’s spring practices, even if the schedule never changes.

So, here are some things I noticed during Tuesday’s practice, the first in which the Cougars were allowed to wear all their pads.

- Marcus Strong was starting at right cornerback opposite Darrien Molton. Strong will be a true sophomore in 2017, having appeared in six games as a freshman last season. The 5-foot-9 cornerback was a regular playmaker during the underclassmen scrimmages, and it’s clear the coaches expect a lot from him this fall.

- Sean Harper and Isaiah Love enrolled early to particpate in spring football, but are actually late arrivals. Harper signed with WSU out of high school but spent two years at a junior college before re-signing with WSU in February. Love delayed his arrival at WSU after signing in 2016 because of a neck injury.

Regardless, both are on campus now and playing well. Harper has been getting looks in the two-deep at the nickel position, and Love is already making plays as a defensive back.

- Before spring practice started, Leach issued a challenge to receiver Dezmon Patmon, saying that the 6-foot-4 sophomore needed to bring more consistent effort. So far, the message appears to have gotten through.

Patmon has been nearly unstoppable in one-on-one drills and the effort seems to be there.

- Two of the positions to watch this spring are along the offensive line. So far, the starting center spot seems to be locked down by Frederick Mauigoa, while right guard might be more interesting. So far B.J. Salmonson is taking the starting reps at right guard, but junior college transfer Robert Valencia looks like he could make a real run at that position. Valencia has size, and his experience playing tackle in the past has given him good footwork, too.

- Kyrin Priester did not look like a player who has spent a year away from football. The wide receiver made a number of plays during seven-on-seven and appears to be in good football shape.

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