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Observations and notes from day 10 of Washington State camp: Max Borghi, Calvin Jackson Jr. provide offensive fireworks

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 14, 2018, 8:59 p.m.

Washington State Cougars running back Max Borghi (21) runs the ball during a spring practice on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars running back Max Borghi (21) runs the ball during a spring practice on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

After a scrimmaging Friday, resting Saturday, practicing Sunday and catching their breath again Monday, the Washington State Cougars returned to the field Tuesday for an afternoon practice at Martin Stadium/Rogers Field. We’re back with notes, observations and a quarterback evaluation from the 10th day of Cougars camp.

Notes and observations

– Gardner Minshew, a recent addition to the watch list for the Johnnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, got the lion’s share of quarterback reps on Tuesday. He and Anthony Gordon split time during the one-on-one period, but Minshew got slightly more work during the skeleton passing period and was given two series during 11-on-11, while Gordon had just one. More on the QBs in the segment below.

– Rangy sophomore Will Rodgers III has seen time at four defensive positions this fall – defensive tackle, nose tackle, defensive end and Rush linebacker – but as of late he’s worked primarily with the first team defense at defensive end and joined nose tackle Taylor Comfort and D-tackle Nick Begg with the ones again Tuesday. That spot seems to suit Rodgers III well. At 6-5, he covers plenty of ground and has shown strong burst and explosiveness while coming around the edge.

– Redshirt freshman Willie Taylor III has slingshotted himself to the first team defense at Rush linebacker – a position that was brand new to him when he arrived on campus last year. Taylor III says he used the offseason to improve his “speed rush” and it’s certainly shown this preseason camp.

– Much of the fanbase has already seen the video of Tay Martin’s jaw-dropping catch from Sunday’s practice on the official WSU Twitter account. Martin was streaking down the left sideline, with Armani Marsh covering tightly, when he wrapped his arms around the cornerback to grasp an underthrown ball that would’ve otherwise deflected off Marsh’s back. Martin then pulls the ball into his body and runs out of bounds before spiking the football into the turf. The sophomore from Louisiana ranked the catch after Tuesday’s session. “One, right up there,” Martin said. “It was a great catch. I mean I just went out there, routine play, tried to make the best out of it. It turned out great.”

– When WSU lines up to return kicks this season, expect Travell Harris and Keith Harrington to be the guys back deep for the Cougars. Harris, it appears, will be the kick returner while Harrington acts as his lead blocker. Max Borghi and James Williams have also spent time practicing kick return. Expect a lot of Harris and Jamire Calvin in the punt return game this season.

– Senior cornerback Darrien Molton was not in attendance for the second straight practice.

– WSU practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 3:30 p.m. before holding its second scrimmage on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Practices are still open to the general public, but will close for good midway through next week.

Highlights

– Before we get to skeleton/11-on-11, during the 1-on-1 period, Marsh, a Gonzaga Prep grad, cut in front a pass from Minshew to come up with a sneaky interception next to the left sideline.

– One of the first plays of “skelly” was Minshew’s 40-yard strike to Calvin Jackson Jr., who burned past his defender and caught the pass in stride before jogging into the end zone. Much more Calvin Jackson Jr. throughout this section…

– Another Spokane native makes the highlights section. East Valley product Rodrick Fisher went high up into the air to make a basket catch over his defender on a ball thrown by Minshew during the skeleton period.

– Jackson Jr. contorted his body in the back of the end zone to hold onto a pass from Minshew during the team period. The ball was thrown high and slightly behind the receiver, and although Jackson’s momentum was pulling him forward, he still managed to stretch back and reel in the pass.

– Minshew made it two touchdowns in two tries, lofting a ball to Kyle Sweet on a fade route that took the inside receiver to the back right corner of the end zone.

– Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jahad Woods turned on the jets to escape around the offensive line and record a touch-sack on Gordon. Two plays later, Sean Harper Jr. got to Gordon on a cornerback blitz.

– Gordon hooked up with his old San Francisco Community College buddy Easop Winston for his lone touchdown during the 11-on-11 period.

– But the redshirt junior’s series ended on a sour note. Justus Rogers, standing maybe 5 yards away, came up with a close-range interception near the goal line and took it 50 yards the other way before a mob of quarterbacks including Cammon Cooper, John Bledsoe and Connor Neville chased him out of bounds.

– Borghi tore through the middle of the field and shed off a few defenders to punch in a 38-yard touchdown during Minshew’s second series.

– And on the next play, Keith Harrington nearly made a house call, dancing through the defense before chugging 30 more yards to the 5-yard line.

– Jackson Jr. tacked on a third play to his highlight reel midway through the series, sticking a screen pass from Minshew and navigating through the defense for what wound up being approximately a 20-yard TD.

– A shovel pass from Minshew to Borghi turned into a 20-yard touchdown – the second of the series for the true freshman running back.

– Minshew dialed up his sixth touchdown on the final play of practice, tossing a perfect ball to Winston, who ran a fade into the back corner of the end zone and hung on as he fell to the turf.

Keeping up with the QBs

Gardner Minshew: The grad transfer’s day began with him learning he was one of 49 quarterbacks selected to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list. It certainly didn’t get any worse after that. Minshew finished his first 11-on-11 series 8-of-10 passing with three touchdowns, to Jackson Jr., Winston and Sweet, then completed 6-of-7 and tossed three more TDs, to Jackson, Borghi and Winston, in his second series. Minshew continues to be the loudest presence on the field when he’s out there. From row three of the bleachers, it was easy to hear him shouting “Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” as he and the offense marched downfield.

Anthony Gordon: The first three plays of Gordon’s 11-on-11 series were an incompletion, a negative James Williams rushing play and a sack from Woods. The redshirt junior got on a bit of a roll after that, completing three consecutive passes – including a TD to Winston – before tossing incomplete twice more and throwing a pick to Rogers. Gordon’s first eight days of camp were every bit as good as Minshew’s, but his 4-of-14 effort in Friday’s scrimmage, followed by Tuesday’s showing, have certainly come at an inopportune time.

Trey Tinsley: Tinsley could neither gain ground or lose it Tuesday. We’ll provide an update on the redshirt junior, assuming he slides back into the skeleton/11-on-11 rotation Wednesday.

Quotable

“He kind of reminds me of a cross between Brett Favre and Jim McMahon, maybe. Something like that.” – Mike Leach on Gardner Minshew’s personality on the football field.

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