A daily fall practice update from The Spokesman-Review’s Washington State beat writer, Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR). We set the scene, list the day’s important notes, highlight one big play, pick out an MVP and LVP, track the quarterback race and dissect one talking point from post-practice interviews.
Setting the scene
Where: Rogers Field/Martin Stadium in Pullman
Start/finish: 2 p.m./4:30 p.m.
Temperature: 84 degrees, clear
Attire: Helmets only
- Running back Max Borghi and fullback Clay Markoff mainly divided the first-team carries in the backfield on Friday, while Deon McIntosh, Cole Dubots and Jouvensly Bazil accounted for the rest. McIntosh, a 1,000-yard rusher at East Mississippi Community College last season who played at Notre Dame two years ago, didn’t get much action in the team period, but he showed his juking ability on a crafty spin move between defensive linemen that earned him another 10 yards once he reached the second level.
- Tay Martin and Calvin Jackson Jr. will both figure into the Cougars’ wide receiver rotation this fall. Which “X” receiver starts isn’t too significant, but fans may be surprised to hear Leach say Jackson Jr. “is a little ahead (of Martin)” at the moment. Of course, the competition is a tight one and Leach maintains “he’s going to have to hang on.”
- The Cougars made a surprise addition to the roster in July, bringing ex-USC cornerback Trey Davis to Pullman after the Federal Way (Washington) High product left the Trojans this summer. the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Davis enrolled at USC in January and already has a month of spring workouts under his belt. You can find a separate story about Davis’ arrival here.
- As expected, running back signee Jamir Thomas didn’t report to the first day of fall camp and probably won’t be seen this season. Thomas isn’t on the team’s roster and although it sounds like he’s still working to become academically eligible, a Spokesman-Review source said that probably wouldn’t happen this fall.
- Hornung Award watch list candidate Travell Harris could serve double duty as a kick returner and punt returner for the Cougars this fall. Friday, he and Calvin Jackson Jr. worked in punt return drills, though don’t be surprised if Jamire Calvin also figures into that mix.
- Halid Djibril, a backup nickel for the Cougars last season, was taking cornerback reps Friday. Iowa Western Community College transfer Daniel Isom came to Pullman as a cornerback, but with Jalen Thompson’s departure, he could make a move to safety and it’s the position he played on the first day of preseason camp.
- Friday’s nonparticipants included wide receiver Jamire Calvin, quarterback John Bledsoe and offensive lineman Christian Haangana. Leach said Haangana is working through a few things and is expected to rejoin the team soon.
- Blake Mazza attempted two field goals Friday. Mazza kicked one through the uprights, from 37 yards out, but he missed the other one wide left, from 32 yards out.
- We wish a happy birthday to longtime WSU Sports Information Director Bill Stevens, who turned 54 on Friday. And so should you (@bstevens87).
- The program’s most capped player, linebacker Peyton Pelluer, made an appearance at the end of WSU practice Friday.
- Nickel Skyler Thomas, left tackle Liam Ryan, quarterback Trey Tinsley, linebacker Justus Rogers and coach Mike Leach spoke to the media after practice.
One big play
Calvin Jackson Jr. caught the first of what should be many touchdown passes by an outside receiver this camp. The senior who transferred last season from “Last Chance U” fame at Independence (Kansas) Community College broke past Marcus Strong on a pretty route into the end zone and watched Trey Tinsley’s pass fall right into his hands as he fell backward. More impressive than making the catch was the way in which Jackson Jr. dragged his left toe into the end zone with no more than an inch to spare. In a game, officials would’ve given the play another glance to make sure Jackson’s foot was down, but on the first day of August we can easily give him the benefit of the doubt.
(find the highlight at the 1:57 mark of the video below)
MVP and LVP
Most Valuable: Two outside receivers – rather, two “Z” receivers – captured attention throughout the course of practice No. 1. Dezmon Patmon, not surprisingly, was the first and Brandon Gray, much more surprisingly, was the second. During team period, Patmon caught three passes from Gage Gubrud and would’ve had a fourth if the QB didn’t underthrow him. The redshirt senior looks as imposing as ever and should be a mismatch problem for any number of Pac-12 DBs this fall. Gray, one of Patmon’s understudies, would only sneak into the WR rotation if Patmon or Easop Winston Jr. went down with an injury, but he looks to have made impressive strides since his redshirt season and had a few impressive grabs during the 1-on-1 drills.
Least Valuable: It’s hard to knock a true freshman on his first day of fall practice, but running back Jouvensly Bazil dropped a point-blank pass from Trey Tinsley during the first series of the team period and had a few other blunders throughout the day. It’s easy for a speedster with Bazil’s ability to look, and think, downfield before the catch is made, but more experience in the Air Raid will teach the Floridian to see the ball into his hands before making his next move. Bazil did have a nice run earlier in practice, skirting around the defense for an unofficial 20-yard TD.
Keeping up with the QBs
Only two QBs will take reps at a time this fall, so Friday’s snaps belonged to Tinsley and Gage Gubrud – and in that order during the team period.
Gubrud finished 9 of 12 with one interception and one touchdown pass to Brandon Arconado. Tinsley was 10 of 13 with an interception and two touchdown passes – one to Kassidy Woods and another to Easop Winston. That gives Gubrud completion percentage of 75 and Tinsley one of 77.
Tinsley opened 6 of 6 and it should’ve been 7 of 7 if not for Bazil’s drop. He showed great precision on the pass to Jackson Jr., then threw incomplete and hit Winston on a quick, simple slant for his second TD. Tinsley seemed to misread on the ball that was picked off by Shahman Moore, but didn’t make too many other mistakes and moved the unit effectively.
Gubrud needed to shake off a few cobwebs after missing the entirety of spring camp. The transfer effectively hasn’t taken live snaps since late last September when he was wearing an Eastern Washington jersey. That showed when he underthrew a few intermediate-range out routes. Jackson Jr. hauled in one of those, but the other skidded on the turf before it could reach Patmon. Martin saved Gubrud with his athleticism on another higher throw near the sideline. Nonetheless, he completed four straight passes at one point and finished his drive with his own touchdown.
Who had the edge: Tinsley, but just by a hair.
“Everybody was stepping up. This offseason, it’s kind of funny, we have 12 people trying to break it down in the weight room and stuff. But everybody’s doing their part, everyone can lead by example or lead by talking. Everybody has their different styles. … Literally everybody’s like, ‘Family on three, family on three.’ Then we pause and maybe three people will say, ‘One, two, three together.’ ”
– Linebacker Justus Rogers, on finding the defense’s leader in the wake of Jalen Thompson’s and Peyton Pelluer’s departures. More than a few players appear up to the task.
Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter
Get the latest Cougs headlines delivered to your inbox as they happen.