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Practice report from Day 4 of Washington State preseason camp: Linebacker Dillon Sherman does his best DB impression

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 the standouts and slip-ups, track the quarterback race and dissect one talking point from post-practice interviews.

Setting the scene

Where: Sacajawea Middle School in Lewiston

Start/finish: 2 p.m./5 p.m.

Temperature: 100 degrees and clear.

Attire: Helmets and shoulder pads


    • First and foremost, coaches and players weren’t made available to media after practice. The Cougars hold team activities on certain days after practice and were taking their buses to a swimming pool at the Lewiston Orchards today. Reporters were told the team was in a hurry to get there. Post-practice interviews should resume Wednesday.
    • The last few plays of the team period are always more intense than the past few, and tensions between offensive and defensive players finally boiled over after Derrick Langford broke up a Gage Gubrud pass intended for Dezmon Patmon. (Not at all related to the scuffle, Skyler Thomas and Langford collided pretty hard near the goal post when this play finished, and Langford seemed a little shaken). It wasn’t clear who started the skirmish, or who all was involved, but white and red jerseys collapsed into one area of the field before they were divided. The Cougars had gone three practices – and the majority of a fourth – without brawling. That’s pretty good by college football standards, so this isn’t worth much more than a brief mention.
    • Three kickers worked in and out during the field goal period: Blake Mazza was good from 32 yards out, but missed from 35 and 40. Walk-on Dean Janikowski missed two, from 37 and 40 yards. Another walk-on, Andrew Boyle, was good from 35 yards.

      Travell Harris and Max Borghi were initially the only players catching punt returns during the special teams portion of practice, but they were eventually joined by Rodrick Fisher and Calvin Jackson Jr.

    • The defense came up with not one, but two strips, during the “screen” drill. Marcus Strong came up with one of those and Bryce Beekman had the other.

      Daniel Isom, the junior college defensive back who’d made a handful of pass breakups and a couple of interceptions through the first three days of practice, worked with the No. 1 defense at strong safety next to Bryce Beekman.

    • I listed the defensive two-deep yesterday and mentioned I’d provide an early glimpse at the offensive depth chart today. There’s still plenty to sort out at a number of spots, and because the Cougars use an eight-man WR rotation, I like to consider all eight “starters.” Nonetheless, the first unit looks something like this: Anthony Gordon/Trey Tinsley/Gage Gubrud (QB), Max Borghi/Clay Markoff (RB), Calvin Jackson Jr./Tay Martin (“X” receiver), Dezmon Patmon/Easop Winston (“Z” receiver), Brandon Arconado/Kassidy Woods (“Y” receiver), Travell Harris/Renard Bell (“H” receiver), Liam Ryan (LT), Robert Valencia (LG), Fred Mauigoa (C), Josh Watson (RG), Abraham Lucas (RT).
    • And the second unit: Anthony Gordon/Trey Tinsley/Gage Gubrud (QB), Deon McIntosh/Jouvensly Bazil (RB), Brandon Gray (“Z” receiver), Rodrick Fisher (“X” receiver), Mitchell Quinn (“Y” receiver), Billy Pospisil (“H” receiver), Cade Beresford (LT), Jarrett Kingston (LG), Brian Greene (C), Hunter Mayginnes (RG), Patrick Utschinski (RT).
    • Non-participants included wide receiver Jamire Calvin, offensive lineman Jimmy Price, defensive lineman Tyler Garay-Harris and kicker Jack Crane. Quarterback John Bledsoe and offensive lineman Michael Van Beek weren’t in attendance.

      Jahad Woods returned to practice in full after missing a handful of drills, and the team period, on Monday.

    One big play

    Usually we like to add player/coach context here, but we’ll do without today. During Gage Gubrud’s team period series, the quarterback sensed pressure from the pass-rush and stepped forward before releasing a rocket to Renard Bell, who gained a few steps on defender Shahman Moore and brought in the pass. Bell legged out about 10 more yards before being stopped 10-15 yards shy of the goal line for what I estimated to be about a 60-yard completion – the longest of the day for either quarterback.

    Gubrud’s play-making ability outside of the pocket is as good as advertised, and it’s certainly an advantage he has on the other two, who have some improvisation skills but not Gubrud’s mobility or in-game experience. Bell and most of the WSU receivers are pretty adept at allowing their QB to keep plays alive, often freeing themselves when a play breaks down – what Mike Leach likes to call “mop up plays.” And Bell has been one of the team’s best deep threats since his redshirt freshman season, leading the Cougars in explosive plays during Luke Falk’s final season in Pullman.

    (see the highlight at the :32 mark below)

    Standouts & slip-ups

    Standout: The recipient of yesterday’s “one big play,” linebacker Dillon Sherman, had another productive day at camp. I’ve written previously that Justus Rogers, Sherman’s competitor at the “Mike” linebacker spot, is more qualified to defend the pass, but Sherman came up with a pair of break-ups during Trey Tinsley’s series in team period. And one of those was nearly an interception.

    The redshirt junior dropped back into the defensive secondary on a pass play and jumped high to palm a throw into the middle of the field. The ball stuck for a brief second before falling to the turf. Later on, Sherman got his hand on Tinsley’s final pass attempt of the series for a second PBU.

    Slip-ups: There was an important teaching lesson for nose tackle Lamonte McDougle following the tussle mentioned above. McDougle, the nose tackle transfer from West Virginia, has played well on WSU’s second and third-team defensive lines this camp and notched a touch sack in each of the last two practices. But he was one of the Cougars who spilled onto the field when offensive and defensive players began to tussle after the last play of the team period.

    Position coach Jeff Phelps pulled his player aside to inform McDougle he would’ve been ejected in a game had he left the sideline and crossed onto the playing field. McDougle made his case, but the exchange ended with the player running sideline-to-sideline sprints.

    Keeping up with the QBs

    For the first time this camp, neither quarterback threw an interception. But neither Gage Gubrud nor Trey Tinsley were terribly accurate either. Tinsley finished with a pedestrian completion percentage, hitting on 7 of 13 passes, and Gubrud nearly matched him in the percentage department, at 8 of 15.

    But both also had a few flashes of brilliance. We highlighted Gubrud’s above. Tinsley, too, made something out of a play that should’ve resulted in a throwaway or touch sack. With the defense closing in on him, the quarterback flung a long pass to Travell Harris on the run. Harris beat his cover, Halid Djibril, and finished off the play for what we marked as a 40-yard touchdown.

    (play is at the start of the video below)

    Who had the edge: Are we allowed to give this one a stalemate? My gut feeling tells me there won’t be true separation between Gubrud, Tinsley and Anthony Gordon until Friday’s 7 p.m. scrimmage in Pullman. That’s the first real showcase for the signal-callers, and it’s when Gardner Minshew began to pull away from the other two last year.

    Flopping point

    No talking point today with no post-practice interviews. The team cooled down with some swimming, so instead we’ll pass along this clip of Leach recklessly throwing himself into Orchards Pool after giving in to some intense peer pressure from his players.

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