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Practice report from Day 5 of Washington State preseason camp: Justus Rogers goes on interception spree as Cougars put on the pads

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: 104 degrees, scattered clouds

Attire: Full pads

Notable

    • The team played amid boiling temperatures Tuesday. Even with more cloud cover, the Cougars still played in consistent triple-digit heat. Outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. told his players to take a swig of water after a dummy drill. “It’s kinda hot out,” he said, to which Dezmon Patmon responded “Kinda?”
    • For the third straight day, Derrick Langford played exclusively with the first team defense, rather than George Hicks III, who opened camp in that spot. “I guess the fancy name for it is, it’s a ‘living document’ at that position,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “The depth chart is. So whoever performs well one day is going to play. … It’ll be that way through the season, too. You’ve got to earn your job each week.”
    • Claeys said the situation on the defensive line is fluid, too. While defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo, nose tackle Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei and defensive tackle Will Rodgers III are taking the lion’s share of first-team reps, the Cougars have been experimenting with other groupings as well. Dallas Hobbs filled in at first-team nose tackle Tuesday, as did Lamonte McDougle, and Karson Block spelled Oguayo at defensive end.
    • The development, and the role, of fullback Clay Markoff has been fun to follow through camp. The bruising junior redshirt junior bowled over safety Tyrese Ross during the skeleton period and has probably been the second or third best player in the backfield this camp. It was suggested to Leach the Cougars could use Markoff in short-yardage or goal line situations, but the coach indicated his role could be more expansive than that. “I think we could pretty much use him anytime,” Leach said. “It’s evolving to where we can use him pretty much anytime. He catches the ball pretty well, too.”

    • I only caught half of the field goal period, but watched Blake Mazza miss a 38-yard field goal and walk-on Andrew Boyle boot in a 33-yarder.
    • In the special teams period, wide receivers Travell Harris and Calvin Jackson Jr. were the only players working in punt return.
    • True freshman linebacker Travion Brown earned Tuesday’s Special Teams award, handed out daily by Matt Brock.
    • The non-participant list was practically the same as it’s been all week. Wide receiver Jamire Calvin, offensive lineman Jimmy Price, linebacker David Aldapa and Tyler Garay-Harris. There’s still been no sign of quarterback John Bledsoe or offensive linemen Christian Haangana.
    • A reminder that Wednesday’s practice will be the Cougars’ last in Lewiston wearing full pads before returning to Pullman. The Cougars typically hold a “varsity short” practice – a glorified walk-through that lasts about an hour and a half – before holding their first fall scrimmage.
    • The media spoke with coach Mike Leach, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, quarterback Gage Gubrud, wide receiver Dezmon Patmon and defensive lineman Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei after practice.
  • One big play

During the second series of the team period, Gage Gubrud connected with a wide receiver the majority of the fan base probably hasn’t heard of – redshirt freshman slot Mitchell Quinn. On Gubrud’s first snap, the quarterback bided his time in the pocket before unleashing a throw to Quinn, standing 20 yards away adjacent to the right sideline.

Quinn made the catch, then turned Tyrese Ross and blazed past Patrick Nunn before racing across the field and picking up another 20 yards or so to finish off a 40-plus yard reception. Gubrud showed good patience on the play, waiting for Quinn’s route to develop, and the receiver’s quick change of direction allowed him to beat two athletic DBs and make it to the opposite sideline.

(the play starts at about the 1:45 mark in the video below)

Standouts & slip-ups

Standout: The “Mike” linebackers have had a stranglehold on this section of the practice report these last few days. Dillon Sherman got a mention on Monday after deflecting a pair of throws during the team period and his top competitor at “Mike,” Justus Rogers, did him one better Tuesday, intercepting two passes – one in skeleton and one in team – and coming up with two more pass breakups, batting down balls in both skeleton and team period.

Rogers read Anthony Gordon’s eyes on the first play of the team period, making a slight adjustment to creep in front of Travell Harris on a crossing route to the middle of the field. Rogers stepped up in front of the 20-yard heave to make the clean pick before running the opposite direction into the open field. Earlier in practice, Rogers jumped a pass intended for Quinn and made the interception right on the goal line.

(the first interception is at the 2:20 mark)

“He made a couple plays and Sherm had a couple yesterday, should’ve intercepted some,” Claeys said. “So we’re dropping a few balls, we’ve got to catch the ball a little bit better. I think we’ve had a chance now at five of them.”

Slip-up: Gubrud’s stat line during the team period wasn’t as good as it should’ve been, but it wasn’t necessarily the fault of the quarterback. Mitchell Quinn probably had one of his better days this camp – if not his best – but the redshirt freshman receiver also let a point blank pass clank off his hands during team. Earlier on, Rodrick Fisher let another easy one drop. Those two catches would’ve put Gubrud over the 70 percent mark. Instead he finished with a completion percentage of just 57.

Keeping up with the QBs

Similar to last year, it looks like we won’t be able to glean much from the quarterback competition in Lewiston. Anthony Gordon and Gage Gubrud each got turns Tuesday, so Gordon and Trey Tinsley will get the reps Wednesday, meaning each will have had four practices – and four team period drives – leading into Friday night’s scrimmage.

The drops didn’t help Gubrud’s numbers, but he didn’t help himself at times either, overthrowing a couple of balls and making a few questionable calls on zone read keepers. He still finished above the 55 percent plateau, completing 8-of-14 passes, and while he didn’t account for any turnovers, he also failed to get his unit into the end zone and the drive ended on Rogers’ PBU.

Gordon’s first two snaps weren’t pretty, but he got better as the series went on. After a bad snap led to a fumble, the QB was intercepted by Rogers, trying to force a pass into Harris. But Gordon kept shooting, so to speak. On the very next play, he rifled a pass down the right sideline to Dezmon Patmon, who beat Derrick Langford for a 40-something yard gain. Gordon hit a few more peaks and valleys through the rest of the drive, but he finished it strong after being “sacked” by both Ron Stone and Nicholas Sheetz, and throwing consecutive incompletions. The redshirt senior completed his last three passes of the series and they were all touchdowns. First off was a toss to the back of the end zone, where Kassidy Woods came up with a one-handed grab. Patmon was on the end of the next one and Gordon fit the third through a tight window, hitting Brandon Arconado with Dillon Sherman and Patrick Nunn both in the area. We also scored Gordon for a rushing TD when he dashed into the end zone on a QB draw. In all, he was 7-of-11 with three touchdowns and one pick.

Who had the edge: Gordon. After the early turnover, the QB really moved the offense well and showed off his precision on a few of those late touchdowns.

Talking point

“No, they’re not ready yet. And they don’t have to be today. We’ve still got 20 practices to go. They’ve made great progress. There’s no doubt they’re a lot better than they were. It’s just that back there, when you make a mistake, it’s points. Unlike a yonug D-lineman not getting in the right gap or something like that, it’s 10-15 yards. So we’ve got to get to where we don’t give up those big plays.”

– Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys noted in the spring how far off the team’s junior college defensive backs were and addressed the subject again today.

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