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./4:40 p.m.
Temperature: 106 degrees, cloudy
Attire: Full pads
- Junior college transfer Daniel Isom is still running with the first team defense, at free safety, and spoke to the media about making a transition from cornerback, which had been his natural position up until this fall. The hardest part about the move, Isom said, has been “learning the playbook.” “You’ve got to be the quarterback of the defense in our defense, so just learning the playbook, making sure I know all the calls, be able to help out other positions. … But it’s coming along.”
- A Spokane native won Matt Brock’s Special Teams Player of the Day honor. Wednesday, it went to Gonzaga Prep product Armani Marsh, a second-string cornerback who apparently has been showing “undeniable effort” on the kickoff coverage team.
- Anyone who’s attended any of these practices, and observed outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. for any amount of time – or followed his Twitter account – has probably picked up on the assistant’s favorite catchphrase. We’ll let Calvin Jackson Jr. explain: “Our receiver room tends to mock him a few times like in the group chat, just because of the way he texts and the way he talks. He says ‘really good’ at least 50 times at practice, so if we do something good in the drills we’re just like, ‘Really good, really good,’ just mocking him and all that stuff as a joke.
- Wednesday’s non-participants were wide receiver Jamire Calvin, linebacker David Aldapa and offensive lineman Jimmy Price. The non-attendees were quarterback John Bledsoe and offensive lineman Christian Haangana. If you missed our earlier update on Haangana, here’s the link.
- The Cougars won’t hold a full practice tomorrow. Heck, they won’t even be wearing pads. Thursday’s workout will be a “varsity short” session that’ll include a variety of the regular drills, but follow more of a walkthrough format. WSU returns to Pullman Friday for the first fall scrimmage, held at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium. The event is open to the public.
- The media spoke with coach Mike Leach, inside linebackers coach Roc Bellantoni, safety Daniel Isom, wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. and left guard Robert Valencia after practice.
One big play
Camp has been short on deafening hits to this point, so Tyrese Ross, a redshirt freshman safety, decided to atone for that toward the end of Anthony Gordon’s drive during team period.
Gordon threw to converted slot receiver Kassidy Wodods, hitting the big sophomore in stride as he crossed the field. Woods gained a few steps on nickel Patrick Nunn, who’d been trailing on him, but didn’t see Ross in his foreground. But Ross had Woods’ route diagnosed the whole way and stepped up as the WR was making the catch, popping Woods with his left shoulder.
Ross jarred the ball loose for an incomplete pass and leveled Woods in the process, sending him straight to the turf, where the WR took a few seconds to get his wind back before standing up slowly. The defensive sideline enjoyed the sequence, erupting at the sight of the hit, and Ross’ only mistake may have been standing over Woods with his arms crossed – a moved that earned him a stern lecture from Tracy Claeys in the back of the end zone.
Standouts & slip-ups
Standout: I’ve decided the best comparison for “H” receiver Travell Harris is the Energizer Bunny. You know, the little pink guy that walks around with black shades beating a bass drum that’s way too big for him. OK, none of that really reminds me of Harris, but the redshirt sophomore’s enthusiasm and spirit always seem to be among the highest, and Wednesday his play matched his energy.
Harris did catch one touchdown pass during the team period (1:50 marker in the first video below), freeing himself in the end zone on an out routre before bringing in a pass from Tinsley, but it was general consistency throughout the one-on-one period, skeleton drills and team series that had me impressed. The Floridian and Hornung Award watch list candidate vaulted his body way off the ground to make a leaping grab on the goal line during skeleton, then got wide open later on for his second skelly TD.
Slip-up: Kassidy Woods, one of the more consistent pass-catchers this camp, dropped the pass we highlighted above and couldn’t hang onto another ball that was low but still catchable in the team period.
Keeping up with the QBs
Sooner or later, Leach plans on trimming this three-man quarterback competition to just two players. And while the coach won’t make that public when it does happen, I’d expect it’ll be fairly easy to tell, because two signal-callers will be taking the bulk of the practice reps – if not every single one of them.
On the hottest day of camp so far, Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley were the ones sharing reps while Gage Gubrud peered on. If I had to guess, one of the two QBs that partook in today’s practice will be getting left out, simply because Gubrud still hasn’t had sufficient time in the offense after only six days, while Gordon and Tinsley have had multiple years. Of those two, Gordon’s probably had the more impressive camp.
The good news for all three QBs is that Wednesday marked the second time in three days none threw an interception during team period. Though Tinsley and Gordon will probably feel they could’ve been more accurate, combining to complete 17-of-31 passes during team period. Tinsley (8-of-15) went first Wednesday and drove his offense into the end zone just once, while Gordon finished 9-of-16 and accounted for three passing touchdowns and another on the ground.
“I thought he did quite a few good things,” Leach said of Tinsley. “And I think those quarterbacks were a little sloppy, just like the rest of them, but I thought again they were competitive and I thought he did some good things. But I just think in general, we weren’t in perfect sync or anything.”
Who had the edge: Gordon. At his best, the former City College of San Francisco transfer is the most precise and strongest passer of the three, and over the last two days he’s gone 16-of-27 with six touchdowns and one interception.
“Travion is picking things up unlike any freshman I’ve been around. We had him learning two positions. He still knows two, but I’m sticking him at one because that’s the one I think he can help us the best, providing depth. But he’s going to be a really good football player.”
– Inside linebackers coach Roc Bellantoni raves about the quick progress made by freshman Travion Brown, who was the top-rated member of the Cougars’ most recent signing class.
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