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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State football opens spring practice with chance for new leaders to step up

March 21, 2019 Updated Thu., March 21, 2019 at 8:51 p.m.

Washington State  linebacker Jahad Woods  cheers with fans after the Cougars’ 31-7 win over Colorado on Nov. 10, 2018,  in Boulder, Colo. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods cheers with fans after the Cougars’ 31-7 win over Colorado on Nov. 10, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

PULLMAN – The Gardner Minshew Experience has left the building.

Washington State teammates who enjoyed that show last season realize they are going to have to be the show this year.

After the Cougars completed the first day of spring workouts Thursday, redshirt junior left guard Liam Ryan, redshirt junior will linebacker Jahad Woods and redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Gordon all expressed some version of feeling a responsibility to step up as vocal leaders.

In Woods’ case, he said the Cougars’ defense needs to replace leadership lost by the departure of Peyton Pelluer. Having played parts of six seasons after being granted a medical redshirt, Pelluer was the closest thing possible to a perennial Coug.

“That’s definitely easier said than done,” Gordon acknowledged of filling the sizable void left by the graduation of the charismatic quarterback, Minshew. “I’ll try to match that a little and give it my own little twist. I’ve got to be myself.”

In fashioning his take on Minshew’s imposing productivity, Gordon displayed a quick, live arm, a willingness to run, and he completed a pair of touchdowns in the final team period in which he split time with fellow senior Trey Tinsley and redshirt freshman Cammon Cooper.

Gage Gubrud, formerly of Eastern Washington and, like Minshew, a graduate transfer, did some light throwing in warmups but watched the remainder of practice with his left foot in a medical boot as he recovers from an injury suffered in a winter conditioning session.

In shorts, jerseys and helmets for the first day, the Cougars were only able to approximate the testing nature of scrimmaging that is supposed to be one of the revelatory hallmarks of spring ball. But coach Mike Leach was satisfied.

“We had good tempo. … It was a little disjointed transitioning,” Leach said. “But guys got where they were supposed to be. We had good execution right out of the blocks.”

Leach has the usual to-do list for spring. He said he plans to experiment, to move people around to try to put them in the best position to succeed, then “see who emerges.”

The defense had its moments. Redshirt sophomore safety Chad Davis Jr. got his hands on a couple of passes, including going to the ground over the middle to intercept one of Cooper’s throws, and redshirt junior linebacker Dillon Sherman victimized Cooper by gathering in a tipped ball.

Cooper collected himself after those miscues. The left-hander finished the session with short scoring passes to redshirt freshman receiver Rodrick Fisher and sophomore running back Max Borghi.

Snowbanks still bordered much of the practice field, and the north-facing stands of Martin Stadium, where practice concluded, glimmered as sun bounced off the snow still piled up there and looming over the turf. The temperature, though, was a spring-like 50 degrees.

“I always love it,” said Ryan, who worked at left tackle and guard. “It’s good to be back out here playing football.

“I’ll play anything they want me to play. If they want me to play center, I’ll play center.”

Ryan has his own big goal for the line to achieve this spring.

“I want us to be the most cohesive group we can be on the field,” he said. “Be the starting point for the whole team. Set the tone.”

Gordon, the senior, brings his own urgency to spring practice.

“These reps are all that more important,” he said. “It’s my last go-round. I’m all in right now.”

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