Washington State will hold 25 preseason practices before opening the season on Sept. 4 against Utah State. The Spokesman-Review will be in attendance for each of those, tracking the relevant storylines, notes, depth chart developments and key plays as the Cougars ramp up to the 2021 football season. Below are observations from the third day of fall camp in Pullman.
- On Sunday it was revealed Washington Gov. Jay Inslee would introduce a vaccine mandate for state employees in Washington. Hours before Inslee’s announcement came, WSU coach Nick Rolovich, who announced last month he wouldn’t be receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, was asked about the potential mandate. “I think what we’re doing is, we’re doing everyday testing, we’re following all the rules that are put in place,” Rolovich said. “I don’t know what exactly it’s going to say, but it’s definitely something to always consider.” Inslee rolled out the statewide mandate at 1 p.m. on Monday, but given that it won’t apply to employees in higher education, Rolovich and other unvaccinated members of his coaching staff won’t be impacted.
- As Rolovich promised Saturday, running back Deon McIntosh was back at practice after being held out for two days for arriving late on Friday. McIntosh worked primarily with the scout team offense during team period, while Max Borghi and Wisconsin transfer Nakia Watson spent time with the first team.
- The Cougars were in half-pads, or shoulder pads, during Monday’s session. NCAA rules require them to be in half-pads for two more days before transitioning to full pads on Thursday. WSU’s first scrimmage of preseason camp is set for 9:15 a.m. this Saturday.
- Scouts from the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans were in attendance at Monday’s practice. It’s unclear if they were in town to look at any player specifically, but the Cougars could have a few high picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, most notably right tackle Abraham Lucas and Borghi.
- Wide receiver Travell Harris was still a limited participant and spent the majority of practice doing speed work with assistant strength and conditioning coach Tim Hicks. Safety Tyrone Hill Jr. observed Monday’s practice, but was not wearing the arm sling he had on Saturday.
- Defensive lineman David Gusta, defensive back Jackson Lataimua and offensive linemen Dylan Mayginnes, Patrick Utschinski and Devin Kylany were missing for the third consecutive practice.
- The Cougars still have plenty to figure out when it comes to the wide receiver positions, but at least on Monday the players working with the first team included De’Zhaun Stribling (X), Joey Hobert (Y), Calvin Jackson Jr. (H) and Donovan Ollie (Z). CJ Moore, who missed the first practice after arriving late and dropped a few passes on day two, was working mostly with the scout team offense.
Keeping up with the QBs
For the first time in camp, the Cougars held a full 11-on-11 period. Two of them, actually. Although the team isn’t engaging in full-contact practices yet – and quarterbacks will be off limits even when they do – it was the first time QBs had to deal with a pass-rush and throw from a congested pocket. Here were our observations from the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods.
Jayden de Laura didn’t shy from throwing the deep ball as a freshman and while it occasionally got him in trouble, it also paid off with big plays when the Hawaii native was able to connect. He connected on a big play during 7-on-7 Monday, uncorking a deep pass to Donovan Ollie for a 35- to 40-yard touchdown. Observing the 7-on-7 period taking place on the other field, WSU coach Nick Rolovich applauded de Laura’s play, shouting “Good job 4” from 30 yards away. Two snaps later, de Laura fired a bullet between two defenders hitting walk-on receiver Anderson Grover on a slant pattern. Between the two 11-on-11 periods and the 7-on-7 drill, we had de Laura at 10 of 13 passing.
Of the three QBs vying for the starting job, de Laura probably helped himself out most while Jarrett Guarantano fell on the other end of that spectrum, throwing a pair of interceptions and unofficially completing 9 of 14 passes. Guarantano seemingly misread the coverage during the 7-on-7 period and floated a ball right to safety Halid Djibril. Later on, during the team period, a rushed pass to Donovan Ollie was tipped and fell into the hands of corner Alphonse Oywak.
Cammon Cooper finished 5 of 7 passing and didn’t have as many opportunities on Monday as true freshman Xavier Ward spent more time working with the first and second team offense. It’s unlikely the change was a reflection of Cooper’s play on days one and two – he was the most consistent signal-caller on Saturday – and it’s possible de Laura and/or Guarantano will take fewer snaps the next few practices, so stay tuned.
Three big plays
1. We mentioned it earlier, but de Laura’s deep strike to Ollie was easily the play of the day, and possibly the play of camp, to this point. De Laura went through each of his reads, giving time for Ollie to stride downfield and create enough separation, then wound up and threw a strong, high-arcing ball that only the receiver would be able to get to. Ollie sprawled out, pulling the ball into his chest as he dove to the ground to complete the long touchdown.
2. De Laura avoided throwing an interception during his third practice back, but he was nearly picked off in 7-on-7. Linebacker Travion Brown, who’s worked primarily with the first team defense, jumped a slant route and rose up to get both hands on the ball before watching it fall to the turf.
3. Oywak demonstrated solid recognition skills, and even better hands, when he intercepted Guarantano during the 7-on-7 drill. The cornerback from Seattle maneuvered to the middle of the field and sat right behind Ollie when Guarantano’s pass flew to the outside receiver, who wasn’t able to corral the errant ball, tipping it and watching it fall to Oywak, who had less than a second to react and grab it with both hands before turning upfield.
Their words“I love it. It’s a little bit different, a lot more things I need to learn and all that stuff, but coming from where I came from I played a lot of slot. I’ve got great guys around me that’s helping me learn it. Renard (Bell) is still out here helping me learn it, Travell, everybody has been in my ear teaching me the ins and outs of inside. But I love it so far.”
- Wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. on transitioning from outside to inside receiver.