Washington State will hold 25 preseason practices before opening the season 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 fifth day of fall camp in Pullman.
- Toward the bottom of this report, we’ll note the play of the day during Wednesday’s action, but the player who made it is probably worth another mention. As WSU looks to fill out its wide receiver rotation and replace three starters, freshman De’Zhaun Stribling continues to make a case for himself. The big receiver from Hawaii made a standout grab on WSU’s top cornerback Wednesday. After five practices, we can’t recall the Kapolei, Hawaii, native dropping a pass in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.
- Two slot receivers who were prominent during Wednesday’s drills were sophomore Joey Hobert and freshman Billy Pospisil. Both are steady, sure-handed players who’ve found a knack for getting open in Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense and each caught a handful of passes. Rolovich said the receivers as a group “seemed to have good energy compared to some of the days in the past.”
- During the 11-on-11 period, Jahad Woods was involved in a collision that knocked the senior linebacker to the turf. Woods spent a few minutes on the ground with athletic trainers before walking gingerly off the field – without the help of a trainer, we should note – and eventually leaving for the locker room.
- Players who were absent from Wednesday’s practice included edge rushers Marquise Freeman and Quinn Roff, offensive linemen James McNorton, Jernias Tafia and Jarrett Kingston, and wide receiver Josh Meredith. Safety Tyrone Hill Jr. didn’t participate again, while a group including wide receiver Travell Harris, running back Jouvensly Bazil and defensive back Jackson Lataimua spent practice working off to the side with an assistant strength coach.
Keeping up with the QBs
For the second straight day, returning starter Jayden de Laura didn’t take part in first-team 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. The sophomore’s main contenders for QB1, Jarrett Guarantano and Cammon Cooper, along with freshman Xavier Ward and walk-on Victor Gabalis rotated in and out, usually taking four reps at a time.
De Laura doesn’t appear to be dealing with any ailments, but Rolovich has been mindful of the toll that preseason camp can take and has kept a number of players on “pitch counts” as the regular season approaches. Wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr., for example, didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice before returning in full capacity on Wednesday. Rolovich also indicated a handful of WSU’s projected starters wouldn’t log too many reps during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He’s taking a couple days, he’s taking a couple days,” Rolovich said. “But we need to get guys reps anyway. It was good. Victor Gabalis I think is having a really good camp. He’s very valuable to this football team, wonderful kid, too. So we gave up a little more reps and we gave Jarrett and Camm some, too.”
In 11-on-11 drills, we recorded Guarantano completing 8 of 11 passes. The Tennessee graduate transfer didn’t commit any major errors on Wednesday, but he did mishandle a snap that fell to the ground during the early portion of the team period.
Cooper also lost the ball on a snap later on in the period, but Rolovich indicated the QBs weren’t necessarily at fault for either situation.
Cooper completed 9 of 14 passes during the 11-on-11 period, missing on a handful of the deep throws that have been his Achilles’ heel through five practices.
Cooper made some decent reads throughout the session, but overthrew or underthrew his target on other occasions and had a forgettable four-play series that went as follows: batted pass at the line of scrimmage, completed pass, fumbled snap and sack.
Both QBs were adequate, but from our vantage point neither did enough during the 11-on-11 period to set themselves apart with de Laura mostly observing on the sideline.
Three big plays
1. On the second play of the final 11-on-11 period of practice, Guarantano looked to his left and fired a high bullet toward 6-foot-2 Stribling with 6-3 cornerback Jaylen Watson draped on him. Stribling, a true freshman, outjumped WSU’s returning all-conference corner and showed strong hands to pull down the ball near the sideline.
2. More than once during team period, “edge” Willie Taylor III managed to apply pressure and blow up the play before the QB could get his throw off. He recorded a “sack” (QBs are off limits during preseason camp) near the end of 11-on-11 work, busting through the protection to get to Guarantano.
3. The QBs avoided throwing an interception during the team drill, but the offense couldn’t make it through without a turnover. After walk-on Gabalis completed to Tsion Nunnally an unidentified defensive back poked the ball from the freshman receiver’s hands. Walk-on linebacker Cooper Mathers recovered it and ran 10 yards the other way for a touchdown.
“All that NIL stuff, I’m not too big into that. I’m here to play football and I got my degree. Trying to get another degree and get to the next level. That’s my goal. Then provide for my family. That’s a good deal for him. We appreciate that from Max because as you know, offensive line don’t get too much attention. It’s a nice gesture, but at the end of the day, dinner or no dinner, we’re still going to block our ass off for him.”
– Left tackle Liam Ryan on new Name Image Likeness and running back Max Borghi’s promise to take the offensive line to dinner with his Cameo earnings.
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