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Sports >  WSU football

Cougs fight off stomach bug, debut new drill: Notes and observations from Day 11 of Washington State preseason camp

Aug. 18, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:46 p.m.

Washington State quarterback Jarrett Guarantano throws during practice on Aug. 6 at Rogers Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Jarrett Guarantano throws during practice on Aug. 6 at Rogers Field in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

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 11th day of fall camp in Pullman.

The notes

  • Quarterback Jayden de Laura and a few more notable Wazzu players returned to the fold Wednesday after missing practice the day before. Cornerback Chau Smith-Wade and wide receiver De’Zhaun Stribling also were full participants in the session at Rogers Field. Absences included receiver Joey Hobert, center Brian Greene and defensive tackle Dallas Hobbs.
  • Coach Nick Rolovich attributed the recent short-handedness to a stomach bug that’s been making the rounds within WSU’s program. “It probably got 20 guys over the last three weeks or so,” he said, “so I think that (missing players) was some more remnants of that thing hanging around.”
  • Rolovich picked up a megaphone to explain the rules of an energetic new drill, which functioned as the practice’s finale. The Cougs went 11-on-11 in three timed series. Jarrett Guarantano led the offense first. He was given 52 seconds, and his goal was to march WSU into field-goal range, which the Tennessee transfer did. Cammon Cooper took the reins under center with the same objective and amount of time to work with, but the defense forced a four-and-out. De Laura had 1:32 on the ticker, and it was touchdown or bust. A 10-play series ended with a sack as the clock ran out.
  • Talented senior linebacker Jahad Woods was a full participant for the first time since sustaining an injury Aug. 12. Senior receiver Travell Harris spent most of the day doing light rehab work alongside sophomore pass-catcher Lincoln Victor. Rolovich said he’s “holding (Harris) back a little bit. … He’s got a good grasp of the offense and this gives us an opportunity to get some other guys some reps.”
  • Fellow inside receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. was in street clothes again. Defensive backs Tyrone Hill Jr. and Chris Jackson exercised with strength coaches on the sideline.
  • An Arizona Cardinals scout watched practice and spoke briefly with a handful of players.

Keeping up with the QBs

Guarantano was on target in the short and intermediate game. He completed 11 of 13 in the 7-on-7 session and got the Cougars into field-goal range in 11-on-11 with a bullet through a tight window to C.J. Moore.

Counting all three competitive periods, Guarantano connected with 10 Cougs and completed 15 of 21 passes.

He couldn’t keep his series alive in the timed 11-on-11 drill, though. WSU’s drive fizzled out after a delay-of-game penalty and back-to-back incompletions.

Cooper was shaky. He took two sacks in the final 11-on-11 and was nearly picked off by Jaylen Watson in 7-on-7. He went 2 of 7 on the day – the first 11-on-11 workout focused largely on the running game.

“Camm had a good run (Tuesday) and I thought Jarrett had a good run today,” Rolovich said.

De Laura’s series in 11-on-11 was the most productive of the three. Two solid quarterback scrambles were followed by accurate sideline balls to Drake Owen and Moore.

Rather than divvying up the reps equally throughout the morning – as had been common earlier in camp – Rolovich went with the hot hand.

“We played a little king of the hill,” he said. “You either get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. You get a thumbs-down, you’re out, and you get a thumbs-up, you keep going.

“It’s helping the evaluation. … You don’t know if you’re gonna get another play. You might not, so I think it applies a little more pressure.”

Three big plays

1. De Laura had his offense at about the 5-yard line with time enough for one more play in the final 11-on-11 period. The sophomore didn’t get much of a chance to scan the field for open targets – the pocket collapsed in a flash. Rookie edge-rusher Lawrence Falatea darted past his blocker and got a hand on de Laura for a touch sack on the day’s final rep. Falatea put pressure on WSU’s signal-callers three times during the drill.

2. Guarantano launched a pass about 30 yards toward Stribling, who’d generated about half a yard’s worth of separation on a post route in the 7-on-7 segment. Smith-Wade, a fast-improving sophomore corner, had a coverage assignment elsewhere on the play, but he was close enough to make an adjustment and angle toward the intended receiver. Smith-Wade leapt off a full sprint and got an arm above Stribling’s head to bat away what would’ve been a touchdown.

3. De Laura demonstrated ball-carrying awareness in the timed 11-on-11 drill, compiling 20 combined ground yards on back-to-back totes. He picked up 12 yards and a first down after freezing defenders with a stutter and scurrying through a lane up the gut.

Their words

“I just think this team is in a maturity place where they can be fed some of these situations and can process them, and kind of be present and the situation won’t be too big for them.”

– Rolovich on Washington State’s fast-paced, high-pressure 11-on-11 drill at the end of practice.

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