PULLMAN – Brennan Jackson laughed and flashed a wide grin. As he strode up to the microphone, ready to chat about his Washington State team’s first day of fall camp on Wednesday morning, he got a question.
How many mental sacks today?
“Oh,” Jackson said, “at least 70.”
The Cougars’ sixth-year edge rusher can’t exactly hit quarterbacks, especially not without pads at this early stage of camp, so he had to rack up mental sacks – reps where he visualized what kind of move he would use to get into the backfield and make the tackle.
“I think it kind of goes hand-in-hand with you gotta see what you’re gonna do in the game,” Jackson said. “I feel like nobody just walks through a game without seeing what they’re gonna do. So yeah, the mental rep thing is keeping me locked in, but also, I wanna visualize success on the field.”
Jackson’s defensive unit faces a few questions this month. How will the Cougars replace a couple of key losses at the linebacker spots? Who will fill in the defensive lineman spots, between Jackson and fellow edge rusher Ron Stone Jr.?
In our five takeaways from Day One of WSU fall camp, we’ll tackle that and more.
1. Transfer linebacker Richardson makes splash During Wednesday’s practice, redshirt senior linebacker Devin Richardson read the quarterback’s eyes perfectly, jumped a route and snagged an interception. He raced the other way for a short pick-six. His teammates on the sideline and on the field jumped and rushed to congratulate Richardson.
Richardson is transitioning just fine from Texas to Washington State, which is music to the Cougars’ ears. They’re looking to replace a few linebackers, namely Daiyan Henley (NFL draft), Francisco Mauigoa and Travion Brown (transfer portal).
Richardson has had a winding journey. He started at New Mexico, where he played the 2018 and 2019 seasons, earning All-American freshman honors in that second season. The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season, and Richardson transferred to Texas, where he played mostly on special teams in the 2021 season. In 2022, he made 11 tackles in nine games.
That led him to WSU for his final season, and he’s squarely in the mix for a starting job at linebacker.
“I think he’s gained the respect of his teammates, and in short order,” WSU head coach Jake Dickert said. “There’s probably not a bigger compliment that I could give a player, a transfer guy, a guy that’s that experienced than that. He was our super freak weight room guy this summer. To do that, you gotta show up every day just ready to work. And I think he’s improved himself. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. I think all those elements together fit being a Coug. I think he embraces the opportunity, and I think he’s ready to take advantage of it. I really do. I’ve got a ton of confidence in Devin.”
2. Several players in mix for snaps at tight end In Washington State’s win over Wisconsin last season, tight end Billy Riviere hauled in a crucial 38-yard pass. With that reception, he became the first WSU tight end to make a catch since 2011 – a gap of more than a decade.
The Cougars probably won’t start another streak like that. In Wednesday’s practice, Cameron Ward and backup quarterback John Mateer threw to several tight ends, including Riviere, junior Cooper Mathers, sophomore Andre Dollar and redshirt senior Cameron Johnson.
Could the tight end be making a return to WSU’s offense under new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle? If we can draw any conclusions from Day One of fall camp, the answer might be yes.
“What a competitive group it’s gonna be in fall camp between Billy and Cooper, Cam,” Dickert said. “Andre needs to take the next step in his progression. I think there’s just a lot of things that I’m excited for that group. I think we have more weapons than just kind of efficient players like we did last year. Those guys have all gotten better, and now they need to go prove to coach Arbuckle – and more importantly to themselves – that they have what we see. I think those guys can be weapons this year.”
“We use them a lot of different ways, as you’re seeing today,” Ward said. “Coop and Billy and Cam Johnson, they’re going on go-balls, they’ll run outs, they’ll run digs. So we use them in a very specific way now compared to last year, and I think that’s gonna benefit us.”
3. Several freshmen turn heads early onBefore fall camp began, Dickert noted a few true freshmen could be up for meaningful snaps this fall.
After Wednesday’s practice, Dickert mentioned true freshmen Isaac Terrell (edge rusher), Carlos Hernandez (wide receiver) and Ashton Tripp (offensive lineman).
Dickert talked about Hernandez on Tuesday afternoon, so hearing Tripp and Terrell’s names on Wednesday registered as news. Tripp, a Kennewick native, recently celebrated his 17th birthday .
“I mean, just amazing to come out here and be that athletic and do some interesting things as a young guy,” Dickert said.
But none earned the praise of multiple teammates more than one guy.
4. Terrell earns real look from WSUEarly in fall camp, it looked like Isaac Terrell would have a hard time earning a starting job at edge rusher, with sixth-year stars Ron Stone Jr. and Jackson at those positions. But if the way Dickert and others talked about him is any indication, don’t be surprised to see the freshman get some playing time this fall.
“I mean, it’s incredible,” Dickert said. “His energy, the way he plays, the motor that he revs with.”
Terrell hails from Lehi, Utah, where he earned 5A all-state player of the year honors as a junior. He fielded offers from Utah State, Idaho State, UNLV, California, Idaho and San Jose State, but he turned them down to accept Washington State’s offer.
“I think Isaac is fantastic,” Jackson said. “He’s a natural pass-rusher. I think he’s very mature for his age. … He’s a very mature young kid. I think he’s gonna have a really bright future here. He really just soaks up all the knowledge we can give him, and I think he’s very polished coming in. I’m looking at him for pass-rush advice sometimes with the way he moves.”
5. Ward fine-tunes fundamentals, deep ballsDuring one block of Wednesday’s practice, Arbuckle put his quarterbacks through a drill in which they danced through a line of obstacles, set their feet and slung a pass into a hole in a piece of equipment some 10 yards away.
Ward looked as good as any of them, firing with ease into the net. Maybe that’s nothing out of the ordinary for quarterbacks in practice. But for Ward, it underscores that he’s working on his fundamentals and deep balls.
“Throw it deep,” Ward said of Arbuckle’s goals for him. “Good things happen when you throw it deep, whether it’s a flag or we’re gonna catch it. So just go deep.”
Ward said there’s more to that than just arm strength .
“I feel like the biggest thing that I’ve changed is just having good eyes,” Ward said. “Last year I was more trying to put it too far over their shoulders and make it perfect. This year, I’m having good eyes, throwing it to the back of their head and the receiver’s gonna make the play.”