Morton's success lies in not standing pat

PULLMAN - The Cougar offensive line has been mixing and matching from spring ball to fall camp and continuing on through to present day, with that oh-so-crucial ingredient –- depth -- building as the players takes reps and responsibilities at various positions. Tuesday's practice featured more machinations.

OG Wade Jacobson, after moving out of the starting lineup in Week 2, returned to the 1's on Tuesday, seeing virtually all the action with the starting unit in the practice session.

OT Tyson Pencer also saw some action with the 1's. Meanwhile Andrew Roxas, who started last week at left guard, spent most of his day at RG behind starter B.J. Guerra, spending the majority of his day running with the 2's.

But should fans read anything into that as far as who starts this Saturday against SMU? Offensive line Coach Steve Morton told CF.C after practice that both Jacobson and Roxas bring something different to the starting unit, and that the mixing and matching in practice can only bring positive outcomes to the Cougar offense.

"What's different is one guy (Jacobson) it's his first year playing Division-I football and he brings some things that the other guy (Roxas) doesn't have, so there's some flows on both of them," Morton said. "There's some mental things on one (Jacobson) and physical things with the other (Roxas) so it goes back and forth. It'll sort itself out and they both know it too."

What about that ‘ol saying – that continuity on the o-line is king, and therefore it follows that mixing and matching might delay those efforts more than if there was a set, starting five, getting all the reps day in and day out during the practice week?

"I've always done that," Morton said on switching guys in and out. "We're going from a very mild climate and it's supposed to be 91 degrees and who knows what the humidity is going to be in Dallas. If we're going to win a tough hard game in the fourth quarter, and that's usually what football games come down too, you'll have some fuel in your tank."

Over his career, now in its 36th year, Morton has coached five Pac-10 Morris Trophy winners, four first-team All-Americans, nine All-Pac-10 first-team offensive linemen, two NFL first-round draft choices and numerous draft picks. His list of Cougar pupils includes Dan Lynch, Mike Utley and Pat Beach.

By the way, DE/DT Dan Spitz has moved to offensive tackle, though you might not know it from practice, with Spitz ineligible until November. The Spokane native's move hasn't impacted the practice reps the 1's and 2'sare getting at those positions as Spitz serves out his 9-game suspension from the NCAA due to a failed drug test.

THE COUGAR OFFENSE as a whole got off to a shaky start to open up Tuesday's practice, but that changed quickly with Jeff Tuel and Co. finding a nice rhythm, though in the 11-on-11 drills between the two starting units, it was the defense that ruled.

WR Marquess Wilson hauled in a couple of solid 25-plus yard gainers early. Fellow true freshman WR Kristoff Williams was at full speed on Tuesday and spent his day running with the 2's. Williams has been bothered by turf toe since fall camp, but this might be the week he sees his first collegiate action.

ONE BIG ISSUE the offense has fought with – momentum. That's dependent on timing, and it all starts with the transfer between center and quarterback. Things have not gone as crisply there as they can for the Cougs -- in both shotgun and under center. It only takes a split second to disrupt the timing of a play and when that happens, good execution elsewhere can go for naught.

Zack Williams came to WSU as a center but with Kenny Alfred then entrenched in the middle of the WSU line, he moved to guard for his first two years, redshirting in '08, but has now moved back to center in '10.

After practice Tuesday, Williams agreed it's been an issue, but he also told CF.C he and Jeff Tuel are working overtime on it.

"We just have to practice it constantly, every day after practice and before practice," Williams said. "It's just getting the rhythm down and it will come with time. I've played center all my life before (WSU) but it's something new to me because I moved to guard…so I'm just getting used to snapping and getting the blocks."

RIGHT TACKLE Micah Hannam continues to see most of the work running with the 1's, but true frosh John Fullington is right on his heels, and has seen plenty of action there with the starting unit, and not just in practice either.

"He's had a lot of reps for a young guy in the first two games when you put the whole thing together," Morton said. "He's played about half the time out there and he's doing very well. He makes young freshman mistakes -- but I ask him to make a new mistake. Don't be repetitive with the mistakes and he's cleaning things up.

"I have all the confidence in him, I could put him in at anytime and in any situation and he will be fine."

TURNING TO THE defense, they owned the 11-on-11 portion. The defensive line was plowing through the o-line to begin and putting constant pressure on QB Jeff Tuel, forcing him out of the pocket.

The Cougars saw much more success in the second half of the MSU game when they started attacking more. The caveat, of course, is that you have to get there, and you have to put your corners on an island and have to trust they won't get beat one-on-one.

DT Brandon Rankin has been WSU's most consistent d-lineman in getting into the backfield. He continued to surge his way through Cougar hosses on Tuesday.

SMU head man June Jones is a run and shoot disciple, and that means a whole lot of passes filling the sky. But SMU is running the ball a whole lot more this year. Through two games the Mustang offense balances out this way – 56 rushes to 64 pass attempts.

"First off, we have to stop their run.." Rankin said. "When we do get them to pass, we need to (pressure the quarterback)."

The defense spent a good portion of drills on Tuesday focusing on tackling. That does appear to have improved since the opening game, but the WSU coaches have been stressing it without relief to the players. The players are continually be reminded that aspect must be always improving.

CORNERBACKS Nolan Washington and Daniel Simmons, who were rested Monday night because of soreness, were both full go on Tuesday and running with the first team. MLB Mike Ledgerwood (stinger) remains in limited check, and was in a yellow no-contact jersey.

With Ledgerwood out, LB Hallston Higgins, who started the MSU game, stepped in with the 1's along with SAM Myron Beck, and WILL Alex Hoffman-Ellis.

DT Bernard Wolfgramm (shoulder) participated in position drills, but DT Anthony Laurenzi and DT Justin Clayton split the reps during live action.

RB Rickey Galvin was at practice Tuesday in street clothes with a cast and sling over his right arm. Galvin injured his arm in week one at Oklahoma State and will miss the remainder of the season.

Cougfan Top Stories