WSU SPRING BALL DAY 2: Tuel shines

PULLMAN -- Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel is learning a new offense in addition to coming off an injury-riddled season. And he threw a few picks on Day One. But neither that, nor anything else, seems to phase Tuel, and he made a whole heckuva lot completions on Saturday during the Cougs' second practice of the spring session.

On Saturday, Tuel was efficient in both the short-passing game and with deep balls during the three-hour plus practice session.

New WSU coach Mike Leach said Tuel, who was derailed by a broken left clavicle last year, has exceeded expectations this spring so far.

"I thought he played really good," he said. "I thought he was really sharp in team (drills). The other thing is he was very consistent and making good decisions."

More of Leach's comments from Day 2:

Standout wide receiver Marquess Wilson agreed.

"He's been real good," he said. "He's back to his old style and he's able to get the ball where it needs to be. He's able to move around in the pocket and find an open receiver."

Wilson, who will be a junior this fall, has taken advantage of Tuel's play. After sitting out of the winter conditioning drills because he was banged up, Wilson returned and has made some fine leaping catches this spring. Wilson said he has fully recovered from his undisclosed injury and is enjoying learning Leach's offense.

Wilson said the offense is adapting quickly to the "Air Raid" scheme.

"New plays means new offense, which means a lot of opportunities," he said.

In addition to Wilson, another wide receiver who stood out was Blair Bomber. He missed 2011 with a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his knee, but has played well in the first two practices. Bomber, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall, has looked good with his routes and catching the ball.

As for Connor Halliday, he sat out of practice Saturday, but watched from the sidelines in what appeared to be a preventative measure. He took a shot to the side during Thursday's practice and said afterward that it was right by his liver.

Leach, who does not like to discuss injuries, did not elaborate on Halliday's status and his answer broke up the reporters taking notes.

"He's here and he's doing what we want him to," Leach said. "Like all the Washington State Cougars he's as healthy as can be and we couldn't be happier."

Leach said another one-third of his offense was implemented today to go along with the one-third that was introduced on the first day. "Two-thirds is in... (They've adapted) better than I thought. Plenty of work (remains) but better than I thought," said Leach. ON DEFENSE, it was another turnover-filled day for Mike Breske's unit. Without Halliday, David Gilbertson stepped in with the 2s and the defense didn't take it easy on him. Daniel Simmons and Deone Bucannon both picked off Gilbertson during 11-on-11s, making great reads on both plays.

Simmons has recorded interceptions in the first two spring practices and is moving around the field with a lot more speed. Simmons credits his early success to modifying his diet during the offseason -- and staying healthy.

"I'm feeling pretty good out there," he said. "We feel like the scheme is great and everyone is taking care of their assignments. We're just coming together as a unit."

Simmons said the biggest difference between last year is the chemistry of defense. He's enjoying the tempo Breske sets at practice.

"Last year it felt like there were just a lot of individuals doing things," Simmons said. "Now we're just a whole unit working together. I don't know why it seems that way but we're all working together and we love it."

On the defensive line, Xavier Cooper enjoyed another strong session. Cooper has consistently been getting through the offensive line and showcasing his speed.

Cooper has spent both days with with the 1s at defensive tackle and should be expected to make a significant claim for one of the starting jobs this fall.

At linebacker, Chester Sua mostly had a practice to forget, but tried to redeemed himself in a major way to close out the session.

During team action late in practice, Sua appeared to run at half speed and was late getting to the outside. Linebacker coach Jeff Choate sternly let Sua know it, sent him to the sideline and told him his day was over while making him take off his helmet. Sua sat out for around five plays before Choate sent him back in with the 1s.

Three plays later, Sua read the eyes of Tuel and smartly intercepted a pass intended for walk-on wide receiver Drew Loftus.

On special teams, kicker Mike Bowlin handled the punting duties and was impressive.

Bowlin was driving the ball at least 50 yards down field with consistency. What's impressive about Bowlin's punts is the hang time. The ball is in the air a good long while and, today at least, Bowlin's punting was reminiscent of former WSU punter Reid Forrest.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • WSU's latest roster update no longer included Jordan Simone, Gordy Anderson and Jack Wilson. Anderson and Wilson were limited during the first practice and they didn't participate in any of the live drills. Both have retired for medical reasons. There was no update on Simone, but CF.C will release information as soon as it becomes available. Walk-on quarterback Jesse Brown also was missing from practice, but Leach said he was working on some family issues.

  • Cornerback Nolan Washington, who will be a junior this fall, was the first Cougar to enjoy the "sand-pit" as he was doing agility work throughout practice. Washington didn't practice with the team, but was working feverishly in the "Leach Beach". No injury information was provided on Washington, as is standard with Leach, but it didn't appear serious -- Washington was flying around during his drills and looked to be moving quite well.

  • There were several other players that didn't go through drills and spent their days on the bike and working out on the side. Those players were: OL Joe Dahl, DT David Davis, WR Rahmel Dockery, CB Spencer Waseem, DE Hamza Griffin, CB Brandon Golden, and LB Max Gama.
    WASHINGTON HITS LEACH BEACH


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