Spring Ball Day 4 full of developments

PULLMAN — Day Four of Mike Leach's first spring season at WSU was eventful on and off the field. A few bodies were missing Thursday, including one -- touted Spokane tight end Aaron Dunn -- who won't return. The defense continued to put smile on defensive coordinator Mike Breske's face, and d-line coach Joe Salave'a decided to line up with his players and show exactly how it's done in the trenches.

Aaron Dunn, a third-year sophomore-to-be, missed the last two practices, and then Leach said after practice Thursday that the former blue-chipper has decided to transfer. Dunn was a touted 4-star recruit out of Mead High in 2010 who had his career sidelined early his freshman year with a badly broken wrist. He redshirted and returned last season as a back up to Andrei Lintz.

Leach didn't say where Dunn might be looking to transfer.

With the offense Leach runs, the tight end position is not often used in the traditional sense except around the goal line. The "tight ends" that work in Leach's system are those who can also play slot receiver and/or an H-back-type role. Lintz fits that description, while Dunn does not.

AS FOR PLAY ON THE FIELD, there was plenty of action Thursday with the defense chalking up another solid day. Breske has steadily added pieces to his multi-dimensional scheme, which slows reaction time in the early going as players digest their responsibilities. But Breske is all smiles in assessing his troops because response times are swift.

"In our first day of cover 2 we had some minor mistakes that we have to clean up but the kids are playing fast and that's the main thing I want to see," Breske said. "We're throwing a lot of information at them and I'm very happy with where we're at with practice five coming up."

To truly run the attacking defense Breske prefers, the cornerbacks have to excel in single coverage and in jumpeing coverages.

"We've talked to our corners and if we want to run this defense here at Washington State, they have to be stellar," Breske said. "They have to come to play and they've been a pleasant surprise."

The corners looked good Thursday. During receiver-vs.-defensive back drills, the CB coverage was tight. Nolan Washington, who is gradually working his way back into the system after rehabbing what is believed to be a shoulder injury, had several batted balls, as did Daniel Simmons and Damante Horton.

Horton also recorded the lone interception later in practice, during 11-on-11 drills, when he flew high in the air for a ball that was overthrown by Cody Clements. Horton has been executing at a high clip through the first four practices, and his biggest fan is Breske.

"Damante's been awesome," Breske said. "He's playING great man-to-man coverage and I know Coach Simmons (outside receivers) has been very impressed with his press coverage. We just need to get consistency out of Damante but things are looking better each day."

Meanwhile, up front, Salava'a decided there's no better way to teach his players technique and schemes then to line up beside them and show it himself. Salava'a got down in a three-point stance wearing just a t-shirt and pants and proceeded to mix it up with the same ferocity that defined his long NFL career.

OVER ON THE COUGAR OFFENSIVE line, assistant coach Clay McGuire said he continues to be impressed by the play of junior-to-be John Fullington.

"John Fullington is a guy who stands out as a guy who can play any position on the offensive line," McGuire said.

Fullington started out the spring at left guard, where he started all of last season, but with the injury of right tackle Jake Rodgers(foot), there has been some shifting. Dan Spitz has moved to RT and Fullington has slid over one spot to left tackle. Fullington saw extensive action his freshmen season in 2010 on the left edge.

"Ideally for us we want to play four tackles and a center," McGuire said. "It's a pretty easy adjustment for us and he's done a nice job. He's a good athlete and I like what I've seen thus far."

Redshirt senior Wade Jacobson, coming off a back injury that earned him an extra year of eligibility, is seeing more reps with the starting offensive line at right guard. He's shown no ill effects of his back injury, though as a precaution he's not partaking in the live action drills.

McGuire said the 6-6, 306-pound Jacobson will play either RG or RT this season.

"He's out here doing everything the trainers let him to do," McGuire said. "We're excited to have him out there practicing and it's one of those deals where we're going to try and put the best five on the field."

FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY, special teams were a heavy focus and a new drill was introduced. In the drill, the gunners and blockers lay on their stomachs facing one another, then once the whistle blows, each player hops up as quickly as possible to try and beat their opponent. Essentially the drill was a hop-up and dead sprint down field in order to try and block/tackle the return man.

Gunners during this particular drill included WR Marquess Wilson, WR Gino Simone, WR Kristoff Williams, RB Teondray Caldwell, and LB Eric Oertel, among others.

The punt return men included WR Blair Bomber, WR Rahmel Dockery, WR Henry Eaddy, and RB Leon Brooks.

During the stomach drill, Dockery stood out with his quickness and elusiveness. On two separate occasions he put a juke move on gunners flying down field and was able to evade their tackles for extra yardage. Although Dockery hasn't made many plays on the offensive end, his performance during special teams work on Thursday was impressive.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • DE Lenard Williams was not at practice, and information regarding his absence wasn't available at press time.

  • Several players spent the day working on the sidelines and on the stationary bike. They included Jordan Pu'u Robinson, Max Gama, Hamza Griffin, Joe Dahl, Adam Coerper, Jake Rodgers, Brandon Golden, Spencer Waseem and Travion Smith.

  • RB Rickey Galvin was dinged midway through practice but left the field under his own power. Three other players -- Darryl Paolo, David Davis, and Curtis Selz -- also left the field but were stout enough to close out practice riding stationery bikes.

  • The offense had several bright moments on Thursday, with QB Jeff Tuel and WR Blair Bomber ending the day on a high note. The two connected on a perfect throw and catch for a 40-yard TD play against the second-string defense. RB Marcus Mason and the offensive line also had a nice close to practice with a pair of 25-yard runs.

  • Leach said that he isn't sure when Connor Halliday will return to action, but he expects it to be either Saturday or next Tuesday. With Halliday out, David Gilbertson has stepped in as the No. 2 QB and done a nice job. Gilbertson had several nice throws throughout the day including a 25-yard rope to WR Bobby Ratliff in traffic. Leach said he's been pleased with all his QBs so far.

    "They've done a good job," Leach said. "I didn't know what to expect when I first got here but I think Jeff provides a lot of leadership out there and leads the group. Clements has gotten better each day and Gilbertson has a sense of where he needs to be and gets them all lined up. I think they do a good job."

  • At MLB, Darryl Monroe stepped in with the 1s in place of Darren Markle and saw virtually all the snaps with the starters. Markle before today had seen the bulk of the snaps with the first unit. Monroe was joined by WIL LB Chester Sua, and SAM LB Eric Oertel.

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