SPRING BALL DAY 12: Offense takes flight

PULLMAN—The calendar may read April but it's officially Game Week for Washington State with the Crimson & Gray Game this weekend in Spokane. At practice on Tuesday, although the tempo was sluggish at times, the Cougs battled through and the offense took advantage of several players missing on defense.

The energy was high when practice began but it wavered at times. Still, it was clear the Cougs were geared up for a hard session.

"It worked out, we're developing some guys, getting a little depth. I thought we had pretty good work, dragging around some. There's some fatigue but we have to push through a little better. But overall though I thought we had pretty good work," said Mike Leach.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel had a solid day slinging the ball around during 7-on-7s and full team drills. The offense as a whole was productive throughout, other than some missed connections here and there.

"It should be a fun week," Tuel said. "I'd like to see a little more energy than we he had out there today but we're treating it like game week. We're excited to see a lot of our fans out there on Saturday and show them what we've been working on."

Tuel appeared to be looking for WR Marquess Wilson a little bit more on Tuesday and the two connected on several passes against the 1s and 2s on defense. One play in particular that stood out was when Tuel fired a 40-yard heave down field, which Wilson hauled in for a score. However, there were still other plays where Tuel and Wilson would fail to connect when the play looked to be open.

"He's still battling some injuries here and there but we're working some through things just getting on the same page," Tuel said. "It's a new offense and new system doing new things so it's going to take time...Even just the routes, the way he's running them are different. I'm learning him just as much as he's been learning me."

Leach was direct in his assessment of what Wilson needs to improve on, and if he compares to former Leach pupil Michael Crabtree, or if he could compare to him at some point.

MEANWHILE, QUARTERBACK Connor Halliday was at practice on Tuesday and went through all the drills before turning the engines off for the final period.

Halliday got picked off twice early during WR-on-DB drills. The first pick was by CB Damante Horton, a few plays later corner Tracy Clark stepped in front of WR Isiah Myers. Halliday did make some great looking throws, including a perfect 20-yard lob pass to WR Bobby Ratliff later on in drills.

The quarterbacks received pretty good protection from the offensive line, which saw some more shuffling. The 1s were made up of LT John Fullington, LG Zach Johnson, C Elliott Bosch, RG Dan Spitz, and RT Rico Forbes.

There were also instances where Taylor Meighen would jump in with the 1s and Bosch would slide over to LG. Right guard Jake Rodgers returned to practice on Tuesday (foot injury), and saw action with both the 1s and 2s.

Here's more from Tuel.

THE DEFENSE, they had a rough day and had some players missing. Linebackers Darryl Monroe and Chester Sua were both absent from drills, as was safety Casey Locker.

With Monroe and Sua out, the 1s at LB were WIL Corey Laufasa, MIK Darren Markle and SAM Eric Oertel. The D struggled to start off 11-on-11s, and the scout team offense made several big plays to start out the period.

QB Cody Clements connected on two straight passes to WR Daniel McDonald and two plays later RB Kyle Lappano busted up the middle and cut outside for a 40-yard TD run.

Then, a few plays later once the 1s jumped in, Tuel immediately fired a 35-yard TD pass to WR Drew Loftus. The offense pretty much had their way throughout, but the defense was still able to make some stops.

Markle gave the defense some energy when he stepped in front of a David Gilbertson pass intended for WR Gino Simone and picked it off. Leach was looking at the positives, saying he was pleased with how the LB group was able to battle back and not throw in the towel late in practice when fatigue is calling.

  • WR Isiah Myers continues to display very secure hands for the Cougars. The sophomore had several catches throughout practice. The things about Myers, he leaps high into the air to catch the ball at its highest point consistently.

  • Players working on the sidelines and not participating in full drills included OL Chas Sampson, OL Matt Goetz, RB Teondray Caldwell, TE Mansel Simmons, WR Henry Eaddy, WR Kristoff Williams, DE Lenard Williams, DE Adam Coerper, DT Darryl Paolo, LB Darryl Monroe, LB Max Gama, LB Tana Pritchard, S Tyree Toomer, CB Nolan Washington and CB Brandon Golden.

  • The Cougs will hold their annual Crimson & Gray Game in Spokane this Saturday at Albi Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., but the parking lot will open for tailgating at 8 a.m., and two beer gardens will commence operations at 10 a.m. Cougar players and coaches will be on hand for autographs starting at 11 a.m., with free posters being handed out. WSU expects a crowd of 10,000-plus for the game.

  • The game will be televised live in the Greater Spokane region on SWX, and KXLY Radio will be broadcasting from the stadium for the first hour.

  • The game will not be the capstone to Leach's first spring season at WSU. He wants to take what he and his staff learn from the game and employ it in practice while it's fresh in players' minds, so the Cougs will hold one more practice next week.

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