SPRING DAY 13: Hobbled D a band of thieves

PULLMAN—If balance is what Mike Leach wants to see, the Cougs certainly delivered in the last session before Saturday's Crimson and Gray game in Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium. Meanwhile the D continued to be hampered by injuries, but that didn't stop them from grabbing some takeaways off Jeff Tuel and the quarterbacks.

The defense has been battling injuries much of the spring, and were without LBs Chester Sua (hand) and Darryl Monroe (leg) for the second straight day. Safety Casey Locker was also unavailable, and was on the sidelines riding the bike with a cast on his arm as well.

Regardless, the defense set the tempo of practice early on, and interceptions were the theme.

CB Damante Horton started things off when he picked off QB Connor Halliday during 7-on-7s, and only a few plays later CB Daniel Simmons picked off Jeff Tuel when he was trying to hit slot man Andrei Lintz.

"Well I liked our spirit especially without pads on," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "I thought we got a lot accomplished on defense with getting to the ball and the takeaways. I loved out spirit heading into Spokane here on Saturday."

To say the linebacker position is thin would be an understatement. With Monroe and Sua sidelined, the starting 'backers were made up of WIL Corey Laufasa, MIK Darren Markle, SAM Eric Oertel and BUCK Travis Long. Both Monroe and Sua are expected to miss the Crimson and Gray game but Breske wasn't spending time crying over spilt milk, saying it allows for other guys to show what they can do.

"We're getting better but we're going to be limited in what we do," Breske said. "We're going to focus on our base defense -- we've lost some guys and we've had to move some of our linebackers and safeties around but football is a contact game and guys are going to have to step up."

A 'BACKER WHO stepped up in a big way at the SAM on Thursday was Cyrus Coen. While working with the 2s, Coen had two interceptions on the day, the first coming off Tuel during 11-on-11s, the second off QB David Gilbertson. Coen also had a great, leaping pass break-up of Tuel towards the end of practice that prevented a large gain to WR Drew Loftus.

"Cyrus has been working very hard as well as Oertel," Brekse said. "At the SAM position both are athletic and that's our expectation on the wide side of the field. They have to get it done and he was making some big time production plays."

CF.C caught up with safety Deone Bucannon after practice, who said the unit has made a lot of progress since the first day of spring drills.

"From day one, we were learning. But now I feel we have a better grasp of the defense on what Coach Breske and Coach (Jeff) Choate wants us do to," Bucannon said. "I feel we're understanding everything and we're all playing faster."

OFFENSIVELY, TUEL AND was able to shrug off the turnovers, with several touchdown passes during team drills.

Tuel saw about 80 percent of the time running with the 1s, with Gilbertson getting the rest of the snaps. Halliday didn't participate in the 11-on-11s, which has been the case the last few weeks.

When the team moved to red-zone, Tuel's first throw was a beautiful lob pass that landed right in WR Dominique Williams' bread basket for a score.

Williams added an incredible leaping catch a few plays later when it appeared that Tuel's pass had sailed on him.

"I think I've been progressing technique wise," Williams said. "It's been great learning from the coaches and Marquess (Wilson), Kristoff (Williams). We all help each other out."

Williams said dealing with the injury bug in both his first two seasons was frustrating but there was also an upside that emerged for him this spring.

"I think it was pretty beneficial," Williams said. "I got stronger and I learned different coverages. When I first got here I couldn't really read a coverage but I'm starting to really get into it."

THE OFFENSE had both good and bad moments on Thursday, but ended on a positive note with Tuel leading the charge. Leach said the unit has exceeded his expectations on where they'd be at this point.

"You know in a lot of things we're ahead but I thought we were sloppy today," Mike Leach said. "I think overall we've progressed quicker than I expected. We're beginning to develop some depth and the biggest thing is to give them the tools so they can develop in the off season."

To close out practice, Leach had the entire team prepare for Saturday by setting up the warm-up drills they will execute before Saturday's game. Andrew Furney, Tuel, Lintz, Bucannon and Long were the five put in charge to lead the group and had the Cougs fired up on Thursday.

But Leach wanted the execution of the warm-ups to be perfect, and the Cougs had to go through it three times before he was satisfied.

Following practice, Leach said that the plan for Saturday's game will "pretty much" be 1s against 1s, and 2s against 2s. Leach added that there will be about 80-100 plays and that there will be a clock in the first half.

He also said that halftime will probably be "get a drink and go to the restroom" with the second half starting up pretty quickly.

  • Players missing from action and working on the sidelines were 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, CB Nolan Washington, CB Brandon Golden, RB Kruger Story, S Casey Locker, and OL Chas Sampson.

  • Safety Tyree Toomer wasn't at practice, and OL Denzell Dotson was in street clothes.

  • While working with the 2s, safety Kyle McCartney also picked off Tuel deep down field when he was trying to connect on a home-run ball with WR Marquess Wilson.

  • OL Moritz Christ spent his day running with the scout team offense and was lined up at RG.

    RUNNING WITH 1s on Thursday:

    QB: Jeff Tuel
    WR: Marquess Wilson
    WR: Andrei Lintz
    WR: Drew Loftus
    WR: Gino Simone
    LT: John Fullington
    LG: Zack Johnson
    C: Elliott Bosch
    RG: Dan Spitz
    RT: Rico Forbes
    RB: Rickey Galvin (Carl Winston, Marcus Mason, and Leon Brooks also seeing action)
    Note: WRs Bobby Ratliff, Gino Simone, Blair Bomber, and Isiah Myers also saw action with the 1s.

    LE: Lenard Williams
    LT: Anthony Laurenzi
    RT: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Travis Long
    SAM: Eric Oertel
    MIK: Darren Markle
    WIL: Corey Laufasa
    CB: Daniel Simmons
    SS: Deone Bucannon
    FS: Anthony Carpenter
    CB: Damante Horton (Tracy Clark)

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