There were a handful of absences but all in all, the Cougars appear to have come out of the offseason, and the first day of fall camp, unscathed. The only causalities of the day appear to be minimal. Right tackle Rico Forbes and incoming freshman linebacker Jeremiah Allison both limped away from practice with what appeared to be ankle injuries. Both appeared far from serious.
One player returning from injury is Connor Halliday, although you wouldn't know it by the way the redshirt sophomore performed.
Halliday consistently connected to a multitude of receivers during drills. Although the Cougs rarely went 11-on-11 on Day 1, Halliday looked on point in just about every individual and team drill, throwing zero interceptions on the day.
Meanwhile, veteran quarterback Jeff Tuel seemed to be shaking off the cobwebs. The senior never gained his footing, throwing three interceptions on the day -- although two of the interceptions were tipped, most throws were high, and off target.
SENIOR SAFETY Tyree Toomer and junior cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Damante Horton all picked off Tuel, leading to some salty commentary from Mike Leach. When asked how he thought the quarterbacks performed, the rarely censored coach was clearly looking for more.
"Ya know, it's Day One. It happens. We need to get out there and figure some things out, shake off the rust. Jeff (Tuel) looked good and Connor (Halliday) looked good, but we have a ways to go," Leach said.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, the running back position looked strong and explosive.
SOPHOMORE RUNNING BACK Rickey Galvin and junior Leon Brooks were shifty and elusive coming out of the backfield on several plays. The Cougs won't go full contact until Day 5 but for a helmets and shorts day, the offensive line looked good on run plays, "opening" huge holes for the running backs to run through on numerous occasions.
The wide receivers also looked strong, catching virtually everything that came in their direction.
Junior Marquess Wilson showed some sticky hands, making circus catches all day. And senior slot receiver Andre Lintz was a force to be a reckoned with, not only showcasing soft hands, but awareness to go along with it.
LINTZ MADE AN unbelievable catch in the back of the end zone in redzone drills for the play of the day, nimbly dragging the feet on his 250-pound frame for the score.
The offensive line in pass protection looked inconsistent for most of the day. They gave quarterbacks time on short patterns for the most part, but when the playbook called for the deep pass, pressure was getting to the quarterback regularly. As mentioned earlier, running backs had holes to run through all day.
THE FIRST AND second team squads were anything but stable on the first day of camp. The first team offense rotated at least 10 wide receivers throughout the day, including freshmen Rahmel Dockery and Gabe Marks.
The defense showed a similar blueprint, rotating all sorts of defensive lineman and members of the secondary throughout the afternoon.
"With Coach Leach, you could lose your starting job after one play," said junior linebacker Eric Oertel. "But honestly, I kinda like it. We're trying to ‘nut-up' out here and perform, so it'll be good."
Much like offense and defense, special teams appeared to be wide open and full of competition.
Freshmen Brett Bartolone and Dockery, as well as veterans Galvin, Brooks and senior Gino Simone all participated in return drills.
Galvin and Brooks highlighted the group on repetition after repetition, showcasing some serious change of direction. Simone, Bartolone and Dockery all had issues catching the ball at times. Junior punter/kicker Mike Bowlin looked to have a golden leg, regularly punting balls in excess of 40 yards in drills.
The defensive MVP of the day was clearly Washington. The cornerback is vying for one of the starting jobs held by Daniel Simmons and Horton on the post-spring depth chart.
QB David Gilbertson and Dockery connected on back-to-back 50-yard touchdown passes, spurring defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Mike Breske to express his displeasure to safety Anthony Carpenter and cornerback Tracy Clark.
Defensive lineman Xavier Cooper looks to be in incredible shape. Cooper is listed 20 pounds heavier than last season and garnered plenty of time running with the 1s at nose tackle and out on the end.
Others getting plenty of time with the 1s at the nose tackle position were junior Ioane Gauta and sophomore Kalafitoni Pole.
Full team reps were few and far between on Day 1, with Leach electing to stick with drills to reacquaint the team with the gridiron and initiate the newcomers. The Cougs did short two-minute drills toward the end of the day, but avoided anything too substantial. With pads expected to go on at the beginning of next week, expect scrimmaging to pick up more and more in coming days.
Freshmen were very seldom in most full team drills, instead participating in other drills on the outskirts of Rogers field. Freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca struggled, whereas walk-on freshman Conner Johnson threw a crisp ball that got to its target in short order.
Redshirt freshman wideout Dominique Williams often ran with the 1s as the outside receiver, supplanting Marquess Wilson on many plays and making several nice grabs.
The Cougs get back at it tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 for day two. CF.C will be there covering the action from every angle.
BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF DAY ONE OF FALL CAMP AT WSU.