FALL CAMP NOTEBOOK: DAY 2

PULLMAN -- The Cougars welcomed a new face, and a much-hyped freshman showed why he was the highest-rated recruit from WSU's 2012 class on Friday. Meanwhile, the offense and defense both took strides while racking up big plays during a grueling three-hour practice. In the end, coach Mike Leach sounded impressed.

"I thought our players did well," Leach said after the team completed its second day of fall camp. "I thought we settled in even further today. It was a deal where nobody really got the upper hand. There were big flashy plays on either side, and if somebody got down for one play he wasn't down for long."

What could stand as the play of fall camp came during team drills when quarterback Connor Halliday lofted a 50-yard bomb down the middle of the field intended for freshman wide receiver Gabriel Marks. Blanketed by both safety Deone Bucannon and cornerback Damante Horton, Marks somehow corralled a pass that was partially deflected with one hand before tumbling into the back of the end zone.

Leach said he's not sure where Marks will end up on the depth chart, but he can't help admiring his playmaking skills.

"Hard to say," he said when asked if Marks will spend more time working inside or outside the hashes. "He's smooth, very efficient and picks things up quickly. At this point, guys will kind of be raw … they'll catch the ball but maybe their skills aren't as sharp as they could be. His skills are sharp. He's one of those guys who plays older than he is."

According to Leach, it's all about making adjustments as a freshman. He said Marks is well ahead of schedule, as is the rest of the offense.

"We had good work in the summer because these young guys know the plays," Leach said. "I expected to stop in between plays; tell everybody what to do. There wasn't a lot of that. We could just call a play and run it."

Halliday echoed Leach's opinion of his newest weapon while offering a little insight of his own.

"Gabe's a player, man," he said. "That kid can move. He's got a really good knack for finding holes in zones that you can't really coach. A kid's either got it or he doesn't and he's got that. He's darn near one of the fastest receivers we've got and he's the youngest one we have, so that's exciting to see.

"I've never seen a kid run that good of routes coming straight out of high school and that even includes Marquess Wilson."

WHILE MARKS SHINED on the field, the newest incoming Cougar drew the attention of onlookers when he made an appearance on the sidelines. Raymond Ford, a cornerback out of Gardena, Calif. who previously committed to Cal, signed his letter of intent Friday afternoon before practice.

WSU could need help at cornerback if Tuel and Halliday continue to carve up the first-team defense like they did on Friday. Both looked efficient passing while spreading their throws to a variety of receivers with relative ease.

Tuel's best play of the day came when he escaped trouble by scrambling out of the pocket before lofting a 20-yard pass down the right side to Hawaii transfer Drew Loftus. The sophomore wide receiver snatched the ball at the last moment, dragging both feet on the sidelines before running out of bounds.

In team drills, running back Marcus Mason exhibited the quick burst that helped him average 8.1 yards per carry his freshman year. He broke free multiple times on screen passes from Tuel and Halliday, cutting up-field untouched thanks to some explosive footwork.

Wide receiver Dominique Williams also gave glimpses of why the previous coaching staff loved his potential. He dominated one-on-one drills against the first-team corners and safeties, mixing impressive grabs while under tight coverage.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Chad Eaton was on-hand to take in the first part of Friday's practice. Eaton starred on WSU's defensive line in the early '90s before going on to play nine seasons in the NFL. In 2010, he served as a graduate assistant on the WSU coaching staff, helping in particular with the defensive line.

  • It's much too early to determine who is running permanently with the 1s and 2s, but the offensive line received a partial makeover during team scrimmages. John Fullington was at his usual left tackle spot, while Matt Goetz saw multiple snaps at left guard. Elliot Bosch stayed at center and Jake Rodgers slid over to right guard. Dan Spitz then rounded out the Greater Spokane League-dominated side of the line by working at right tackle.

  • Marks looked good all day before a fumble in the final stages of the scrimmage. The slip-up earned him a trip to the "Leach Beach" with outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons. With most of the team already in the locker room, Simmons made Marks roll back and forth in the sand for a few minutes before letting him leave.

  • Rodgers left the field toward the end of practice, but it didn't appear to be serious.

  • Offensive lineman Wade Jacobson, wide receiver Alex Jackson and wide receiver Henry Eaddy were all absent on Friday. After practice, Leach said he expects Jackson to arrive on campus soon, however he wouldn't comment on Jacobson.


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