PULLMAN -- If repetition is the key to learning, the 2012 WSU football team may be better versed in their offensive and defensive schemes than any squad in the country. It was more of the same on Saturday as players went through drills, one-on-one battles and scrimmages in scorching 90-degree weather. Except this time they were in helmets and shoulder pads for the first time this summer.

"I thought initially we came out sluggish and then picked it up really well," WSU coach Mike Leach said after another three-hour practice. "Really good contact and tempo. Usually the first day you put shoulder pads on it's significantly less than this but our enthusiasm I've been happy with."

Going through the same drills again and again has added an element of toughness to the entire team, according to tight end Andrei Lintz. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound wide receiver said the added reps have made picking up the Air Raid offense easier.

"Realistically, we've been running every single play every single day since spring ball," Lintz said. "We did a really good job over the summer where three nights a week we were out here for an hour to an hour-and-a-half just repping our whole offense."

"It's pretty much second nature."

Leach echoed his playmaker's sentiment while also adding that structure allows the skill positions to refine their technique.

"You got to develop your skills," Leach said. "If you're bouncing all over the place you're not developing anything. You're constantly doing scheme this, scheme that. This was the third day, so there were a few guys who got mentally overloaded, which is understandable."

LINTZ WAS AMONG those appearing exceptionally comfortable.

He again looked impressive on Saturday, taking multiple big hits from an improving WSU linebacking corps before popping back up with the football in-hand. On one occasion, Darryl Monroe drew a smattering of hollers from his teammates after laying WSU's "inside receiver" out. Lintz hopped back to his feet quickly while barely looking phased after suffering a collision that would knock most inside receivers out cold.

The fifth-year senior said he added strength this offseason while shedding the little remaining fat he had left. Polishing his route running and improving his quickness were the focus of his summer, but unlike many of his teammates, he managed to avoid losing weight thanks to a jumbo-sized diet that included roughly five meals a day.

Lintz hopes the result of the hard work and eating plan has molded him into a Rob Gronkowski-type weapon that will make opposing defenses cringe in 2012. But he isn't the only member of the team to have reworked their physique over the summer.

"The (offensive linemen) have bigger arms and smaller bellies," Leach said when asked to pinpoint whose made the most progress of his position players.

The line again played solidly on Saturday, allowing quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday enough time to find open targets throughout the scrimmage portion of practice. The play of the afternoon came when Connor Halliday avoided pressure before scrambling out of the pocket to hit a streaking Gino Simone in the end zone for a touchdown.

Simone had another strong afternoon, consistently shedding defenders in one-on-one drills before showcasing the reliable hands noticeably absent from the playing field over the last two seasons.

While the offense looked polished, one defensive player has already refined his skills in just his third day of action. However, things didn't exactly start easily for nose tackle Ioane Gauta.

Just ask defensive coordinator Mike Breske.

"He had a great day yesterday," said Breske of the transfer from Fullerton Junior College. "Day one, I don't know. He was all over the place. He was even in a two-point stance, which our nose guards should not be in. But yesterday he made some great plays on the screen game. He's going to be a physical, physical young man in the middle."

  • WSU sports information director Bill Stevens said the athletic department sold 3,600 single-game tickets for 2012 home games on Saturday, 1,200 of which were for the annual Seattle game. Saturday marked the first day single-game tickets became available for the public to purchase. During the first 15 minutes the box office was open, 1,102 tickets were sold. In 2011, the Cougars sold just 700 on the first day.

  • Offensive linemen Wade Jacobson was again missing from practice Saturday, but he is expected back tomorrow. Fellow hoss Jake Rodgers also missed practice. He was in Spokane tending to a family matter.

  • Cornerback Nolan Washington was the only player riding the stationary bike away from team drills. Also, incoming cornerback Raymond Ford was again on the sidelines in street clothes. Leach said after practice that Ford still must finish NCAA paperwork and undergo his physical before joining the team.

  • CF.C will be back with more coverage of fall camp on Sunday to give readers a picture of who's running with the 1s and 2s.

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