DAY 9 PART II: Leach keeping QB job open

PULLMAN--WSU responded from their most sluggish practice of fall camp with an energetic two-hour session on Friday. And Mike Leach isn't ready to end the starting QB question. Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday split reps with the first-team offense, each showing off respective strengths on a day owned by the O. The day even featured one of the quarterbacks getting into a skirmish with a defenseman..

Leach's post-practice interview on Friday struck a different tone than Thursday's thanks to better offensive production, but he wasn't ready to name a starting quarterback.

Not yet, at least.

"It could be a few days. It's up for grabs a little bit week to week," Leach said. "We will adjust the reps at some point, but I don't have a timeframe. You (media) guys can have a contest like betting when some lady's going to have a baby or something if you want to."

Since his arrival at WSU, Leach has consistently said he generally does not name a QB starter until well into fall camp – but his decision to name a 2012 signal caller for the Cougs has perhaps grown more difficult because of Halliday's continued improvement through the early stages of fall camp.

Halliday threw touchdowns of 50-plus yards on back-to-back plays during Friday's live 11-on-11 sessions, the second coming on a beautifully lofted pass to Gabriel Marks -- who had a stellar outing on Day 9.

Marks corralled the ball at the five-yard line before stretching into the end zone.

When asked to handicap the quarterback battle, Leach opted against discussing personnel or giving any hints.

"I'll handle that inside," he said. "We're just still evaluating and still watching them throw."

Tuel's first touchdown strike during 11-on-11s came when he scrambled out of the pocket to escape pressure before finding Brett Bartolone wide open.

His next came on a long bomb to Marquess Wilson. The projected starter entering fall camp, Tuel rarely missed a target in skeleton drills and during the red zone competition to end practice.

TUEL APPEARED READY ready to fight for his job on Friday -- both literally and figuratively.

After finding Bennett Bontemps for a touchdown on the first play during the team's daily red zone competition, Tuel decided it was his turn to mix it up.

After all, the offensive linemen shouldn't have all the fun.

Tuel handed the ball off to Carl Winston, then pushed the pile when a flurry of defenders stood up his running back at the goal line. Winston fell forward into the end zone, as the senior quarterback locked up with linebacker Logan Mayes.

A pushing match complete with shouting ensued between the pair before the senior quarterback threw an open-handed shiver to the side of Mayes' helmet.

The blow sent the pass rusher stumbling backwards, nearly putting Mayes to the ground.

Leach said after practice he didn't mind the scuffle.

"It's part of what happens," he said. "Yeah, I'd have to see it on film. If they waste time, I up-down them because we're all standing here waiting. If they're going to fight they better do it quick."

RIGHT GUARD Jake Rodgers said the offense was simply much sharper than on Thursday. The offensive line, in particular, improved their play by focusing on lowering pad level through contact.

They consistently opened holes for running backs Carl Winston and Leon Brooks to slice through all afternoon.

The performance left the unit feeling more confident entering Saturday's scrimmage, the Cougs' first official scrimmage of fall camp.

"The whole offense had a lot better attention to detail," he said. "‘We were just doing our job."

  • Senior cornerback Daniel Simmons turned in the defensive highlight of the afternoon when he ran stride for stride with Wilson before knocking away a perfectly placed 25-yard pass from Tuel in the back corner of the end zone.

  • From this vantage point, Simmons and Damante Horton have consistently played the best coverage through the first nine days of fall camp.

  • The quarterbacks ran the bucket drill for the second consecutive day – Friday, the results were much better. In the end, Tuel and Halliday each deposited two fades into the back of the end zone while David Gilbertson threw one.

    - Michael Bowlin bombed consecutive punts of 50-plus yards during special teams drills. One boot sailed over the end zone and the tackling dummies before landing well back into the bushes lining the Compton Union Building.

    Running with the 1's on Friday:

    QB- Jeff Tuel/Connor Halliday
    RB- Carl Winston and Leon Brooks both received extensive time with the 1's
    X-WR- Marquess Wilson
    Z-WR- Gabe Marks/ Isiah Myers
    Y- WR- Rickey Galvin
    H- WR- Brett Bartolone/ Gino Simone/ Bennett Bontemps
    C- Elliott Bosch
    RG- Jake Rodgers/Wade Jacobson
    RT- Dan Spitz
    LG- Matt Goetz
    LT- John Fullington

    LT- Matthew Bock
    NT- Ioane Gauta
    RT- Steven Hoffart
    BUCK- Travis Long
    SAM- Eric Oertel
    MIKE- Darryl Monroe
    WILL- Chester Sua
    FS- Tyree Toomer
    SS- Deone Bucannon
    CB- Daniel Simmons
    CB- Damante Horton

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