DAY 16: Leach cracks whip; special teams woes

PULLMAN–The Cougs came out Sunday lacking vigor, hustle and effort. Fighting sweltering heat, the Wazzu offense sputtered and failed to establish any sort of tempo. And Mike Leach wasn't pleased. He proceeded to make it very clear to the players that if the Cougs are going to go anywhere this year, it will be predicated on effort and hustle. Plus, a ST report and a corner was sporting a new cast.

"We will be great at effort," Mike Leach said. "We may not be good at anything else, but we will be good at great effort."

Leach halted practice mid-scrimmage to drive the point home. Every member of the already fatigued football team was required to perform 40 up-downs.

Junior guard Niu Sale didn't perform the up-downs at a sufficient level in Leach's eyes, and was relegated to the sand pit for the remainder of the afternoon. Back on Friday, Leach was singing his praises for the way he was handling a punt drill. On Sunday, Sale was relegated to struggle through multiple sand drills for roughly 40 minutes, panting throughout.

THE COUGS SPENT over an hour of the afternoon working on special teams, specifically punt return and coverage. Every drill was sloppy.

Gunners were regularly running into return men on fair catches. Snaps on punts were high, and even the punters had a hard time getting off anything acceptable, the normally stellar Mike Bowlin included.

Special teams coach Eric Russell was less than pleased with the performance. The exaggerated personality of Russell had even more fire and punch than usual. Indeed, the snarl and scowl of Russell could be seen from a substantial distance. It was an attitude nobody in his or her right mind would want to deal with. After an excessive tongue-lashing, the squad seemed to figure it out, finishing the drills strong.

THE SPECIAL TEAMS positions look to be close to locked up.

Juniors Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter ran as the gunners all afternoon.

Junior Leon Brooks looks to be the primary punt return man, with fellow junior Theron West getting considerable opportunities as well.

The Cougs have not worked on kickoff returns in the last 2-3 practices and a big stable of potential candidates remains.

Sophomore Ryan Saparto has been the long-snapper throughout fall camp, but sophomore Alex Den Bleyker ran with the 1's today.

THIS FALL PRACTICE SESSION, more than any other to date, featured plenty of salty language and short tempers.

Leach said the practice wasn't satisfactory, and if the team didn't learn effort today, they'll surely attempt to teach the same lesson tomorrow.

"(The team thinks) there's a bunch of innocent and understandable, misunderstandings. Well they're not innocent and they're not understandable. We made that point clear," Leach said.

QUARTERBACK NOTE: Leach said the Cougs are beginning to get the guys who will be the starters more reps. While he did not officially declare the QB competition done, Jeff Tuel has for the past few days gotten about 65 percent of the reps with the 1s, Connor Halliday about 35 percent.

  • Freshman TE Max Hersey is now being looked at as a defensive end. Leach said the coaches like him because he's fast, physical, and has long arms. Hersey also "moves stuff around when he hits it."

  • WSU head basketball coach Ken Bone was in attendance for today's practice in its entirety with his daughter.

    --Freshman cornerback Ray Ford sported a hard cast on his right arm. Ford was not suited up and it would appear the injury is rather serious.

    --Sophomore cornerback Brandon Golden did not participate.

    --Sophomore wide receiver Isiah Myers did not participate.

    --Junior linebacker Eric Oertel did not participate.

    --Senior wideout Gino Simone fully participated but looked to be in considerable pain all afternoon. It is believed to be a lower back injury, incurred when Simone was drilled by safety Deone Bucannon on Thursday.

    --Freshman nose tackle Xavier Cooper did not participate.

    --Junior linebacker Darren Markle did not participate.

    --Kristoff Williams participated in some drills, but rode the bike a majority of the afternoon.

    Running with the 1s on Sunday
    QB- Jeff Tuel
    RB- Leon Brooks/Teondray Caldwell
    LT- John Fullington
    LG- Matt Goetz
    C- Elliott Bosch
    RG- Wade Jacobson/Jake Rodgers
    RT- Jake Rodgers/Dan Spitz
    X WR- Marquess Wilson
    Y WR- Andrei Lintz
    H WR- Gino Simone/Brett Bartolone
    Z WR- Gabe Marks

    LT- Matthew Bock
    NT- Ioane Gauta
    RT- Steven Hoffart
    BUCK- Travis Long
    SAM- Cyrus Coen/Jared Byers
    WILL- Chester Sua
    MIKE- Darryl Monroe
    SS- Deone Bucannon
    FS- Taylor Taliulu
    CB- Nolan Washington
    CB- Damante Horton

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