WSU DAY 20: Secondary leads stingy defense

PULLMAN -- Washington State's defense -- paced by a stingy secondary -- led a strong defensive performance during Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, a couple of wide receivers returned to practice and made an immediate impact and another offensive lineman switched to the defensive side, raising further questions as to the depth in the trenches.

The Cougars' defense, particularly the secondary, came out reading and reacting to almost everything the first team offense could throw at them. Junior safety Deone Bucannon made a bevy of plays, including intercepting one Connor Halliday pass intended for sophomore Isiah Myers in the end zone.

Even the scout team defense came out ready, making play after play on short and long passes. Freshman cornerback Rahmel Dockery found himself in zone coverage for a majority of the afternoon, all the while excelling in coverage. Dockery knocked down several passes intended for outside receivers, even showing some emotion and vigor we have yet to see since his switch to defense.

The defense seems to be meshing well, playing as a unit instead of bunch of individuals looking to do it all by themselves.

"I think we're getting better and better," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "We really haven't had that continuity, hopefully this week we'll get our learning curve going in terms of playing fast together."

Breske said he hasn't made a decision as to whether freshman Taylor Taliulu will be the starter for BYU, but thinks he's done a good job learning the system.

WHILE COACHING AT Wyoming, Breske had the opportunity to play against Brigham Young four times. He said although the system has changed, there are certainly aspects that he can take from his experiences to prepare his defense.

"What I'm going to impart more to the defense is being in Provo," Breske said. "I don't think any of our guys have ever been there, so that's what we're really gonna stress to the defense, being in that environment."

Elsewhere, sophomore offensive linemen Moritz Christ worked with the defensive line all afternoon, further depleting what already was an extremely thin offensive line. Defensive line coach Joe Salave'a echoed the sentiment of WSU's coaching philosophy, noting that the Cougs are trying to get all the talent on the field they can.

"We're just trying to make sure we're not limiting him to one position," Salave'a said. "We're giving Mr. Christ the opportunity to explore both sides of the ball."

Linebackers coach Jeff Choate agreed with Salave'a, adding that this defense is going to put the best player at their best position on the field on a weekly basis.

"This team isn't going to be the same from one week to another," Choate said. "We have open competition every week, doesn't matter how a kid performs the week before."

Choate added that he has been very impressed freshman Kache Palacio and Jeremiah Allison, adding that Cougar fans may see the youth hit the field this season early and often.

"Palacio is great off the edge, and Jeremiah is a really smart player," Choate said. "These guys will probably contribute immediately on special teams, and slowly begin to see the field on defense."

One player not on the field Thursday was junior left guard Matt Goetz. Senior Wade Jacobson filled in at his spot all afternoon, running with the 1s while junior Jake Rodgers occupied the right guard spot. Coach Mike Leach was unavailable for comment after practice.

Wideouts Isiah Myers and Kristoff Williams also returned, running with the 2s while making impressive catches all afternoon.

  • Freshman cornerback Ray Ford did not participate.

  • Sophomore wide receiver Isiah Myers was a full participant.

  • Sophomore wideout Kristoff Williams was a full participant all afternoon.

  • Junior linebacker Eric Oertel participated fully all afternoon.

  • Senior wideout Gino Simone participated fully Tuesday.

  • Freshman nose tackle Xavier Cooper did not in most drills, but has reacquainted himself with the defense on the sidelines.

  • Junior linebacker Darren Markle did not participate.

  • Senior defensive end Lenard Williams was not in pads.

    Running with the 1s for the scrimmaging:

    LT- John Fullington
    LG- Wade Jacobson
    C- Elliott Bosch
    RG- Jake Rodgers
    RT- Dan Spitz
    QB– Jeff Tuel
    RB– Carl Winston/Teondray Caldwell/Leon Brooks
    X-WR– Marquess Wilson
    Y-WR– Andrei Lintz/Rickey Galvin
    Z-WR– Gabe Marks
    H-WR– Brett Bartolone (Simone ran a little with the 1s)
    LT- Matthew Bock (Toni Pole got a few plays)
    NT- Ioane Gauta
    RT- Steven Hoffart (Travis Long rotated between BUCK and DE)
    BUCK- Travis Long
    SAM- Eric Oertel
    MIKE- Darryl Monroe
    WILL- Chester Sua
    CB- Nolan Washington
    CB- Damante Horton
    FS- Taylor Taliulu
    SS- Deone Bucannon
    LS- Alex Den Bleyker
    P- Mike Bowlin
    KO- Bowlin/Furney rotation
    FG- Furney
    **The team did not work on kickoffs or punt returns Thursday.

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