SPRING DAY 2: Cougs sharp, QBs bounce back

PULLMAN -- Saturday saw brighter skies and brighter play from the Cougs on the second day of spring practices. The QBs were slinging the ball and hitting receivers in stride all day. A familiar face was making big plays on defense, a new BUCK linebacker continued to make waves and an o-lineman is standing tall. And although we're only two days into spring ball, one thing has become very apparent.

We'll get to that later but right now, there's something to be said for one of the Cougar newcomers.

BUCK Ivan McLennan is the real deal.

Two days removed from making his presence felt all over the field with his high-intensity motor, McLennan was back at it Saturday afternoon, tallying two "sacks" and a forced fumble in the helmets-only practice. Players are not in pads yet and grabbing the quarterback is considered a sack.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske says the explosive hybrid linebacker should only get better.

"He has some good twitch," Breske said. "He's doing well. I'm expect to him to be better after fifteen spring practices."

McLennan has shown no apprehension in his approach to the game at the Pac-12 level after transferring from in from the junior college ranks in January. Rushing the quarterback, McLennan goes full-bore each and every play. With junior Logan Mayes sidelined on crutches, is appears the door is open for McLennan to put a tight grip on the BUCK job outright headed into fall camp.

Elsewhere on the defensive side of the ball, senior Casey Locker and sophomore Taylor Taliulu both had strong showings Saturday at the safety spot.

Taliulu did get beat badly on one play, and was appropriately chewed out afterwards, but made up for it later by intercepting sophomore quarterback Jesse Brown one session later.

Locker had a nice day in pass coverage, excelling in the 1v1 drills, as well as knocking down a pass over the middle in 7on7 skeleton drills.

Fellow safety Deone Bucannon may have had the best day on defense, hauling in an interception on 1v1 drills and knocking down two balls.

For defensive backs, excelling in 1v1 drills is one hell of a challenge. Wideouts have the entire field to work with and it's the defensive backs job to stick with them the whole way.

For Bucannon to get the best of a wide receiver/quarterback tandem three times out of four was truly a big win.

On the offensive side of the ball, the quarterbacks began to rev their engines, connecting on several touchdowns and throwing fewer interceptions, thanks in part to some better weather on the Palouse.

For the day, junior Connor Halliday, on his birthday might I add, threw two touchdowns and one interception -- one score coming on a beautifully thrown seam route to junior Rickey Galvin for a 30-yard touchdown.

Redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca also had a better day, though is still noticeably working through the progressions as he matures. Apodaca is clearly making strides, and understands what he must do to claim the starting gig.

"Coach Leach keeps telling me get out of the backup role," Apodaca said. "I need to have the mentality of ‘I can win this job.'"

Apodaca also believes his athleticism and mobility could play well in the Air Raid offense, but added he needs to make the routine plays before worrying about the other things he can offer.

"I think I can scramble and I can keep plays alive," Apodaca said. "But like I said, just hitting the quick, routine plays with the short stuff and the medium stuff… I think I can do a good job of that."

WSU head man Mike Leach seems to be enjoying the quarterback battle, adding both are working hard and making good plays. While Halliday does have the upper hand, it doesn't appear as though Leach has handed him anything.

"They did a lot of good things," Leach said. "Consistency I guess would be the biggest thing."

The offensive line continues to look good while the depth is a sight to behold.

It's becoming more and more apparent redshirt senior Rico Forbes looks like the real deal. He tops the scales at 308 pounds of sheer chiseled Buffalo meat. It's early but he's really looking like the favorite to win the right tackle position this spring.

Having covered the Cougs for a few years now, it's almost impossible to describe the transformation that has taken place over the past two seasons in Pullman.

The offensive line now looks Pac-12 caliber. The size and strength is finally there, and the talent has undeniably improved.

It may sound like a broken record, the pads might not have come on yet and it is only spring -- but if this 2013 team doesn't make a bowl game, I would be absolutely floored. That's an indicator of how things have gone the first two days.

Here are the Cougs starting units for day two:

**It is important to note, extensive rotations took place throughout the entire afternoon and these 1's were fluid.

QB: Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca
RB: Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X: Dominique Williams (Enormous rotations at each WR position)
Z: Kristoff Williams (Enormous rotations at each WR position)
Y: Brett Bartolone (Enormous rotations at each WR position)
H: Rickey Galvin (Enormous rotations at each WR position)
LT: Gunnar Eklund
LG: John Fullington
C: Elliott Bosch
RG: Matt Goetz
RT: Rico Forbes

LE: Matthew Bock
NT: Ioane Gauta
RE: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Ivan McLennan
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
WILL: Justin Sagote
CB: Anthony Carpenter (Tracy Clark and Nolan Washington got some time)
FS: Casey Locker
SS: Deone Bucannon
CB: Damante Horton (Rahmel Dockery got some time)

KR: Leon Brooks, Robert Lewis, Brett Bartolone

• Junior BUCK Logan Mayes was on crutches with an apparent right leg injury and did not participate.

• Freshman CB Alex Jackson was not physically limited, but did not participate in today's drills.

• Redshirt freshman Robert Barber did not participate, instead working with the conditioning coaches all afternoon.

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