Tempers flare with unlikely man in the middle

PULLMAN – It took just four practices for tempers to flare. Washington State's spring workout Thursday was full of fireworks, and the key performers in the theatrics weren't linemen. Receivers, running backs… even a quarterback had the dukes up. Meanwhile, the injury bug struck again, and this time to one of the team's most prominent players.

Senior safety Deone Bucannon, noticeably frustrated, left practice about an hour in with what looked to be a lower-body injury. He left under his own power, but WSU doesn't publicly acknowledge injuries so the severity is unknown.

With Bucannon out, sophomore Taylor Taliulu took over at the starting strong safety position for the remainder of the afternoon.

The big storyline of the day, though, was the series of scuffles that broke out.

The most surprising was a tussle between freshman walk-on receiver Willie Roach and fourth-year junior quarterback Connor Halliday.

The normally mild-mannered Halliday became irate with Roach, who had a tough time catching the ball. The two exchanged a rather assertive head-butt, followed by some misfired fists and a skirmish that was promptly broken up. Receivers coach Dennis Simmons grabbed Halliday and receiver Henry Eaddy grabbed Roach and threw him to the ground.

That wasn't the only confrontation.

Running back Leon Brooks and receiver Gabe Marks got into it with the linebacking corps after a couple stout hits at the sideline. Marks also got into it with some of the defensive backs toward the end of practice, though no punches were thrown.

Marks deemed it all part of the game.

"When you see the same guys every day, dueling guys in the weight room, it gets to you," Marks said. "It's like having a little brother. The littlest thing can set you off. All good though, it just adds to the competition."

Head coach Mike Leach was unavailable for comment after practice.

As for action between the lines, Halliday and Austin Apodaca looked strong in full-squad scrimmaging.

Halliday connected with junior Isiah Myers on a 10-yard touchdown toward the end of his reps, and Austin Apodaca connected on a 70-yard bomb to Marks on a blown coverage.

Both quarterbacks efficiently moved the ball.

On defense, junior BUCK Ivan McLennan was back running with the 1s. The JC transfer finds himself out of position at times, but brings high intensity every snap.

"Oh man, the BUCK position is a fun position," McLennan said. "I'm getting better and better. We're just competing for that position."

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said with junior Logan Mayes out for the spring with an undisclosed leg injury, McLennan and freshman Kache Palacio are battling for BUCK playing time.

Breske also noted that Mayes will play some defensive end this season – a position where he started two games last season.

McLennan, who checks in at 6-4 and 238 pounds, said he has packed on almost 30 pounds since arriving in Pullman in January.

"I feel like I should have been this weight (while playing JC ball)," McLennan said. "Sometimes I had to eat (just) a sandwich or a Cup-O-Noodles (for the day). Just the convenience of food … I feel like I have more power to me."

The starting units for the day looked like this:

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

LE: Matthew Bock
NT: Ioane Gauta
RE: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Ivan McLennan AND Kache Palacio
SAM: Cyrus Coen AND Jeremiah Allison
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
WILL: Justin Sagote (Tana Pritchard got some turns as well)
CB: Anthony Carpenter (Nolan Washington ran with the 2s)
FS: Casey Locker
SS: Taylor Taliulu
CB: Damante Horton (Rahmel Dockery ran with the 2s)
KR: Leon Brooks, Robert Lewis, Brett Bartolone


  • The hit of the day belonged to sophomore MIKE linebacker Darryl Monroe, who came screaming out of the middle of the field to dismantle Brooks on a quick flare pattern out of the backfield. Brooks held onto the ball.

  • Former Idaho head coach and Cougar defensive coordinator Robb Akey was on hand for the entire scrimmage.

  • The Cougs are off Friday and then back in action Saturday morning at 10.

  • The Crimson & Gray Game will be held April 20 in Spokane (2 p.m. kickoff). It will culminate a week's worth of events WSU is holding in the Lilac City, including an April 15 gathering at Northern Quest Casino featuring Mike Price and several of his players from his 1997 Pac-10 champion team. They'll be showing highlights from that year's Apple Cup victory.

  • Cougfan Top Stories