DAY 15: Halliday, Coug O finish on high note

PULLMAN -- Spring Ball at Washington State concluded Tuesday on a very high note for Connor Halliday and the offense. Head man Mike Leach was highly pleased with his team's offensive production on the day and named several players who were pleasant surprises this spring -- two of whom reside in the defensive secondary and had picks on the day.

Needless to say, Leach is already eager to get fall ball going.

"This was one of the best practices of our spring," said Leach on the impressive performance by his team Tuesday.

It was a good day for Halliday -- the fourth-year junior QB completed almost every pass he attempted on the day.

Seldom looking to strike on the big play, Halliday showed a mastery of the short routes Tuesday. By my count, he completed well over 80 percent of his passes.

Sophomore Gabe Marks was his favorite target on the day, seemingly unleashing his will on would-be defensive backs.

Halliday said the Cougs are primed for a productive summer.

"We took huge steps on the offensive line this spring," Halliday said. "I think it's mainly just a confidence in ourselves. Everybody kind of trusts each other right now which definitely wasn't the case last year."

Success will depend on effort, he said.

"We're not a team where we can relax and rely on out-talenting people," said Halliday regarding the hard work attitude that has been instilled in this team.

WHILE HALLIDAY PROSPERED, his QB counterpart Austin Apodaca struggled mightily on the day, having arguably his worst day production-wise this spring.

As reported earlier, the offense is awarded one point for every five yard gain the squad can put together. The defense scores a point for every play otherwise.

On Tuesday, Apodaca's second-team squad was able to post a paltry 3-19 loss against the second-team defense.

Leach was none too pleased with the second-team offensive performance, and ordered 20 up-downs. He went on to say the day's poor results shouldn't all be put on Apodaca's shoulders.

"I thought Austin could have been sharper," Leach said. "But I also thought he could have used some help."

ONE DAY doesn't define a spring, and after taking in 15 practices, it is clear Apodaca will challenge Halliday this fall if he takes a step forward this summer. Leach went on to say Apodaca was quite possibly one of the biggest surprises of the whole spring.

"I've never had a freshman go out there and play like he did," Leach said. "He didn't have any reps with the 1's or 2's last year and he came out and had a great spring."

On Day 15, Apodaca was intercepted by sophomore Taylor Taliulu, and later picked off by second year freshman Rahmel Dockery.

It was Dockery's seventh interception of the spring.

Leach went on to name Dockery and Taliulu two of the most improved players on defense, adding BUCK linebacker Kache Palacio into that category as well.

While Dockery was running with the 2's all afternoon, senior Damante Horton continued to play with the 1's and had by my accord, the most impressive practice of his spring.

HORTON LOOKED LIKE his old self, knocking down several balls and almost snaring a near impossible one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone. It would have been the catch of the spring.

Horton said he's put his challenging junior season behind him, and added he's a bigger man for having gone through it.

"Last year was a mostly mental deal," Horton said. "I'm over it now and ready to go. Hard work and preparation has been the key."

That's been a common theme from some of the older players this spring. A year later, it appears the shock and awe of the coaching change has subsided, and everybody appears settled into their roles.

In talking to the players, they've said the team was not truly prepared for the culture change and redefined expectations set forth by Leach and Co. Now that they've settled in and there is a better understanding for the way the operation works, they say good things will come.

Here are the first-teamers for Day 15:

QB: Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca
RB: Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X: Dominique Williams and Isiah Myers
Z: Gabe Marks and Kristoff Williams
Y: Brett Bartolone and Bobby Ratliff (Several rotations at each WR position)
H: Rickey Galvin and Robert Lewis (Several rotations at each WR position)
LT: Gunnar Eklund
LG: Joe Dahl
C: Zack Brevick (Elliott Bosch in a soft cast on right foot)
RG: Matt Goetz and John Fullington
RT: Rico Forbes

LE: Matthew Bock
NT: Darryl Paulo
RE: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Kache Palacio
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
WILL: Tana Pritchard
CB: Nolan Washington
FS: Casey Locker
SS: Taylor Taliulu
CB: Damante Horton

KR: Rickey Galvin, Leon Brooks and Brett Bartolone
PR: Rickey Galvin and Brett Bartolone
Gunners: Anthony Carpenter and Rickey Galvin

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