DAY 5: Full pads, Halliday soars, Cougs run

LEWISTON -- Mike Leach asks a great deal of the quarterback who runs Washington State's rapid-fire, pass-happy offense, and Connor Halliday wasn't anticipating a whole lot of praise from coaches when they reviewed his impressive Tuesday practice performance in the film room that night.

"Maybe I'll get a compliment here and there, but I doubt it," Halliday said with a smile.

If it's any consolation to Halliday, Leach complimented the quarterback at length after practice.

"I thought he did really well," Leach told reporters. "He's doing a really good job of leading the team."

CF.C will also have a second report from Lewiston later tonight...

Halliday said he's more comfortable with the offense and senses that Leach is more comfortable with him in their second year of working together. Leach yanked Halliday in and out of the starting lineup last year when the strong-armed youngster offset big-play passes with interceptions and poor decisions, but Leach has repeatedly said since spring drills that the redshirt junior from Spokane has learned to play within the offense better.

Halliday said Tuesday "was the best day I've had with Leach in going through reads. In skelly, I hit four check-downs. I (can) hit big plays. The hardest thing for me to get to the check-downs, so I was happy with that."

HALLIDAY LOOKED SOLID throughout the 2-hour practice, though he was picked off in the end zone by linebacker Sagote.

Later, during 11-on-11 play, Halliday found speedy receiver Robert Lewis isolated on linebacker Jared Byers in the middle of the end zone, so Halliday quickly fired a bullet off his back foot to take advantage of the mismatch.

Halliday and Leach said they were pleased with the intensity of Tuesday's practice, one day after tempers flared continuously in a testy session. Leach was not pleased when Halliday – wearing a blue, non-contact jersey along with all the other quarterbacks – was hit one time on Tuesday, but Halliday laughed it off.

"I got popped a little bit, but I mean, that happens," he said. "This is the most intense fall camp I've been a part of, so I've got no problem with that."

Sagote and monstrous offensive tackle John Fullington (6-5, 301) briefly tussled after the no-no contact with Halliday.

Later, Fullington and fellow senior tackle Rico Forbes, who are both enjoying strong camps, displayed emotion rarely seen from offensive linemen at WSU in recent years when they pounded and smothered the diminutive 5-9 Lewis in the end zone in celebration after the touchdown.

"Our offensive line has gotten better and better and better," Leach said. "They're playing with lower pads. We've got a lot of enthusiasm, but I think they've probably improved a little faster than I thought they would."

THE O-LINE struggled mightily with pass protection and run blocking last year. A bigger, stronger, more experienced line appears to have improved in all aspects of play through the first five days of camp -- and running backs Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason took advantage Tuesday on an afternoon when temperatures approached 100 at Sacajawea Junior High School.

"We got good (passing) stats there," Halliday said, "but my biggest deal there was, we were able to run the ball. We had two or three big runs in there. That opens everything up for me and the receivers."

Caldwell provided one of the highlights of the day when he ducked inside near the line of scrimmage and scampered perhaps 60 yards before hustling freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown dragged him down.

"The running backs were really decisive when hitting the hole," Leach said.

Sophomore wideout Gabe Marks enjoyed yet another strong day, but Halliday was quick to point out that Marks isn't the only receiver playing well.

"Isiah Myers has had a huge camp," Halliday said. "Gabe just keeps doing what he does, and Kristoff (Williams) … our receiving corps is playing unbelievably right now. That sure helps me out a lot."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca, who is trying to push Halliday for the starting job, found Vince Mayle all alone over the middle for about a 90-yard touchdown on the first snap Apodaca took during the scrimmage. Later, Apodaca threw a poorly thrown ball for an interception for the second straight day.

"I was talking to someone about spring (practice) and how confused I was trying to pick up the offense and trying to rush things," Apodaca said. "I know I'm still not there yet – I've still got a LOT to improve on, a long way to go – but I've got a lot better just since spring."

MEANWHILE, STANDOUT SENIOR safety Deone Bucannon saw limited action Tuesday and sat out the scrimmage. As usual, Leach had no comments on injuries.

Starting MIKE linebacker Darryl Monroe provided a scare midway through practice when he limped off the field and laid on the ground in pain. However, Monroe soon returned to action after having his left hamstring massaged and stretched.

NOTABLE NOTE:
Trying to list the four wideouts running with the first team is an exercise in futility. Tuesday's session was again filled with constant changes, constant running in and out -- a presumed starter might sit out an entire series sometimes. Leach likes to play eight receivers regularly, and he says he likes 10 that he can count on. And he's sure playing everybody and anybody in fall camp thus far.

Running with the 1s
Offense:
QB– Connor Halliday
RB – Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X, H, Y, and Z receivers – Many players receiving reps
LT- Gunnar Eklund
LG- Joe Dahl
C- Elliott Bosch
RG- John Fullington
RT- Rico Forbes

Defense:
DE- Toni Pole
NT- Ioane Gauta
DE- Xavier Cooper
BUCK- Destiny Vaeao
SAM- Cyrus Coen and Tana Pritchard*
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Justin Sagote and Tana Pritchard*
CB- Nolan Washington
CB - Damante Horton
S - Deone Bucannon (Bucannon sat out the scrimmaging and was replaced by Taylor Taliulu)
S - Casey Locker

* Coen and Sagote got the vast majority of reps over Pritchard at the SAM and WILL, respectively.

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