DAY 12: Coug freshman gets chance to shine

PULLMAN – Washington State coach Mike Leach has not shown an aversion to playing – and even starting – true freshmen. And with a senior limited at practice, one of the Cougars' top signings from February worked his way onto the first-team defense during Wednesday's practice.

Make no mistake, senior CB Damante Horton's interception in the back of the end zone was the highlight of Tuesday's practice. But on that play, Horton landed awkwardly on his hip and was slow to get up before walking off the field. On Wednesday, the 5-10, 178-pound Horton began practice on the bikes and did not participate in any drills or scrimmage. Leach regularly declines to discuss injuries and Horton's situation is no different.

"He is good," Leach said. "He is bending horseshoes right now as we speak, so he is doing great."

With Horton on the mend and/or bending metal, true freshman Daquawn Brown moved into the starting lineup. Brown took advantage of his time by swatting down two balls in 7-on-7 and making crisp and fundamental open-field tackles during team session.

He made an excellent play when he battled against junior wide receiver Isiah Myers during 1-on-1 as he went up and swiped the ball out of Myers' hands as he was about to pull it in for a touchdown.

It was one of several notable plays in a practice dominated by the defense, particularly the line.

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Xavier Cooper stood out with his constant pressure and relentlessness in getting to the quarterbacks. He did not compile any sacks, but made quick jumps off the line and flushed the quarterbacks out of the pocket a handful of times during 11-on-11. Cooper, who started nine games last year, has been working with defensive line coach Joe Salave'a on his rush and explosiveness off the line in preparation for Auburn.

"I think defenses depend on a guy to rush the quarterback and I think I am in position to make a lot of sacks this year," Cooper said. "I think I have improved the most in my rush, my footwork, and coming off the ball."

A BIG SURPRISE came from the BUCK linebacker position in the No. 1 defense. Sophomore LB Kache Palacio had reps with the first unit during the team session and looked quite impressive. The 6-2, 225-pounder had three solo tackles during 11-on-11. Sophomore Destiny Vaeao has been excellent at the BUCK during fall camp, so it was interesting to see Palacio taking reps with the first team while Vaeao worked with the second team.

Plenty of players rotated at the linebacker positions Wednesday. The only linebacker who seems to have a spot on lockdown is sophomore LB Darryl Monroe. Monroe has been with the No. 1 defense throughout camp. During team session Wednesday, Monroe looked to have been favoring his right leg. He later was seen being tended to by trainers in the back of the end zone while the team finished 11-on-11. Later, Monroe was walking on his own, but did not go back in for team session. Senior Jared Byers took the remainder of the reps with the first unit while Monroe was out.

Senior linebackers Eric Oertel and Justin Sagote had a bulk of the reps with the first-team defense. Oertel worked at SAM while Sagote was at WIL. Sophomore Tana Pritchard received reps with the first unit at SAM and WILL, but the majority of his reps were with the second team. With a scrimmage Friday, it appears that the coaches want to give players as many reps as possible.

In team session, senior safety Deone Bucannon picked off junior QB Connor Halliday on a pass that was intended for junior wide receiver Kristoff Williams. Two plays later, Bucannon had a chance to tally a second interception on the day, but it slipped through his hands.

While working at MIKE in the second unit, freshman Peyton Pelluer had a "sack" on QB Austin Apodaca during team session.

ON OFFENSE, Halliday was held out of individuals again and 1-on-1. When he participated in 7-on-7, the redshirt junior completed passes to Williams on back-to-back plays. Halliday connected with Williams four times in total. During the first play of scrimmage, Halliday fired a ball deep to Myers, who blew by his defender for a 40-yard touchdown.

The play of the day went to Myers who leaped up for a one-handed grab while senior CB Nolan Washington was all over him in the back left corner of the end zone during 1-on-1.

Apodaca tallied two touchdown passes in scrimmage. Notably, the 6-3, 193-pound redshirt freshman was flushed out of the pocket by Vaeao. He rolled right and kept his eyes down field and threw an immaculate ball on the run to junior WR Bobby Ratliff for a 25-yard touchdown during team session.

Sophmore wide receiver Gabe Marks showcased his playmaking abilities during 1-on-1. In a matter of 10 minutes, Marks pulled in three touchdown passes and snagged five balls.

Redshirt sophomore RB Jeremiah Laufasa had another touchdown with the second unit during scrimmage that went for 5 yards.

Although OL coach Clay McGuire was dissatisfied with his line's performance Tuesday, they came back stronger, but the DL won the battle up front. The same OL who had been working with the No. 1 unit still remained intact today, but there was a glimpse of who worked with the No. 2 OL:

No. 2 OL in scrimmage:
Junior Devonte McClain
Redshirt Freshman Eduardo Middleton
Senior Zach Brevick
Senior Matt Goetz
Junior Jacob Seydel
Overall, the defense won the day. It took four overtimes to finish off the team session, but the finish was less than stellar. A miscommunication occurred when Halliday tossed the ball into the back, right corner of the end zone while Marks ran a quick slant and the ball sailed out of play to end the practice.

On special teams, senior kicker Andrew Furney's attempt from the left hash from 35-yards was good.

Returning punts during punt drills were:
Sophomore Brett Bartolone
Freshman Robert Lewis
Freshman Jamal Morrow
Senior Leon Brooks

Running with the 1s...

QB – Connor Halliday
RB – Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X, H, Y, and Z receivers – Many in rotation
LT- Gunnar Eklund
LG- Joe Dahl
C- Elliott Bosch
RG- John Fullington
RT- Rico Forbes

DE- Toni Pole
NT- Ioane Gauta
DE- Xavier Cooper
BUCK- Kache Palacio
SAM- Eric Oertel and Tana Pritchard
MIKE- Darryl Monroe (Jared Byers filled in later)
WILL- Justin Sagote
CB- Nolan Washington
CB – Daquawn Brown
S- Deone Bucannon
S- Anthony Carpenter

Not in attendance:
OL Matt Meyer
DL Paulo Lepua
S Darius Lemora
CB Rahmel Dockery

On bikes:
WR Tyler Baker
S Bennett Bontemps
LB Austin Rapp
S Paris Taylor
CB Damante Horton

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