Good WSU practice, but still need more H

PULLMAN — As the Cougs prepare for one of the nation's most productive passing attacks in Oregon State, the Cougar defense on Tuesday hassled the scout team from top to bottom and all points in between. On offense, the Cougs were pretty well dialed in. And CF.C caught up with assistant coach Jim Mastro to get his evaluation on the running backs at the midway point of the season.

"I thought we had a good practice," head man Mike Leach said. "(We) had a good team period and bounced around pretty good."

Junior QB Connor Halliday rifled the pigskin to intended receivers in both the team and 7-on-7 sessions.

In 7-on-7, Halliday settled comfortably in the pocket and finished 17-of-21 with no touchdowns. The only blemish came when Halliday overthrew sophomore WR Brett Bartolone and was intercepted by redshirt junior CB Tracy Clark.

Halliday shook it off and finished strong in the team session, completing 17-of-20 with no turnovers.

Generally, Halliday receives around two-thirds of the reps with the remaining reps handed out to Austin Apodaca. Apodaca made the most of his 10 reps in both sessions, going 9-of-10 in each skelly and team, but finished without a touchdown and turned the ball over one time, though it was the fault of the receiver, as one pass went through Bartolone's hands and was picked off by sophomore LB Feddie Davey.

On Monday, Leach made it clear he wanted more production out of his H receivers. Bartolone missed two games earlier this season to injury but has been running with the 1s since coming back.

The leading receiver last season for the Cougs with 53 catches, Bartolone has eight grabs in four games this season. He struggled on Tuesday.

"I thought they were okay," Leach said of the H wideouts. "Nothing to write home about, but I think they are getting better."

Junior receiver Rickey Galvin and senior wideout Leon Brooks also took reps at H, but neither had standout afternoons. Leach reiterated the importance of the H position, and also included a not-so-subtle reminder.

"I think it helps the dimension on a lot of plays -- and also it helps keep them from getting replaced by other receivers," Leach noted.

SOPHOMORE WIDE REEIVER Dom Williams was a limited participant this afternoon and rode the bikes at practice. Vince Mayle filled in with the 1s at X receiver.

Right guard Matt Goetz continued to work with the No. 1 offensive unit. When asked, WSU offensive line coach Clay McGuire did not shy away from the idea of seeing the same line take the field Saturday as did last week against Cal.

"Yeah, it's quite possible," McGuire said. "One thing we talked about compared to last year is that we have a lot of depth now and competition has made us so much better throughout the spring and fall camp. That's what we are going to do. We felt coming into last week we really needed to go out there and have better practices and the competition factor has really done that."

Out of 68 pass attempts against Cal, the Coug o-line only gave up one sack.

ANOTHER BIG TAKEAWAY from the Cal game was the running backs – the Cougs had two rushing touchdowns and Marcus Mason racked up 150 all-purpose yards from the line of scrimmage. CF.C asked running backs coach Jim Mastro for his evaluation midway through the season of the stable that includes Mason, Teondray Caldwell and Jeremiah Laufasa.

"I like our production," Mastro said. "In this offense, it's not really about the running game it's about the production of the position because we ask them to do so much in the passing game. Obviously we are light years ahead from where we were a year ago. We still have a long way to go, we are leaving too many plays on the field and we have got to make those plays."

Mason's breakout game at Cal vaulted him into second place on the team in all-purpose yards. The key to Mason's day at Cal? Mastro said it was months in the making.

"He matured and grew up in the offseason," Mastro said. "(He) got in the weight room in the offseason and understands the offense. He is dedicated to his craft. A running back in this offense compared to the offenses I've coached in the past, it's a craft because you have to do a lot of things and he dedicated himself to improving his skillset."

Mastro was asked if it is difficult for young running backs to pick up the Air Raid and produce quickly.

"Yes, we ask them to do a lot in the protection game. They have to be receivers…they have to be everything," Mastro noted. "Yeah, it's tough for a freshman. That's why we redshirted the two kids this year. Once you've ‘got it' in this offense, you've ‘got it' -- because it never changes. It's the same thing for four years…you have to make them somehow get it."

Mason's progression has also caught the eye of Leach.

"I think Marcus is playing well and is doing a lot of good things on special teams," Leach said. "He (was named) a special teams captain a week ago, I think. He is doing really good on special teams and on offense."

ON THE DEFENSIVE side of the ball, true freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown continued to work with the 1s along with Damante Horton. Brown also was with the 1s on Sunday.

I focused mostly on the offense today but the defensive front has a good day and so did the secondary.

Brown continued his penchant for picks with had an interception off of scout team freshman QB Tyler Bruggman.

Senior CB Nolan Washington, who ran with the 2s again on Tuesday, helped his cause by grabbing a pick off Bruggman.

Senior nose tackle Ioane Gauta "sacked" Bruggman in the short session.

Redshirt junior DL Kalafitoni Pole batted down a Bruggman pass intended for sophomore WR Drew Loftus.

Running with the 1s:

OFFENSE
QB- Connor Halliday
RB- Marcus Mason
X Receiver- Dom Williams
H Receiver- Brett Bartolone
Y Receiver- River Cracraft
Z Receiver- Gabe Marks
LT- Gunnar Eklund
LG- Joe Dahl
C- Elliott Bosch
RG- Matt Goetz
RT- John Fullington

DEFENSE:
DE- Toni Pole
NT- Ioane Gauta
DE- Xavier Cooper
BUCK- Destiny Vaeao
SAM- Cyrus Coen
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Justin Sagote
CB- Daquawn Brown
CB – Damante Horton
S – Deone Bucannon
S – Taylor Taliulu

Limited Players:
WR Dom Williams
OL Jacob Seydel
LB Peyton Pelluer
DL Mortiz Christ

Not in attendance:
LB Eric Oertel
S Bennett Bontemps
LS Ryan Saparto
S Darius Lemora
LB Chester Sua

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