PRACTICE: WSU offense continues to gel

PULLMAN—The day belonged to the offense on Wednesday afternoon at Rodgers Field. The offense looked to be clicking on all cylinders, with the aerial attack continuing to look sharp. One group who bounced back after a sluggish day on Tuesday were the outside receivers. CF.C caught up with position coach Dennis Simmons, who provided plenty of insights on how his group is taking shape.

"I thought practice today was good," Simmons said following practice. "I thought we worked hard. Yesterday was a bit sloppy. I thought today we cleaned up some stuff. We caught the ball well. Obviously we weren't perfect in a drop-free day. Off the top of my head I think we may have had one or two."

Sophomore WR Dom Williams, who was a limited participant on Tuesday, returned to full speed on Wednesday and showed no signs of rust.

It's no secret that Williams is a dynamic playmaker for the Cougs, especially downfield. Six games into the season, Williams is averaging a jaw-dropping 19.6 yards a catch. On the other hand, Williams only has 14 receptions. CF.C asked Simmons about Williams and his low number of catches.

"Our unit is deep," Simmons said. "Obviously last week would have been a good week for him, had he been able to stay in there. Like I said, our unit is deep and guys are making plays." "One week you get Gabe (Marks) with 100 yards plus. Next week you get Vince (Mayle) with 100 yards plus. The week before that you get Dom with 100 yards plus. It's not like guys are not making plays. There is only one football and not everybody can catch it as many times as they want."

LAST WEEK AGAINST Cal, WR Vince Mayle had the best game of his career in a Cougar uniform and is even becoming an active playmaker in practice. His 240-pound frame and his physicality add size to a unit that is built on speed and superior route running.

"I think the more reps he gets, the more confidence he is getting," Simmons said of Mayle. "He's playing what I like to refer to as ‘big-man football' right now and that's what we thought we were getting when we got him. That's what we expect from him, nothing less.

"Same thing with Kristoff (Williams). They're big, imposing receivers that need to impose their will on any defensive back every time they get on the field."

Junior WR Isiah Myers has been doing a bit of flip-flopping from X to Z receiver in practice and in games. The Orlando, Fla. native had a very strong camp in Lewiston and looked to be a shoe-in for a starting job. So far, Myers has tallied 12 receptions on 133 yards. Simmons still believes Myers brings excellent attributes to the table despite not having great statistics.

"He's a creative route runner." Simmons noted. "He understands how to get his body in a position to catch the football and understands spacing."

ITS NO SECRET that the WSU receiving corps is talented and has many weapons for junior QB Connor Halliday to choose from. Still, Simmons isn't ready to grade the performance of his unit any time soon.

"I haven't really tried to sit back and have a retrospect about what we have done thus far as a unit," Simmons said. "I will say I think we are playing a lot more competitive than we were last year.

"But, to place a grade on it right now, I am not ready to do that just because I know we aren't at the point I want us to be. There are a lot of things from a route standpoint, a completion standpoint. I will say this to their defense, they are trying and they are making strides to do those little things just a little bit better."

The only pitfall from an offensive standpoint at practice was when Halliday was picked off by scout team safety David Bucannon. Excluding the interception and a muffed snap, Halliday and company looked strong.

The play of the day came from freshman WR River Cracraft, who made a nice sideline grab during 7-on-7 Skelly. Halliday looked to connect with him on the sideline and the pigskin looked as if it would sail out of bounds. However, Cracraft displayed excellent body control and athleticism and toe-tapped his feet in bounds for the grab.

OVER ON DEFENSE the unit went about business as usual in the west end zone against the scouts. Even though it is against the scouts, the defense continues to swat down balls. Today in particular was impressive for the secondary.

Senior safety Casey Locker batted down two balls and had two interceptions. Also, sophomore safety Taylor Taliulu took two passes away from the scouts. The Coug defense still remains at the top of the conference in interceptions, which pleases head man Mike Leach.

"I didn't know we were (top of the conference)," Leach said. "It's good, they play really hard and do a good job of rallying to routes and our defensive front has done a good job getting pressure and I think that's where it starts is the defensive front."

Senior LB Cyrus Coen looked impressive today with the No. 1 unit. He had a pass deflection and two "tackles" against the scouts that would have been tackles-for-loss in a live situation.

Sophomore BUCK Destiny Vaeao continued to run with the 1s, while sophomore Kache Palacio saw reps with the 2s.

The No. 1 cornerbacks on defense were true freshman Daquawn Brown and senior Damante Horton. Seniors Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter ran with the 2s.

Senior SAM LB Eric Oertel was in attendance this afternoon at practice, but was a limited participant. He was in pads, but, from the media perch, was not spotted participating in any drills. Toward the end of the defense's session against the scouts, redshirt junior safety Mitchell Peterson took a few reps at SAM LB.

Running with the 1s:
QB- Connor Halliday
RB- Marcus Mason
X Receiver- Dominique 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:
OL Jacob Seydel
LB Peyton Pelluer
DL Mortiz Christ
LB Eric Oertel
LB Chester Su'a
DL Emmitt Su'a-Kalio

Not in attendance:
S Bennett Bontemps
LS Ryan Saparto
S Darius Lemora


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