Sharp QBs, tough defense and a freshman stud

PULLMAN — While the NFL played Monday Night Football, the Cougs took to the field to focus on special teams, a tough defense and skelly. Additionally, head coach Mike Leach and defensive line coach Joe Salave'a had nothing but good things to say about a freshman lineman who never played a snap of defense until he arrived in Pullman.

On Sunday, Leach named off a few of the players who had caught his eye on Thursday Nights. The list was long, but one specific mention was freshman defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder from Pago Pago, American Samoa, has had an excellent few weeks on the gridiron.

Leach, Salave'a, defensive coordinator Mike Breske and linebackers coach Ken Wilson have all mentioned Ekuale's performance the past few weeks.

"He's bigger and stronger than most kids that come in," Leach said. "He's got a quick first step and he's just a focused guy. He's picked up things reasonably fast and he's a guy that really likes contact… (He) loves football."

Ekuale received a significant amount of reps last week on the defensive line and had a decent performance during Thursday Night Football.

"I'll say this: When this kid starts to figure out the Football 101, it will be amazing to see (him) go," Salave'a said. "He's got a work ethic already in him that is unbelievable. He's thirsty, he's hungry and he's constantly now looking at the film of himself and how he's improved."

Before donning crimson and gray, Ekuale had only played on the offensive side of the ball.

"He was a tight end, believe it or not, and to not play for a year and come in and now you see his improvement…it's something to appreciate," Salave'a said. "With Daniel it's faster than what I thought it was going to be and you always want to make sure you don't burn the kid's initial year for a couple reps here and there."

"For Daniel, he really needs that full time to get a full summer workout with (Jason) Loscalzo and hopefully get up to where he can understand the game. Once he gets that, then it's a matter of learning our scheme and it's just cutting him loose and letting him go.

These last few weeks he has been on a tear, and that's attributed to him."

At practice, junior signal caller Connor Halliday had a solid day in skelly and the team session, missing just two targets in the former. One was a dropped pass from sophomore wide receiver Dom Williams.

The only noteworthy blemish during skelly was the offensive line allowing a "sack" on Halliday. Otherwise, he finished the session 18 of 20 with no interceptions.

Redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca took his usual 10 reps, starting off against the No. 1 defense for five plays and going 4 of 5. At the end of skelly, Apodaca had gone 8 of 10 and also did not turn the ball over.

After not finishing Sunday practice on all cylindars, the defense played aggressive and disciplined while running against the scouts. Seniors Anthony Carpenter and Deone Bucannon picked off freshman Tyler Bruggman and Carpenter compiled three "tackles."

In the trenches, senior nose tackle Ioane Gauta "sacked" both Bruggman and freshman Luke Falk.

The Cougs on punt return had a solid day and ended up blocking two of junior Wes Concepcion's punts.

On a kickoff return, a minor scuffle broke out between players. It was difficult to tell who was involved, but Leach said he didn't mind – as long things didn't escalate.

"As long as they don't waste too much time," Leach said. "If they waste time then I'll roll them, but they better not take too much time."

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

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

OL Jacob Seydel
DL Mortiz Christ
S Darius Lemora
LB Chester Su'a

S Bennett Bontemps
LS Ryan Saparto
CB Alex Jackson

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