Young WSU running backs garnering attention

PULLMAN—Washington State coaches took advantage of another bye week Saturday to have another round of "Thursday Night Football." That session highlighted a couple of young running backs whose physicality caught the attention of coaches. Also, offensive line coach Clay McGuire caught up with CF.C to discuss his unit, including a looming battle for the starting position at center during spring ball.

"(We) have been much better these last few days up front wise," McGuire said. "We've kind of put a group out there and went with them and they seem like they gel a little bit. I thought they came out and played well Thursday, I guess, and we were better today, so that's good. You want to see improvement from week to week. They're doing a lot better. I think it's one of those things that they are taking a lot more pride in."

The offensive line continues to create running room for the freshman running backs and provide a comfortable pocket for freshman quarterbacks Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk to sit in.

With the superior protection, Bruggman had a great outing and orchestrated an excellent first drive. The series consisted of nine total plays for 75 yards as Bruggman and company marched down the field against the defense. Bruggman went 4 of 6 and capped off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to junior WR Daniel Lilienthal.

The drive was built behind true freshmen running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow. On the third play of the drive, Morrow received a hand off and he broke free for a 31-yard run. He almost escaped a tackle from redshirt freshman safety Beau Glover, who managed to bring him down.

On the ensuing play, Morrow went straight up the gut for a solid 8-yard gain.

Later in the drive, Wicks got in on the action with a 12-yard scamper to the right side.

At the end of the session, Bruggman went 9 for 13 with two touchdown passes.

Bruggman was impressive this afternoon, but McGuire also loves what he is seeing from Wicks and Morrow.

"They're good," McGuire said. "There is a play that stands out to me where Jamal ran through the line and ran through an arm tackle, broke another tackle and made two guys miss as he was getting the extra 2 or 3 yards. I thought there were a couple runs where he did a really good job of finishing the run, weak hipping a guy and getting the extra three or four."

McGuire also mentioned the play of the day where Wicks used his speed to score on a 70-yard touchdown run.

"Obviously, you saw Wicks bounce it today, turn it on and had the speed to go 70 yards down the sideline," McGuire said.

Even though Wicks used his speed to hit the corner and take it to the house, freshman offensive lineman Cole Madison had a perfect seal that freed up Wicks' touchdown. Madison (6-5) saw a little time with the second offensive unit today and also started at right tackle during Thursday Night Football. McGuire has mentioned before that Madison is his most athletic lineman. But what does he need to accomplish to start next year?

"It's one of those things where he is transitioning from tight end to o-line," McGuire said. "He really needs to focus on his technique. His ability is already there, he just needs to master his technique and put on some more weight."

How much weight?

I'd like to see him weigh 300," McGuire said. "He could weigh 300 easily. Once we get to there, we will see how he holds it from there and go from there."

Madison is listed on the WSU roster at 265 pounds.

With seniors Elliot Bosch and Zach Brevick departing after this year, McGuire usually has three to four of his young lineman practicing snaps at the end of Thursday Night Football sessions. He is continuing to cultivate players for the center position, but he gave some insight as to who has the edge coming into spring ball.

"We've got to develop some guys there," McGuire said. "Obviously, going into spring it'll be the likes of Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson. We need about four guys to kind of develop at a position like that.

BACK WITH THE 1s, both the offense and defense continue to go against each other during skelly and the team session.

The skelly session was shorter than usual and few snaps were given to junior quarterback Connor Halliday and redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca.

Halliday only had 10 throws and missed four of his targets.

Apodaca completed all five of his passes.

In team, the reps were shortened as well. However, Halliday looked impressive with his short stint. On his first drop back, he was flushed out of the pocket by sophomore DE Xavier Cooper and had to toss the ball out of bounds.

After that incompletion, Halliday had seven straight completions — all to different receivers.

The offensive line didn't allow any "sacks" on Halliday. Halliday also didn't throw any interceptions. He finished team going 11 of 15.

Apodaca finshed 4 for 4 with no interceptions. However, the second offensive line unit gave up a "sack" on Apodaca that was recorded by sophomore BUCK Kache Palacio.

There was no indication on whether coaches will continue pitting the 1s against each other in practice for the remainder of the season. For now though, McGuire is okay with it.

"We don't want to focus on this team or that team … we just want to focus on ourselves and come out and play our defense versus our offense and focus on our fundamentals and techniques," he said.

McGuire said he prefers to have the 1s practice against each other because "you get a chance to go against the best guys you have." He also said starters sometimes can get away with errors against less experienced competition that are more difficult to avoid versus starters.

"If you play against your defense, you'd better be on you're A game and it's one of those things where those reps are game speed type reps."

Running with the 1s...

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 Moritz Christ
LB Chester Su'a
OL Devonte McClain

S Bennett Bontemps
CB Alex Jackson
LS Ryan Saparto
S Isaac Dotson

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