A new Coug starter at the SAM for Saturday?

PULLMAN—The Cougar D looked different on Tuesday. A backup WIL was running with the 1s at SAM – and it sounds like he'll be there Saturday. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson weighed in. Meanwhile, the No. 1 offense had a fine day and the first team D had players flying around, DBs batting down balls and the d-line clogging things up. Also, Mike Leach discussed Dennis Erickson's impact on the game.

Before we get to Leach's thoughts on Erickson, it sounds like in talking to linebackers coach Ken Wilson that third-year sophomore Tana Pritchard appears ticketed to start against Utah at the strongside linebacker position in place of Cyrus Coen.

WSU does not comment on, and rarely even acknowledges, injuries -- and Wilson didn't fully explain or elaborate on the switch. But Coen did not suit up Tuesday and was on the bikes while Pritchard ran with the 1s at the SAM.

"When you play as long of a season as we do, people are getting cross-trained," Wilson said of Pritchard's move between WIL and SAM. "It's just a matter of time before we started moving guys around a little bit. We've been very lucky up to this point, but we were ready for that when it happened. There is a little bit of cross-training and a little bit of differences between those two positions, but he has been trained to do that."

Coen started the Arizona game but came out sometime early in the first half, posting one tackle on the day. Pritchard came in and tied for the fourth-leading tackler for the Cougs with six stops (five solo).

On Tuesday, Pritchard looked smooth at the SAM and did great in a particular area we won't elaborate on. Pritchard has spent the majority of the season practicing at the WIL, but Wilson believes Pritchard is in good shape to handle the move.

Starting safety Taylor Taliulu was also limited on Tuesday. He came off the field after getting dinged Saturday against Arizona but later returned to the game.

We'll return to the rest of the day out on the field shortly but first, Mike Leach weighed in on Dennis Erickson, the offensive coordinator at Utah.

"HE HAD A hand in change in football," Leach said of Erickson.

Erickson served as the WSU head coach for two seasons, 1987-88 and after a 3-7-1 mark in his first year, led the Cougs to an upset win at No. 1 UCLA and bowl game victory over Houston in Aloha Bowl in '88. Erickson, said Leach, is one of the game's innovators.

"Dennis and Mike Price and Jack Elway and all those guys started that three step passing game," Leach said. "When I first got into coaching…BYU's thing was one thing. What that added to it was more one back stuff and more quick stuff as opposed to bringing a whole bunch of people in to block all the time to cover some space. I think it was a part of changing football and he was in the middle of it."

And it sounds like Leach liked Erickson the moment he met him.

"Yeah, he is a fantastic guy. One of my all–time favorites," Leach said. "When you consider all the places he's been and what he's done…he's like the most understated regular guy. He's one of my favorites."

When Erickson leads his Utah offense into Pullman, the Utes will be without starting quarterback Travis Wilson (head). Taking over under center will be sophomore Adam Schulz who made his first start against Oregon on Saturday.

Schulz finished the game completing 13-of-30 passes for two total touchdowns and an interception in the 44-21 loss.

"He (Schulz) has played in four games so we have seen him in play -- and their offense doesn't change much when he is in the game," Wilson said. "He's been a heavy participant in three or four of those games, so we have cut all of that (film) out and looked at him."

Wilson said Utah can still be a very good team with Schulz at quarterback.

"I think he has got a good arm," Wilson said. "He probably throws a little better than the other quarterback. Not quite the same runner, but still the same capable runner. You see a little change here and there, but you see the same offense."

TUESDAY'S PRACTICE BEGAN with the Cougs focused on individual drills and some punt returns. The play of the day came during 1-on-1 drills. Sophomore wide receiver Dom Williams, who had seven grabs for 75 yards against Arizona, made an excellent catch in the 1-on-1 period.

With senior cornerback Damante Horton blanketing him, Williams leaped up for the pass from Connor Halliday and made a one handed grab while falling to the turf. As you might imagine, Williams was bombarded with high-fives and praises from his teammates.

After individuals it was on to skelly. The 1s went against each other for five plays. Halliday completed his first three passes. He misfired on his fourth attempt but came back with a completion. Against the scouts, Halliday then went 8-of-10 with no interceptions.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca struggled a bit with his eight throws in skelly, something that's been few and far between for the backup Cougar quarterback this season. He tossed two straight incompletions against the scouts but finished 5-of-8 without an interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS WORK was lengthier than usual, and the Cougs made the most of the extended time. On kickoff coverage, senior safety Casey Locker and junior running back Theron West were the first team gunners.

West in particular was very disciplined, stayed in his lanes and had excellent pursuit to the return men.

In the team session, the quarterback play improved. The defensive scout team continued to go against the No. 1 offense, but Halliday rifled off 10 straight completions. Despite giving up a "sack", the offensive line provided a great deal of protection for the quarterbacks and plenty of real estate for the running backs to run.

Halliday was 13-of-15 at the conclusion of team. Apodaca was perfect going 8-of-8 without an interception.

WITH PRITCHARD IN with the 1s, the second team linebackers were: sophomore Jeremiah Allison at SAM, senior Jared Byers at MIK and redshirt junior Mitchell Peterson at WIL.

With the 1s at WIL, senior Justin Sagote had one interception plus a tackle-for-loss. He had an opportunity to reign in another pick, but it escaped his grasp and fell to the turf.

The linebackers group from my perch all looked to have a very solid day, doing a fine job of staying with their assignments and not letting their eyes, followed by their feet, wander when the scouts mimicked the Utah offense.

Senior cornerback Nolan Washington, who according to defensive coordinator Mike Breske played one of his best games all season for the Cougs on Saturday, repped with the No. 1 defense at corner opposite Horton. Washington had two deflections and didn't allow any deep passes to be hauled in by the scout team offense. Television cameras caught Washington appearing to have gotten dinged up as well Saturday but he returned later – officially credited with two pass break ups and a pair of tackles in the Cougs' win.

Junior defensive lineman Lyman Faoliu, who shared second team reps at the nose Tuesday with freshman defensive lineman Robert Barber, was the standout on the defensive line in my book.

He recorded two tackle-for-loss, a "sack" on freshman quarterback Tyler Bruggman and forced a fumble. The fumble was recovered by sophomore BUCK Kache Palacio.

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- Tana Pritchard
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Justin Sagote
CB- Nolan Washington
CB – Damante Horton
S – Deone Bucannon
S – Casey Locker

Limited Players:
OL Jacob Seydel
DL Moritz Christ
LB Chester Su'a
S Bennett Bontemps
S Isaac Dotson
S Taylor Taliulu
LB Cyrus Coen

Not in attendance:
CB Alex Jackson
LS Ryan Saparto

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