WSU SPRING DAY 5: Buckle it up, strike fear

PULLMAN – A pair of Cougar d-linemen got to the quarterback on Saturday. But a more compelling play came on the final snap in 11-on-11. Washington State running back Teondray Caldwell took a handoff from QB Tyler Bruggman near the goal line and attempted to make his way into the end zone. Linebacker Darryl Monroe had other plans.

On the Monroe shot through a gap and collided with Caldwell in the backfield, about four yards short of the goal line and driving the junior ball carrier back. The play sealed a "win" for the Cougar defense on Day 5 of spring practice.

"As a competitor you always want to win," Monroe said after watching the offense do up-downs following practice.

Since the third day of the spring, when the Cougs donned shoulder pads for the first time, Monroe has turned his game up a few notches. The fourth-year junior linebacker has been in middle of nearly every big defensive play, either laying a big hit or firing up the other ten guys in his unit.

The thunderous hits in particular are something Monroe has been looking emphasize this spring.

"As a defender that's what you want to do, you want to strike people, you want to strike fear in the offense's heart," Monroe said. "When they have that ball and they see you, they're gonna drop the ball, they're gonna fumble it, they're gonna fall, and that's your advantage mentally, 90 percent of this game is mental.

"You strike a few people, they see you coming and you'll be surprised at their characteristics when they're running the ball."

Monroe said he's taken on a mentoring role with the young guys in his group, coaching them through the do's and don'ts of college football and assuring they stay on the right path as a player.

"Darryl's done a good job out here," Coach Ken Wilson said. "He's the leader out there. He had a great day today, he was flying around and we need that from him. He's a good football player and the guys kind of feed off of him."

It wasn't just Monroe out making plays for the linebackers, though.

In 7-on-7s, backup MIK Jeremiah Allison made a leaping interception on a bullet fired by Bruggman intended for WR Vince Mayle. Cyrus Coen was nails early on, blowing up a screen pass with a big hit.

The defense wasn't done.

Just four plays later, sophomore CB Daquawn Brown stepped in front of a Bruggman pass for his first interception of spring ball. That pass was also intended for Mayle.

Wilson before the spring said all his linebackers have to earn their starting assignments and last year doesn't play into it. He said each of his second-string linebackers are giving his starters a run for their money, but mentioned a few in particular.

"Jeremiah and Darryl are having a good battle in the middle," Wilson said. "He's pushing him pretty good. Chester (Su'a) and Tana (Pritchard) are doing a nice job and then there's three guys at the SAM position. So of those guys, we're lucky at the (linebacker) position, we've got good depth."

In addition to Chester Sua and Tana Pritchard, Wilson noted freshman MIK Peyton Pelluer as a young guy who's made some noise early on as well.

OTHER IMPACT defensive plays on Saturday included a "sack" on QB Connor Halliday by nose Toni Pole where the 6-foot-1, 290 pound nose tackle forced the pocket to collapse on the commander of the Air Raid offense.

A more traditional sack came from backup tackle Daniel Ekuale. The second-year freshman came unimpeded off Halliday's blind side and stripped the ball, prompting d-line coach Joe Salave'a to jet onto field in support of his unit.

Not always tallying stats but certainly finding himself in a lot of plays on defense this spring is freshman CB Charleston White.

In both 7-on-7s and in team, the QBs never hesitate to send a deep ball his way. More often than not, the young defensive back has held his own against veterans such as Mayle or Kristoff Williams.

White said he's taken notice of the large number of passes coming his way and he thrives on the opportunities to display his athletic ability (which the cornerback says is among the best on the team) and the long arms he's known for.

"I just take them as they come, as long as they keep throwing them I'm gonna keep defending them," White said. "Everybody always teases me about my arms but they come in handy on those deep balls."

White, who has been running mostly with the 1s this spring, said he enjoys the pressure to succeed he feels from fellow CBs Marcellus Pippins and Tracy Clark.

"I like the competition, it makes it better when you earn that spot," White said.

THE OFFENSE HAD its moments on Saturday as well. Halliday again looked poised in both the skill drills and team, completing 11 of his 15 attempts with a touchdown in 7-on-7s and 12 of 15 with a touchdown to Kristoff Williams in the team session.

Bruggman struggled slightly with his two interceptions in the skill drills but overall went 15 of 19 with four touchdowns, two of them to his roommate. River Cracraft. In team, Bruggman went 7 of 15 with no touchdowns or interceptions.

"Tyler I thought did pretty good, I thought he struggled in skill and then put it together and had a really good team period," Coach Mike Leach said.

The running backs continue to shuffle day-by-day. And while Caldwell broke off a 15-yard run, Leach said that after five practices, Theron West has probably been the best option out of the backfield, along with Jamal Morrow.

NOTABLE NOTES:
• WRs Gabe Marks, John Thompson, Brett Bartolone, Dom Williams, Isiah Myers and Calvin Green were all limited today.

• OL Cody O'Connell returned to action Saturday in shoulder pads with the rest of the team.

RUNNING WITH THE 1s

OFFENSE
QB – Connor Halliday
RB – Theron West and Jamal Morrow
X, H, Y and Z receivers – Multiple players
LT – Joe Dahl
LG – Gunnar Eklund
C – Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson
RG – Jacob Seydel
RT – Cole Madison

DEFENSE
CB – Daquawn Brown and Charleston White
S – Taylor Taliulu and Isaac Dotson
BUCK – Kache Palacio
SAM – Cyrus Cohen
MIKE – Darryl Monroe
WILL – Tana Pritchard
NT – Toni Pole
T – Xavier Cooper
E – Destiny Vaeao

RUNNING WITH THE 2's on defense
CB – Marcellus Pippins and Tracy Clark
S – David Bucannon, Darius Lemora and Beau Glover
T – Daryl Paulo and Daniel Ekuale
NT – Robert Barber
E – Lyman Faoliu
BUCK – Ivan McLennan
SAM – Mitchell Peterson an
d Paris Taylor
MIKE – Chester Su'a
WILL – Jeremiah Allison

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