WSU Spring Day 12: Defense adds some pep

PULLMAN – After surrendering more than 700 yards through the air in the previous practice, the Cougar defense stepped on the field Tuesday with some added pep in its step, headlined by vocal secondary leaders Tracy Clark and Daquawn Brown. The two cornerbacks brought swagger to the work-in-progress defensive backfield that statistically had one of its better spring practices on Day 12.

The team period is where the unit looked the strongest, specifically against Tyler Bruggman, who assumed the second-team quarterback duties on Tuesday. Bruggman completed just six of his 14 passes with one goal-line touchdown to wide receiver Daniel Lilienthal. The sophomore quarterback was also "sacked" once in the period by defensive lineman Darryl Paulo and had two of his passes broken up by safety Beau Glover.

"We're getting better," Clark said of the young secondary. "We started off real slow. The 2's and the 3's have to learn the plays and pick it up ... just having more experience and having everybody on the same page will help us get better."

Clark, a redshirt senior, began the spring running primarily with the 2's on defense while Brown and freshman Charleston White took over the starting roles at corner. In the last few practices, Clark has earned a spot with 1's but he said being a backup to begin spring camp created a chip on his shoulder, especially considering he felt he had quality bowl-game practices and a productive offseason.

"I was fighting for a spot, really between me and (Charleston White)," Clark said. "Really trying to get better every day, I felt like if I could get that starting spot. I'm just trying to hold it down and be consistent."

To earn that starting spot, Clark said improving his technique was important, as was maintaining confidence.

"Confidence is a big thing playing corner," he said. "If you got that and play with swagger it'll take you a long way."

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said of the up-and-down days Clark tends to have, Tuesday was one of his more positive performances.

"I thought he competed well," Breske said. "We just gotta get more consistent."

Breske said the unit's strength and greatest depth lies with the front seven, which also had an impressive showing on Tuesday. That depth on was on full display, highlighted by BUCK linebacker Ivan McLennan.

The redshirt junior created difficulty for the offense both rushing the passer and in coverage. He deflected a potential touchdown pass Bruggman fired toward receiver Drew Loftus in the team period and recorded a "sack" on Connor Halliday in the same drill.

McLennan was also responsible for the only turnover of the day, an interception on a pass Halliday lofted to running back Teondray Caldwell during the 7-on-7 drill.

"I feel like my play has been solid," McLennan said. "I have low moments, high moments, but overall it's been real consistent. I just want to be the best I can be for the team, if that's rushing the passer, if that's dropping (back in coverage) or if that's cheering on my teammates."

On offense, Halliday continued his efficient play, completing eight of 14 passes in the team period with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His first touchdown lob went to Robert Lewis, who played primarily at the H-receiver position. Halliday connected with receiver Kristoff Williams on the goal line for his second score.

The 7-on-7 drill proved to be the best of the day for Halliday as he went 15-of-20 with three touchdowns and the one interception. All three of his touchdowns came on the last three plays of the drill, two of which came in goal line situations. Sophomore wideout River Cracraft was the target on the first and third scores while Vince Mayle was on the receiving end of the second touchdown heave from Halliday.

Bruggman found Williams twice for touchdowns late in 7-on-7s on his way to a 12-of-20 performance in the drill. Before that he connected with Loftus on the second play of the drill on a deep ball down the right sideline.

"We gotta find a way to be more productive in the red zone," Breske said. "We had some good plays down there but we gave some up at the end, especially on the slants. It's just something we gotta work hard on."

  • Quarterback Luke Falk took three snaps during what would looked like a "sudden death" drill on the goal line. He was 0-for3 in the drill. Bruggman was 2-for-2 in the same drill with touchdowns to Lewis and Lilienthal.

  • WR Dom Williams dressed in full pads and began the day working out with the rest of the offense but didn't participate past the 1-on-1 drills.

  • Limited players today were: S Isaac Dotson, LB Nate DeRider, RB Marcus Mason (wearing a walking boot), WRs Rickey Galvin, Isiah Myers and Brett Bartolone.

  • Breske said Tuesday was the last day the Cougars will practice in pads prior to the Crimson and Gray game on Saturday.

    Running with the 1's

    QB – Connor Halliday
    RB – Theron West
    X – Vince Mayle
    Y – River Cracraft
    H – Robert Lewis
    Z – Kristoff Williams
    LT – Joe Dahl
    LG – Gunnar Eklund
    C – Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson
    RG – Riley Sorenson and Jacob Seydel
    RT – Cole Madison

    CB – Tracy Clark and Daquawn Brown
    S – Taylor Taliulu and Beau Glover
    MIKE – Darryl Monroe
    WILL – Tana Pritchard
    BUCK – Kache Palacio
    SAM – Cyrus Coen
    NT – Toni Pole
    T – Xavier Cooper
    E – Destiny Vaeao

    Running with the 2's

    QB – Tyler Bruggman
    RB – Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and Teondray Caldwell
    X – Daniel Lilienthal
    Y – Calvin Green
    H – Tyler Baker
    Z – Drew Loftus
    LT – Devonte McClain
    LG – Eduardo Middleton
    C – Riley Sorenson
    RG – Cody O'Connell
    RT – Jacob Seydel

    CB – Charleston White, Marcellus Pippins and Sebastian LaRue
    S – Darius Lemora and David Bucannon
    MIKE – Jeremiah Allison
    WILL – Chester Su'a
    BUCK – Ivan McLennan and Emmitt Su'a-Kalio
    SAM – Mitchell Peterson and Paris Taylor
    NT – Robert Barber
    T – Daniel Ekuale
    E – Lyman Faoliu and Darryl Paulo

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