WSU Fall Camp: Day 1

LEWISTON – The Cougars emerged from hibernation on Saturday afternoon and began their work at fall training camp in Lewiston. Of course, they weren’t really hibernating. In fact, a few guys came back larger than they were a season ago. Meanwhile, true freshman Calvin Green flashed some speed, backup QB Luke Falk found the end zone and Vince Mayle already looks primed for a big year.

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Quarterback Connor Halliday and linebacker Darryl Monroe have each bulked up quite a bit, with Halliday putting on about 20 extra pounds since the end of last year. Vince Mayle emerged lighter but far more muscular, and he made the routes he ran with the first team offense look extremely easy.

Mayle had high praise for Halliday, saying the redshirt senior quarterback could be the best player in the country if everyone gets on the same page.

Protecting Halliday and giving him more time to hit his receivers is a young offensive line. Clay McGuire, the offensive line coach, sees redshirt junior Gunnar Eklund and Joe Dahl as the leaders of the line heading into camp, simply because of their experience of playing in games. Eklund embraces that role and I noticed he was very vocal early and often in the first day of camp.

“That’s one of my personal goals, is to be a leader on the offensive line and the team,” Eklund said. “It’s something you’ve got to work at every day. Today, as an offensive line, we came out kind of flat. It was a flatter day for us. Energy-wise, we played alright, but we needed somebody to kick-start us, and today that was me, and it’s something I’m working on.”

As it’s only Day 1, the team practiced without pads and went helmets-only, so it wasn’t a true test of how well the lines will hold up. But McGuire was quick to agree with Eklund in terms of the intensity and their ability match up with the more experienced WSU defensive line. In his words, the offensive line took more than they gave in Day 1.

“We’ve just got to come together,” McGuire said. “Right now, we’ve just got a bunch of guys who are hesitant to pull the trigger. Today wasn’t a very good day. We’ve got a lot of room, a lot of practices, and a lot of ground to make up before we play Rutgers.”

The defense on the other hand – and it’s a defense that has been much maligned this offseason by the media due to their performance last year -- looked exceptional.

Monroe said he loved the intensity that he saw. He just hopes they can make maintain that intensity for the remainder of the camp.

“We’re glad to be back out. We’re glad to be isolated from society out here, and just be with our brothers,” Monroe said. “Now it’s easier to focus on your playbook, quality time, chemistry, and really just hone in on football.”

One guy who seemed to be giving the offense fits at times was sophomore cornerback Daquawn Brown, who was vocal on almost every play. He had an obvious swagger after every pass he broke up. To be clear, there were a lot of passes knocked down when they headed his way. And he also came out on the losing end at times. But his energy never changed.

Halliday said Brown makes the receivers on the team better, loves going against him and even joked (we think) that Brown likes to steal a signal or two in practice. The quarterback, who was vocal with the offense often in practice, also mentioned the offensive line and how they might be overmatched at the start of this camp with the impressive defensive players up front.

“It’s always tough the first couple days because, with the offensive line, they don’t have anything to block,” Halliday said. “We’ve got some inexperienced guys blocking against Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole, with the second-group offensive line, but other than that, it was a pretty good day.”

Halliday added that Calvin Green and redshirt-freshman Robert Lewis each had solid days, and that backup Luke Falk played confidently as well.

While the team is out here in Lewiston, Monroe and Eklund both said that ping pong and shuffleboard are two of the fun activities the team does to bond together.

“For 14 days, or however long we’re here, we’re locked in here together,” McGuire said. “There’s no girlfriends, there’s no parents, there’s no outside influences to distract us on what we’re trying to achieve here, and we’re forced to sit here and come together and become one. That’s what it’s for, that’s what it accomplished last year, and we’ve got to accomplish the same thing this year.”

OUT ON THE FIELD, Halliday hooked up with Calvin Green for a long touchdown pass during a scrimmage drill.

Twice in a row, backup quarterback Luke Falk threw touchdown passes during scrimmage drill. One of those passes was a tall one, requiring Mayle to jump up, and he leaped high above the defenders to pull in the ball.

Gabe Marks caught a pass from Halliday in tight coverage for a gain of about 20 yards during a scrimmage drill late in practice. Marks missed much of the spring with injury but looked good to go on Saturday.

Taylor Taliulu intercepted Halliday on a deep ball headed toward the end zone.

The defense won the scrimmage drill, 57-50. Points were awarded after every play to the side of the ball that won that particular play.

Nick Begg, now listed as a 6-5, 253-pound tight end on the official oster, was working with the inside receivers for the majority of the day.

Peyton Bender, Connor Ennis and Erik Anderson all took reps with the practice squads against the first and second defensive units.

WR Drew Loftus, who according to Pullman police logs and a report in the Spokesman-Review was arrested on Thursday morning for an alleged assault, was at practice and participating.

Several players moved around on the first day, but here is a look at the players who primarily ran with the 1’s and 2’s:

Running with the 1’s
QB: Connor Halliday
RB: Theron West, Jamal Morrow
WR: Vince Mayle, River Cracraft, Rickey Galvin, Kristoff Williams, Dom Williams, Gabe Marks, Calvin Green
LT: Riley Sorenson
LG: Gunnar Eklund
C: Sam Flor
RG: Jacob Seydel
RT: Cole Madison

T: Xavier Cooper
NT: Kalafitoni Pole
E: Destiny Vaeao
BUCK: Kache Palacio
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIK: Darryl Monroe
WIL: Tana Pritchard
CB: Daquawn Brown
FS: Taylor Taliulu
SS: Beau Glover
CB: Tracy Clark

Players who took second team reps:
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Teondray Caldwell
WR: River Cracraft, Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle, Dom Williams, Calvin Green, Isiah Myers, Robert Lewis
LT: Joe Dahl
LG: Andre Dillard
C: Riley Sorenson
RG: Eduardo Middleton
RT: Jacob Seydel

T: Darryl Paulo
NT: Robert Barber
E: Daniel Ekuale
Linebackers: Peyton Pelluer, Jeremiah Allison, Chester Su’a, Mitchell Peterson, Paris Taylor
Cornerbacks: Charleston White, Pat Porter, Marcellus Pippins
Safeties: David Bucannon, Sulaiman Hameed

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