WSU Fall Camp Day 6: Cougs go full pads

LEWISTON — Thursday marked the halfway point of the Cougars’ time in Lewiston -- six days have passed and six days remain before the team returns to Pullman. At the turn, among the standouts, is one you might expect because of his performance on the defense last season. The other might seem surprising because he finished sixth on the team in receiving yards in 2013.

The Cougars put on full pads for the first time during today’s practice, but Leach said the team practiced similarly to yesterday when they only wore helmets and shoulder pads.

“We get better work than most people do with helmets and shoulder pads, so we’re more inclined to do it that way,” Mike Leach said. “We will most of the season, in more practices than not, but with that said, we tried to mix it in.”

He said that, over the course of camp, the Cougs will probably put on full pads about five times.

Right now, with six days remaining in Lewiston, it’s just about getting over the hump.

Sophomore cornerback Daquawn Brown hasn’t struck fear into the heart of Connor Halliday, as the redshirt senior signal-caller said it is not a good idea to play scared at the quarterback position. However, Halliday opined that Brown is his toughest adversary on the corner at this point in camp.

Meanwhile, the unlikely player to dominate on the offense is wide receiver Isiah Myers. The senior has emerged in the last couple of practices as a reliable target for both quarterbacks and has been making his receptions look like art forms.

Mike Leach deemed one of Myers’ catches yesterday as one of the best Leach had seen in his career and while Leach didn’t say that again today, Myers produced more of the same highlight reel stuff, leading Halliday to say that Myers is the receiver he is connected with most right now.

“I feel honored to be represented like that but I just feel like everybody has a good personality off the field, so just the way we mesh off the field translates on the field,” Myers said.

According to Halliday, it was only a matter of time and circumstance before Myers finally broke out of his shell.

“I think he’s always had the talent to do that,” Halliday said of the senior. “I just think it’s been shown in glimpses. It hasn’t been as consistent as he’s been in this camp.”

Halliday also said that Myers has never been truly healthy in his entire career, and now he is reaping the benefits of health to show off how good he really is.

“One of the things that (strength) Coach (Jason) Loscalzo preached to me over the offseason and all throughout my time here, was consistency,” Myers said, who noted he gained about 10 pounds this offseason. “That hit me really hard this year because it’s my senior year. Not only do I have one season left but I just want to make my family proud, make the team proud, and make the Cougs proud.”

The other two receivers at the Z position are Gabe Marks and Kristoff Williams – two guys who have lots of catches and yards in their time at WSU. While Williams has remained active with the first and second teams, Marks has recently been relegated to taking reps with Luke Falk and the second-team offense during scrimmages.

Leach said that he plans to continue to use that three-man rotation in camp, and the player who the coaches see as competing the hardest will earn the most reps. He also said Marks has been “really hot” lately, as in productive, not because of the weather.

All of the receivers continued their dominance Thursday in the 1-on-1 coverage drill vs. the defensive backs. Once again, they caught almost every ball and were able to break free from the WSU secondary players, making the offense look exceptional during the drill.

And Brown was not so convinced.

Brown said the veteran receivers are able to use their experience to burn the younger defensive backs, but for the most part, the receivers have the luxury of running multiple route adjustments during that drill to lose their defender. Brown said the scrimmage is a far better test of how well the defense is playing, and how dominant the receivers are, and that’s because the pass rush isn’t allowing the time for those adjustments.

“The secondary right now, in one word, is building,” Brown said. “We’re getting better and better, we’re mixing and matching a lot of players around to positions they’ve never played and positions they aren’t comfortable with, but they’re gelling together and we’re coming along.”

But the defense won the scrimmage again today, this time by a score of 26-23. Brown said the whole unit has its highs and lows, but the defensive players are right on schedule for reaching what they hope is their best by the time the first game comes.

Brown said he personally feels more calm and comfortable with the plays the defense runs in his second year with the Cougs. The younger cornerbacks, Patrick Porter, Sulaiman Hameed and Kevin Griffin, don’t have that same benefit and they have struggled at times -- Halliday said so, and Brown added that he thinks they are trying too hard to attain perfection.

It’s hard to knock them for that, Brown said, but they need to lose their fear of making mistakes if they want to improve. Those freshman cornerbacks continue to receive playing time, albeit with the second-team defense, and they still are keeping Brown on his toes.

“If they don’t challenge me enough, I’m going to keep myself motivated to keep that spot,” Brown said. “I’ve got to look at them as competition because if I have a bad day, I look at it as my spot is gone the next day, so I have to motivate myself just as much as they do to keep that spot.

NOTABLE: - Chester Sua for the first time this camp ran with the 1's for the majority of practice at the WIL, with Tana Pritchard going with the 2's. This was one of the position battles coming in that figured to have the potential to last much of camp.

- Erik Powell, Jordan Dascalo and Quentin Breshears all participated in kickoff drills. Powell kicked one beyond the end zone boundary, and Dascalo consistently made the ball travel into or near the end zone. Breshears got an earful for kicking a ball that only reached the 20-yard line, but his final kick made it into the end zone.

- In the field goal drill, Powell was slightly more accurate than yesterday, but Breshears missed consistently again. Their collective performance led to a displeased special teams coordinator Eric Russell, who proceeded to express just that at the two kickers on the sideline following the drill.

- Freshman cornerback Marcellus Pippins and freshman wide receiver Keith Harrington returned kicks during a special teams - kickoff drill today.

- Halliday completed a 30-yard touchdown pass while on the run to Myers, who caught the ball in the end zone during the 7-on-7 scrimmage. Patrick Porter was the corner in coverage.

- Luke Falk found River Cracraft during 7-on-7, and then hit Myers in stride for a 30-plus yard touchdown versus the second team defense.

- In the 11-on-11 scrimmage, Myers made a short catch and then was able to break away from closing defenders and turn it into a long gain. This was against the first-team defense.

- Halliday launched a 50-yard bomb to Kristoff Williams for a touchdown against the second-team defense.

- Halliday converted two red-zone trips into touchdowns, one to Robert Lewis and the other to River Cracraft. Both completions were against the first-team defense. Falk struggled in the red zone during his time with the ball.

- The defense ultimately won the 11-on-11 scrimmage by a score of 26-23.

Offensive linemen Joe Dahl, Devonte McClain, Drew Springfield, and Cody O’Connell were not participating with the offensive line in either drills or scrimmages.

Wide receiver Brett Bartolone and walk on OL Jacob Tweten wore yellow jerseys but participated.

Sebastian LaRue was absent for the second straight day. Leach said yesterday that he was attending to personal matters.

Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
Offense:
QB: Connor Halliday
RB: Teondray Caldwell, Theron West
X: Vince Mayle, Dom Williams
Y: River Cracraft, Robert Lewis
H: Calvin Green
Z: Isiah Myers, Kristoff Williams
LT: Gunnar Eklund
LG: Eduardo Middleton
C: Riley Sorenson
RG: Jacob Seydel
RT: Cole Madison

Defense:
E: Destiny Vaeao
NT: Kalafitoni Pole
T: Xavier Cooper
BUCK: Kache Palacio
WILL: Chester Sua
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
CB: Daquawn Brown, Tracy Clark
FS: Taylor Taliulu
SS: Darius Lemora

Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
Offense:
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Gerard Wicks, Marcus Mason
X: Drew Loftus
Y: Robert Lewis
H: Rickey Galvin
Z: Gabe Marks
LT: Eduardo Middleton
LG: Sean Krepsz
C: Sam Flor
RG: Jacob Tweten
RT: Cole Madison

Defense:
E: Darryl Paulo
NT: Robert Barber
T: Daniel Ekuale
BUCK: Ivan McLennan
WILL: Tana Pritchard
SAM: Mitchell Peterson
MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
CB: Patrick Porter, Charleston White
FS: Sulaiman Hameed
SS: Beau Glover

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