“They looked okay; you could tell they’ve been out of practice for a week or whatever they’ve been out,” McGuire said. “They’re fine; they went in there and practiced and did some good things, and we’ll see how much better we can get tomorrow.”
During their absence, the Cougars have utilized younger players to piece together an offensive line. Gunnar Eklund, who was replacing Dahl at left tackle, will now line up at left guard. Dahl has been out since the third day of camp, and McLain, limited since Day 4.
“We’re coming together bit by bit,” McGuire said. “It’s been slow, but I feel like we’re starting to make some improvement and some strides in the last three practices. Today was a little sluggish, but the three previous were pretty good, pretty energetic.
“We had some good tempo, and did some decent things.”
Head coach Mike Leach also felt practice was a little sluggish, which he said was to be expected, but then added that the team needs to push through.
During the 11-on-11 matchup, though, the offensive unit as a whole looked downright efficient.
Connor Halliday LED the first-team offense on multiple trips to the end zone. Near the beginning of the scrimmage, Halliday threw a bomb down the left sideline that Vince Mayle tracked down in the end zone for about a 40-yard touchdown reception against the second-team defense, and upon moving the offense closer, scrambled about 10 yards for the score.
Halliday continued to dominate as he worked the red zone, completing a trio of touchdown passes against the first-team defense. The redshirt senior hooked up with Drew Loftus twice, and completed a third scoring pass to Calvin Green.
For the most part, the offensive line held up during Halliday’s scoring bonanza.
“There was a few of those that they did well, and had some good protection up there,” McGuire said. “There were a few that Halliday did a really good job of getting rid of the ball and making things happen early. That’s part of it, too, but like I said, we’re close and have some time to come together, but we need to start making some bigger strides.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE of the ball, a predicament is brewing in the secondary similar to that of the offensive line. With the exception of Taylor Taliulu, a group of fresh faces is looking headlining the group as Isaac Dotson remains limited.
Leach mentioned true freshman Sulaiman Hameed, who is listed as a cornerback, and redshirt freshman Darius Lemora, as making an impact.
“He’s a real physical guy,” Leach said of Lemora. “He’s real physical, maybe the most physical of all of them, and when he plays disciplined, he does real good.”
Lemora said he is trying to be more vocal and confident on the field, and is also trying to improve his consistency.
“I just have to be more consistent with it, just not think too much, and play my game, play my sport, and do what I love to do, not worrying about starting or worrying about being second team or anything else,” he said. “I just want to play football.”
Leach said the coaching staff has zeroed in on a few candidates for the safety job, and that competition will have to continue to play out through camp.
Lemora, who has taken the first-team reps since Thursday, would clearly appreciate the opportunity, calling the opportunity to help his team “anything I want to do in this world.”
“I love football just like my boys love football,” he said. “That’s my brothers, that’s my teammates. The coaches are just like father figures to me so that’s what I do.
“If they want me to do this, I’m going to do it.”
Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
QB: Connor Halliday
RB: Theron West
X: Vince Mayle, Drew Loftus
Y: River Cracraft
H: Rickey Galvin
Z: Kristoff Williams
LT: Joe Dahl, Gunnar Eklund
LG: Gunnar Eklund, Eduardo Middleton
C: Riley Sorenson
RG: Jacob Seydel
RT: Cole Madison
E: Destiny Vaeao
NT: Robert Barber
T: Kalafitoni Pole
BUCK: Kache Palacio
WILL: Tana Pritchard
SAM: Cyrus Coen
MIKE: Darryl Monroe
CB: Charleston White, Tracy Clark
FS: Taylor Taliulu
SS: Darius Lemora
Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
QB: Luke Falk
RB: Gerard Wicks, Marcus Mason
X: Drew Loftus
Y: River Cracraft
H: Calvin Green
Z: Isiah Myers
LT: Devonte McClain
LG: Sean Krepsz
C: Sam Flor
RG: Jacob Tweten
RT: Jacob Seydel
E: Darryl Paulo
NT: Daniel Ekuale
T: Xavier Cooper, Lyman Faoliu
BUCK: Ivan McLennan
WILL: Chester Sua
SAM: Mitchell Peterson, Paris Taylor
MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
CB: Daquawn Brown, Kevin Griffin
FS: David Bucannon
SS: Beau Glover