Leach less than thrilled with 'soft' effort

PULLMAN — It wasn’t the ice bucket that he endured that made Mike Leach cranky on Sunday – it was his team’s effort. The Cougars’ head coach felt that both sides were “soft” during the team period of practice, but acknowledged that he did see some good things during the session in which the scout teams were swapped between the first and second squads.

Notably, the quarterbacks participated in a bucket drill, in which they lined up in the center of the end zone and threw the ball toward a bucket in the corner. Peyton Bender was the only one to actually succeed at the task, but Luke Falk and Connor Ennis came close. Starting quarterback Connor Halliday did not participate.

Running back Gerard Wicks attracted notice for showing off his ability to make cuts on the field, changing direction multiple times to weave through the scout team defense.

Running back Teondray Caldwell (shown above) may still be wearing No. 34, but the color of his jersey changed from crimson to white on Sunday. Leach said the team is trying to get its best players on the field, and that they are looking at Caldwell as a safety.

TODAY WAS THE FIRST day the Cougars swapped scout teams between the first and second teams, with the first-team offense practicing against the scouts during the team period, and the first-team defense practiced against the scouts, as well.

That, in turn, yielded less-than-spectacular results in the effort department, Leach said.

“The biggest thing is, once we trade scouts, we’ve got to play harder,” he said. “You’re going to play against scouts more than you are the 1’s, and I thought once we went to the scout teams, we coasted.

We’ve got to be better than that and it’s part of the growth process, and I would have to say that in the vast majority of years, it’s gone like this despite our best efforts to keep the focus maintained.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske noted there were some challenges in the first day with the scout team.

“We’ve got to get better with our effort,” he said. “We were a little sloppy today, and I expect better things tomorrow.”

BRESKE AGREED WITH LEACH that the defensive effort faltered on Sunday. It did record a sack against Halliday on the first play of the team session, but for the most part, the entire unit experienced a down day, Breske said.

Normally, the defense has been solid, especially at the linebacker position where the team returns a veteran cast of Cyrus Coen, Darryl Monroe, Kache Palacio and Tana Pritchard. The Cougars also have upperclassmen at each of the backup positions.

“We’ve got good competition going there; we’re a good solid two-deep,” Breske said of the linebackers. “We just have to increase our effort each day, and not have any alignment, assignment errors. They’re competing very well.”

Monroe, Coen and Pritchard had the third-, fourth- and fifth-most tackles, respectively, on the team last season, the former two totaled five sacks. Palacio added another four sacks himself.

“The sky’s the limit for us – we set the tone for the defense,” Coen said. “If we’re playing well, everyone else is playing well, so that’s very important to us. We’re definitely going to make a lot of plays this year.”

Coen added that being a veteran group is especially beneficial.

“We’re not seeing new faces, so we’re comfortable with each other, and that definitely helps,” he said.

Breske said there is a separation between the first- and second-team linebackers, and that the purpose of those players is to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter.

However, Coen still senses strong competition between the two groups.

“Every day, you don’t know who’s going to start,” he said. “One of us could have a bad day, and one of us could have a good day. It’s always a battle and it’s always a grind between us.”

FRESHMAN CORNERBACK Marcellus Pippins recorded an interception against the scout offense while practicing with the second-team defense today. His outing with special teams was shakier, with multiple drops after starting the punt-return drill with a long return. He also dropped one of the kickoffs he returned.

Jamal Morrow and River Cracraft also had problems working into the sun, and dropped or misjudged at least one kick. But Jordan Dascalo and Wes Concepcion both launched 60-yard punts during the drill.

Notable notes:
  • Lyman Faoliu and Ivan McLennan were seen on the offensive side of the ball, lining up in at tight end opposite the first- and second-team defenses.

  • The defense also donned full pads and conducted full-contact tackling drills at the beginning of practice. Darryl Monroe and Daquawn Brown were the hardest hitting during the drill, delivering a few crushing blows to opposing players.

  • Peyton Bender found running back Squally Canada for a touchdown pass against the first-team defense in a drill early in practice.

  • Isaac Dotson shed his yellow jersey and made his presence known on multiple plays. He intercepted Halliday in the end zone during a drill, and also tipped a pass to give Marcellus Pippins a chance to intercept the ball against the scout offense.

  • Gabe Marks, David Bucannon, Frankie Luvu, Brett Bartolone, Cody O’Connell and Drew Springfield all wore yellow jerseys during practice; most did not participate.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow, Theron West
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Kristoff Williams
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

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

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Devonte McClain
    LG: Sean Krepsz
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Seydel
    RT: Carlos Freeman

    DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Daniel Ekuale
    T: Robert Barber
    BUCK: Ivan McLennan
    WILL: Chester Sua
    SAM: Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
    CB: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Sulaiman Hameed
    SS: Isaac Dotson

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