WSU Practice: Caldwell continues to impress

PULLMAN— The interceptions of Sunday disappeared on Monday as the Cougars looked crisp in the passing game during the team periods. The first team offense and defense were going against their scout team counterparts simulating Rutgers, and it is safe to say that the 1’s on defense simply made stops rather than takeaways on this day. And one of those doing the stopping continues to surprise ...

It certainly seems as if the WSU staff is no longer just trying to get a lot of film on former running back Teondray Caldwell at his new safety position.

After all, Caldwell continues to run with the 1's at SS and we're now just days away from Thursday's opener.

Darius Lemora, listed as the No. 1 strong safety on the depth chart WSU released earlier this week, is running with the 2's.

Caldwell was probably the fourth or fifth string running back in fall camp, but that also speaks to the '14 talent level in that group - Caldwell made five starts and played in every game last season. But to go from running back to running with the 1's at strong safety over a span of just a couple weeks requires, for starters, a boatload of athleticism.

And Cladwell most certainly has that.

Meanwhile, on the far end of Rogers Practice Field, a show unfolded in the air, directed by Connor Halliday and starring the WSU wide receivers. The ball rarely fell to the turf, and when it did, it was a smart decision to keep it away from the defenders in the area.

Mike Leach said the receivers have a connection with Halliday that is better than average, and added that connection is the best it has been. Outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons is also convinced of how in tune the veteran receiving corps is with the Cougars’ starting quarterback.

“He’s playing with some guys that he’s obviously been able to develop and play with last season,” Simmons said. “I think they’re very in sync right now.”

Halliday sprayed the entire field with completions on Monday, finding multiple targets for scores and first downs. He found Isiah Myers, River Cracraft, Kristoff Williams, and Calvin Green for long completions against the scout defense on the day, and although there is an emphasis on not tackling the ball carrier once he has control of the ball, there were plenty of times that the receivers were open or able to evade defenders after the catch.

Halliday found Cracraft completely wide open on one of the long completions, and there was another where he threw into double coverage but Williams was able to snatch the ball out of the tight opening.

The offense looked efficient and formidable on Monday from my chair, and Halliday seemed to be completely comfortable in the pocket. He rarely scrambled and clearly had time to find his receivers downfield for long gains.

“He’s one of the most explosive guys there is, providing he has time,” Leach said. “We have bigger, more athletic guys that are getting better every day, so we’ve just got to keep improving.”

Having time to throw might be a concern with the inexperienced offensive line, heading into the season debut against Rutgers. Interestingly though, the Scarlet Knights’ defensive line is not large at all, especially compared to the one the WSU O-line has seen in practice.

The average weight of the Rutgers D-line is about 260 pounds, versus the 310-pound average of the WSU offensive line. By comparison, the WSU defensive line weights about 300 pounds on average. However, O-line coach Clay McGuire said that size really doesn’t matter.

“They’re a pretty good defensive line,” McGuire said. “They’re quick. Their measurements say they’re smaller, but they move around pretty well and they’re quick. Sometimes that poses its own problems in itself.”

Instead, McGuire said it’s all about playing with confidence.

“I don’t think you really play a whole lot into sizes,” McGuire said. “It’s all about how you play the game, and they’re pretty good up front, and we need to go out there and be pretty good up front ourselves.”

Rutgers uses a 4-3 scheme instead of a 3-4 like the Cougars, but McGuire said the adjustment in practice isn’t too big of an issue.

One guy who might prove problematic for the Cougars in terms of blitz schemes is 6-1, 225-pound linebacker Steve Longa, who made 123 total tackles as a freshman in 2013 and recorded three sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. In addition, he forced two fumbles and recovered one. But once again, McGuire’s confidence in his guys did not waver.

“Usually you rarely change a whole scheme up for one person,” McGuire said. “There’s not many of guys in college football around that are just that good. We’ll do what we do, and we’ll take it as it comes.”

The impetus isn’t just on the offensive line by any means. Simmons said that the entire offense has to do its part, and that one particular group isn’t responsible for the whole product.

“In order for us to be successful, and for us to have a successful offensive day, everybody’s got to do their job,” Simmons said. “There’s receivers, there’s offensive line, there’s running backs, and there’s quarterbacks. There’s coaches and players.”

Daquawn Brown did follow up his solid performance on Sunday with another interception Monday against the scout offense.

Using the blocking of the offensive line when the Cougs turned to the run game, Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow found holes to run through, and they turned them into long gains. Morrow slammed it up the gut for a first down and more, and Wicks was able to show off his impressive footwork once again by weaving through the defense and making people miss.

Notable notes:
  • Redshirt freshman cornerback Sebastian LaRue was not at practice and has being absent for about two weeks. Leach said he is still attending to family matters, and he expects LaRue to return shortly. Leach had previously said he expected LaRue back by the first day of classes, which was today at WSU.

  • Patrick Porter, Jeff Farrar, Nick Begg, Cody O’Connell and Drew Springfield were all limited in practice. Teondray Caldwell wore a yellow jersey for the majority of practice, but he was active with the first-team defense and he participated in drills.

  • During one of the special teams sessions, kicker Quentin Breshears missed a field goal attempt by hitting a line drive toward the goal post. The attempt fell much too short and low, and it did not look like the ball was tipped, although it’s possible it was touched ever so slightly.

  • Gabe Marks took reps with the first and second team receivers in drills, but then participated with the scout team offense during the team period.

  • The punt return competition may have narrowed down to River Cracraft and Marcellus Pippins as the two took the majority of the reps in practice. Cracraft muffed a punt today though, and Pippins has recently struggled with catching them, too. Jamal Morrow has also been in the mix.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    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

    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: Teondray Caldwell

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams, Drew Loftus
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Devonte McClain
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Cody O’Connell
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Darryl Paulo, Lyman Faoliu
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Ivan McLennan
    WILL: Chester Sua
    SAM: Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Jeremiah Allison
    CB: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Darius Lemora
    SS: Isaac Dotson

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