WSU Practice: No. 1 D and Marks put on a show

PULLMAN — It was the game before the game in the Cougars’ practice on Tuesday. The WSU football team participated in their Thursday Night Football ritual. The scout players and rookies received plenty of quality reps in the Thursday Night game, and Gabe Marks stole the show by making several athletic receptions. Meanwhile, the No. 1 defense looked ready for prime time.

During the team period before Thursday Night Football began, both the 1’s and 2’s on defense looked like a group that could make Mike Breske proud once the regular season gets underway on Thursday night.

Five different players got their hands on the ball and recorded interceptions against the scout offense simulating Rutgers. That collection of players included Daquawn Brown, Tracy Clark (pictured above), Isaac Dotson, Charleston White, and Darryl Monroe.

When the team plays Rutgers, the receivers will be bigger and much more experienced. In particular, the Cougar defense will have to contain tight end Tyler Kroft and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, each of whom had productive seasons for the Scarlet Knights last season.

Kroft totaled 573 receiving yards and 4 touchdown catches in 2013, and brings a 6-6 frame to the field in the form of a large mismatch.

“He’s a big dude, and he can wheel,” Breske said of Kroft. “We’ve got to know where he’s at, we’ve got to be in his face, and we’ve got to be physical with him. He’s a threat, a home-run threat.”

Breske said he isn’t worried about his secondary’s size against big receivers and instead is concerned with ability. Kroft will be less of a threat if the Cougar defense plays physical against him.

Carroo was also lethal, scoring nine receiving touchdowns and grabbing 28 passes for 478 yards. Breske expects a strong performance from Carroo as well because he and Kroft are the top two offensive targets for quarterback Gary Nova, but fundamentals will be key in shutting them down, Breske said.

Breske said the team decided on Sunday who their team captains would be for the week, and each of them was presented in the team huddle, and some of them spoke to the entire team. The group of five captains is Darryl Monroe, Connor Halliday, Toni Pole, Joe Dahl and Kristoff Williams. That can change on a weekly basis though.

Meanwhile, the youth took center stage later as Peyton Bender and Luke Falk were the quarterbacks for the Thursday Night Football event, and Bender finished with a glittering stat line that included three touchdowns and almost a fourth.

Gabe Marks was Bender’s favorite target as the two hooked up on several occasions and connected twice for touchdowns in the red zone.

There almost was a long touchdown pass from Bender to Marks, but Marks caught it around the 10-yard line and was chased down before he could reach the end zone for the score.

However, Bender did complete about a 40-yard bomb to Drew Loftus that counted as a touchdown, and it didn’t end there. Loftus showed off his hops by dunking the ball through the goal post, something that was encouraged in practice but probably would draw an unsportsmanlike conduct flag in any other game.

Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said the running game was poorer than usual, though, because of a young offensive line that hadn’t received a lot of reps. Squally Canada was the only running back used during the Thursday Night game so a lack of variety and fresh legs also played into the less-than-average running attack.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that Marks is giving the younger players solid reps in the Thursday Night game, showing them what a quality receiver looks like.

  • Cyrus Coen, Jeff Farrar, Nick Begg, Cody O’Connell, and Drew Springfield were all limited in today’s practice.

  • Walk on Andrew Redding has joined the team as a quarterback, and has practiced with the Cougars on Monday and Tuesday.

  • Kicker Erik Powell hit the right goal post on two consecutive field goal attempts. One was from about 30 yards, and the next one was 35-40 yards deep.

  • Marcus Mason, Kristoff Williams, Isiah Myers, Theron West, and Daquawn Brown all participated as gunners on punt returns. Darius Lemora and Isaac Dotson were also gunners on kickoff returns.

  • River Cracraft dropped a punt twice in practice today, and Marcellus Pippins bobbled one. They seem to be the two finalists for punt returning in games.

  • A small fight broke out among the scout offense during the team period in practice.

    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: Mitchell Peterson
    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
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Devonte McClain
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

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

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