WSU Practice: Will Pistol knowledge pay off?

PULLMAN—There’s not a lot of mystery to what the Cougars expect to face against Nevada on Friday following a long practice on Monday. Or is there? The Wolfpack run a pistol offense that the Cougars worked to replicate in their team periods, using a wide receiver as a simulator of Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo. But is the 2014 pistol similar to the one two WSU assistants are familiar with?

Gabe Marks continued to develop his role on the team by lining up as a quarterback and even switching jerseys with scout quarterback Erik Anderson midway through practice.

Fajardo ran for 68 yards last week against Southern Utah (and passed for 303). Marks on Monday flashed his speed against the first and second team defenses, breaking away for some long runs at times out of the pistol formation.

Interestingly enough, the Cougars have two coaches on their staff who had long stays at Nevada, and running backs coach Jim Mastro (2000-10) even was a co-innovator of the pistol during his time there.

However, that knowledge of the pistol offense won’t make much of a difference, according to Mastro, despite the fact he and WSU linebackers coach Ken Wilson have a combined 34 years at Nevada listed on their coaching résumés.

“It’s different than I was there, and I don’t watch them on offense,” Mastro said. “When we were there, it was very unique, but it’s not the same thing anymore.”

That was the only thing Mastro would offer as far as the pistol offense goes. He declined to speak about his time at Nevada in the past, nor would he speak much about anything else. He remained mysterious when asked if he expected a change in the WSU running game’s performance against a Nevada defense that allowed 156 rushing yards on 22 carries.

“I can’t tell you because everybody plays us differently,” Mastro said. “What you see on tape is not usually how we get played because our offense is so unique. It depends on what they give us, and they take what they give us.”

Mastro said the Cougars have such a leverage in their passing game that it doesn’t matter if an opponent limits the run.

“It’s just one or the other, basically,” Mastro said. “If we have it, we’re going to take it. If we’re going to throw the ball and gain six yards, that’s as good as a run for six yards. That’s how this offense is predicated.”

All three primary rushers, Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and Theron West, have all been receiving reps in practice. They combined for but nine carries and 22 yards on the ground against Rutgers, which is obviously not the result Mastro wants out of the running game.

However, they continue to battle each other for a spot on the depth chart, and all three will continue to see the field, Mastro said.

“That’s a great problem to have right now,” Mastro said. “They’re all three one in the same, which is what we’re looking for, so they’ll all three play and they all three bring a lot to the table.”

The WSU offense is very repetitious, Mastro said, so those three running backs need to stay consistent in order to become the players that Mastro and the coaching staff want them to be.

Running back Marcus Mason did receive some reps with the 1’s and 2’s on Monday during the team period, although Morrow and Wicks are listed ahead of him on the depth chart. Mike Leach said after practice that no starter’s job is safe, and that each player must fight for that starting spot every single day.

For example, Darius Lemora (pictured above) and Charleston White earned the top spots at strong safety and cornerback, respectively, for the upcoming game on Friday according to the new chart. Lemora beat out Teondray Caldwell, and White bumped Tracy Clark out of the starting role, per the most recent depth chart.

  • River Cracraft, Cody O’Connell, Nick Begg, Nate DeRider, and Drew Springfield were limited in practice. Cracraft did not participate at all. Jeff Farrar began the practice wearing a yellow jersey and then he took that off and had significant participation in drills.

  • Sebastian LaRue was present at practice, but spent most of his time on the sidelines.

  • Erik Powell showed plenty of power behind his kicks from about 48-50 yards out. The special teams unit was very active in practice on Monday, taking several reps on kickoffs, punt returns and field goals. Quentin Breshears kicked field goals as well, but he was far less accurate than Powell from similar distances.

  • Morrow and Marcellus Pippins took the reps at punt return with Cracraft sitting out. Morrow muffed one punt during the drill.

  • As promised by defensive coordinator Mike Breske, the defense participated in a tackling drill in which two players attempted to wrap up one ball-carrier. The two tacklers started about three yards away from the ball-carrier. Given the numbers advantage, they successfully wrapped up nearly every time, something they did not do very well against Rutgers.

  • Vince Mayle and Robert Lewis had noticeable drops when they were open during team periods.

  • Marcellus Pippins intercepted Peyton Bender during the team period at the end of practice.

  • Teondray Caldwell continued to hit hard in practice despite being dropped on the depth chart. He made an athletic pass breakup against the scout offense that featured him jumping high in the air and knocking the ball down with one hand.

  • Luke Falk found Rickey Galvin for a large gain through the air against the scout defense, and Connor Halliday hit Dom Williams for a touchdown pass against the first-team defense during the team period. Jamal Morrow also ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run against the scout defense.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: Robert Lewis
    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: Charleston White
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Darius Lemora

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl, Gunnar Eklund
    LG: Jacob Tweten
    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: Tracy Clark
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Teondray Caldwell
    SS: Isaac Dotson

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