WSU Practice: Wilson ready for family reunion

PULLMAN -- The Wolf Pack’s Pistol offense remained a significant focus as Washington State continued its preparation Tuesday for Friday’s game at Nevada. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ offense continued to move the ball well during practice -- much to the frustration of defensive line coach Joe Salave’a. And one coach is preparing for the prospect of seeing his son on the opposite sideline.

Gabe Marks, who again Tuesday was tasked with replicating Nevada’s Pistol, has impressed the coaching staff with his speed and athleticism, earning the job as the scout quarterback this week. He ran 45 yards for a touchdown against the second-team defense during the team period. Keith Harrington also ran for about the same amount of yards during that period for a score versus the first-team defense.

Tackling was non-existent as this was a less-physical practice than Monday, but there were times where the defense failed to wrap up a runner. Marks also threw several passes that the defense failed to intercept. Balls fell through the hands of the secondary, or bounced off the hands of defenders near the intended receiver.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said it is an adjust from the scheme the Cougars saw during last week’s 41-38 loss against Rutgers.

“I just think it’s a different type of philosophy this week than a week ago,” he said. “We’ve got to be concerned with the dive, the quarterback, and the pinch, and then play against some passes. So we’ve got to have good, trained eyes in terms of each one of our responsibilities.”

The Cougars are not totally unfamiliar with it, though. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson, who spent 19 years coaching at Nevada, said WSU sees the Pistol quite often in the Pac-12 conference. “It’s a good offense,” Wilson said. “We see versions of it in our conference with Arizona and Arizona State, some with Utah. We see different versions of it throughout the year so we’re not unfamiliar with the plays that are in it, but it’s a good offense. There’s a lot of sleight of hand there, there’s a lot of motion going on in that offense, and guys have to be in the right spots and they have to be there aggressively.”

That motion gave Marks some trouble in practice as he fumbled the ball a couple of times on the transfer to the running back or in the process of keeping the ball for himself. The defensive line also was able to break through the scout offensive line to pressure Marks into a loss or at least contain him to a minimal gain.

Salave’a expects more out of his defensive line this week after they only mustered one sack against Rutgers in the season opener. However, Salave’a said the defensive line seemed uptight against Rutgers, which could have been part of the problem.

“I expect a little bit more activity and energy,” Salave’a said. “Guys need to be relaxed and play the game like they’ve known it. They’ve worked a lot on getting themselves in that situation, and no need to be uptight about anything.”

The players up front are focusing on the little things as well as the fundamentals, as are the linebackers, in order to combat the Pistol.

Breske said new starters Charleston White and Darius Lemora had good days at practice, citing their vision and positioning on the field.

AN ELEMENT LOST in the straight-up preparation for the next opponent is the fact that Nevada has a player on its team related to Wilson. The Cougars’ linebackers coach has a son on the Wolf Pack, Tyler, who was a walk-on there and is now the starting long snapper. Despite the relation, Wilson said there is no extra emotion or motivation for them.

“His mom and I are just real proud of him,” Wilson said. “We talked about it and we’re keeping that football separate. When I talk to him, it’s just about whether he’s going to class and doing what he’s supposed to be doing. During the football game, we’re going to compete like heck against each other.”

There was some emotion in Wilson’s decision to move to Pullman to coach at WSU. Tyler chose Nevada partly because he wanted to play for his dad.

“That was one of the big deals when we came up here,” Wilson said. “My daughter and wife came with me, and I got to coach my son, so that was a big factor in our conversations as a family. He was born while I was coaching. He has been on the sidelines since he was a baby, and he always wanted to be a guy with the Wolf Pack, so he’s living his dream down there and we’re just real proud of him.”

Wilson also will have a connection to the 1990 team being honored before the game in Nevada. The Wolf Pack finished 13-2 that season and went on to the 1-AA national championship game, where they lost to Georgia Southern. Wilson’s first full-time job was coaching the outside linebackers on that squad.

“It was a great football team,” Wilson said. “There were a lot of friends that I still have on that team. I wasn’t much older than the guys I was coaching at that time, so that’s pretty cool that those guys are getting put in the Hall of Fame down there. There’ll be a lot of them back, and unfortunately I won’t get to participate or see those guys because we’ve got to win a football game, so after the game’s over I’ll hopefully be celebrating and then we’ll think about that.”

  • Caldwell intercepted Ennis, and Taliulu intercepted Bender during another part of the team period.

  • River Cracraft was limited for the second straight day. He is a key factor in the Cougars’ offense at wide receiver, and is the primary punt returners on the roster.

  • Drew Springfield, Nate DeRider, Cody O’Connell and newcomer Mack Hopkins were limited in practice.

  • The roster had several new additions on Tuesday, and most of them were present. Freshman running back/defensive back Austin Hall, junior fullback/linebacker Thomas Hearn, redshirt junior linebacker Reggie Coates, freshman offensive lineman Mack Hopkins and freshman wide receiver/defensive back Dewan Lee Thompson were all at practice today. Freshman defensive lineman Jacob Laird and freshman quarterback Andrew Reding were missing on Tuesday. Reding had been at an earlier practice in Pullman this season.

  • Coates transferred from Nevada, where Wilson and running backs coach Jim Mastro were longtime assistants.

  • Connor Halliday lobbed a perfectly thrown ball to Isiah Myers in the red zone for a touchdown in the corner versus the scout defense. Halliday also completed a roughly 30-yard pass against the scout defense to Dom Williams, who caught the ball with one hand and secured it before running away for the score.

    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
    LG: Jacob Tweten
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Cody O’Connell
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Darryl Paulo
    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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