WSU Practice: Cougars not standing pat

PULLMAN— A physical and loud practice unfolded Tuesday on Rogers Practice Field. Cougar coaches and players could be heard yelling from a vantage point overlooking the field, and probably from farther away than that. From where I stood, the Cougs brought solid effort to the practice field, but one coach I talked to after practice said he had expected to see much more from his position group today.

The defense made a plethora of plays against a scout team offense that at times also looked strong. Significantly, that defensive unit was once again different than what the Cougars began the season with, and it was also different than the depth chart heading into the game against Utah.

True freshmen Frankie Luvu and Dylan Hanser worked with the second-team linebackers, safety Taylor Taliulu was with the second-team, and safety Sulaiman Hameed spent most of the practice with the first-team defense.

In another twist, BUCK linebacker Ivan McLennan stepped in as a defensive end in the place of Lyman Faoliu with the 2’s on Tuesday.

“We haven’t changed our scheme. All we’ve done is try to put those guys in position to win and cut them loose, and that’s what’s happening now,” defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said.

Regardless of the defensive switches, the players practiced with vigor, completing drills with aggression, forcing turnovers, and hitting harder than they do on most days.

“They know me by now. It ain’t ever good enough,” Salave’a said. “The effort in practice is so critical to what we do. As a defensive staff, we’re always pushing our guys, prodding and poking at them to make sure we’re continuing to push through so many things. Practice has got to be hard, but part of that is we’ve got to get our guys to understand that it’s all about quality work.”

Salave’a said McLennan is quick, and that the team is in a position to manipulate personnel in order to maximize the strengths of that personnel.

The defense will have its hands full again this weekend as it faces a Utah team that has scored more than 35 points against the Cougars in their last two meetings.

“They’ve got some skilled position guys too,” Salave’a said. “They’re good in space and they’ve got a mobile quarterback this year that’s able to distribute the ball and also present some challenges for us, but I think those are the things those guys have been able to do the last few years is getting the ball to those skilled positions out in space and let them do their thing, and that’s a good problem to have.”

One of those skilled position players is quarterback Travis Wilson, who has not thrown an interception this season in three games. Salave’a said the defensive line will have to be disruptive and simply worry about its tempo and execution in order to force Wilson to perhaps make a mistake.

Linebacker Mitchell Peterson said on Monday that the Cougars have let up at times during games this season, and that has left opportunities on the field. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson said that didn’t really change against Oregon because of the result of the game.

“We didn’t win so I think it’s a process here to beat good football teams, and we’ve got to get that process fast, and we need to win some football games, so the only game we’ve got is this Saturday so we’re going to try to win that one,” Wilson said.

However, there were some positives in that game in Wilson’s mind, and one of those was how the Cougars defended the run. Utah has two players who have rushed for more than 100 yards this season, and six different players who have rushed for at least one touchdown this year.

“At times on Saturday we played the run fairly well. We gave up some big plays there in the second half that we can’t have,” Wilson said. “We’re getting better. They’re playing hard and we see some good things here and there, and we’ve just got to compete and get better every week.”

The unit that did not bring as much, in the coach’s mind, was a unit that played very well on Saturday -- the offensive line.

Clay McGuire let the o-line know he was displeased at times, and that was reflected in what he said after practice about his group.

“We were a little sluggish out there. This wasn’t our best Tuesday,” McGuire said. “I thought we were a little soft early in the practice. I think we finished the practice okay, but it wasn’t the mentality I wanted to see coming out here in Tuesday’s practice.”

The Cougars will resume practice on Wednesday with another session that is typically long.

  • Darius Lemora, Marcellus Pippins, and Peyton Pelluer each had interceptions against the scout offense on Tuesday. Pippins also returned a fumble for a touchdown after Gabe Marks was stripped of the ball.

  • Marks scrambled on one play and was able to complete a touchdown pass to Daniel Lilienthal with Sulaiman Hameed on the coverage.

  • Destiny Vaeao, Isaac Dotson, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Drew Springfield, Nate DeRider, and Sherman Hutcherson were all limited in practice.

  • Running back Theron West was present and active on Tuesday after being limited last week.

  • Wide receiver Kristoff Williams and linebacker Chester Sua were not seen at practice on Tuesday.

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

    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Kalafitoni Pole
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Cyrus Coen
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Charleston White
    FS: Sulaiman Hameed
    SS: Darius Lemora

      Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks, Theron West
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Calvin Green
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: B.J. Salmonson
    LG: Jacob Tweten
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Cody O’Connell
    RT: Jacob Seydel

    E: Ivan McLennan
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser, Tana Pritchard
    SAM: Paris Taylor
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Patrick Porter
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Beau Glover

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