WSU Practice: Youth taking precedence

PULLMAN — One true freshman continues to impress to the point that Washington State coach Mike Leach acknowledges he should have played earlier. He was a mainstay on a defense that used multiple personnel groupings during Wednesday’s practice. No matter what unit was used, the result was the same — turnovers.

The running backs also had a strong day on Wednesday, breaking some long runs in the team period and also showing off their speed on kick returns. Both Jamal Morrow and Theron West made long returns during the kickoff drills against a defense that was moving at close to full speed until the end of the drill. Gerard Wicks made long gains during the team period rather than on special teams.

Against Oregon, the Cougars’ running backs saw some looks that favored the run, Jim Mastro said, and he has reiterated many times that if the defense is giving that to the Cougars, they will take the opportunity to run the ball.

“They played well,” Mastro said. “They were explosive, made a lot of people miss, and I think over half their touches went for first downs. Their production was unbelievable.”

Coach Mike Leach said after practice on Wednesday that the Cougars’ team speed is better than it has been in years past, but it still needs to improve dramatically.

Leach said that some of the young players on the team have come into the program as better athletes than the experienced players, and if that is the case, he said the coaches will choose to play the younger athletes.

One of the freshmen who received substantial playing time against Oregon, and who continues to receive playing time in practice with the 1s, is Sulaiman Hameed. Leach said the coaches should have played Hameed sooner.

The safety is certainly making up for lost time as he was with the first-team defense for the entire practice. Darius Lemora played opposite of Hameed for a majority of the time, but Taylor Taliulu stepped in for Lemora late in practice.

Hameed made two interceptions on Wednesday, both of which came against Peyton Bender. Marcellus Pippins intercepted Connor Ennis, and Pat Porter and Charleston White picked off Gabe Marks to add to the defense’s highlight reel. Also, Xavier Cooper sacked Connor Ennis twice in a row at one point during the team period.

Tana Pritchard played with the scout defense on Wednesday, but linebackers coach Ken Wilson said that Pritchard will play. The team is simply mixing different guys on defense, Wilson said.

The Utah team the Cougars will face on Saturday is 3-0, and it features a dual-threat quarterback on the offensive side of the ball. Wilson spoke after practice about how the Pac-12 is a tough conference, and that the team feels they play in the toughest conference in the country. However, he also said that anybody can beat anybody.

The Utes’ defense, especially the men up front in the trenches, are an imposing presence, as well. The Utes rank fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, allowing 2.9 yards per carry and only one touchdown all season. They also are second in the Pac-12 in sacks with 15.

“They’re big, strong kids,” Mastro said of Utah’s defensive line. “Their deal is they want to try to load you up. They don’t want to get moved. It’s all about numbers and it’s a look, and if we get the look we want, we’ll run it, if not, we’ll throw it.”

Turnovers will obviously make that defense’s job easier. Mastro said the fumble that Morrow had against Oregon cannot happen again. He described it simply as bad ball security and putting the ball in the wrong arm.

“One fumble can’t become two, so he’s got to be able to walk away from it and do better next time,” Mastro said.

Morrow has great hands and awareness of space, which allows him to be a good receiver in addition to running the ball, Mastro said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Kristoff Williams and Chester Sua were absent again in practice on Wednesday.

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

  • West and Morrow handled kickoff return duties and both had some success. West ran the ball back against the defense twice, and Morrow broke through once. Both players would have scored, but they and the defense slowed up at the end of the play, so it was hard to tell whether those return touchdowns would translate into a game situation.

  • Taliulu spent a majority of his time with the second-team defense on Wednesday, but he did work with the 1s toward the end of practice. He switched out with Lemora, while Hameed was the mainstay at the safety position.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    OFFENSE
    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

    DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Kalafitoni Pole
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio, Ivan McLennan
    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 2s
    OFFENSE
    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

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

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