WSU Practice: defense gets a workout

PULLMAN — The Cougars’ defense had no problem staying warm on a chilly Tuesday night in Pullman. They finished the practice on a hot note, but they didn’t begin the day that way. At the start of practice, the D kept the blood pumping by doing up-downs as punishment for not wrapping up and not being in the right spot.

Running backs Gerard Wicks and Squally Canada and wide receiver Keith Harrington all had it going on early against the second-team and scout defensive line. When they were in the red zone, the offense scored multiple times, with Canada doing some of the damage. Mike Leach named the freshman running back Scout Team Player of the Day in both the running game and on special teams.

When the 1s and 2s on defense were taking turns against the scouts, there was an equally slow start. However, soon after the up-downs, the defense responded by making strong plays. Linebacker Paris Taylor stormed into the backfield and delivered a big hit on Canada that flipped him over, and then Taylor Taliulu made an athletic pass breakup in the secondary on the ensuing play.

Later in the day, freshman Sulaiman Hameed (pictured) broke up a pass while covering veteran wide receiver Gabe Marks. Also, Destiny Vaeao made his return to the first-team defense by teaming up with Kache Palacio on a sack of Peyton Bender.

“It took them awhile to get going today,” linebackers coach Ken Wilson said. “It’s a put-in day, I guess. There’s a little bit of learning going on, and maybe that took a little bit, but it was a little slow at the start. That’s probably why it looked faster at the finish.”

Wilson said the linebackers graded out OK against Utah, and that they performed pretty well after the 76-yard touchdown run by Devontae Booker.

“There’s a lot of adversity over there, there were a lot of things that were going on, and they never blinked, they kept playing hard, and it helped us in the end,” Wilson said.

Jeremiah Allison has given the defense some momentum, leading the team in tackles in the last two games, and playing at the WILL alongside Darryl Monroe at the MIKE. Wilson said Allison has sparked the defense and makes plays even when he is in the wrong spot because he plays fast and goes hard toward the spot he chooses.

Leach’s motto is that if a player practices well, he will have a chance to play in the games, Wilson said. That was the case with Allison, who was practicing strong enough that the coaches had to find a way to put him on the field along with Monroe, Wilson said.

That also is the scenario with freshmen Frankie Luvu and Dylan Hanser, who continue to practice with the 2s on defense. Luvu received his first snaps in the game against Utah, and Wilson said that those two have both stepped up in practice recently.

The Cougar defense will need to limit big plays by a California offense that averages 172.2 rushing yards and 366 passing yards per game. Wilson said the Cal running backs and offensive line have both improved from last season. WSU has been more than prolific this season in the passing game, putting up 480.8 yards through the air per game.

Leach said that the Golden Bears’ offense, while similar to the one he runs, is not as similar as it may have been in the past. He said that means they won’t be at too much of an advantage.

“Any familiarity we have with what they do is mitigated by the fact that their defense is familiar with what we do,” Leach said.

  • Hameed received praise in drills early in practice due to his effort and performance. Wilson said the youth on the team plays with excitement, and it has provided a spark for the team.

  • Tana Pritchard still did not receive reps with the 1s or the 2s on Tuesday, and he did not see the field much against Utah. “We had to win that game, and we put the guys in there that could help us win it,” Wilson said after practice.

  • Connor Halliday and Peyton Bender each threw a ball in the bucket during the bucket drill toward the end of practice.

  • Destiny Vaeao participated with the 1s on defense on Tuesday after being inactive last week.

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

  • Isaac Dotson, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Sherman Hutcherson, Drew Springfield, and Nate DeRider were limited in Tuesday’s practice.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks
    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: Destiny Vaeao
    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: Darius Lemora
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed

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

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

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