WSU Practice: O-line stays on successful path

PULLMAN — The Cougar defense sent mixed signals on Wednesday as there were good times and bad ones up front and in the secondary. Offensive line coach Clay McGuire also talked after practice about his guys on the front end, how the younger line has progressed, and what he still would like to see from the starters.

During the various team periods in Wednesday’s practice, the defensive 1’s and 2’s looked no different in their personnel groupings. However, they were susceptible at times to big plays by the wide receivers on the scout team offense. Still, the strong plays by the offense were usually answered with a turnover or sack from the defense.

We’ll give the good news first. Taylor Taliulu, Daquawn Brown and Marcellus Pippins each had an interception on the day, and Brown broke up a pass intended for Gabe Marks. Peyton Pelluer and Frankie Luvu combined on a sack of Connor Ennis as well.

Now for the not-so-great news. The scout team's wide receivers beat the secondary numerous times on Wednesday. Zaire Andre caught a ball for a touchdown over Brown and Darius Lemora, and then hit the wall by the end zone afterward. Upon sitting up, Andre motioned with his hands, like a referee, that it was a touchdown.

Marks beat Pippins on a couple of passes, and Beau Glover was also covering Marks along with Pippins on one of those passes. Tyler Baker also made a play on a ball with Lemora covering him, and Dewan Lee Thompson made a touchdown catch over Taliulu.

On the other side of the field, the offense went about its business, rotating receivers and running backs as they progressively moved the ball down the field against the scout team defense. The offense wasn’t perfect as plenty of incomplete passes were seen, but Connor Halliday and his receivers did have success on multiple plays, as well.

The players who have to protect Halliday long enough for him to find receivers have been doing a fairly good job of that this season. Halliday has 299 pass attempts and has been sacked 12 times, which equates to about one sack for every 25 attempts. Offensive line coach Clay McGuire said the offensive line should be better than that, though.

“We want to be a little bit better than that, especially with as much as we emphasize throwing the football, we want to be better than that,” McGuire said. “It needs to be a lot higher number per attempt. The best we’ve ever had in this offense was one every, I think, 56 times, when Graham Harrell was our quarterback, so obviously that’s the goal we need to get to.”

Head coach Mike Leach said a combination of improvement by the offensive line, receivers and Halliday have contributed to keeping pressure out of the backfield this season. The line unit has played energetically this week, McGuire said, and that has resulted in a solid week of practice in preparation for California.

“I think the guys actually came out pretty excited about practice this week, and haven’t played with any hesitation and went out there and played pretty fast, and it’s been pretty decent practices,” he said.

Andre Dillard had a good day on Wednesday, and Devonte McClain has performed well this week in practice, McGuire said. The coaching staff seemed to like using McClain during fall camp, and especially when the team returned to Pullman. Lately, he has been with the scout team offensive line or not participating fully, which McGuire attributed somewhat to illness.

  • Chester Sua was present at practice, but Kristoff Williams was absent again.

  • Isaac Dotson, Parker Henry, Nate DeRider, Drew Springfield, Mack Hopkins, Nick Begg, and Sherman Hutcherson were limited on Wednesday.

  • Destiny Vaeao, Sulaiman Hameed, and Ivan McLennan all participated in practice on Wednesday, but were partially limited.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    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 2’s
    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, 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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