WSU Practice: Dascalo gets shot at kicking

PULLMAN — Cougar punter Jordan Dascalo was given an audition at placekicker at WSU's Tuesday practice, while receiver Vince Mayle took a shot returning kickoffs. Dascalo was accurate on most of his tries, which came from a variety of middle distances, and the power behind those kicks was clear: sound echoed across Rogers Field each time he sent a ball crashing into the trees beyond the goal posts.

The moves were made one day after Mike Leach fired special teams coach Eric Russell following Saturday's special teams collapse against Cal -- a collapse which came on the heels of repeated special teams miscues this season.

Dascalo, who walked on at Washington State this season and is averaging more than 41 yards per punt, is no stranger to placekicking. As a prep senior in 2012 he connected on 12 field goals. He spent 2013 at the Atlanta Sports Academy, a post-high school prep academy.

The booming quality of his place kicks is understandable. He has bulging quads and reportedly squats 625 pounds.

If Dascalo (pictured above) earns the starting nod for PATs and field goals he will be the third man up for the Cougars this season. Erik Powell was benched after going 2 for 5 and his replacement, Quentin Breshears, is 4 for 6. Breshears' missed chip shot Saturday against Cal to win the game in the waning seconds opened the door for Dascalo.

The last Cougar specialist to pull double duty on a regular basis was Jason Hanson in the early 1990s. The NFL great earned first-team all-Pac-12 honors at both punter and placekicker and All-America plaudits at kicker.

Meanwhile, Mayle caught two TD passes from Halliday in action against the scout team, and then turned heads when he returned a kickoff. He exploded past the first wave of tacklers and then did a spin around another to break free and run toward the end zone before the play was stopped.

Jamal Morrow and Kristoff Williams, who has missed the last couple weeks with an undisclosed injury, have handled the bulk of kick returning for the Cougars this season. Morrow is averaging 23.5 yards on 13 chances and Williams 21.9 on eight.

Quality control staffer Eric Mele, who is now the interim special teams coach, was unavailable for comment after practice.

His introduction to being a full-time, on-field assistant won't be easy with Stanford on tap Friday. The Cards' Ty Montgomery is one of the top return men in the West.

Linebackers coach Ken Wilson said Montgomery is possibly the best in the country. He also said that the Cougars will need to play fast in order to counteract the overall physicality of Stanford. They also plan on facing a deep group of running backs and many different formations, so being in the right place, exploding and shedding blocks will all be important on Friday, Wilson said.

On offense, Leach said, “The biggest thing is you’ve got to keep them off of you and you’ve got to put it in play, and that’s the thing teams struggle with is putting it in play. Of course, a lot of teams they’ve played are run teams, and there’s probably not three or four teams in the country that are tougher to run it against than Stanford.”

WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said the Cougars will need to establish the line of scrimmage by being physical. Asked to define what exactly physicality means, he said that attacking and striking, shedding blockers, pursuing the ball and tackling are all part of the formula for creating what the Cougar defensive coaches preach about on a daily basis.

Even though the Stanford defense is stout, Salave’a said it is more about an internal pressure than an external one to keep the Cardinal’s offense in check.

“The pressure is performing to our ability. I always demand our kids to demand more and give more, and not really worry about the results,” Salave’a said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do and then play up to that potential and their abilities, I always like our odds. As far as Stanford, they’ve proven whatever they’ve been doing for the last few years works. They’ve not really changed, and the biggest thing we’ve got to continue to do is come out here and continue to perform and work on the detail of our job space.”

Salave’a said the Cougars are still improving in regard to turnovers. The Cougars have recovered two fumbles and forced two interceptions this season, yet they work on turnovers almost every day in practice through various drills focused on jarring the ball free and securing balls in the air. Salave’a said the players are becoming more conscientious about attacking the ball.

“Takeaway and keep away are the keys of success, and we’ve got to continue to find ways to get around the ball and give our offense more opportunities than not,” Salave’a said.

  • Gabe Marks, Squally Canada, Destiny Vaeao, and Isiah Myers all spent time on the bikes on Tuesday midway through the practice; however, it did not seem indicative of any major problems. They all participated in other portions of the practice as well.

  • Daquawn Brown intercepted Peyton Bender during one of the team periods, and received time at the safety position for the second straight practice. It was not clear whether he was at safety or cornerback on the interception play, but in any case, he jumped the route and forced the turnover.

  • Rickey Galvin, Isaac Dotson, Chester Sua, Nick Begg, Parker Henry, Mack Hopkins, Drew Springfield, Nate DeRider, Sherman Hutcherson, and Nick Begg were all limited on Tuesday.

  • Kristoff Williams was not seen at practice, and Dom Williams participated in some portions of practice but sat out during others.

  • Sulaiman Hameed shed his yellow jersey and was a full participant in practice on Tuesday.

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

    E: Destiny Vaeao, 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: Darius Lemora
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Theron West
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Seydel
    RT: Cole Madison

    E: Ivan McLennan
    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: Beau Glover
    SS: Taylor Taliulu, Daquawn Brown

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