PRACTICE: Mele wants special teams 'flying'

PULLMAN — So much for the calm before the storm. On Wednesday, the Cougars had anything but a placid practice as the skies opened on the players as they ran through drills, scrimmages and Thursday Night Football. Also, Eric Mele talked to the media for the first time since taking the interim position of special teams coach.

“I’m excited for the opportunity, excited to put my stamp on special teams," Mele said.

"I want those guys flying around, being aggressive and playing with passion, and just being excited about being out there on the field.”

The new coach spoke about a unique and fiery philosophy that he plans to bring to this phase of the Cougars’ game.

“We kind of talked a little about the special forces thing, like the military, and I have some friends in the military. We kind of want to play off of that,” Mele said. “We want to be explosive on special teams, we want bombs going off on kickoff team, and we want to be together, we want to play for each other, we want to do it for the guy next to us.”

Perhaps in an attempt to be more explosive on special teams, the Cougars gave wide receiver Vince Mayle a chance at returning kickoffs against Stanford. Although he did not return any for touchdowns, he took one back 39 yards.

Mele, who called Mayle a big kid who runs hard and fast, said that when the senior asked to give kickoff returns a try, he was all for it.

Mele confirmed that he isn’t the only coach running the special teams unit, though. Jim Mastro helps with the kick return team, Ken Wilson mans the punt return team, and Mele heads up the kicking teams. Some of the graduate assistants also help out with the position.

Mele’s recruiting responsibilities will be in Washington, but he said he is focused on the next opponent right now and will start making phone calls next week.

Overall, he has embraced the job change. Mele said he is passionate about his job, which makes it seem nothing like work at all.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said the team had a very spirited practice, which is exactly what the Cougars need to maintain despite not having a scheduled game this weekend. Breske said the coaches made sure the players did not approach this week with a relaxed mindset.

“It’s not an off week, it’s a bye week. There’s a big difference,” Breske said. “This is a time to get better on your individual technique.”

Asked whether the team is where he expected it would be at this point in the season, especially with the youth on defense, Breske said it is a continued process of improving each day. He added that the more reps the young players receive, the better they will become.

Freshman Patrick Porter showed some promise in his performance against Stanford after Charleston White suffered an injury. Breske noted Porter’s play in the red zone in the fourth quarter when he broke up a pass intended for Devon Cajuste. That forced Stanford to settle for a field goal.

Breske said Porter needs more reps and to work on his technique, which makes the bye week a perfect time for the freshman corner.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, though, the defense was burned by tight ends multiple times, which is something Breske said needs work. All three of Stanford’s passing touchdowns were to tight ends, two to Greg Taboada and one to Eric Cotton. Breske called the defense “hot and cold” in that area of its coverage.

During Thursday Night Football, the only two players the defense had noticeable trouble covering were wide receivers Dewan Lee Thompson and Brett Bartolone.

Thompson caught two touchdown passes from Peyton Bender, and on the first one, the freshman receiver broke a tackle in the middle of the field before turning and running toward the end zone for the score. Bartolone took one into the end zone on a pass from Luke Falk.

  • During one-on-one drills between the wide receivers and the defensive backs, Mayle separated himself well against Daquawn Brown, and was able to secure a couple of long gains.

  • The starting offensive linemen seemed to allow the 1’s and 2’s on defense to pass through them easily and sack the scout quarterback during team drills.

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

  • White and Chester Sua were not seen at practice on Wednesday, as well as Toni Pole, Calvin Green, Cyrus Coen, and Riley Sorenson.

  • Rickey Galvin was active and did not wear a yellow jersey after not playing against Stanford.

  • Dom Williams was active and did not wear a yellow jersey on Wednesday, despite being limited early last week and receiving minimal playing time against Stanford. Connor Halliday connected with Williams twice for touchdowns during the team period.

  • Also during the team period, Halliday threw an interception to Paris Taylor, and Falk hit River Cracraft for a touchdown in the red zone.

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

    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Destiny Vaeao
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Patrick Porter
    FS: Darius Lemora
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: John Thompson
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Gunnar Eklund
    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
    MIKE: Tana Pritchard, Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Sebastian LaRue
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: Taylor Taliulu

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