WSU Practice: Who's on D?

PULLMAN— The defense received a makeover on Sunday night during a short practice in Martin Stadium. The performance did not suffer, but it certainly looked different without its starting nose tackle, one of its starting cornerbacks and both of its usual safeties. These alterations were present during the bye week, but now that the game week has begun, the change just became more real.

Destiny Vaeao practiced with the first-team defensive line as the nose tackle, replacing an absent Toni Pole, who has started every game this season at that position for the Cougars. Safety Darius Lemora was also missing from practice, and Sulaiman Hameed was limited, leaving Taylor Taliulu and Beau Glover in the defensive backfield for the 1’s on defense.

Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that Pole and Lemora missing practice last week was just about keeping them fresh during the bye week.

“They’ve had some extra work to do to take care of business, and we will hopefully get them back this week,” Breske said of Pole and Lemora.

Breske said Vaeao has had a good few days of practice lately and that he brings quickness and speed to the inside of the defensive line. Vaeao has played at the nose tackle position since the beginning of the bye week, sandwiched between Xavier Cooper and Darryl Paulo, the latter moving into Vaeao's end position.

If Vaeao should need to fill in for Pole on Saturday, Breske said the junior D-lineman has enough experience under his belt to make it a smooth transition. Vaeao has played at the BUCK at Washington State, on the inside and on the end of the line, and knowing those three techniques have turned him into a player who is plenty versatile, Breske said.

That defensive line will have the task of containing a mobile quarterback and two running backs employed by Arizona. Breske said Arizona’s QB, Anu Solomon, is a little different than B.J. Denker was a year ago; however, the defensive coordinator said the Wildcats are still an explosive offense.

Solomon has thrown for 2,136 yards with a 62.6 completion percentage. He has 15 passing touchdowns compared to four interceptions, and although he has not scored on the ground, he has 160 net yards with his legs this season.

According to Breske, the bye week allowed the defense to accomplish two things, and one will help the Cougars face an offense that is superior in pace compared to the others they have faced in 2014.

“We got a lot of academics taken care of, and we’re trying to get our health back,” Breske said. “We had some good reps. We’re getting our legs back underneath us, so we’re nice and fast against a team that’s going to get a lot of plays. It’s probably the fastest tempo we’ll see all year.”

Arizona had the benefit of a bye week too this past week, after the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season, a 28-26 nail-biter against USC.

That allowed the Wildcats’ two running backs, Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby, to regain some of their health as well. Breske noted that both have suffered injuries at some point this season, but they still have done their fair share of damage to opposing defenses. Wilson leads the team with 574 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, while Jones-Grigsby has 299 hashes and three rushing touchdowns. Wilson has received the bulk of the carries, totaling 90 so far this season.

Also notable from practice Sunday night was that true freshman cornerback Kevin Griffin continued practicing with the 2’s as he had done during the bye week in the absence of Charleston White, who left the Stanford game with an injury. Patrick Porter moved up to the 1’s, leaving a spot vacated for Griffin with the second team.

“I think he’s deserved it, and he’s done a good job for Coach Leach on scout team, and we’ll take a good look at him,” Breske said of Griffin, who has not received game reps yet this season.

Whoever ends up trotting out onto the field on Saturday for the Cougars, it will be a matter of how they mesh together at the end of the day.

“They’ve just got to play together. When we’ve got 11 guys playing together as a unit, we’re fun to watch,” Breske said.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Hameed, Isaac Dotson, Nate DeRider, Drew Springfield, Mack Hopkins, Nick Begg, and Kahshan Greene were limited in practice on Sunday.

  • Riley Sorenson wore a yellow jersey in practice but participated somewhat. Sam Flor was still taking the reps with the first-team offensive line and the majority of the reps overall.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    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: Sam Flor
    RG: Jacob Seydel, Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

    DEFENSE
    E: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Destiny Vaeao
    T: Xavier Cooper
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Cyrus Coen
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Daquawn Brown
    CB: Patrick Porter
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Beau Glover

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Carlos Freeman
    RG: Jacob Seydel
    RT: Eduardo Middleton

    DEFENSE
    E: Ivan McLennan
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser
    SAM: Paris Taylor, Mitchell Peterson
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    CB: Kevin Griffin
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: Colton Teglovic


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