WSU Practice: Loud and proud

PULLMAN— A steady diet of chatter emanated from the practice field on Wednesday as the Cougar football team, and especially the defense, came out burning like a fire. Ivan McLennan shouted from within a spirited huddle for the second straight day, and the defense looked stout for most of the time against the scout offense. But don’t forget about the WSU offense, either. They looked good, too.

If Javorius Allen runs the ball anything like Keith Harrington, the Cougars will do just fine against USC on Saturday.

While that comparison can be shot full of holes, the Cougar D did look dominant against Harrington and the scout team running game. The pass rush was solid and the defenders swarmed to the ball when it was given to anybody in the backfield.

The Cougars also forced more turnovers on Wednesday, picking up where they left off from an energetic Tuesday practice. Daquawn Brown jumped a route and intercepted a pass early in practice, and later, Sulaiman Hameed and Darius Lemora hawked balls out of the air. All of these turnovers were forced against the scouts. Lemora almost had two more interceptions on Wednesday, but they fell to the turf as aggressive pass breakups.

There was a slight lull when the Cougar D went into the team session but a fired up Mike Breske voiced his displeasure, as did other members of the WSU staff, and the defense responded.

Meanwhile, the Cougar offense churned on the far side of the practice field.

Connor Halliday threw a number of ropes and completed several touchdown passes to the likes of Vince Mayle, Robert Lewis, Jamal Morrow and Daniel Lilienthal, but outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons said it isn’t always so smooth over there.

He cited a couple of instances on the day prior (Tuesday) in which there were some dropped balls. And he was none too pleased with that. but overall, he said the offense has played well this week in practice. Simmons also said he was extremely pleased by Tuesday’s work in the open field as a part of the one-on-one drills between the receivers and the secondary.

On almost every occasion, the Cougar receivers beat their defensive counterpart in open space. When they reached the red zone, though, the playing field evened a little more with less space to operate in.

This week’s practices have had more surge at times, and Simmons said the receivers have used their hands well in getting off the line, something important to continue into Saturday.

Although Dom Williams did not light up the highlight reel on Wednesday, he played steadily at the Z wide receiver position. He is listed there on the depth chart behind starter Isiah Myers, and also as the No. 2 X behind Mayle.

“He’s just a guy, where we’re at right now, that has to be able to do both sides. He’ll play some X, he’ll play some Z,” Simmons said of Williams. “He’s been in the offense three years so he knows it. We try to keep a fresh rotation with those guys and keep somebody that can pose a downfield threat for us on the field at all times.”

Williams has threatened opposing defenses from the X frequently this season as well. He has caught 31 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns in 2014.

“He’s a downfield threat. He catches the vertical ball very well. Experience helps. He’s been playing well, and he’s been playing physical on his releases, so I feel good anytime we have him, Vince (Mayle) or Isiah in the game,” Simmons said of Williams.

The receivers will need to maintain their physicality and create space effectively if the Cougars are to disrupt USC sophomore safety Su’a Cravens. The 6-1, 225-pound defensive back has 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season. He also has two interceptions.

“He’s very physical. He’s a good football player, but we knew that coming out of high school. He’s going to get up on the line, he’s going to blitz, so we are going to have to account for him in that aspect,” Simmons said of Cravens. “He plays on special teams for them as well, so we’ll have to account for him there, and we’ll obviously have to account for him in pass coverage.”

Running backs coach Jim Mastro said the Cougars obviously will not look to run into a blitz by Cravens, but also noted USC tries to disguise blitzes. Mastro said Morrow needs to continue to work on his pass protection, and that he has "strong courage," but his fundamentals in that area are more apt to break down when he tires.

Morrow has received more reps the last two days with fellow rusher Gerard Wicks absent, (WSU does not comment on absences but Mastro said there’s no reason to worry about Wicks, assuring that the redshirt freshman will return.)

Morrow has been a dual threat for the Cougs on the ground and through the air, especially with the increased workload these past couple of days. (Theron West has also seen more reps in Wicks' stead.)

“Any time you’re a freshman, you can’t get enough reps, so the idea that we’re able to get him so many right now is good for the future,” Mastro said.

And maybe for Saturday as well. But what Mastro wanted to get across was the Cougar faithful can look forward to seeing that from Morrow for three-plus more years.

“He’s so confident in himself that he feels like he can make anybody miss. Sometimes that’s a disadvantage because he does too much, but he’s done well and his future is bright,” Mastro said.

Some of Morrow’s growth this season can be attributed to the role senior Marcus Mason has shouldered, Mastro said. Mason scored a touchdown against the scouts on Wednesday, but last year's leader in all-purpose yards for the Cougs is behind Morrow and Wicks on the depth chart. “His experience has shown and his knowledge has shown,” Mastro said of Mason. “He’s been a great leader to those two young guys.”

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Morrow returned a kickoff for a touchdown on Wednesday, running against a coverage team that was approaching close-to-full speed.

  • Charleston White, Nick Begg, Mack Hopkins, Nate DeRider and Isaac Dotson were limited in practice on Wednesday.

  • Calvin Green, Cole Madison, Drew Loftus and Wicks were missing from practice on Wednesday.

  • A scout from the Seattle Seahawks was present at practice, but it was unclear who he was there to see. Scouts from the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars were at practice Tuesday and appeared to be observing Mayle.

  • River Cracraft and Sulaiman Hameed both participated in portions of Wednesday’s practice, but they also sat out during some of the segments.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Connor Halliday
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: River Cracraft,Tyler Baker
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

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

    Primarily taking reps with the 2’s
    OFFENSE
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Marcus Mason, Theron West
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Dom Williams
    LT: Gunnar Eklund
    LG: Cody O’Connell
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Riley Sorenson
    RT: Eduardo Middleton

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


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