WSU Practice: McGuire lauds Mata'afa

PULLMAN — The obvious assumption is that assistant coach Clay McGuire’s favorite player is an offensive lineman. Think again. Instead, McGuire said on Thursday night that true freshman defensive end Hercules Mata’afa (pictured above) could challenge anyone on the roster for that distinction.

“Hercules is arguably my favorite player on the team,” McGuire said. “If we had 105 guys that played football like him, approached the game like him, carried themselves like him on the field and everything, we’d be pretty dang good.” McGuire said Mata’afa will get a sack and then he will bounce right back ready for the next play. He said Mata’afa displays great strength and plays at full speed every play.

Mata’afa joined a robust defensive group in Thursday Night Football that rushed the passer and only allowed two scores in the scrimmage. The quarterbacks were rushed at times and were forced to complete short passes to the side and over the middle. Kyle Newsom and Drew Griffin each recorded solo sacks, and on two other instances, a group was able to reach the quarterback and record a collective sack.

“They did a good job,” linebackers coach Ken Wilson said in regard to the pass rush. “Last week, the offense had a pretty good day so I think our guys were a little motivated tonight. They had a good day, the pass rush was good, and the coverage was really good. I’m really proud of those young secondary guys. They did a nice job tonight.” McGuire said the young offensive line played average in Thursday Night football. He mentioned Cody O’Connell, Andre Dillard, Sean Krepsz and Carlos Freeman as players who could be in the mix for a starting job next season.

“For the most part, we picked up the right guys,” McGuire said. “We could definitely be firmer and keep the pockets wider in there for those guys.” Wilson said Griffin is training to become a SAM linebacker after coming in as a defensive back, and Newsom will play at one of the inside linebacker positions in the future. Griffin has a chance to compete for a starting job at the SAM position once he learns the ins and outs of the linebacker role.

The battle for the MIKE linebacker position is a lot closer than it is at the SAM, though. Wilson said Peyton Pelluer and Darryl Monroe are pretty much even, which makes sense because both have taken reps with the 1s this week.

“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow and on Saturday, we’ll see how they play,” Wilson said. “Peyton’s going to start the game and we’ll see how it goes, but it’s a close battle.”

Peyton Bender began the Thursday night scrimmage with completions on his first four pass attempts, but then the defense settled in, shutting down most of the offense’s plays and not allowing them to advance deep downfield.

Defensive back Jeff Farrar jumped high in the air and in front of one passing route, only to get both hands on the ball and bat it down without collecting the interception. Linebacker Reggie Coates also was able to bat a ball up in the air, but he could not get under it before it fell to the ground.

That enabled the offense to gradually move downfield to set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Bender to Gabe Marks in the end zone over the defender. Connor Ennis completed a deep touchdown pass to Daniel Lilienthal later in the game for the other score of the night.

Earlier in practice, Ennis had a rough time against the 1s and 2s on defense. Ennis intercepted by Paris Taylor, Daquawn Brown and Taylor Taliulu, concluding a week filled with turnovers for the redshirt freshman quarterback.

  • Cole Madison has been present at practice this week; however, he has been wearing a hooded sweatshirt without a jersey so it was difficult to identify him. He was present on Thursday as well, but just like the rest of the week, he was inactive.

  • Nick Begg, Isaac Dotson, Mack Hopkins and Nate DeRider were the other limited players on Thursday.

  • Calvin Green wore a yellow jersey but participated in most of Thursday’s practice.

  • Gerard Wicks was present today and in a hooded sweatshirt on the sidelines. He did not participate.

  • Tracy Clark was not seen at practice on Thursday.

    Primarily taking reps with the 1s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Jamal Morrow
    X: Vince Mayle
    Y: Tyler Baker
    H: Rickey Galvin
    Z: Isiah Myers
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Jacob Seydel

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

    Primarily taking reps with the 2s
    QB: Peyton Bender
    RB: Theron West, Marcus Mason
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: River Cracraft
    H: Robert Lewis
    Z: Drew Loftus
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Sam Flor
    RG: Riley Sorenson
    RT: Eduardo Middleton

    E: Ivan McLennan
    NT: Robert Barber
    T: Daniel Ekuale
    BUCK: Frankie Luvu
    WILL: Dylan Hanser
    SAM: Paris Taylor
    MIKE: Darryl Monroe
    CB: Charleston White
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    FS: Beau Glover
    SS: Sulaiman Hameed