Cougar CB 'killing it' in Midnight Maneuvers

PULLMAN -- You don't want to run into Washington State cornerback Marcellus Pippins at night -- at least not if the location is Martin Stadium. Offensive lineman Gunnar Eklund said Pippins is dominating in Midnight Maneuvers, WSU's two-week winter conditioning program which began on Jan. 31.

This past season, as a true freshman, Pippins (pictured above) appeared en route to a redshirt season but wound up starting the last two games. And he acquitted himself nicely.

He's carried that momentum into Midnight Maneuvers -- so much so that when Eklund, as part of another story altogether, was asked how Maneuvers were going didn't hesitate to give a shout out to the 5-10, 163-pound Pippins for "killing it."

Eklund, a senior-to-be who already has 32 career starts under his belt, also had special praise for the work of BUCK linebacker Ivan McLennan and quarterback Luke Falk.

In simplest terms Midnight Maneuvers is a catchy name for circuit training -- albeit circuit training on steroids.

The sessions will conclude with tonight's workout.

One difference this year, the majority of the sessions have been held outside, as opposed to years past when they've been in the bubble. As near as we can figure the reason for the change is simple: an unusually warm winter.

Watching from a distance during one of the early sessions, the program looked to be broken into nine stations, with each one designed to pit players against each other to determine a winner.

It's pretty easy to determine who's winning, too. Black shirts -- emblazoned on the back with the word "Finish" -- are given to the most stellar performers, gray shirts to those in the middle and pink to those with some catching up to do.

Pippins is a black-shirt regular, says Eklund.

Coaches work hard to pump up the players, with defensive line coach and assistant head coach Joe Salave'a setting the pace and tone.

The workouts begin at about 9:45 p.m. and everything runs like clockwork. On Feb. 2, when CF.C observed one of the Maneuvers, the players emerged from the locker to warm up in 39-degree weather. At 10 p.m., whistles signaled the beginning of the maneuvers.

They're held at night because that's when the majority of football games are played in the fall.

"A game is four quarters long and you go through stuff. You might have a bad first half, or a long day at school during Maneuvers, and you've just got to finish strong. It's a competition with the players, and it's just like a game," Eklund said.

Each exercise station lasts three minutes, and upon conclusion, the players receive one minute of rest before moving on to the next one. Exercises range from push ups and jumping rope to cone drills and sprints.

"I think the shirt system is really effective because nobody wants to be in a pink shirt ... Everyone wants to be in that black shirt. It just makes things a lot more competitive and makes you push yourself," Eklund said.

Pink tends to be more noticeable in the first few sessions, while black shirts become more prominent as players become acclimated to the workouts.

The final exercise of the night may be the most exhausting: a bear crawl while pushing a wooden board around a set of cones like a skier in a slalom.

"They're tough so you have to learn how to push your body," said Eklund.

NOTABLE: Spring practices begin March 26 and the Crimson & Gray Game will be in Spokane on April 25 (2 p.m. kickoff/Pac-12 Networks).

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