Day 4: Defensive front tees off on Coug O

PULLMAN — Day 4 of Washington State's spring practice was a good time to see Joe Salave'a show off his moves. The Cougar defensive line coach was a fountain of enthusiasm and emotion after watching his unit dominate most of Thursday's team drills.

Third-year sophomore quarterback Luke Falk could barely get a throw off during the team scrimmage. Third-year sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale blew past the offensive line and caught up to Falk for the sack. Falk was also sacked by third-year sophomore linebacker Peyton Pelluer.

“We’re just trying to sort it through, you know hold in on just the basic fundamentals of the position,” Salave’a said. “But you try to harness and create competition…it’s good to see those guys have a little bit of success. Those things, you know, you can never have enough of those (sacks and pressure), so it was a decent day today.”

With the loss of defensive linemen Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole, Salave’a is leaning toward the older members to step up and fill the gap, including fourth-year junior defensive lineman Destiny Vaeao and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Darryl Paulo. However, Salave’a said everything is still open as far as who’s going to start.

“We got a good group coming out of the redshirt year, so really right now we just want to throw them out there and let them make a case for themselves,” Salave’a said. “Right now it’s open season for all positions, like I told them, nothing’s given they got to earn that, so you know so far we’ve just been trying to hold in on the basic fundamentals.”

Salave’a is also making sure the younger defensive linemen get quality reps this spring in order to get them up to speed.

“We got some guys who have that cockeyed look like they’re fish out of water, but I’d rather get that all out now than later,” he said. “So it’s not going to stop. This train is leaving whether they’re on it or not. So far we’ve got some guys that are scraping and crawling and fighting and that’s what you want to see. In the mean time we just got to get better and better, we don’t have many (spring practices) left.”

When asked about if he felt pressure to take on a bigger role now with Cooper and Pole gone, Vaeao said he’s not worried.

“Basically you got to address the players that you’re playing together like Daniel Ekuale like Darryl Paulo; they’ve been there,” Vaeao said. “They’re vets so they basically know everything.”

What Vaeao hopes to accomplish this spring is paying more attention to detail, and hand placement.

Mike Leach after practice on Thursday said, due to the increased emphasis on passing and offenses spreading further out, teams are turning to more nickel packages.

And Washington State has been utilizing more subpackages this spring, with Darius Lemora the first man in when the Cougs go to five defensive backs. Colton Teglovic backs up Lemora.

When the Cougs go to their nickel packages, the extra DB takes the place of the SAM.

FOR THE OFFENSE, the unit spent time running the ball from the shotgun, as well as with the quarterback under center. In the middle of practice, there was a short team period that focused mostly on running plays.

On one play, third year sophomore running back Gerard Wicks broke off a 15-yard run, getting some yardage after plowing over second-year sophomore safety Sulaiman Hameed in the open field.

“It just feels good being in the open field and you see a defender one-on-one,” Wicks said. “Usually you got people coming after you, but one-on-one that’s my thing, I love going one-on-one, especially with a safety.”

Second-year sophomore Keith Harrington also had a few quality runs during the period, including a 20-yarder up the right side.

During 7-on-7 on drills, Falk seemed to have the edge over second-year freshman quarterback Peyton Bender. Falk completed 15 of 19 passes, showing a quick release of the ball to receivers. Falk had one interception, where a pass thrown into coverage for Calvin Green was tipped and picked by second-year sophomore cornerback Pat Porter.

Porter also intercepted Bender, who completed 16 of 20 passes, with two interception. Also picking Bender was second-year freshman linebacker Chandler Leniu, who jumped a route run by fifth-year senior Daniel Lilienthal’s route.

Bender improved during the team scrimmage, where he completed 10 of 14 passes. Though the defensive line got constant pressure, Bender held his composure and stayed inside the pocket. Bender's highlight was a 20-yarder to Lilienthal, who broke a couple tackles and ran 30 yards for a touchdown.

Bender’s second touchdown of the team scrimmage came when he hit fourth-year junior Gabe Marks on a post route for a 25-yard touchdown. Marks and third year sophomore cornerback Charleston White each had possession on the ball while falling to the ground, and Marks was awarded the reception.

Falk finished the team period completing 5 of 9 passes for no touchdowns.

WSU holds its fifth day of spring ball at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

  • Third-year running back Jamal Morrow fumbled during the team scrimmage.

  • Fifth-year senior Ivan McLennan recorded a sack on Bender during the team scrimmage.

  • Marks, Wicks and second-year cornerback Marcellus Pippins took reps at returning punts.

  • Third-year kicker Erik Powell was the only player to punt.

    Running with the 1s

    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: Robert Lewis
    H: Daniel Lilienthal
    Z: Gabe Marks
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison

    E: Jeremiah Mitchell
    NT: Daniel Ekuale
    T: Destiny Vaeao
    BUCK: Kache Palacio
    WILL: Jeremiah Allison
    SAM: Paris Taylor/Darius Lamora
    MIKE: Peyton Pelluer
    CB: Marcellus Pippins
    CB: Charleston White
    S: Sulaiman Hameed
    S: Isaac Dotson

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