Cougar QBs adjusting to life under center

PULLMAN - During Saturday’s practice, third-year sophomore Luke Falk was lining up under center, in the shotgun and using his legs to create more time. Afterward, he was signing a young boy’s football and taking pictures with him on the field. He doesn’t have the starting quarterback job yet, but Cougar fans of all ages are watching closely.

And while a starting spot in the spring has not yet been decided, with redshirt freshman Peyton Bender in the running as well, Falk emphasized after practice how comfortable he is with the offense. On Saturday, it sounded like Falk had the entire Air Raid at his disposal.

“Today is the fifth day so we kind of get (to check everything),” he said. “It’s my favorite day because I just get to check what I see and really have full reins of the offense…I feel extremely comfortable. I think the film study helps you do that and knowing the guys around you are going to do their job allows you to be comfortable doing yours.”

Despite a sack on the first play by BUCK linebacker Kache Palacio, Falk completed all 13 of his passes in the team scrimmage off of several throws to wide receiver Gabe Marks and several strong runs from redshirt sophomore ‘backs Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks. Falk also found the end zone on a pass to Dom Williams, who was able to get around a defender to take it another 15 yards to the house.

Meanwhile, Bender completed 11 of his 15 passes and seemed to mesh well with Baker, connecting with him for a 30-yard pass and ending the session on a touchdown pass that found Baker in the back of the end zone. After Bender was done with the team scrimmage, head coach Mike Leach walked with him back to the sideline, offering him immediate feedback.

The quarterbacks spent time practicing being under center. After practice, Falk stayed behind with Riley Sorenson to work even more. Leach said that the team will be under center much more this season, possibly about a 25 percent of the time.

“Spring is a good time to install it and also I think these quarterbacks are more inclined that direction,” Leach said.

Falk echoed that although being under center is not something that was used much by Leach in past seasons, it would diversify the offense a lot.

“I think it will help out our run game and just being a little more diverse,” he said. “I just have to be able to read it and stuff but I like it.”

Running back Keith Harrington also tested the defense during the team scrimmage. While Bender was under center, Harrington ran the ball for about ten yards through a gap in the line. Then, on the following play, he ran a short route up the sideline and caught a pass for 15 yards.

Running backs coach Jim Mastro talked after practice about Harrington and the options that he brings.

“He just gives you a dynamic to him because he is so quick,” he said. “He can catch the ball in the backfield, make people miss in the open field. He’s that little kind of jitter bug guy that you want but he’s also thick. He is a strong kid, so he is a lot more durable than other guys usually are.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the energy was again evident. Palacio got to Falk on the first play of his scrimmage and backup safety Colton Teglovic snagged an interception from Bender during the team scrimmage.

After practice, Palacio attributed the defense’s excitement and progress to the new coaching staff and the energy brought by the older guys.

“You got Gabe coming back as far as our receivers and running backs bringing excitement. When they run, they run it hard,” he said. “They’re talking trash, we’re talking trash, I think it’s just more of a bond. At the front line too, they are bringing a lot of experience and excitement. As far as practice, I think practice is more exciting now. We’re just excited to practice.”

Notable Notes:

Freshman kicker Daniel Garcia spent time early in practice getting reps. Although he missed his first kick from close range, he was able to adjust and make his others.

On special teams, Marks and Harrington were returning kickoffs from junior kicker Mitchell Cox against the full special teams unit.

At the end of practice, the offense and defense swapped roles for a fun three-on-two drill along the sideline. Falk and Bender took turns firing off passes to three defensive players guarded by two offensive players.

Among the limited players on Saturday included Nate DeRider, Brett Bartolone, Andre Dillard, Pat Porter, River Cracraft, Robert Barber, Ngalu Tapa, Reece Alvarado and Frankie Luvu.

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