Day 2: Cougar O rebounds with strong outing

LEWISTON -- Day 2 of preseason camp with more of the same drills for Washington State's offense, but there was better polish and execution than opening day. And it was particularly a good day for the Cougars' receivers, including a show of one-handed grabs by C.J. Dimry.

Sunday started with 7-on-7, then 10-on-9 and eventually 11-on-11, featuring the first and second team offense against the scout defense. Luke Falk led the first team that included Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow, Dom Williams, Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. Freshman Keith Harrington also saw an increased number of plays in the 11-on-11.

“Keith had a really good spring, and he got used to the scheme where he can execute faster,” Mike Leach said. “He has a lot of intangible things, good lateral moment, he gets out of his cuts quickly. He’s a very complete back.

Breaking up the offensive drills was kicking competition between Erik Powell and Brett Schafer. Both had their moments, but there were still some unfortunate misses. Senior Jeremiah Allison led the defense in playfully heckling the kickers as they lined up. Powell had a really strong showing with several high and deep field goal attempts. Schafer performed well, too, but his kick trajectory seemed a little lower than Powell’s. Matt Abramo did some warm up kicks on the opposite end of the 11-on-11 drill, but he headed for the bikes before Powell and Schafer began the kicking competition.

The offense took command of the field following the kicking display. Each of the five quarterbacks lined up to go through formations and route combinations with five wide receivers at a time. Each QB had nice tight throws and good spirals. D.J. Thompson had a good one-handed catch, where he caught the ball behind him on a slant route. The running backs also had some nice execution on their wheel routes and the timing with each QB was on the mark.

“The receivers are looking good and improving. They all have do some good things,” Leach said. “The returning receivers have good experience, and I think we have some good young guys looking to break through.”

Later in some goal line work, receivers continued to put on a show. Junior Dimry collected two one-handed catches on fade routes. Quarterback Peyton Bender had the closest call to an interception during the goal line snaps, but for the most part, he and Falk had good accuracy in the red zone.

Skeleton drills for Falk and Bender followed punting work. Isaac Dotson intercepted Falk’s third throw of the drill, a pass intended for Williams. Falk used his eyes deceptively on the next play on a pump fake to Morrow to find Kyrin Priester in the middle of the field. Falk and Robert Lewis hooked up on a beautiful play that saw Lewis in a fully extended dive for the ball, resulting in a touchdown. Falk finished the drill with some nice passes to John Thompson, Marks and Daniel Lilienthal.

“All of these young guys are doing great. Kyle Sweet is in my position group, so I’ve seen the most of him, but all of these young receivers look good,” Cracraft said. “Our position has a lot of guys coming back, and a lot of guys hungry to break in.”

Bender took over and immediately reaped the benefits. Bender's second and third passes went for TDs, including Morrow fighting for and juggling the ball off a defender’s shoulder, and a busted coverage score from Lewis on the right side. Near the end of his skeleton drill, Bender threw his first interception.

“I think the offense and the defense took a step forward today,” Leach said. “We had great tempo throughout practice, the offense executed better, and the defense continued to fly to the ball.”

Bender started the 11-on-11 near of the end of practice with an interception that was nearly returned for a touchdown. Bender followed two plays later with a pass play of about 50 yards to Marks down the right sideline. Near the end of Bender’s 11-on-11 time he hit John Thompson for a touchdown on a post route, where the receiver separated from the defensive back. Bender’s last two throws were incomplete.

“We got two good quarterbacks, and I’m excited to work with both of them,” Cracraft said. “It’s nice working with both of them, and it’s really easy developing chemistry with them both.”

Falk took over and went for a 50-yarder of his own, but it was swatted out of Tyler Baker’s hands. On his second play, Falk was sacked, which sent the entire defense into a roar. As the offense slowly made it to the red zone Falk took over. He hit Baker for a great leaping grab. Falk followed it up two plays later with a touchdown pass to Cracraft. Falk's second to final play, he was flushed right, but made a great throw to Cracraft for another touchdown. Falk’s final play was ruled a sack.

“We always expect success, but yesterday we laid an egg, so we wanted to come out and do better today,” Baker said.

The defense continued to play hard and with a great amount of intensity throughout the day, but the offense looked more complete and in-sync than day one. The team again practiced in just helmets, jerseys and shorts. The Cougars are expected to add shoulder pads on Monday.

NO. 1 OFFENSE

QB: Luke Falk, RS-so.

RB: Gerard Wicks, RS-so/Jamal Morrow, RS-so.

LT: Joe Dahl, RS-sr.

LG: Gunnar Ecklund, RS-sr.

C: Riley Sorenson, jr.

RG: Eduardo Middleton, RS-jr.

RT: Cole Madison, RS-so.

X: Dom Williams, RS-sr.

Y: River Cracraft, jr.

Z: Gabe Marks, RS-so.

H: Robert Lewis, RS-so.


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