Day 3: Parker Henry set to grind for Cougars

LEWISTON – Many Pac-12 football players literally cannot count all the scholarship offers they receive, but that wasn’t the case for Washington State’s Parker Henry. After all, Henry can count to one. “I had a $500 scholarship to Southern Oregon University, an NAIA school,” Henry recalled.

Southern Oregon’s loss was Washington State’s gain. Henry, a redshirt junior who finally landed a scholarship at WSU last January, may have been the best player on the field during Monday’s practice at Sacajawea Junior High School.

Henry, who has been moved to nickel back from linebacker in the new defense installed by new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, brought down an interception when he won a “jump ball” battle in the back of the end zone with star receiver Gabe Marks. Later, Henry broke up a pass with a nice effort in the end zone, and he tipped one that freshman safety Hunter Dale intercepted.

Darius Lemora, the projected starter at nickel back, sparked another solid defensive effort Monday by constantly placing himself in the middle of the action. Lemora sounded like a proud father when he discussed Henry after the 2 1/2-hour practice.

“That’s my boy!” Lemora exclaimed with a wide grin. “We call him ‘Bulldog’. The Bulldog, he goes giddy. He gets it done by any means necessary.”

Henry, an all-state running back at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Wash., has played primarily on special teams at WSU. But his efforts at that often-thankless task have not gone unnoticed.

“The Bulldog, he’s a football player,” said rush linebacker Ivan McLennan, who recorded a quarterback sack Monday. “He embodies being a football player … he has a big heart.”

“I just kinda grind it out,” Henry said. “That’s kinda the way I was raised by my parents. They’re both hard-working people. That rubbed off.”

The “Bulldog” added to his image this summer by knocking out a front tooth when he brought down the bar a tad too far while weightlifting. A fake tooth is due to arrive in a few days, but Henry plays football like there’s no tomorrow.

“He wants to make plays,” Lemora said. “He wants to help this team win, and we all appreciate him and love him. He’s a good guy on and off the field.”

THE RUN SUPPORTER
Lemora, who started at free safety as a redshirt freshman last year, seems to be making a smooth transition to the nickel position.

“I’m more of a run supporter (at the nickel),” Lemora said. “I have to read (offenses) a lot more, a lot better.”

The 6-foot, 196-pound Lemora still has plenty of responsibility on pass coverage.

“I love this sport,” he said. “Even though I may be small, I can still ‘lay the wood’ (hit hard) when I have to. I still cover receivers twice my size.”

PRAISE FOR GRINCH
You can add Lemora, McLennan and Henry to the long list of defensive players who sing the praises of Grinch, new outside linebackers coach Roy Manning and other coaches.

“I love the new coaching staff,” Lemora said. “They want us to run to the ball. Coach Grinch is an energetic type of coach.”

“I love the energy Coach Grinch and the people they’ve brought in (provide),” Henry said.

“Coach Grinch is real intense coach, so we feed off his energy,” McLennan said. “My position coach, Roy Manning, he’s always ‘turned up’ out there. He’s always barking and wanting us to do (things), so he brings us energy, too. Coach Wilson (linebackers coach Ken Wilson), too. All the coaches.” “It’s just different this fall.”

McLennan said that’s a reference to the energy provided by coaches and the increase in “hands-on coaching” since last season.

“This group of guys (on defense), it’s something special,” said McLennan, who is battling fellow senior Kache Palacio for the starting rush linebacker job. “We just love playing with each other.”

PLAYER ATTENDANCE

Did not practice: DL T.J. Fehoko, S Suli Hameed, NT Thomas Toki, CB Treshon Broughton continue to sit out. Fehoko, limping on a leg that was injured in the offseason, watched from the sidelines for the first time. Toki and Broughton appear to be waiting for academic clearance from the NCAA. Hameed, who watched Saturday’s first practice in street clothes, hasn’t been seen since. As usual, the Cougars release little or no information regarding injured or missing players. DT Destiny Vaeao and K Matt Abramo again were limited largely to individual work on the sidelines with apparent leg injuries. NEW INJURIES

None noted.

TOP PLAYS

Nickel back Parker Henry won a “jump ball” with star receiver Gabe Marks to haul in an interception in the back of the end zone during a skelly session. Henry also had a nice pass breakup in the end zone to end the skelly. Later, in 11-on-11 play, Parker tipped a pass that was intercepted by freshman safety Hunter Dale.

THUMBS UP

Nickel back Darius Lemora made play after play all afternoon. Even though the Cougars wore shoulder pads for the first time Monday and won’t don full pads until Wednesday, safety Shalom Luani has provided more than a few hints that he will live up to his reputation as a big hitter. He approaches people in possession of the football with a heaping helping of speed and attitude.

THUMBS DOWN

The Cougars need help on defense from several junior college transfers (including Luani), but JC cornerback Kirkland Parker continues to offset good plays with ones where he is cleanly beat on passes.

ODDS AND ENDS

Matt Chasanow, the new radio play-by-play man for WSU football, men’s basketball and baseball, is producing podcasts from fall camp that are available at www.wsucougars.com. Chasanow, hired by IMG College, is the first primary Cougars broadcaster to live in Pullman in decades. Predecessor Bud Nameck lives in Spokane, and longtime play-by-play man Bob Robertson (who remains part of the football broadcast team) commuted from the Tacoma area. Nameck and Robertson have both held down other broadcasting jobs back home for years. … Defensive line coach Joe Salave’a likes to show players how to bat away at blockers with one arm. Every time the thickly muscled Salave’a punishes a tackling dummy with a swipe of his right arm, it serves as a powerful reminder to players that Salave’a spent eight years playing defensive tackle in the NFL. … Cornerback Pat Porter missed the first half of practice for undisclosed reasons, but wound up subbing at times for projected starter Marcellus Pippins. The latter intercepted Luke Falk in team drills. … Nose tackle Robert Barber took a number of snaps with the No. 1 defense in place of projected starter Daniel Ekuale. … Second-stringers continue to be mixed and matched on a regular basis. … The first two camp skirmishes took place. Both quickly turned into mass pileups, and no one appeared to be injured.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE

Practice 2:30 p.m. (open to public), Sacajawea Junior High School, Lewiston. The projected high temperatures are 106 Tuesday and 107 Wednesday

OF NOTE
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NO. 1 DEFENSE

End – Darryl Paulo, RS-sr.

Nose tackle – Daniel Ekuale, RS-so.

Tackle – Hercules Mata’afa, RS-fr.

Rush linebacker – Kache Palacio, sr./Ivan McLennan, RS-sr.

WIL linebacker – Jeremiah Allison, sr.

MIKE linebacker – Peyton Pelluer, RS-so.

Nickel back – Darius Lemora, RS-so.

Cornerback – Marcellus Pippins, so.

Free safety – Isaac Dotson, RS-so.

Strong safety – Taylor Taliulu, sr.

Cornerback – Charleston White, RS-so.


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