PULLMAN – Washington State football players were delighted to practice on their home turf for the first time this fall Tuesday. The fact that wide receiver Kyrin Priester (pictured above) practiced with the Cougars for the first time as an active player on the 2015 roster made practice that much sweeter.
, cleared by the NCAA on Monday to play with the Cougars this season despite playing one game with Clemson last season, has impressed his teammates and coaches in workouts and practices since transferring in January. Nothing changed Tuesday when the Cougars resumed practicing following a day off after nine days of practice in Lewiston.
“He’s a stud,” summed up quarterback Luke Falk
“He’s a great player,” wide receiver Gabe Marks
said. “He’s a really competitive guy.”
The Cougars appealed to the NCAA to waive the standard one year on the sidelines for transfers in Priester’s case, since he was dismissed from Clemson’s team last season after Tigers coaches found issues with his attitude. Several football student-athletes this offseason successfully petitioned the NCAA in similar cases. Clemson signed the necessary papers to enable Priester to play this season at WSU. Priester thanked Clemson and WSU officials for their help when he met with reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
“I’m very excited to play this year,” Priester said. “It’s really a blessing to be eligible.”
“I’m excited for him,” coach Mike Leach
said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He does a really good job. Very focused young man.
“A great asset to our team. He’s very passionate, very committed. Work ethic – I can’t think of anybody that works harder than he does.”
Priester split time at X receiver with senior Dom Williams
on the No. 1 and 2 offenses Tuesday. Priester also returned punts and kickoffs. Priester said Williams “has taken me under his wing,” and the two have become “like brothers.”
“He teaches me a lot,” Priester said. “We hang out a lot now. It’s cool.”
Asked if he expects Priester and Williams to remain at the X spot, Leach said, “So far, yeah. I think they will.” Leach said he’s “not sure” if C.J. Dimry
, a 6-foot-6 junior college transfer, will stay at the X.
Falk said Priester has been just as impressive off the field as on since coming to WSU.
“He just fits in,” Falk said. “He’s one of the guys ever since he stepped foot on this campus.”
Priester, a 3-star recruit out of high school, said he considered transferring to Utah and Kentucky before settling on WSU. Priester said he chose the Cougars in part because of the “family atmosphere” and the presence of Keith Harrington
, a friend from back home in St. Petersburg, Fla.
dropped a couple easy passes early in Tuesday’s practice, but he looked sharp most of the afternoon along with most of his teammates on offense.
“Once he gets the ball in his hands,” Falk said, “he’s a playmaker.”
Falk and Peyton Bender
, Falk’s top challenger for the starting quarterback job, both threw some gorgeous balls. They were helped out considerably by some outstanding work from teammates.
In 11-on-11 drills, true freshman wideout Kyle Sweet
left safety Isaac Dotson
grasping at air after catching a short pass in the flat. Sweet likely would have scored if not for an early whistle that blew the play dead.
Slot receiver River Cracraft
caught a pass from Bender, then muscled his way through a tackle by nickel back Darius Lemora
near the goal line for a touchdown. Marks hauled in a TD pass from Bender on the sideline, then emphatically spiked the ball.
Earlier during the 11-on-11 session, on back-to-back plays, Cracraft and Sweet made extremely difficult, twisting catches. Falk found Marks for good gains on two consecutive passes, the first coming after the nimble-footed Falk kept the play alive by escaping a strong pass rush.
WSU’s veteran offensive line opened up some nice holes for the running game. Gerard Wicks
and Jamal Morrow
picked up good yardage on back-to-back plays behind solid blocking.
(5-9, 170) continues to impress with his ability to catch balls in traffic at the H and/or gain yardage after the catch.
Falk and Marks acknowledge that starting fall camp in Lewiston helps promote unity on the team. Still, they made no secret of their preference for the glossy facilities at Washington State over the rather ragged grass fields of Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston.
“This is like the Taj Mahal,” Falk exclaimed.
“Lewiston is something – it’s a necessary evil,” Marks said. “I mean, you’ve got to do it. It helps us pull together as a team. I do like practicing on these (practically) brand-new fields.”
Player attendance: WRs Tyler Baker and Dimry returned to action after missing some practices in Lewiston for undisclosed reasons.
New injuries: none noted
Top plays: Cracraft’s leaping, twisting catch of a Bender pass may have been topped only by Lewis’ shake-and-bake move that left safety David Bucannon with a handful of nothing after a Lewis reception.
Thumbs up: The offense moved the ball well through the air and on the ground, in no small part due to quality work by the offensive line after an inconsistent showing in Sunday’s scrimmage.
Thumbs down: Marks, like many great receivers, likes to think he gets open on virtually every play. However, when he screamed at Falk, “Throw me the (blankin’) ball!” after one play, that’s probably not helping anybody.
Odds and ends:
Practice ran about 2 ½ hours, with some players (mostly younger ones) staying for extra work afterwards. Temperatures hovered around 90. More of the same is expected Wednesday.
Perhaps 100 spectators watched practice at Rogers Field and Martin Stadium. Students are beginning to filter back onto campus with classes starting next Monday.
Besides Priester, punt and kickoff returners included Cracraft, Marks and Harrington. No “all-out” returns were made.
Wednesday schedule: Practice 3:30 p.m. (open to public) at Washington State.
NO. 1 OFFENSE
Quarterback – Luke Falk, RS-so.
Running back – Gerard Wicks, RS-so.
Left tackle – Joe Dahl, RS-sr.
Left guard – Gunner Eklund, RS-sr.
Center – Riley Sorenson, jr.
Right guard – Eduardo Middleton, RS-jr.
Right tackle – Cole Madison, RS-so.
X receiver – Dom Williams, RS-sr.
Y receiver – River Cracraft, jr.
Z receiver – Gabe Marks, RS-jr.
H back – Robert Lewis, RS-so.