WSU defense rounding into game shape

PULLMAN - Tuesday's news was Mike Leach naming Luke Falk as WSU's starting quarterback, but the defense tried its best to grab a headline or two. With the season opener looming, the Cougar D is responding in kind. WSU defenders, be it starters or scout team, were flying to the ball, covering so much ground it was hard to keep up. The offense? As Leach says, that's what tomorrow is for.

“I thought there were some good things today, but I thought there were some spotty things as well,” Leach said. “We need to be better tomorrow, but that’s what tomorrow is for.”

Practice started out with the routine of the starting offense against the scout defense in 7-on-7 and 11-on 11. When it was time for the defense to go against the scout offense, the work was largely on gap assignments and where to go on different play calls. The defense then broke up into position groups and worked on several drills, including the cornerbacks guarding each other to attempt to tip and/or intercept the ball and linebackers working on ball strips and recovery.

Next up was a little special teams work. Erik Powell drilled five consecutive field goal attempts from different distances, clearing the crossbar with ease on each kick. All of his kicks were run against a live, attacking defense.

The defense then split into position groups and worked on position-specific drills. The corners and safeties worked on reading a QB and where he wants to go with the ball. The WIL and MIKE linebackers worked on getting past a blocker and attacking a ball carrier. The RUSH LBs and Nickel back worked on hand placement against linemen. The corners and safeties finished up with tracking a ball carrier and reacting to direction changes. During the defense’s work, the offense worked on different routes and ball location with four QBs and four receivers at a time.

The QBs and WRs worked on route combinations. At the same time, the defense took on the scout offense in goal line situations. There were several highlight plays from the defense including Ivan McLennan (pictured above) repeatedly blowing up the O-line; Marcellus Pippins swatting a would-be touchdown pass away from the receiver; and on one play four different Cougars stopping the option in the backfield. The defense continued their scout team work, focusing on third-down stops. They only gave up a handful of first downs in their dozens of reps, and there were two interceptions, including a one-handed snag from Charleston White.

“The trust level in guys at defensive back has gone up since spring,” DC Alex Grinch said. “We’ll be jacked up and ready to go for Portland State.”

Falk and Peyton Bender took the receivers and competed with the corners and nickel backs in some one-on-one drills, while the rest of the defense worked against the starting O-line, starting RBs and Tyler Hilinski at QB. Not a lot came of the 9-on-9 work between the offense and defense. The WR versus DB battle had a few nice catches from Tavares Martin Jr. and Gabe Marks.

The Cougars worked on some kickoff vs. scout return and then some scout kickoff vs. kick return. Following special teams work, Falk and Bender practiced some skeleton. Neither really stood out: Falk threw an interception to Frankie Luvu, and Bender had one dropped by Paris Taylor. However, Falk did throw a nicely-placed touchdown pass to Marks.

Finally, the Cougars moved into team time, which started out pitting the offense 1s against the defense 1s. It's didn't last long, as the defense get a sack and Peyton Pelluer helped blow up a short pass.

“Peyton runs the defense and makes sure to get us in the right places,” coach Ken Wilson said. “He runs the show out there.”

The offense finished team time against the scout defense. Falk struggled in team time as well, throwing two interceptions on consecutive plays to Colton Teglovic and Calvin Green. However, it wasn’t all bad as he checked into runs that picked up good yards and had some nice throws to John Thompson. Bender also came in and showed a few flashes with good placement on throws and avoided turnovers. As the offense worked, the defense took on the scout offense. They also accumulated two interceptions, one from White and another from a diving Darius Lemora.

  • Suli Hameed, Amosa Sakaria, and T.J. Fehoko were limited in Tuesday’s practice. Dom Williams was in pads and participated fully after sitting Sunday’s practice out.

    Offensive 1s
    QB: Luke Falk
    RB: Gerard Wicks
    LT: Joe Dahl
    LG: Gunnar Eklund
    C: Riley Sorenson
    RG: Eduardo Middleton
    RT: Cole Madison
    X: Dom Williams
    Y: River Cracraft
    Z: Gabe Marks
    H: Robert Lewis

    Defensive 1s
    DE: Darryl Paulo
    NT: Robert Barber
    DT: Destiny Vaeao
    Rush LB –Ivan McLennan
    WIL LB – Jeremiah Allison
    MIKE LB – Peyton Pelluer
    NICKEL CB: Isaac Dotson
    CB: Darrien Molton
    CB: Charleston White
    FS: Taylor Taliulu
    SS: Shalom Luani

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