Obscure, maybe. But of little importance? Heck no, Mike Leach said. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Those guys are preparing themselves for Saturday’s down the road and the results of it have been showcased more than ever this season, Leach said.
Indeed, look at some current WSU playmakers, they all got their starts making plays on the scout team. This includes DL Robert Barber, WR Keith Harrington, LB Peyton Pelluer, DL Hercules Mata’afa and others, Leach said.
Plus, although he didn’t start out with the scouts, Gabe Marks spent all of last season with the unit, and was frequently mentioned during Cougfan.com's TNF reports a year ago. In 2015, he has hauled in 63 receptions for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns, which all rank No. 1 for the Cougars. And last year has a lot to do with that, said Leach.
“It’s really an opportunity to develop your skills,” Leach said of the scout team. “You don’t lounge around and feel like you’re doing something you don’t want to. It’s football. You help the team by duplicating the opponent, and you help yourself by developing your skills.
“People who squander that opportunity hurt themselves. There’s a lot of guys who make the most of the opportunity. Parker Henry is a great example of this. He worked the hardest on the scout team. Now he’s among the best defensive starters we have each week. If we name five defensive guys who had the best game, he’s almost always mentioned. And on special teams, he’s always mentioned.”
SPEAKING OF HENRY, Leach had more praise for the 5-11, 207-pound fourth-year junior. On the season, Henry, an emerging nickel, has 44 tackles and one interception.
“Against Stanford, I thought Parker Henry played an inspired game,” Leach said. “Unfortunately, there was an interception for a touchdown that was taken off the board. It could certainly be argued that Parker Henry deserved that touchdown.
“That play right there would have had a big impact on the game. I think he deserves credit for that play, in addition to his inspired play.”
Leach also mentioned several other Cougs on defense, giving special recognition to second-year freshman linebacker Chandler Leniu.
“The thing about Chandler is that he’s really fast and explosive,” Leach said. “Within a small space, he’s quick. I think he’s disciplined with his eye. We have a drill in practice where the offensive guy tries to make the defensive guy miss and Chandler is one of the hardest to make miss.
“Part of that is that he’s massive. If you run into him, you’ll get knocked flat. He holds his position well and bats the guy down.”
OVER ON OFFENSE, Leach had his positive things to say about Luke Falk, Marks, Dom Williams and others.
With Williams, a senior, Leach said his big play capability this season has been attributed to his work during the offseason. In 2015, Williams is second on the team with 48 receptions for 656 yards and six touchdowns.
“Dom is an understated guy,” Leach said. “He’s a real humble guy. He’s gotten steadily better. One thing with him is that when he got committed to the weight room and started setting a standard there, that’s when he started to excel. He embraced the on and off the field stuff.”