WSU D productive, while Falk & Cracraft shine

PULLMAN - No one would have guessed this was the first Washington State practice of the spring in watching Luke Falk, the entire receiving corps -- and especially Falk's connection with River Cracraft. Usually the timing between WRs and QBs is not quite there on Day One of spring ball, but Falk and Cracraft on Thursday looked like they had not missed a beat since the Sun Bowl victory over Miami.

The Cougar offense had a solid day overall in the helmets-only session, and the connection between Falk and Cracraft was the spearhead of the attack.

The defense had their hands full, but they also put together a solid day with big time efforts from some players Cougar fans are very familiar with, and also some new faces who really showed up in the first practice.
Falk had an outstanding day, but two other Cougar quarterbacks also took a considerable amount of reps. Peyton Bender and Tyler Hilinski split the second team reps -- Hilinski took his in the 7v7 period while Bender took the 11v11 drills. 

Mike Leach usually only uses two quarterbacks for the majority of his practices and having spent four years under Leach, I'd say this means that the No. 2 quarterback spot is up for grabs.

The 1v1 period between the defensive backs and wide receivers was extremely competitive, regardless of whether they were wearing pads or not.

Cracraft ran the crispest routes of the day, while Charleston White had a solid period, although not from a familiar spot -- White has moved to safety from corner.

Gabe Marks was virtually unguardable. He once fell to his knees and gave the defender a chance, but he still managed to shield off the defender and make the grab.

Walk on receiver Kaleb Fossum was exceptional during this period. He put together great routes rep after rep and his performance was highlighted by an eye-popping one handed grab on the sideline.

Kyrin Priester, as I tweeted out earlier, has officially made the transition from X to Y (outside receiver to inside receiver). It's an adjustment, but he seemed to be progressing well on Day One.
The O-Line D-line 1v1 session was also extremely competitive.

Right tackle Cole Madison, right guard Eduardo Middleton, and defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa lived up to their reputations, but it was a newcomer who had the highlight of the period.

During his reps, o-lineman Amosa Sakaria overwhelmed his man and drove him into the turf, sending the entire offensive line into an uproar. This was very encouraging as it was Sakaria’s first live practice with the Cougs after spending his true freshman season injured.
The 7v7 period was where Falk really started to catch his stride.  He completed his first seven pass attempts and finished the period an impressive 16 for 20. 

Falk threw 3 touchdowns from the 5-yard line, one of which was caught by a fiery Marks who gave the ball a powerful two-handed spike.

Falk also found speedy Robert Lewis on two separate 40-yard bombs.

Hilinski did a good job with the second team reps, but his day would have been better if it were not for the efforts of a newcomer - true freshman cornerback Jalen Thompson.

Thompson, who enrolled at WSU in January, was excellent in his first day in crimson and gray as he picked off Hilinski two separate times in the 7v7 period. Despite the two interceptions, Hilinski did put together a solid period including a streak of five straight completions.

Another bright spot here was talented second-year freshman running back James Williams. He dominated last year’s Thursday night football scrimmages with his running ability, but he showed great receiving skills today with many difficult catches in traffic.

The 11v11 period started off with Bender taking the second team reps. He did a solid job of moving the ball down the field with the exception of a few missed throws. Bender showed off his calm pocket presence - and throwing velocity - as he zipped the ball all over the field, and especially in the direction of Cracraft. 

Cracraft had several spectacular catches of Bender’s passes and no one could blame him for standing up and yelling (and flexing) to celebrate one grab he made with a defender draped all over his back. 

Bender did not receive much help from the run game as the defensive front had their way with the second team offensive line. 

Sophomore Logan Tago, lined up at end, also gave them problems in pass protection as he "sacked" Bender on one play, and teamed up with nose tackle Ngalu Tapa for another sack.

The first team offensive line fared much better, and the run game became a factor. Gerard Wicks had several nice runs, and eventually scored a touchdown on the drive.  This helped Falk put together a solid team period when it became time for him to take his reps. He threw one interception to linebacker Frankie Luvu, however a defensive lineman had jumped offsides so Falk had taken a shot downfield knowing he had the penalty in the bag.  At any rate, it was an excellent catch and return by Luvu.

Another defender that really showed improvement to me was linebacker Paris Taylor.  He was flying all over the field today and looks to have done some serious work in the weight room this winter.  He has always been a guy with a lot of potential, and it looks as if he may finally be reaching it.

Once the first team offense got into the red zone, some familiar names to Coug fans started to show up big.

Falk lifted a pass high to the corner from the 20 yard line to a spot where only a few receivers in the country could make a play on it. Fortunately for WSU fans, Marks is one of those select few and he made an incredible grab in the back right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

It was not all offense down in the red zone though, as middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer made two huge plays in a row for the defense.  He got his hand on a would-be touchdown pass from Falk to Cracraft and on the very next play he met a running back on the one-yard line and although it wasn't a contact practice, Pelluer did not give an inch of ground, guiding him sideways and short of pay dirt.

Despite Pelluer’s efforts, the offense had the final say of this very competitive period with a textbook route, throw and catch for a touchdown on a corner route from Falk to Cracraft followed by Wicks determinedly running his way into the end zone for another six points.

Bottom line on Day One? The Cougs got better today in my book with a solid effort from all sides of the ball. If this type of play and effort continues, it will be a very productive spring session for Washington State.
Nick Begg has moved from Y to defensive end.

-As noted above, Priester has moved from X to Y and White has moved from corner to safety.

-Running back Keith Harrington was not active for today’s practice.

RELATED STORY: CFC TV: Young OL catches McGuire's eye

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tyler Baker spent four years under Mike Leach at Washington State as an inside wide receiver, completing his playing eligibility in the Sun Bowl this past December and finishing up his degree this spring. Baker caught 40 passes his final two seasons at WSU, including a nine-catch effort in Luke Falk's first career victory at Oregon State. He's covering the spring football session for

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