Cougars prep for Saturday's spring game with a short, no-pads workout

PULLMAN -- Mike Leach decided to change the format of Thursday's practice to help prepare his team for Saturday’s spring game in Spokane. Today’s practice was much shorter than usual, the players were not wearing shoulder pads, and the team was split into the Crimson and Grey squads that they will be represent in the game.

The rosters may still be tweaked a bit, and Saturday we will see exactly who suits up for each side.

Individual drills were completed first in the practice and consisted of many of the same drills that the players run every practice this spring, but the reps were cut down to help keep the guys fresh for Saturday’s game.

Next was the special teams period, in which all of the big four units (kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return) took semi-live reps against scout teams.

There were no 1v1 drills today. Following special teams, the practice moved straight into 7v7. Luke Falk, Peyton Bender and Tyler Hilinski split the quarterback reps evenly during this period while the Crimson offense faced off against the Grey defense and vice-versa.

Falk took his reps first and continued his streak of stellar 7v7 performances. He seemed to have a special connection with the Y receivers during this drill as he hit Kyrin Priester four times while working with Greys, and River Cracraft three times while with the Crimson squad.

One of his completions to Cracraft was the highlight of the day. Falk threw a seam route over the top in the end zone to Cracraft, who reached out with one hand and snagged the ball for a 40 yard touchdown.

Next up was Hilinski, who did fine with his reps. Hilinski had many completions that went for medium-sized gains, but was denied a big play because of the effort of cornerback Deion Singleton. Hilinski lofted a ball deep down the sideline that looked to be a sure touchdown to running back Jamal Morrow on a wheel route, but Singleton raced over to get a hand on the ball just before it reached Morrow in the end zone.

Bender took the drill's final round of reps, and also had a solid performance. He did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him and found several different receivers underneath the coverage. Bender eventually threw a touchdown strike to H receiver Kyle Sweet, who when near the goal line, found a hole in the defense's zone on an option route before Bender threw him the pass for a 5-yard score.

The 11v11 period was formatted similarly to the 7v7 period as the three quarterbacks split reps evenly between the two squads.

Bender took the first reps of the drill and had a rough start. He completed a few balls underneath for minimal gains, but was intercepted by Will linebacker Paris Taylor while trying to hit Cracraft deep over the middle.

The defense gave Bender more problems in the red zone as he was sacked by defensive lineman Robert Barber, and had a pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Bender did put the rough start behind him and eventually hit X receiver Kaleb Fossum on a tunnel screen for a touchdown from 12 yards out.

Hilinski started his drive out well as he hit Cracraft over the middle on a 15-yard play. The offense struggled to run the ball on this drive and for most of this entire period, but that is at least in part due the difficulty of blocking without pads on, and that the defense only had to tag running backs instead of tackling them.

Hilinski struggled to complete balls consistently during this period, but did eventually scramble left from the pocket and fire a 5-yard touchdown pass to Priester.

Falk took the final quarterback reps of the day. He was nearly sacked by defensive end Nick Begg on his first snap, and the pressure forced an incompletion. But Falk got back on track with two straight completions to Sweet.

Falk continued to complete passes to a variety of receivers all the way down the field, but the defense stood strong in the red zone and did not allow a touchdown. This was largely due to the fantastic coverage by nickel back Kirkland Parker, as he made two great plays consecutively in coverage for the defense.

The first was a well-defended corner route by Priester that was swatted away in the corner of the end zone. On the next play Parker stuck to H receiver Robert Lewis like glue for several seconds as Falk scrambled around and bought extra time. He eventually floated the ball toward Lewis near the back of the end zone, only to have Parker push Lewis out of bounds when the ball touched his hands.

Thursday was a much shorter and lighter practice than we are used to seeing from the Cougs, but it was the perfect tune -up for Saturday’s big showdown in Spokane. After 12 days of excellent work and today’s fine-tuning it will be very exciting to see what the Cougs do in this year’s spring game.

Notes:

  • Cole Madison, Dylan Hanser, Daniel Ekuale, C.J. Dimry and Keith Harrington were inactive today.

  • The offensive line wore White jerseys today instead of Crimson or Grey. This most likely means that they will have a big rotation and guys will be playing for both teams in Saturday’s game.

  • The quarterbacks were all in dark grey jerseys and it is unclear how the reps will be split between them on Saturday. 

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