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WSU offense excels on Day Two of fall camp

LEWISTON - Day two of fall ball at Washington State was all about the offense. The defense seemed to be one step behind most of the practice session.

It should come as no surprise that coach Mike Leach had his quarterbacks firing footballs all over the practice field Sunday afternoon. In a helmets-only session the speed and skills of players were on display. If you're a fan of the Air Raid attack, this session would have you smiling in the summer sun.

Collectively, the inside receivers had the biggest impact on the day. It didn’t matter who lined up at which spot. Every ball thrown their way was caught as that became a theme of the practice.

Fourth-year junior wide receiver Robert Lewis really turned it on once he found space. Several times Lewis caught a pass and made more than one guy completely miss him as he would run for a score. Senior John Thompson looks like he’s gotten a lot stronger over the off-season. He catches the ball with a lot of force and is consistently turning and running to get up the field. These guys are hungry for the ball and hungry to make plays. 

Showing why he is so highly touted, fifth-year senior Gabe Marks looked every bit the part of an All-PAC-12 player. Though coverage by sophomore Darrien Molton was outstanding all day, it didn’t matter to Marks. He caught everything. One play that stood out was on a third-down situation where Molton had Marks covered on a slant route in man-to-man coverage. It seemed as if Marks was about to fall over because of the pressure that Molton put on him. Luke Falk through the ball into a very tight window and Marks miraculously snagged the ball from the air. At this point, I’d be more surprised when Marks doesn’t make a catch then when he does.

With that said, receiver/secondary 1-on-1’s was not a good period for the defensive backs. Almost every ball thrown was caught with the exception of a few solid plays made by Molton. The defensive backs appeared to be lackadaisical with their technique today. And though DB’s are at a disadvantage in 1-on-1 drills, you still want to see guys challenge throws and use good technique to get in the right position.

The defensive backs didn’t have an answer today, and it could have been just a slight lack focus which is something every DB will pay dearly for against this receiving corps. Regardless why, the offense won the period with ease. It was a rough period for the defense and coach Grinch was not pleased.

In 7-on7, Falk started hot completing 13 of 16 throws. He was playing his conservative game by completing a lot of short throws and hitting guys in spaces between the linebackers and safeties.  Overall, I think Falk improved from the first day of camp. One thing he didn’t manage to do was finish his team drive with a touchdown.

In 11-on-11 drills, Falk marched down the field but stalled in the red-zone after the defense managed back-to-back sacks. With one final play he threw a fade to Marks, but Molton was all over it and the period ended without a score.

Second-year freshman Tyler Hilinski (pictured above) had an incredible turnaround from day one. I thought that he looked a little slow in his reads on the first day, which might have been why he tossed a couple of interceptions. But on day two, Hilinski looked very quick with his reads and threw touchdowns all over the field with zero interceptions. He started 7-on-7 drills with nine completions in a row, two going for touchdowns ( Lewis, Tavares Martin).

During his 11-on-11 reps, Hilinski went 11 for 12 as he led the offense storming down the field with consistent short passes and mid-range bullets. Once he got inside the red-zone, Hilinski picked the defense apart throwing touchdown passes on his each of his last three throws (Isaiah Johnson, River Cracraft, Keith Harrington). It was a very impressive performance.from the backup quarterback.

The running back rotation stayed the same through day two with Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow, and James Williams taking most of the reps with the 1’s. Keith Harrington remains a big factor in the pass and screen game when he comes in behind them. Morrow had the best day of the running backs with some big gainers on the ground and passes out of the backfield in 7-on-7 drills and during team drills.

On the defensive side of the ball, a few players have been quietly making plays and showing their potential.

Fifth-year senior Parker Henry is playing with a lot more confidence. He has always been a guy that plays with extreme effort, but now he’s becoming a guy that uses his effort to attack ball carriers much more aggressively. Several times during the first two days of camp I saw Henry pull away from what could have been a massive collision. His comfort level in this defense and amount of effort he plays with should allow him to make more plays in the days to come.

Despite a helmets-only session, Peyton Pelluer is a guy who plays with an intense amount of aggression. Whenever a ball carrier is in range of Pelluer, you can always count on him to attack that ball carriers arms and work to strip the ball. Sometimes you see receivers getting irritated with Pelluer as he relentlessly fights for a turnover. The dissatisfaction by a ball carrier being attacked doesn’t bother him. Pelluer just wants that football.

It is still tough to gauge much when it comes to the offensive and defensive line without pads on.

Sacks from third-year sophomore Hercules Mata'afa and junior Frankie Luvu showed this defensive front is ready to put on some more gear.

On the offensive side of the line, fourth-year junior Cody O'Connell seems to be a lot more comfortable in his pass protection along with picking up blitzes. His footwork has improved tremendously since his arrival on campus.

When the pads come on in the next few days, we will be able to get a better look at who is going to lead the group on each side.

CF.C will continue with more coverage tomorrow following Monday's afternoon session.

Depth chart changes on Sunday:

Lewis started at H

Kyle Sweet worked with the 2’s

*No other changes from Saturday's depth chart

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