Mike Leach adds pressure for WSU players in fall camp on Day 7

LEWISTON - Mike Leach wanted a clear cut winner of the Friday afternoon fall camp session. The WSU head man called for one more play. “Double or nothing” was the challenge after the offense and defense ended today’s team period in a tie.

With one more play to decide it all, coaches wanted to see who can rise to the occasion and make a play.

Over the course of a twelve game schedule there will be moments when the difference between winning and losing comes down to one play. By creating a do-or-die mentality for everyone on the field, Leach wanted to replicate a scenario similar to the final moments last year against Rutgers, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.

Luke Falk took the snap, but didn’t find an instant answer. With no one open over the middle, Falk looked for sophomore receiver Tavares Martin on the outside. He put the ball right above the pylon with the intent that Martin would extend out to make the grab. Martin reached for the ball but was cut off by senior safety Shalom Luani (pictured above) who went airborne. While Luani was horizontal above the turf he momentarily had the ball cradled in his arms, but it popped out once he hit the ground.

Defense won the day 25-24 with Luani’s clutch performance.

Friday's practice session was the very definition of a team doing "some good stuff". I'll break it down for you.

It's becoming routine for Falk to make his reads of coverage and keep the offense alive throughout camp. Backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski is right there behind him so the offense hasn't skipped a beat when he runs with the 2’s. Hilinski has had some really good days of camp and some others where he made a few too many mistakes. Overall, he looks very improved from day one and definitely has the backup spot locked down.

WSU defensive playmakers are becoming more apparent as camp nears the final days in Lewiston. With Luani, Darrien Molton, Jalen Thompson, and Robert Taylor running firmly with the 1’s in the secondary, Coug fans can expect to see a lot of highlights on D this year.

The coverage was extremely tight again today. There just weren’t many throws completed down field. Twice today the defensive recorded what many call a ‘coverage sack’. It was the only time that I’ve seen that happen this camp.

Here's what a coverage sack often looks like in team period. The coaches will blow the whistle to end a play because the quarterback hasn’t thrown the ball for an extended amount of time. Though the QB hasn’t actually been sacked by a defender, it saves them from any sort of contact. It doesn't save them from some serious coaching up by Leach, their position coach. From experience, I know that this makes defensive coordinator and defensive back coach Alex Grinch very, very happy.

Junior rush linebacker Dylan Hanser had another great day as he has continues to solidify his spot out on the edge. Hanser has really opened it up over the past few day and has the only pass break ups by a defensive lineman in camp so far.

Hanser and the rest of the D-line executed much better against the run today. Almost every rush went for minus yardage or no gain (except for a big play by Gerard Wicks).

Frankie Luvu is also making his name known with big hits on ball carriers. Luvu plays with a lot of fire and shows his hit power on almost every play coming his way.

On offense, sophomore Kyle Sweet had the best day out of the receiving group. He had a ton of balls thrown his way and made a number of highlight reel catches. His best effort came on a throw by Falk that had Sweet laying out to make the catch. After the play, inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard had a big smile on his face and said, “looks like a young coach Shepard right there." It was a great day for the inside receiver. From my chair he’s had a really good camp so far and looks to be a player who should really contribute in 2016.

Junior transfer Robert Taylor got the start at corner today. Treshon Broughton continues to make plays when he’s in. Rep battles like the one between there two guys are frequent throughout the team right now. They are happening at the receiver positions and on the defensive line.

A lot of true freshman are getting reps on both sides of the ball right now so coaches can evaluate where they're at. It could also be rotation just to give the starters and back-ups a break. Either way it's good that young guys are getting reps at that tempo. Leach notably pointed out six that have caught his eye. 

"Jalen ThompsonDezmon PatmonRenard BellLiam Ryan, Frank (Frederick Mauigoa), there’s some other guys on defense but can't think of them right now. They're doing some good stuff.”

Those other guys on defense Leach probably would have mentioned would be Marcus Strong, D'Jimon Jones, Derek Moore, and Chima Onyeukwu. All of these players are getting on the field and taking reps with 2’s. Some could see the field this year while others will likely redshirt.

After seven days of camp, this team looks like they are almost ready for the home opener on Sept. 3. Both sides are sorting out which guys will take the most reps at certain spots but for the most part, my take is the starters are clear, or getting clearer.

Overall, the depth at the skill positions looks really good. In my book, the only question mark on the team right now is the depth behind the starting offensive and defensive line. Hopefully these guys can all stay healthy, but if there were to be a man down on either side, well, we will just have to wait and see who is going to fill that void.

RELATED: CFC TV: 6 WSU rookies catch Leach's eye


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