Today’s practice was shorter than usual, but head coach Mike Leach wanted it to be fast, with a quite a lot of contact.
Falk has been his usual self throughout the entire offseason. He finds receivers open or not and puts the ball right where defenders can’t make a play. Cracraft appears to finally have gotten past the injury bug and looks sharper than I’ve ever seen him. Both guys look very polished right now and seem ready to take on the season.
Another unit looking polished and ready for the season to begin is the offensive line. Falk’s protection has drastically improved from day one of fall camp to now.
It’s been rare to see the first team O-line give up a sack in practice. The right side, including Riley Sorenson at center, has the experience and chemistry to keep Falk's front side in check. Andre Dillard and Cody O'Connell on the left have added size and athleticism to balance out the group.
I think that the left side in particular has a great duo of players. O’Connell is massive (6-8 and 354) making it hard to get around a guy with that much width, weight, height, and strength. Then you have Dillard at tackle who moves like a wide receiver – he’s that athletic. Good feet and good hands give him a range to really move around and square defenders up. The combination of Dillard’s mobility next to O’Connell’s mass is sure to be an exciting dynamic on the offensive line this year.
Turning to the Cougar D, a player to look out for this year is fourth-year junior linebacker Isaac Dotson. Dotson is a natural student of the game, as well as a natural athlete. He’s been moved around in Alex Grinch’s defense from one position to the next, but right now he looks very comfortable at the WILL linebacker spot.
Dotson has a been a guy that I’ve been waiting to see get his opportunity on the field because of how well he understands Grinch’s coaching schemes. I’m looking for Dotson to really take on a new role this year and become one of many playmakers on defense for Washington State.
The defensive line still may be a question mark, but there is no doubt that they are stacked with talent and potential.
Special team units look like they’re coming together right now. Most of the players on special teams this year are the same guys that were coached by Eric Mele last season. With a full year under their belt, things are tightening up, the communication looks improved, and the players have a better understanding of what their assignments are. Couple that with infusing even more athletic talent to fill out the units, special teams could be a difference maker for the Cougs in 2016.
Being around these coaches and players just a year ago, improvements are visually clear when I watch them practice right now. Today was a great example of strides made with the kickoff return team.
Maybe it’s some of the new drills that Mele added this year, but the return team looks dialed in to their blocks. Today they repped a couple full speed returns which ended up opening big holes for Tavares Martin. Martin hit one in particular that freed him through the middle without being touched. A couple shakes and he was off to the races.
Coug fans have been waiting for years to break the touchdown return drought. The last guy wearing crimson and gray to return a kickoff to the house was Sammy Moore back in 2003. No one can say for sure, but to me it looks promising that it can happen this year with Martin and Robert Taylor bringing back kickoffs.
Only seven more days ‘til the ball actually does kick off in Martin Stadium.
I like to make bold predictions so I’ll make this one for the home opener just to go on record: WSU will win the coin toss and opt to receive. Martin and the kickoff return team dial one up and take the opening kickoff to the house.