The easiest place to spot great effort on the practice field Wednesday came from watching the running backs. They just wouldn’t quit after a play. They kept running their feet, continuing after the whistle, and often ran all the way to the end zone just to maintain the mentality that they expect to score on every play.
Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks (picture above) have always shown a natural tendency to finish runs, but when you see great effort, you know if it's there or not. With these two guys, it's definitely there.
It’s impossible to gauge every single player on the practice field, but I can tell you that I do see a lot of guys pushing themselves and taking that extra step.
I get the sense that Morrow, Wicks, James Williams and rest of offense are preparing for a shootout on Saturday. All the RB's were hauling in every toss coming their way. Williams made a couple of big plays by squeezing out yards after the catch.
No one knows which defense is going to show up this week. If its anything like last week – its going to be a long season. That doesn’t mean the offense can’t keep the Cougs in the game by out scoring their opponents.
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire stated after practice Sunday night he thought the O-line left a lot of yards on the field. Later on Tuesday, head coach Mike Leach echoed McGuire’s comments saying that the offensive line could have finished blocks harder. This tells me that although the run game has definitely improved over the offseason, now its time for the players to learn from the EWU game and do exactly as the coaches are suggesting – finish off blocks.
All of the Coug running backs (and Morrow specifically) are extremely dangerous in the open field. They have the power and speed to take it the distance.
With a solid run game, my guess is that Leach wants the offense to have more balance through the air. Looking at last weeks stats, Gabe Marks had 10 catches with the rest of the Cougar receivers hauling in 5 or less.
Sophomore WR Tavares Martin wasn’t a huge factor in the game against EWU. I think it's possible that the coaches may have taken note because Martin, who has great hands and leaping ability, had an excellent session.
Over on defense, Shalom Luani looks game-ready and again laid a couple really big hits.
At times in practice, you see a pile of white jerseys smothering a scout ball carrier. Other times you hear a big thud and the whole pile stops moving. That’s Luani for you and that’s the impact he has on the field. It really is worth taking note that he’s back on the field.
True freshman Jalen Thompson had a great interception today against back-up quarterback Tyler Hilinski. Thompson definitely had his “welcome to college football” moment last week as Cooper Kupp torched him for a 75-yard touchdown.
Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Alex Grinch says the defensive backs as a unit have learned a lot from last week's film.
“The mind set is that every single snap is your play to make," said Grinch after practice. "... its not something that’s new in terms of talking about it – but we can’t have any lapses that way. I think what the guys found out is that it takes one snap to put yourself in a bad spot if you’re not thinking right. So we will continue to work that way.”
I know these guys are not quitters, and these coaches have their backs. They’re all in this together. To get a win this week, it’s going to take extreme effort on both sides of the ball – every drive, every down, every snap.