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Cougar practice report: Offense in a hurry, defense in a takeaway kind of mood

PULLMAN – The Cougar offense on Wednesday looked like they were in a hurry all day long. As for the Wazzu defense, they just wouldn’t let an opportunity to generate a turnover go by the wayside. Here are my top three takeaways from Wednesday’s practice session at Washington State, followed up by additional observations.

3 takeaways
1.    Coug offense working at higher tempo
One of Mike Leach’s stated concerns with Luke Falk over the past two weeks has been with the offense's quickness, and whether Falk is over-analyzing. In Wednesday’s practice, Falk got rid of the ball more quickly and was far more decisive with his throws, both short and deep. The overall tempo on offense has definitely picked up this week and could be for a few reasons: Leach since this past Saturday has said the Cougs need to toughen up and be more aggressive. It’s also possible that the coaches want to get the offense more reps in the same amount of clock time, or that they want the offense to simply move quicker than it has in the first two games of this season. Either way, players were flying around and moving at a quicker pace than they have in the first two games.

2.    Dotson an all-purpose linebacker
Fourth-year junior Isaac Dotson (pictured above) has been playing inside linebacker in almost every package that Cougs have on defense this season. And he got in plenty of work on Wednesday. D-coordinator Alex Grinch uses various packages in different situations, but one thing that's been consistent is Dotson, he seems to always be on the field. Dotson usually plays at the Will spot, but when nickel and dime packages come into the game, Peyton Pelluer is taken out and Dotson moves over to play Mike. This tells me that Grinch really likes Dotson’s ability to play pass and run. He is becoming one of the Cougs' mainstays on D and it shows in his versatility.

3.     Movement on D with Luani
Safety Shalom Luani is another player that moved around in various packages in last Saturday's game.  Against BSU, Luani made his second interception while playing at the Will linebacker spot. He was also playing nickel at times and then of course, he plays safety too. After his two-interception performance against BSU, Luani has proven he can impact a single play, or even an entire game. He too was front and center in Wednesday's practice session.

Other practice observations:

•      On the very first play of 7-on-7, Falk threw a short pass to Robert Lewis where he was quickly met and wrapped up by Luani. During the tackle, Luani stripped Lewis and forced a fumble that was recovered by the defense.

•      Falk threw multiple touchdown passes on the day to Gabe Marks, Tavares Martin, Kyle Sweet, Dezmon Patmon, River Cracraft, Lewis, and Renard Bell.

•      The defensive front was playing very well against the run game, filling gaps and using leverage to control the ball carrier’s path.

•      Marcus Strong was working in rotation at corner today and had a couple nice pass breakups against the scouts. One in particular was on a deep ball thrown from QB Anthony Gordon to WR Brandon Arconado.

•      Rush Dylan Hanser sacked Tyler Hilinski during the five plays of team session where the 1’s and 2’s face one another. Fellow rush Logan Tago meanwhile did a nice job of controlling his gap assignments on Wednesday.

•      Corner Treshon Broughton intercepted a pass against the scouts after he was a few steps behind one of the receivers. He showed great recovery speed and cut off the route just in time to get his hands on the ball.

•      Cracraft and Luani went up for a 50/50 ball during the team session. Cracraft came down with the tough catch.

•      Dotson had a leaping interception and a forced fumble against the scout team. His INT came after cutting off a route that was thrown over his head.

•      James Williams had a long touchdown run after picking up a big block from fellow running back Gerard Wicks.

•      Charleston White had two interceptions against the scout team.

•      Inside receivers were putting in some extra effort on blocking on Wednesday -- Leach and inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard made clear earlier this week they were not pleased with some in the inside receiver group shying away from contact with a BSU linebacker.  One inside receiver block in particular on Wednesday opened up the way for outside receiver Tavares Martin to post a 30-yard gainer.

•      Robert Taylor cut off a route while playing safety and intercepted a pass.

•      Gordon and Arconado connected on a long touchdown pass against the starting defense.

•      Hilinski had pressure in his face, threw off his back foot and still connected with Marks for a long touchdown pass.

RELATED STORY: Changes on the WSU depth chart for game vs. Idaho


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