Sunday night practice was quick and light for WSU. Players were in helmets-only as they ran through their normal warmup routine and team period against the scouts.
The Cougar offense will face a different Duck defensive scheme than they faced last year in their overtime win in Eugene. With his eye on a Pac-12 Champioinship, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich brought in Brady Hoke after last season to take over as their new defensive coordinator.
Mike Leach said after practice last Thursday that Oregon’s defense now plays, “more man stuff… a lot of man-free.”
This could be a good matchup for Luke Falk and the WSU offense. If you remember Falk’s game against Arizona State last year, that could be a good indicator of how well the offense might do against the revamped Duck D. ASU runs more man-free concepts than any other team in the conference.
If I had to guess, I wouldn’t think Oregon will want to play a lot of man coverage against the Cougs. The Air Raid flourishes against man-to-man, especially when you have receiver talent like WSU does in Gabe Marks and the rest of the receiving corps.
From the first bye week practice last Wednesday to Sunday night, the Cougar defense has made huge strides. After allowing D'Jimon Jones to put on a show against the starting group last week, guys have stepped up to match his mobility which is similar to what they will face against Oregon’s high-powered spread offense.
I think it was a great move by defensive coordinator and defensive back’s coach Alex Grinch (pictured above) to have Jones run the scout team. It really exposed some weak areas that first day. After the coaches and players watched the film, I’m sure that it taught the players very quickly how they need to play their gaps and trust their assignments.
“We’re really stressing our guys with the quarterback run game”, Grinch said. “You know – do they (Oregon) do it every single snap? No – but the threat is good for our guys to kind of have that understanding in terms of keying the football. So it's just defending 11 guys, and that’s what they make you do. They’ve been doing it for a long time that way.”
Both sides will need to show up big for WSU earn a victory Saturday evening (Pac-12 Network, 6:30pm) at Martin Stadium. If the Cougs can get the offense rolling with a decent running attack I think it will be a long day for the Ducks.