PRACTICE: Mike Leach shakes things up for the FG unit to get Powell off the schnide

PULLMAN - Washington State head coach Mike Leach began the first full practice of UCLA game week by addressing a dubious distinction for his team. Hint: WSU is the only FBS school in the nation yet to convert a field goal this season. When the Cougs host the Bruins Saturday (7:30pm, ESPN), should the situation call for settling for three points at the end of a drive, Leach expects execution.

Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice.

1.     Random field goal period

-       At this point in the season, every player on the team has practice routine down to a science when it comes to where they need to be and when. But on Tuesday the coaches added a surprise to the session mix. The team was just getting started with their 7-on-7 period when a random whistle was blown. Special teams coach Eric Mele began shouting for the field goal unit to take the field while defensive coaches yelled for their base D to line up for a FG block attempt. Caught off guard and somewhat confused, fourth-year junior Erik Powell (pictured above) lined up to take the kick as the coaches counted down a play clock out loud. The ball was snapped and Powell got the kick off in time, putting the ball dead center through the uprights from about 35-40 yards out. The purpose behind the unexpected call was obviously to catch Powell off guard by pressuring him to line up when he least expected. This surprise FG attempt happened randomly two other times during practice. Powell went three-for-three and ended each with a signature handshake between himself and his holder Kaleb Fossum.

2.     Defensive line dominating

-       The D-line absolutely abused the offensive line during their one-on-one period. I’m sure offensive line coach Clay McGuire would agree with my assessment after hearing him rip several of his guys one rep after the other. Against the starting five of the O-line that have provided such exceptional protection for Luke Falk in games this year, junior RUSH linebacker Dylan Hanser hardly lost a single rep while Garret McBroom, Daniel Ekuale, Robert Barber and others continued to bully O-linemen the way they did last Saturday night against Stanford.

3.     Sweet and Dimry have big days

-       Sophomore inside receiver Kyle Sweet and fifth-year outside WR CJ Dimry weren’t huge factors in last week’s win over the Cardinal – each only pulling in one catch. Things were different during practice on Tuesday. I don’t log a catch chart while watching, but if I did, both Sweet and Dimry would likely have put up video game type numbers. Whatever it was, Falk found these two open time after time. Short, middle, deep – you name it, they caught it.

Here are more highlights and takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:

-       As in previous weeks, Mike Leach was working with the offensive line and running backs during their inside run period rather than spending time with the receivers and quarterbacks for 1-on-1’s.

-       Brandon Arconado had a very impressive day when playing with the scout team against the starting defense. He hauled in several catches, many going for big gains. On two plays specifically, Arconado was wide open down field which caused Grinch and other defensive assistants to reload the plays so that guys understood what was going on. On another play, Arconado ended up in man-to-man with Shalom Luani. He ran a great route, beat Luani across his face and caught the open pass. Impressive stuff.

-       During O-line/D-line 1-on-1’s, Frederick Mauigoa had a really good rep holding up nose tackle Robert Barber. From what I watched, it was Barber’s only rep where he didn’t get a sack.

-       On the second play of the team period, Hercules Mata’afa quickly got into the backfield and sacked backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski

-       Hunter Dale, Peyton Pelluer, and Luani each had interceptions against the scout team.

Notable notes:

-       For the most part during practice, WSU’s defense obliterated the scout offense. The scouts still got their share of big plays throughout the session. So let me say this, considering that the Coug D held Stanford’s run game to a net 61-yards rushing and that Christian McCaffery’s longest rush went for 23-yards… it's possible to conclude WSU’s scout offense is better than Stanford.

-       Defensive line coach Joe Salave'a has his guys working harder than any other position group on the field, and this is nothing new. Every single day the D-linemen are the first ones on the field. They are usually doing different drills to work on their footwork, hands, and pad-level. In between periods, they’re running through quick drills with each other – again focusing on footwork and hands. When practice ends, they’re getting in extra work against the sleds. They are constantly working and constantly moving. Again, this is every single day.

RELATED: CFC TV: Falk's timing is sharper say Leach


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