Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:
1. Kickoff return unit ready for a house call
- Aside from a few FG’s and one touchdown return, it’s hard to argue with the fact that special teams have been playing lights out this year. Each unit (punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return) have been providing Wazzu with great field advantage in clutch moments. One ST unit that looks very determined right now is the kickoff return team. Personally, I know from talking to a few of the players – these guys REALLY want to take one back this year and they think that they are very close to doing so. In practice, they bring a lot of energy to the field and are giving their absolute best effort during every rep. They are working hard and are determined to make it happen this year. On top of that, I think WSU has found their return guy in Robert Taylor (pictured above). As you saw in a couple returns against UCLA, he has a second gear available that would allow him to take it to the house. Taylor just needs one or two more blocks and he’s off to the races.
2. Marks ready to shine again
- Gabe Marks and Luke Falk haven’t created quite the same chemistry this season as they did a year ago. The simple answer might be because of the way teams have been playing Marks with various zone coverages and double teams. But with 6 touchdowns already on the season, Marks clearly has what it takes to be considered one of the nation's top receivers. In Tuesday’s practice, Falk and Marks connected on numerous explosive plays. Falk seemed to be looking for Marks more than he has in recent weeks, which allowed the fifth-year senior receiver to get into a rhythm and show why he is one of the Cougs' top weapons on offense. There are still plenty of games left to be played and with opposing defenses now shifting their focus from a pass heavy offense to a more balanced attack from WSU and that could mean for big numbers yet to come from Marks this year.
3. Powell perfect on practice FG attempts
- The Cougs continued to run their three random field goal attempts in the middle of practice. Erik Powell continued his perfect streak from last week's performance going three-for-three in Tuesday's session. Powell’s field goal attempts were good from 49, 36, and 41 yards out – one from the left hash, middle field, and right hash. After speaking with special teams coordinator Eric Mele after practice, I can tell that he is very pleased that Powell has taken the monkey off his back after converting two FG's against UCLA.
Here are more highlights and observations from Tuesday’s practice:
- Junior linebacker Chima Onyeukwu donned a No. 3 jersey when playing with the scout team against the starting offense to key ASU linebacker DJ Calhoun.
- Freshman D’Jimon Jones lined up again at quarterback with the scout team to give the defense a dual threat look.
- He's been something of a forgotten man through the first half of the season but third-year sophomore and RB-turned-WR Keith Harrington was very active in practice today.
- Falk went five-for-five during 7-on-7 with the starting offense facing the starting defensive unit for a handful of plays.
- Fourth-year junior Gerard Wicks ripped off several big runs during team period. The offensive line continues to open up massive holes for Wazzu's three-headed monster running attack (Wicks, James Williams and Jamal Morrow).
- During the first five plays of the team period, Marks caught a 10-yard pass from Falk after beating sophomore DB Darrien Molton in man-to-man coverage.
- Second-year freshman linebacker Anthony Castillo intercepted a pass from Falk during the offense's team period.
- Against the scout team, fifth-year senior Paris Taylor recorded a sack and an interception.
- ASU has run a lot of wildcat in its games this season. WSU's defensive unit was certainly aware of that in Tuesday's session.