Here are my three takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:
1. Big challenge this week for the offensive line
- WSU’s offensive line (pictured above) has seen plenty movement up front from their own defensive line, but not from many of their opponents this season. Arizona, however, runs a shift scheme on defense that is very similar to what the Cougs do with their front seven. In Tuesday’s practice to install the game plan for the Wildcats, the scout team D-line gave the offense a lot of different looks that caused some issues at first. By the end of the practice session The Goon Squad (WSU OL) had things cleaned up. Pre-snap shifts by the Wazzu D-line has confused other teams many times this season. The biggest challenge dealing with multiple shifts by any defense is to not jump early and be called with a false start. False starts can and often are drive killers, especially at critical moments. Dealing with defensive shifts at the line will likely determine how effective WSU will produce from an offensive standpoint this week.
2. Defense focused on dual threat QB
- Arizona’s biggest threat for the Cougs on defense this week will be from Arizona’s two quarterbacks, Brandon Dawkins and Anu Solomon. Though 'Cats coach Rich Rodriguez isn't saying who will start this week, chances are it will be Dawkins who leads their team in both throwing and rushing yards on the season. Dawkins' health is questionable at this point, but WSU is preparing for a dual threat QB regardless of whether it's Dawkins or Solomon who gets the start for the Wildcats on Saturday. Because he possesses some of the skill set required to either run or pass coming out from under center, D’Jimon Jones was back at QB with the scout team on Tuesday to give the defense a good look at a zone-read option offense.
3. Falk and company efficient from start to end
- Luke Falk and the Cougar offense were firing on all cylinders Tuesday. Almost every play was executed to perfection with many routine plays developing beyond typical gainers and blowing up into explosives. I don’t recall seeing an incompletion or a dropped ball all day. Whether pass or run, positive yards were gained and mistakes were kept to a bare minimum. With the way this offense has been moving on Saturdays, there’s not much more you can ask for from a practice standpoint. Falk’s understanding of the offense is clear as can be as he continues to take what the defense gives him, scout team or not.
Here are more highlights and observations from Tuesday’s practice:
- NT Daniel Ekuale had a very good practice. He made several tackles in the backfield and showed some impressive mobility in pursuit across the field.
- RB Keith Harrington made a handful of nice plays with the starting offense – taking handoffs and catching passes out of the backfield.
- WR Tavares Martin, Jr. ran a perfect route against a scout corner that had him wide open deep down the field. Falk saw the route and delivered a perfect throw for what would have gone for a touchdown.
- RB Jamal Morrow converted a big third-and-eight after catching a short pass and picking up an additional 15-yards.
- DE Hercules Mata’afa owned the defensive end spot on Tuesday by punishing every scout team offensive lineman that attempted to block him. He delivered blow after blow to the point where I saw linemen shying away from making full contact with him.
- RB James Williams hardly took a rep off on Tuesday. He was loaded with catches and carries and looked dog tired by the end of the practice.
- Special teams coach Eric Mele had a sense of urgency to him on Tuesday. He was all over his guys, making sure that he had their full focus and complete attention during special team’s periods.