Cougar O a bit rusty on Day Two of spring ball at Washington State; A lengthy practice out on the Palouse

PULLMAN -- After an unseasonably balmy first session, the Cougars’ second spring practice was met with rain and even a little hail. And it seemed that poor weather threw off the Washington State offense, which looked a little rusty in the 11-on-11 team session of the helmets-only practice that lasted close to three hours.

“We don’t have pads on, so it’s hard to get a clear look,” said Mike Leach about the offense’s performance on the day, before adding, “there’s stuff I thought we could have done better.”

The offense started the day clicking pretty well, however.

In 7-on-7 snap drills on Rogers Field, the offense ran a few shovel pass, with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch instructing the defense to play for the pass.

The offense first used starting quarterback Luke Falk with senior running back Gerard Wicks lined up in the backfield, and then switched it up with sophomore Tyler Hilinski shoveling to Jamal Morrow.

Next in the 7-on-7 snap drills, outside receivers coach Dave Nichol ran burst drills with the wideouts, heaping praise on sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack for his quick bursts of speed.
Once the 7-on-7 drills grew into 9-on-9 by adding sophomore walk on defensive backs Jackson Hutyler sand Hayden Schmidt to the defense, junior receiver Kyrin Priester stood out by adeptly catching passes from Hilinski, sophomore quarterback Trey Tinsley and freshman QB Casey Brink.

In the 11-on-11 portion of the warmups, sophomore Noah Osur-Myers lined up and performed ably at center, a position sure to be under scrutiny as the spring goes on as he battles with Frederick Mauigoa for the starting role.

In special teams drills, freshman kicker Jack Crane showed off his range by drilling a 45-yard line drive through the uprights with Tinsley serving as the holder. Sophomore kicker Brett Schafer also got some field goal reps in, making most of his tries.

In secondary drills led by Grinch, he was telling his corners to focus on the quarterback’s eyes and not the dirt -- sophomore defensive back Deion Singleton stood out by making a few athletic grabs as he changed direction backwards to forwards.

The nickels, safeties, and rush positions warmed up by running tackling drills on a big foam donut. The defensive staff appeared happy with the effort of all the players, but seemed to single out junior rush Logan Tago in particular for his precise execution and technique.

Defensive line coach Jeff Phelps ran a drill with the pass rushers, patiently explaining to them how to get the most pre-snap from the line of scrimmage. He stressed how important it is for a lineman to keep his head behind his planted hand, but also to make sure his planted hand is as close to the neutral zone as possible. While most of the line seemed to pick up on the concept quickly, junior Taylor Comfort was particularly adept.

“We’re just trying to make sure we’re attacking gaps, and not trying to attack a person,” said Phelps, explaining that running through gaps leads a pass rusher to the quarterback and the ball -- whereas running into a lineman, obviously, does not.

As the team moved into Martin Stadium to prepare for the full 11-on-11 team session, Leach berated the offensive line for being too slow to react in snap drills, though Mauigoa seemed to be doing well at the center position with the second team. (In his one lapse, Mauigoa got beat handily by senior defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale, whose rush earned enthusiastic praise from Phelps.)

In a downturn from his performance in drills at Rogers, however, Osur-Meyers snapped a few balls a little too high for his quarterback (usually Tinsley) to handle.

Once the team session started, the offense looked a little stale. After Falk’s first drive ended unremarkably, he gave way to Hilinski to step in to take the majority of the snaps the rest of the way.

On Hilinski’s first drive, senior corner Marcellus Pippins broke up a pass to wideout Dezmon Patmon in the end zone, causing Leach to rip his receiving corps using terms we can’t print here.

Hilinski recovered with a great sideline throw to Patmon, but ended the day getting picked off – twice -- by senior rush Dylan Hanser.

“Team-wise, I didn’t do as well as I did (last practice),” Hilinski said. “As far as going forward, I’ll just take it day by day,” he said, stressing that he knows he needs to be prepared to step in for any situation.

“You never know what’s gonna happen, Luke may go down one play and I’ll be in the next play, against Oregon with all the fans . . . so I just have to be ready.”

Tinsley looked good in limited action towards the end of the session. On his worst play, junior defensive back Sean Harper picked off a slightly under-thrown ball intended for junior receiver Easop Winston.

Tinsley recovered quickly, however. After a great sideline pass to sophomore Kainoa Wilson, the sophomore finished the day with a touchdown pass to Winston.

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