WSU spring ball: Tyler Hilinski has a banner session on Day Five

PULLMAN – Luke Falk has a vice grip on his starting job at Washington State, but it’s nice to know the Cougs have talent behind him in the quarterback stable. The fifth day of spring ball was the best yet for sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski. “He was really hot,” said Mike Leach.

Hilinski (6-3, 217) made quick reads and precise throws Saturday against a secondary that looked nothing the suffocating defensive unit some of us have gotten used to seeing the first few practices at Martin Stadium this spring.

Leach didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the receiving corps, as well.

“They’re getting better and better,” Leach said of his athletic group of pass catchers. “I think they’re releasing better and playing the ball in the air better.”

From the beginning of practice, it was evident that the receivers were approaching the day with sense of focus not seen over the first four days of spring drills.

For example, right off the bat, junior receiver Kyrin Priester (6-1, 195) was executing precise blocks with for his fellow receivers in screen pass drills. From this chair, he whole unit seemed to clicking on a higher level than usual.

In coverage drills against the secondary featuring Falk (6-4, 225), sophomore DB Marcus Strong (5-9, 175) did a decent job defending junior WR Tavares Martin Jr. (6-1, 183), while senior running back Jamal Morrow (5-9, 200) continued to be one of Falk’s favorite targets out of the backfield, despite continuing to wear a yellow “no hit” jersey for the fifth straight practice.

Sophomore wideout Isaiah Johnson-Mack (6-3, 218) beat senior corner Marcellus Pippins (5-10, 176) for a great over-the-shoulder catch from Hilinski. Senior receiver Robert Lewis (5-9, 170) continually found space in the drill, but often had trouble avoiding tackles and gaining any significant yardage. (But he made a whale of a TD grab later on).

On the opposite side of the field, sophomore QB Anthony Gordon (6-3, 189) ran a separate drill with some receivers and defensive backs a little further down the depth chart.

Junior transfer Easop Winston (5-11, 183) made a few solid catches and looked good beating his man, usually walk on sophomore DB Jackson Hutyler (6-5, 173).

Meanwhile, walk on junior running back Alijah Lee (5-6, 205) was openly frustrated with himself after he badly dropped a screen pass despite being wide open.

Sophomore WR Kainoa Wilson (5-11, 170) might not be the fastest player in the WSU receiving corps, but the secondary had a difficult time tackling him after catches, when Wilson would show off his strength by dragging defensive players for a few extra yards.

Gordon tried to reward Wilson by airing out a bomb into the end zone, but he  overthrew the ball by a few yards. On the very next play, Gordon’s throw was precise and on-target, but Wilson couldn’t bring in the ball, allowing it slip through his hands on the left side of the end zone.

Junior safety Hunter Dale (5-10, 195) drew a raucous cheer from his fellow defenders by landing a hit so hard on Winston that he caused the junior transfer to drop a second pass from Gordon.

Winston recovered on the next play, however, when he caught a pass after a miscommunication in the secondary caused a collision between Pippins and redshirt freshman nickel Justus Rogers (6-2, 225) and left Winston wide open.

When sophomore QB Trey Tinsley (6-3, 201) entered the drill in Gordon’s place, redshirt freshman WR Grant Porter (6-0, 184) was impressive, immediately beating sophomore LB Elijah Clayton (5-10, 226) for a touchdown pass.

Stay tuned, we’ll have more soon from today’s practice on CF.C.

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