Cougs defensive coordinator Alex Grinch keeps it basic, and keeps it real for his players

PULLMAN – Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch broke it down rather simply for one Cougar during spring drills Tuesday at Martin Stadium.

“If you’re slow, you’re wrong,” Grinch repeated as sophomore defensive back Marcus Strong (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) had some trouble keeping balance early on in the drills.

Grinch ran drills with the secondary, chanting, “Speed! Speed! Speed! Speed!” as the Cougars practiced changing direction from backward to forward as quickly as possible.

Senior corner Marcellus Pippins (5-10, 176), who has seemed somewhat inconsistent throughout the spring, looked very athletic and smooth while practicing the changing of direction after an interception — to the point that a few of the other backs tried to imitate his movements, a decision that Grinch did not like.

“You’re trying to look pretty!” Grinch admonished junior Sean Harper (6-2, 184). “Just react,” he told the potential starter at defensive back, as well as the rest of the secondary.

Freshman cornerback Isaiah Love (6-0, 174), however, seemed to impress Grinch with his quickness and attention to detail in the drill.

Sophomore defensive back Josh Emmy (5-8, 180) displayed great balance, though Love might have been Grinch’s favorite in the early part of the practice. Fellow freshman defensive back Zaire Webb (5-10, 169) struggled early on in the exercises, but kept getting better throughout the afternoon.

Senior safety Robert Taylor (5-10, 183) covered Tavares Martin (6-1, 183) well on short routes, often interfering in his route and either eliminating him as an option or causing an off-target throw.
Junior linebacker Chima Onyeukwu (6-2, 225) looked like the fastest of the speedy bunch of linebackers, while sophomore RUSH Derek Moore (6-1, 246) read the offense beautifully in the 11-on-11 session. When redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Brink (6-2, 201) duped the rest of the defense with a gorgeous play-action fake that resulted in him having an almost open field to the end zone, Moore was the only one not to bite and was able to get to Brink before he could score.

In warm-ups for the linebackers, the group ran from side to side while simultaneously pushing and pulling a 25-pound sandbag away and then into their bodies. Peyton Peuller (6-0, 228) approached the drill with a vocal intensity that the defensive staff seemed to appreciate, while redshirt freshman Jahad Woods (6-0, 216) continued to look like a player with a bright future at WSU.

Defensive line coach Jeff Phelps led his players through snap movements, imitating the start of a play by lifting a football attached to a stick. Senior defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale (6-3, 297) seemed to have a little trouble with his timing, getting a little extra attention from Phelps. Meanwhile, Phelps was more pleased with the moves from junior lineman Hercules Mata’afa (6-2, 255), who has seemed like a burgeoning defensive star all spring. Senior Garrett McBroom (6-3, 280) also impressed Phelps with his timing and discipline in the drill.

In the team portion of practice, McBroom had a great “hit” on the jersey-protected Morrow, following him as a spy instead of rushing the passer, and timing his hit to cause the throw from Tyler Hilinski (6-3, 217) to the senior back to fall incomplete without interfering.

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