Cougars' running game doesn't always look good trying to look cute

PULLMAN – It was a mixed day for the running game and special teams play for Washington State as whatever success was seen in spring practice Tuesday was equaled by botched plays.

The team portion of practice began with the offense led by senior quarterback Luke Falk (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) trying to get a little cute, and it didn’t go well. On the first play, Falk pitched the ball to wide receiver Tavares Martin (6-1, 183) on a fake reverse, and as Martin ran at full speed from left to right with the ball, Isaiah Love (6-0, 174) , the standout freshman corner, was there to meet him with full force. It was a great play by Love, and resulted in plenty of cheers from his fellow defensive players.

The offense continued to struggle on run plays at the beginning of the session, as Jamal Morrow (5-9, 200) fumbled away the ball on a run up the middle, and then, on the very next play, fell down without contact on a short pass. Morrow’s pass-catching game recovered quickly as he did break free on a short pass from Falk, catching the ball in traffic, and then using a spin move to break free and beat the entire defense, reaching the end zone.

The running game wasn’t all bad, though, as sophomore running back James Williams (5-11, 192) looked powerful rushing up the middle of the field, often dragging tacklers with him as he eked out extra yards before being called down. When backup quarterback sophomore Tyler Hilinski (6-3, 217) came in for Falk, Williams continued to shine on both rushes and catching passes.

In special teams drills, junior long snapper Kyle Celli (6-1, 240) hiked balls to sophomore quarterback Trey Tinsely (6-3, 201), who served as placeholder for senior kicker Erik Powell (6-1, 201) with the full kicking and blocking units. Powell looked solid, booting the ball through the uprights from various distances, but missed one wide left when junior receiver Kyle Sweet (6-0, 192) came in as the holder. (Though, to be fair to Sweet, that was Powell’s longest attempt of the series, from more than 45 yards out.)

Celli also snapped to Powell on a few punt attempts while redshirt freshman Jack Haney (6-0, 226) snapped to fellow redshirt punter Tommy Park (5-10, 182) on the opposite side of the field.

Not to be left out, Sweet also took snaps from Celli, practicing his rugby punts, in which instead of immediately kicking, the punter runs to either his right or his left (much like a quarterback option), and then either punts at the last second to allow his coverage to get as far down the field as possible, runs toward the first-down marker if a hole is open, or (rarely) attempts to force a turnover by hitting a return team player with an awkward punt. The most common outcome of the play — the punt — has the added benefit of wobbling in the air and being a harder ball to catch than a traditional punt.

Sophomore Noah Osur-Myers (6-4, 307) — currently second behind fellow sophomore Frederick Mauigoa (6-3, 305) in the battle to be the Cougars’ starting center — practiced getting shotgun snaps off with the offensive staff. While Osur-Myers has been a solid blocker so far this spring, he continued having difficulty getting his snaps on-target, generally sending them too high for the quarterback to handle.
In the 11-on-11 team portion of practice, Osur-Myers’ shotgun snaps weren’t perfect, but he did seem calmer and none of his snaps were fumbled. Redshirt freshman Keenen King (6-4, 324) did send a shotgun snap a little too high, resulting in a fumble.

In seven-on-seven drills with the offense playing without receivers and the defense lacking a secondary, Morrow (who continued to wear a yellow “no hit” jersey) was solid at hitting holes against the defense, while junior running back Keith Harrington (5-8, 194) looked great getting into the open field.

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