Contrasting the springs of Cougar corners young and old: Senior Marcellus Pippins and true freshman Zaire Webb

PULLMAN — You could almost set your watch by it. During Marcellus Pippins' WSU career, spring has often been a letdown for the cornerback. He tended to lose his place on the first team, but always came roaring back early in the season to reclaim a starting job. But this spring, the senior's last in a WSU uniform, unfolded differently.

Pippins' spring also provides a contrast to that of Zaire Webb, a true freshman corner who just went through his first spring session as a collegian.

By any measure, Pippins (5-10, 176) nailed it this April compared to spring balls past.

“Definitely one of the best springs I’ve ever been a part of," Pippins said.

Getting action with both the first and second team on defense, Pippins credited his steadier play this spring to his experience. He said he knows now to simply focus on “just having fun, making plays, working on my technique.”

He’s also experienced in seeing his status change from starter to backup and vice versa.

“It’s been like that since I’ve been here,” he said. “As long as you get in the game and make plays that’s all that all the really matters.”

Last year, Pippins opened the season No. 2 on the depth chart. A year earlier, same thing, Pippins opened the 2015 season as a No. 2 corner.  But by Week Two each year, he had moved up the chart to become a starter.  And over the last two seasons, Pippins has started 22 of the past 26 games.

WHILE PIPPINS has a wealth of experience to rely on as the wily old veteran, Webb started from scratch this spring learning what it takes to compete in a Power 5 conference.

“I got a chance to go out there and make some mistakes,” said Webb, who saw most of his snaps this spring with the second and third teams.

The young Cougar defensive back has already set two goals for the summer — learn the plays better and get bigger.

“College versus high school, the schemes are a lot more complicated,” said Webb, noting that most of his mistakes were due to scheme issues and not a lack of fundamentals.

As someone who watched every spring practice, I'd agree. And in positional drills with the secondary, he was consistently receiving praise from defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, perhaps more than any other defensive back. But a team session (11-on-11) featuring Webb making multiple big plays was rare. 

“I don’t know what they’re running (on offense) but they know what we’re in a lot of the times, so it’s a good adversity to work against every day. You want to make the toughest situation in practice for yourself," said Webb.

Still, Webb’s assessment of his spring was positive.

“I feel, overall, I had a good spring, as far as just getting in the gel of things, playing fast,” he said.

Webb is listed at 5-10, 169 pounds but told CF.C at spring's end he actually weighed 175 pounds -- the target weight the coaching staff has set for him for the fall. So he’s ahead of schedule in that regard.

“I feel I’m pretty good about where I’m at right now," said Webb.

As to his playing prospects as a true freshman now that spring ball is in the rear view mirror?

“Wherever the chips fall — if I gotta play special teams, I’ll play special teams,” he said. "... Grinch does a fair job about (making sure) the best players are going to play."

MEANWHILE, COUGAR QB  Luke Falk had this to say in summing up the spring. 

“I thought we got in good work,” said Falk. “Guys improved top to bottom (on both) offense and defense.” 

When asked about the future, Falk said anything having to do with the NFL is decidedly not on his radar.

“I’m just focused on getting better this summer and going to win games, and that’s all I've got on my mind,” said Falk.

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