The first week of fall camp is in the books at WSU and it was a learning experience for the young Cougs. Typically the early part of camp is used to get re-acclimated to practice while breaking in the freshman. The first week is typically filled with ups and downs on both side of the ball, but isn't worth reading too deeply in to.
Of course that won't stop me from giving some quick analysis and things to keep an eye on.
- For the last two year, the coaches had to stop practices countless times to teach players how to run drills. This year, that's all but gone and the staff is able to turn the team loose. This is a sign of just how bad it's been.
- A year ago, Jeff Tuel was opening some eyes in camp while Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael were faltering. This year, Tuel is entrenched as the starter and looking more comfortable as a leader of the team. He's only a sophomore, but the decision to burn his redshirt is already paying some dividends.
- Walk-on David Gilbertson is now the third string quarterback. I like Dan Wagner, but he's not a viable backup at quarterback. Hopefully we won't have to see Gilbertson, but it helps to have a guy that can run the playbook and not just turn and handoff.
- Connor Halliday needs to redshirt and all indications are that he will sit this year. Redshirting him helps spread out the class and gives him a year to develop without having to learn on the fly.
- Seeing James Montgomery practicing is something that seemed improbable at the end of last season. This is still the feel good story of the summer.
- Gino Simone and Jared Karstetter are banged up, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. With both sitting out, the newcomers are getting a chance to get valuable reps with Tuel. Guys like Marquess Wilson, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff, and Isiah Barton will be called upon to play this year and establishing a rapport with the starters can't hurt.
- The picture is starting to become clearer on the offensive line. Going into camp, it seemed Micah Hannam, David Gonzales, and Wade Jacobsen were competing for the two tackle spots. Instead, it looks like all three will be on the line, with Jacobsen sliding inside to left guard.
- The line really needs to start picking up the blocking scheme and learning to work together.
- Rickey Galvin is going to play this year and probably play a lot. Through the first week, he's been the star of the backfield, breaking off long runs while providing some excitement for the offense.
- As we've said, the Jordan Pu'u Robinson injury does hurt the defensive line depth. It doesn't mean the Cougs should change the scheme. Instead, there may be some minor shuffling on the defensive line if the need arises.
- The versatility of the linebackers and defensive linemen allows the defensive coordinators to throw some new things at opponents. What those things are will be seen as the season progresses, but the days of sitting in a base defense with basic coverage schemes should be gone.
- CJ Mizell is shaking off the rust from a year away from football by punishing players in practice. I think the person most looking forward to getting into pads was Mizell. He may not know assignments perfectly yet, but if he sees a ball carrier, he tries to rip their head off.
- LeAndre Daniels was having a quiet camp until Saturday. He had an interception called back due to offsetting penalties and delivered a shot over the middle. The last thing I'd want to do is see Daniels head hunting if I were an opposing receiver. Never underestimate the power of a guy that hits like a ton of bricks.
- The corners are playing well. Anthony Carpenter and Nolan Washington both had interceptions in the scrimmage, with one coming off a tipped pass. In 11-on-11 drills, they've more than held their own, dominating the 1st team offense.
- Be cautiously optimistic about the defense. Wulff heavily recruited athletes for the unit and was diligent in his policy to redshirt them. This year, we should start seeing the results and much improved play. As Jeff has been saying, if the defense can keep the Cougs in games, the chances of pulling an upset greatly increase, even if the offense isn't a juggernaut.
The results of the first week of camp have been positive. The young Cougs are working hard and showing some marked improvement on both sides of the ball. All I ask is that they stay healthy through the rest of camp. Nothing would hurt more right now than a rash of injuries.