I was able to wander over to the practice field on Saturday morning, where Mike Leach and his staff were hard at work installing the offensive and defensive schemes in the second practice of the spring. Thursday was a day of learning, with coaches explaining the terminology and installing the schemes, building the groundwork for what's to come. Saturday was more of the same, with lots of time focused on individual technique and portions of the playbook.
Connor Halliday did not practice, though he milled about without a helmet for much of the practice. He was with the quarterbacks for most of the day, keeping an eye on everything as Leach installed another third of the playbook. Leach didn't update Halliday's status, as per his policy about commenting on injuries, but Halliday did mention off-hand that he's fine as he was jogging off the field.
After the jump, a whole lot of notes, including a look at how the coaches conduct practice.
- Having seen quite a few practices under the old staff, the differences between now and then were quite apparent. From the start, the assistant coaches were getting after it. The language was colorful, the volume was loud and everything was done with intensity. It might be the age of the coaching staff or the makeup, but whatever it is, the assistants turn everything up to 11.
- It quickly became apparent that Jeff Choate was a coach to keep an ear on. It's easy to hear Choate wherever he is -- he's loud -- and he was good for quite a few chuckles on Saturday. Among the funny moments, Choate yelling "Hey nice block! Cyrus Coen, you just screwed your defense." Or as he was trying to teach Coen something after the linebacker got the defense lined up wrong, Choate stopped and asked, "kid, are you smart?"
- All that said, the colorful language and yelling are an avenue for teaching, and an effective one. There was a hurt em and hug em vibe as the coaches worked with their position groups. They got the message across, and every moment of yelling was accompanied by an arm around a player's shoulder or a chest bump when the message was received -- and the play was cleaned up as a result.
- A big part of spring is refining technique and polishing the little details. Defensive backs were working on their footwork during the opening period while also using tennis balls instead of footballs to hone their hand-eye coordination. Offensive linemen were working on their stances at one point, bending at the knee to pick up softballs rolled to them as they shuffled laterally.
- Jim Mastro had a broom out during the running back drills as a tool to teach ball security. But he wasn't just kind of brushing at the ballcarriers as they hopped over pads. He was jamming the broom at the ball repeatedly, trying as hard as he could to pop it loose.
- Travis Long is working as a hybrid and a few of the more athletic ends spent time on the side learning how to hit a drop as an outside linebacker. Long said he likes being used as a hybrid end/backer and feels it'll benefit him as he works toward making it to the league.
- At one point during the team drills, Choate was so upset with Chester Su'a that he told him, in no uncertain terms, to take his helmet off because he was done for the day. Su'a was loafing, Choate treats that as a cardinal sin, and the screaming commenced. After following Su'a over to the sideline, in his ear the whole way, Choate relented a short time later. Sua answered the call by stepping in front of a Jeff Tuel pass and picking it off.
- Turnovers were an emphasis, with the defense attempting to rip the ball on just about every play. It paid off, as well, with the defense forcing more than a few during the team session. There were fumbles, a couple interceptions and a whole lot of screaming and yelling.
- Jordan Simone and Jack Wilson are no longer on the roster. Leach just said each had issues to attend to and left it at that.
- "Like all Washington State Cougars, he is healthy as can be and we couldn't be happier." -- Mike Leach on Connor Halliday. Copy and paste this as the injury report for the rest of the year.
- Jake Rodgers was rolled up on during the team session and crawled off the field to the sidelines. He was up on his feet later, but the collision clearly hobbled him.
- Rahmel Dockery, Nolan Washington, Spencer Waseem and a few others were off to the side doing conditioning during practice. Conditioning included hitting a giant tire with a sledgehammer, doing arm drills with giant ropes and playing in the sand pit. Playing in the sand pit looked like a terrible way to pass time.
- After a grueling practice, the entire defense ran. And then they ran some more. There's a theme in this practices: running. The receivers run a ridiculous amount of routes, and everyone is going to get their conditioning in. I was getting tired just watching them.
- Leach is very hands-on, as expected. He works closely with the quarterbacks and spent quite a bit of time leaning against a pad while facing the offense as it ran skelly. He'd yell out orders and plays while also correcting some of the smaller things.