We're now five practices into spring football, with somewhat of a scrimmage in the books. It wasn't exactly a full scrimmage, though the ones did face the ones, and it wasn't exactly crisp either. Head coach Mike Leach wasn't at all happy, and it showed in his post-practice interview. Receivers were running the wrong routes, players were blowing assignments and the physicality just wasn't there.
As a reminder, follow Christian Caple on Twitter for all you day-to-day news needs. He lets me tag along at practice, and though we see a lot of the same things, we also catch on to different parts of practice -- different plays, different notable items, different viewpoints. If you like what we're doing here, follow Christian, bookmark Sportslink -- where you'll also find the fabulous Vince Grippi -- and support your local beat writer.
Before we get to the quotes, a few notes I forgot. Darryl Monroe, Darryl Paulo, Adam Coerper, Jake Rodgers and Spencer Waseem were all notable players who sat out on Saturday. Nolan Washington also spent time in the strength and conditioning area in what's been a routine so far during spring practice -- work out like normal early, head over to the pit later.
After the jump, some quotes from the first week and a half of practice.
This quote from Jeff Tuel is up first, because it's a good reminder of where things are at overall.
"You really, you've got no choice. You buy in or you leave. That's how it is with Coach Loscalzo in the weight room. That's how it is with Coach Leach out here on the field. It's either buy in or the train's leaving. And guy's know that because Coach Leach has set an example with a few guys and let you know he's not playing around. Guys have really bought in, including in the weight room. If you're late, you know you'll pay. They're not gonna babysit you and they let that known. It's a real good maturity thing for this team and I'm real happy with where it's heading." -- Jeff Tuel on whether players are buying in to the system.
Spending a few days at practice, the coaches outdoor voices -- the yelling ones -- quickly become recognizable. They're all unique, from Leach's drawl to Eric Morris' southern-ish twang to Joe Salave'a's booming voice. It starts to get easy to tell which unit is under-performing and which is having a good day.
Salave'a has quickly become one of my favorite coaches to watch. On Saturday, he came out in a skin-tight, sleeveless shirts before switching back to the jacket as the clouds rolled in. By the end of practice, he was back in the tank top, walking around while looking as intimidating as ever.
"LAURENZI ... SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII" -- Salave'a, probably not happy at that moment
"COME GET SOME. COME GET IT. COME GET SOME" -- Salave'a, in the drill explained below.
The defense began Saturday's practice with a ball pursuit drill. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske had 11 players at a time lined up in formation in front of him. He'd give them directions, making them do an up down or having them go down and roll to the left or right. The other four coaches were stationed in four corners -- line of scrimmage left and right, and deep left and right. Breske would send the players towards an assistant, and they'd all take off en masse. As they drew close, the assistant could either keep them, or make them switch directions and head to another coach.
It was actually pretty cool. As the players got to the assistant, they'd keep their feet chopping while the coach gave them words of encouragement and small things to remember during practice. It was grueling, especially for the linemen, but taught pursuit and changing directions.
"It's like wrestling a gator. Call it a gator tackle" -- Jeff Choate, actually using the correct technical term for what he was demonstrating. Choate was having the receivers grip a dummy bag and roll -- a gator roll.
"11TH OUT OF 12! 11TH OUT OF 12" -- Eric Russell, reminding the special teams unit how terrible it was last season.
"We're going at it. I feel like the offense won today. They scored ... I forget how many, but I don't like them scoring at all, so they scored one too many times. So I'll give them the W today, but we're going to get after them on Tuesday." -- Tyree Toomer, assessing the scrimmage.
"Ah, you know, I think, kind of like Coach Leach said, it's offense, defense, different drills, different times. I think with the ones on the ones, we had a couple good drives, but a couple stupid turnovers. I'd say it was probably a tie." Jeff Tuel said, being diplomatic. He then grinned and quickly added, "But the offense won."
"Disjointed." -- Leach, summing up Saturday's practice in one word. He elaborated with a lengthy answer, but this took care of things perfectly.
"Some guys are better than they think they are. Some guys can play better than they think they can and they just gotta go out and do it. Then once in a while you got a guy or two who's not as good as they think they are and they just need to focus, develop skills and do little things." -- Leach, getting philosophical for a moment.
"We need to block better. Right now, we got too many guys buying into the notion that 'We're receivers, we're not physical.' I've never had a good receiver that wasn't physical, that wouldn't get after somebody. I've had skinny guys, I've had tall guys, I've had short guys. But I haven't had anybody that, once they start playing well, they didn't realize that if I don't block I won't play. There's some of them that I think right now that think they may play whether they block or not, and that's not the case." -- Leach on the wide receiver corps and his desire for physical play.
This has been an ongoing theme so far. Leach, Eric Morris and Dennis Simmons want the receivers to be more physical, to block and to have "violent hands" -- punching away an opponent trying to jam them and fighting off defenders.
"All of a sudden some guy comes here and 'whoa what what.' Or the other thing is, you know, some guy blitzes, the other guy is supposed to cover and he's out of position and you fuckin' stick him with the ball and then off he goes ... you might leave out that one deal." -- Leach, colorful as always, describing how the offense reacts to blitzes and breakdowns.
"He's doing great. He's got a family deal he's taking care and we couldn't be more excited. We're going to have a very thrilling film meeting and can't wait to see him back there. Cause I think that's going to be excited for all of us. We're looking forward to seeing him again. He's only been gone for a couple hours, but we miss him." -- Leach, deflecting a question about Connor Halliday's health.
"I thought we had a lot more precision in skell, then came down here and it's like [Leach pants and looks around like an excited puppy]." -- On the receivers trying to do much in a game-like action.
Washington State will be back on the field Tuesday, likely cleaning up some of the miscues from Saturday. We'll be there once again, and will pass along anything that comes out of practice.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter, @BrianMFloyd, for more on the spring practice and the Cougars.