It's still hot in Pullman, to the point where everyone spent time begging for the one cloud in the sky to stay over the sun for just a little bit longer. And still ... nobody spent practicing puking. Not even the reporters. We've all been working on our conditioning in the offseason.
The team spent about half its practice up on Rogers Field, then headed down to Martin Stadium for the other half of practice. Part of this was for scrimmage purposes, but it was really an opportunity to work on field goals. Can't do that as well up at the practice field and it never hurts to get some in-stadium experience.
Some new faces were in pads, some old faces were on the sideline and practice went off without a hitch. What did we learn today? Read on for information about the team's newest punting superstar.
- Oh, right ... the headline. Xavier Cooper could have a future as a punter. He's a natural. The story behind it is that Cooper recovered a fumble on a goalline stand. He emerged from the pile with the ball -- after Jeff Choate sprinted the other way screaming about how the defense got the ball -- gave a little shimmy, and booted the thing 35 yards down the field like a punt. It was really a sight to behold.
- Speaking of big, athletic guys, Joe Salave'a picked off a pass and took it to the house. Well, a pass bounced into his hands on the sideline, at least. So he did what's natural and covered the ball up while sprinting the other way for about 15 yards. Salave'a is fast, by the way. Deceptively fast.
- Raymond Ford was in uniform, which is a positive development.
- Chas Sampson was not working with the offensive line as he usually does. Instead he was in white, working with the defense for the day. He started as a defensive lineman before switching to the offensive side of the ball last year. And now he's back to where he's started -- perhaps in an effort to shore up some depth issues.
- Nolan Washington was back at practice and working with the corners.
- Kristoff Williams, Adam Coerper, Henry Eaddy, Spencer Waseem and Niu Sale were among the injured and did not practice.
- Same receiver rotations as yesterday. Gino Simone saw plenty of time at the H and Gabe Marks saw plenty at the Z. And yes, Marks still looks real good.
- The defensive side of the ball was about the same, as well, with one exception. Tyree Toomer was back on the field with the starting unit, pairing with Deone Bucannon. No idea what's going on with that spot, but there's a couple guys that seem to be in the mix.
- Robert Barber blew up the offensive line on a kicking drill, allowing Anthony Carpenter and two others to fly through and block the kick. This has been your Robert Barber update (and seriously, he blew the line up. It was pretty great).
- Justin Sagote worked a lot at the WIL spot. He looks like a guy who could see a lot of time in the rotation right way.
- The coaches have a theory about special teams: If you can't give it your all there, they how can you play on either side of the ball? Starters are expected to go hard, not just the reserve guy who may only see action on kick or punt coverage. If a player isn't giving enough effort or dedicating the time they should to special teams, they'll be spoken to or punished in one way or another.
- Rahmel Dockery, Alex Jackson and Ford all look good at cornerback. Dockery had a few nice plays during one-on-ones and is a natural at the spot. Ford made a nice one-handed pick and has some serious wheels. Same with Alex Jackson, who has plenty of speed and solid footwork.
- Practice began with a pass protection drill for the running backs. They went one-on-one with a linebacker, trying to step up and stick the incoming rusher. The running backs didn't do so hot. It was, however, interesting to see the linebackers gather around as the running backs did push-ups to end the drill. I wondered if they were taunting -- competition is like that -- but instead they helped the backs up and gave them pats on the helmet. Pretty cool to see.
- Practice ended with a small scrimmage in the stadium. It was more special teams drills (done live) than an actual scrimmage, but there you go. Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday split reps at quarterback -- Tuel took first reps -- and they scrimmaged for a short time.
- Hat report: Paul Volero was in a small, straw hat. Jeff Choate and Joe Salave'a were each in sweet bucket hats that may have had a Cougar logo. Either way, I want one. They were fly.
- Construction crews were testing the fire alarms on the Cougar Football Project. I'm pleased to report they work (and nothing was on fire).