WSU spring practice: Too many players are 'happy and healthy'

James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

Washington State didn't scrimmage on Saturday, and it highlights the problem with spring practice.

We expected a scrimmage on Saturday at Martin Stadium, but it didn't happen. It's actually not all that surprising, either, though no official reason was given. But taking a look at who was on the field, and more importantly who wasn't, it was pretty obvious why the Cougars didn't go live with an extended scrimmage on Saturday.

And therein lies the problem with spring ball. Sure, it's good to get reps in, work on the system and figure out the depth chart. All these things are part of the natural flow of college football. Spring is a time to feel things out and get some of the younger players valuable reps and experience. But it always comes at a cost.

The cost is injuries: Some minor, some not-so-minor. Mike Leach doesn't talk about injuries -- everyone is happy and healthy -- so we don't know how badly some players are dinged up. But all one needs is a set of eyes to realize that quite a few players are a little too "happy and healthy."

Which brings us back to the non-scrimmage. On Saturday, Leach had only one scholarship quarterback available -- Connor Halliday. Austin Apodaca wasn't at practice, though Halliday said he was dealing with a fever. Who knows. Having only one scholarship quarterback doesn't make for a fun scrimmage.

Additionally, the defensive line is a mess. Ioane Gauta hobbled onto the field on crutches with a large knee brace on with Toni Pole -- also on crutches and also with a knee brace -- in tow. Logan Mayes is still using a crutch and hasn't been in pads. Destiny Vaeao and Robert Barber weren't in pads either. Moving backwards, both Justin Sagote and Deone Bucannon were out. Add it all up and the defense didn't look anything like we believe it will in the fall -- so long as these injuries aren't serious.

That's the risk every coach takes with spring ball. Their teams need the reps and practice action, but there's a risk for injury every time a player steps on the field. You just hope that major contributors aren't hit with severe injuries in an April practice that, in the scheme of things, isn't massively important.

As for the rest...

-- Robert Lewis is fast. Like, super fast. And he has an excellent mane of hair. The downside to Robert Lewis: He's so tiny and I wonder if he's going to get snapped in half over the middle. He is quick and elusive, though, so that's a plus.

-- Ivan McLennan certainly looks the part of a BUCK linebacker. He's a big, physically imposing young man. While he's still trying to grasp the scheme and assignments, he looks like someone who could step into the rotation and be stout right away.

-- Jeremiah Allison is seeing time in the linebacker rotation and, like McLennan, looks the part. We figured he'd see time last year, and he did see a bit. But he should see a bigger role come his way this season.

-- Tana Pritchard took Justin Sagote's spot. He was used at times last year in the speed packages, but should see quite a bit of time at linebacker this year, as well.

-- Kache Palacio was working at BUCK with the first team (a spot Logan Mayes would occupy if healthy). There's depth at the position, which is good. There's also a variety of different players with different styles, which should allow Mike Breske to play around with different packages.

-- Some of the incoming freshmen visited practice on Saturday. I hadn't seen Cody O'Connell before and wasn't sure he was as big as he's listed (6-foot-8, 350 pounds). After seeing him stand, without pads, near fully-padded linemen, it's clear he's every bit of that height and weight. Even among grown-ass college men, he looks like a man among boys. That's a good thing for Leach, and for a line that needs reinforcements.

-- Rico Forbes lit up Isiah Myers on a jailbreak screen. Rico Forbes is a right tackle. Isiah Myers is a wide receiver. This was friendly fire, and it had the defensive coaches laughing and congratulating Forbes o a nice stick.

-- There were more grad assistants throwing in Leach's five quarterbacks drill than actual quarterbacks. The only two QBs available on Saturday were Halliday and walk-on Jesse Brown.

Other than that, spring practice is spring practice. It's the same drills over and over, just like all of Leach's practices. For now, it's all about reps and avoiding injuries.

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