WSU spring football 2014: Let's do some catching up

Taylor Taliulu, who had lost his job by the end of the year, is the most experienced player in the secondary. - George Frey

Have you been focused on the basketball coach search? Hiding under a rock for the last two weeks? We bring you up to speed on WSU's spring practice developments.

For the last couple of weeks, our attention at CougCenter mostly has not been focused on WSU spring football. Coaching hires in the Big Two don't happen all that often (even if it seems like they do), and when they come along, they're going to properly dominate the conversation.

But that's not all that's going on here. The reality is that in lieu of having our own reporter at practices -- something we most definitely do not have the means to accomplish* -- there's often just not that much to write about beyond passing along the highlights of the reports of those who were actually there.

*Unless you want to volunteer to do it for us, in which case, please be our guest! And report what you see through a FanPost!

We could hang on every word written after every practice, trying to figure out WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAAAAAAAANNNNN??? but, well, take it away, Spencer:

OMG OUR OFFENSE RULES/DEFENSE SUCKS/REVERSE SCENARIO. The most common neurosis surrounding your spring practice experience will be the maddening attempt to divine out some kind of ironclad prediction about the performance of one unit against each other. This will result in you lying beneath an overpass passed out after drinking a whole bottle of liquor that came in a plastic jug with convenient carrying handle. It usually looks something like this.

A. Wow, our secondary looks great!

B. Wait. Maybe our quarterback sucks.

C. Or maybe our secondary is just so good that they'd make anyone look good!

D. Or we're doomed to a season of pick sixes and haphazard quarterbacking.

/DRINKING OF GRAIN ALCOHOL COMMENCES FOLLOWED BY BLINDNESS AND POVERTY

That said, now that we're a third of the way through spring, we can look at some of the big trends that are emerging by way of the reporting of others -- mainly the Spokesman-Review's Jacob Thorpe, since his reports are not behind a pay wall. If you haven't been reading those reports day by day, here's your aggregated Cliffs Notes version to get you caught up.

Position Battles

Defensive secondary: With so many returning players in the front seven on the defense, most of the attention has been focused on the back four, where three starters -- Deone Bucannon, Damante Horton and Nolan Washington -- are being replaced, while a guy who had lost his job by the end of the year -- Taylor Taliulu -- is being asked to step back into his starting position.

Heading into the offseason, sophomore Daquawn Brown -- who saw plenty of action in his freshman year -- was presumed to be taking over one of the spots. His arrest for felony assault seemed to throw a major wrench in that, but Brown has continued to practice with the team during the ongoing investigation (Leach has said that parts of the incident seem to be "greatly embellished"), and according to practice reports, he appears to be playing as well as we'd expect. This is great news, presuming Leach is correct about Brown's legal situation.

Five Questions with Marcellus Pippins via Jacob Thorpe

As for the other corner, redshirt freshman Charleston White is the top name on the spring depth chart, but grayshirt freshman Marcellus Pippins has popped up repeatedly in Jacob Thorpe's reports. This one is from Day Two:

It's still early but freshman cornerback Marcellus Pippins will be hard to keep off the field. Pippins has reeled in an interception in both of WSU's practices so far, and neither were on particularly poorly thrown balls. It wouldn't be surprising to see Pippins emerge as WSU's nickel cornerback in the fall.

And then this, from Darryl Monroe, again via Thorpe:

"He sort of reminds me of Rahmel Dockery. He's freakishly athletic, he has great speed and great ability. I'm just excited to see his technique develop and to take coaching and see how far he can progress."

Not a whole lot has been mentioned about the safeties, but Thorpe has noted that he expects sophomore quarterback-turned-safety Isaac Dotson, who saw just a little bit of time at free safety last season, to replace Bucannon.

Offensive line: There isn't a lot of clarity emerging here. We do know that Joe Dahl and Gunnar Eklund will almost certainly hold down tackle and guard on the left side, respectively. As for center and the two spots on the right side? Offensive line coach Clay McGuire seems to be exploring a lot of different looks this spring. Sophomores Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson have both been seeing time at center. Thorpe said at the beginning of spring drills that redshirt freshman Cole Madison appeared to have right tackle locked down, and he hasn't reported anything to the contrary since. There also hasn't been any word about how Jacob Seydel is faring at right guard.

In other words, I think we're going to have to wait and see. McGuire has been known to try some pretty weird stuff during camp, and it probably would be a bigger surprise if this didn't remain in flux until midway through fall camp.

Backup quarterback: In the battle to be the most popular guy on campus, neither Tyler Bruggman nor Luke Falk appear to be taking the lead for Connor Halliday's primary backup. While most fans seem to have anointed Bruggman as the heir apparent to the throne, the former four-star recruit has been alternating practices with walk-on Falk in the backup position. Both have had their moments, both have had their struggles ... and neither is significantly outplaying the other.

From Tuesday's post-practice interview, again via Thorpe:

Leach said that neither Falk nor Tyler Bruggman has emerged as the backup quarterback yet, saying, "I think they're similar. We're going to keep rotating them, I think they both do a lot of good things."

Injuries

As we all know, everyone is happy and healthy at all times in Mike Leach's football program. However, we can learn a little bit about the injury situation from Thorpe's observations about who isn't participating.

First off, it doesn't appear that there are any regular contributors who are outright missing from practice. That's a great sign. Players who have been limited at times include wide receivers Gabe Marks, Isiah Myers, Dom Williams and Brett Bartolone; offensive lineman Cody O'Connell; and defensive lineman Daryl Paulo. While it's hard to know for sure how serious any of the injuries are because of the restrictions placed on Thorpe's reporting, none of these seem readily serious, perhaps with the exception of Bartolone -- he was nowhere to be found at Tuesday's practice. O'Connell (colloquially known among fans as "that massive lineman from Wenatchee) returned to practice on Saturday.

General Notes

  • I feel like this should be higher up in the story, but in case you missed it, receiver Vince Mayle has dropped 21 pounds. We all are expecting him to build on last season's campaign, and a lighter-but-equally-strong Mayle -- who already was able to get behind defenses at times last season -- could be a terror for opponents.
  • With so many receivers being limited, receiver Drew Loftus has made some noise. Who knows if he can continue what he's doing and break into the outside receiver rotation in the fall, but it's good to hear nonetheless.
  • Running back is going to be interesting. Marcus Mason was excellent in 2013, but Theron West and Jamal Morrow (a redshirt freshman who was impressive in scout work last year) have both been raising eyebrows.
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