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WSU Spring Practice: Eric Oertel Shines, Up-Downs The Theme Of The Day

Practice started off slow on Tuesday, and head coach Mike Leach wasn't happy about it at all. The offense was having to reload and run things again too many times, passes were being dropped and the wrong routes were being run. Nothing was going to his liking, so he stopped the show and sent a quick message.

"If you don't have time to do it right, how the hell do you have to do it over," Leach said as the defense stood to the side while the offense did up-downs. Some 30 reps later, after the offense was good and worn down, they got back to work again. And wouldn't you know: Things suddenly picked up.

It was a theme on both sides of the ball, and the coaches weren't having it on Tuesday -- and don't any other day, for that matter. The sharpness would disappear, players would make mistakes and the unit would be punished as a whole. There were multiple times were everything stopped for a moment and the coaches sent a message -- first with the offense, then with the defense.

More notes after the jump.

  • It's pretty clear at this point that a message is being sent to Marquess Wilson. Again, he ran with the third-team during team drills at times. And again, he was sent over the middle, right into the linebackers, on a shallow cross. Just like everyone other time, Wilson was completely flattened by a linebacker licking his chops -- Eric Oertel put him on his back after a loud pop. You can probably figure out the message. To be very clear: This doesn't mean OMG MARQUESS WILSON IS A THIRD-STRING RECEIVER AND HE'S IN BIG TROUBLE. He worked with the first team and also worked with what was essentially the last team. It was nothing exclusive.
  • Speaking of Oertel, he had another strong day at linebacker. Wilson was just one of his victims, joining Marcus Mason -- blown up in the middle -- and the offensive line -- blown up on a run.
  • Xavier Cooper took out pretty much the entire offense line as if they were bowling pins on one play. One moment, the ball is being snapped. The next, bodies are everywhere, Cooper is strutting out of the pile and the quarterback -- Cody Clements -- is limping off the field. If you're wondering why Connor Halliday leaves before the team drills, there you go (Clements was fine).
  • The running backs had a strong day, especially in team drills. After practice, Leach said he has a whole bunch of running backs that look the same, and the only one he could pick out of a blind lineup from behind is Carl Winston. Winston has thicker legs, he said.
  • Leon Brooks may have had the best day of them all. One one play, he made a nice cut and outran the defense for a long touchdown. On another, he did the same to the opposite side and took it in for the score. After running for about 50 yards, Brooks was jogging back to the huddle when Jim Mastro yelled "You can't just sit back there and tap your ass out." Out of breath, he hurried back to get with the group behind the live offense.
  • On the defensive side, Damante Horton hauled in a "Damante Horton" (right place, right time, tipped ball fell into his lap). Darren Markle had a play that got the entire defense, which watches in the end zone way behind the live defense, all fired up. Markle chased a receiver some 40 yards down the middle of the field, reaching out and batting away the pass in the end zone. It was one hell of a play by a middle linebacker in no-man's land with no help way down the field.
  • Today's story of immediate redemption involves Phllip Brandt. The defense, like the offense earlier, was stopped and forced to do up-downs for whatever reason. On the next play, Brandt stepped in front of a pass and picked it.
  • Speaking of up-downs, Toni Pole was in a club. The entire defense did up-downs as their extra conditioning after practice (it's a normal thing). It really looked like it sucked for Pole, who was doing them one handed and is already on the larger side.
  • Meanwhile, the quarterbacks were on the other end of the field kicking field goals while waiting for the receivers to join in for the typical fade route drill after practice. Jeff Tuel played the role of long-snapper, with David Gilbertson as holder (his normal role) and Connor Halliday kicking. Tuel snapped the ball the first time and almost took a football square in the ass as Halliday tried to boot an extra point. The next snap, Tuel got rid of the ball, then immediately hit the deck, flattening out as the ball whizzed over his head.
  • Halliday then held for Gilbertson, who actually made the field goal. If Gilbertson really wanted that backup quarterback job, one misplaced kick, to the side instead of the football -- oops, I slipped -- would've done the trick.
  • Halliday also tried his hand at center as Gilbertson ran fade routes with Tuel playing quarterback -- both giggling as he stood under center to take the snap at first.
  • Eric Morris sometimes turns into a puppy chasing cars. He'll be working at the line of scrimmage, helping the receivers release, one moment and the next he's chasing an outside receiver down the field and muscling them off the ball ... before taunting.
  • And while we're talking about taunting, Mike Bowlin was off to the side working on his punting when he unleashed a solid 60-yard punt. As it was in the air, he flexed the whole time, nodding like "you're damn right."
  • Tyree Toomer was not at practice. Anthony Carpenter took his place. Mansel Simmons also wasn't at practice.
That's it for Tuesday. Back with more later.