From Lewiston (and then Pullman) -- The WSU football team was scheduled to practice in Lewiston at Sacajawea Middle School for the tenth day of fall camp on Monday. But things changed in a hurry as poor air quality led coaches to suspend practice and bus players back up to Pullman for the afternoon to practice in the indoor "practice bubble" behind Bailey-Brayton field. The players arrived in Pullman in yellow school buses from the Independent School District in Lewiston. The initial word was that practice was to begin at 4:30, but there was a hitch when apparently one of the school buses broke down on the way to Pullman meaning that the entire team wasn't ready to go until about 5:15.
"It was kind of unexpected. Of course, there's fires everywhere. Yesterday was worse here. Today's better here. So here we are," said Leach.
Leach said that it wasn't exactly a coaches call to move practice as there is a certain air quality scale that was measured and found unsuitable. He was happy with the way the team practiced despite the sudden change in venues.
"I thought it went pretty good. I thought it took our young guys awhile to adjust. But I thought our team as a whole did. I thought we did end up having good work," said Leach when asked if the change had any impact on the intensity of practice.
The change in facility meant less real estate to work in since the indoor bubble only has a full-length football field in it with no room for side work. It also substantially reduced the ability for the media to see exactly what was going since we were restricted to the southwest corner of the facility for safety considerations. Personally, I am not wanting to have an informal meet-and-greet with a full-speed Xavier Cooper while inattentively jotting down notes on the sideline about the last play.
The biggest news of the day was the personnel at three different positions that have been hotly contested throughout the final camp.
Center - Riley Sorensen and Sam Flor have probably had the closest battle out of any position so far in camp. Sorensen made a bad snap on Sunday that led to Connor Halliday taking a sack. Sorensen continued to struggle with his snaps again in a drill shooting them too low at the quarterback's feet. He was then replaced by Flor who ran with the ones and twos for the rest of the day while Sorensen was assigned to a 'private reminder session' consisting of up-and-downs and rolls. Sorensen had been working with the ones for several days. It's unfortunate to see him demoted after such an off-afternoon, but that's the nature of practice and competition right now for the Cougs. A particularly bad day can erase several days worth of progress.
Cornerback - Tracy Clark looked like he had foothold at cornerback opposite Daquawn Brown for the entire camp up until Monday. Something seems to have changed. For the second day straight Charleston White worked entirely with the ones. I would note that White came out with the ones Sunday, but so did Clark with Daquawn Brown being left to work with the twos. Daquawn Brown is a starter on this team. Him sitting out wasn't interpreted as a change in his status. It seems like the coaches probably wanted to get a look at both Clark and White on the field at the same time on Sumday. From all appearances now White has now surpassed Clark for the No. 1 corner. If you're keeping track, the first team secondary now consists of a true junior (Taylor Talulu), a true sophomore (Brown), and two redshirt freshmen (White and Darius Lemora).
Strong Safety - Lemora seems to be in command of the top strong safety spot right now. Let me give you a little scoop on what to expect from Lemora. I really like the kid. He plays physical and is out to lay wood on whoever might have the ball. He's young though and he admitted to me that it was a little tough for him to pick up the defense and adjust to Mike Breske's coaching style when he first got here. One year in and he has grown appreciative of Breske and has turned into a film junkie to get better. His hard hitting style is probably going to earn him a penalty or two as it did Deone Bucannon on a few occasions throughout his career. He's also just a redshirt freshman so you can expect the things that usually come with that. But his upside is huge and I think he will be a player that WSU fans will enjoy for several years.
Tuesday? - Legendary singer, songwriter Bob Dylan once said that "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The direction of the wind is something that the WSU coaching staff might be keeping track of Tuesday as wildfires about 20 miles south of Lewiston are continuing to burn. The smoke was thick enough Tuesday that the Lewis and Clark Valley was not visible from the Highway 95 grade going down into Lewiston. Ironically, the fires in Nez Perce County are being called the Big Cougar Fire. Let's just keep in mind the most important things, the safety of the firefighters and the well-being of the people and their property that might be threatened.