WSU held a short 90-minute practice on Tuesday, the eve of the final day in Lewiston. The short practice was planned and the timing could not have been better as thunderstorms started to approach just as the media was wrapping up final interviews. Within minutes a strong wind started to blow dust and then the rains came.
The practice seemed to be missing the high energy that has been there about everyday of camp so far. A let down at this point is somewhat understandable after 11 days straight of football in hot weather and an impromptu return to Pullman on Monday. The Lewiston heat has been brutal with temperatures around the triple digits almost everyday. Taking all things into consideration, Leach didn't feel that the day went too bad.
"I thought it was pretty good, pretty quick work......just above average work," said Leach after practice.
Overall, Leach feels that the team's camp is well ahead of where they were a couple of years ago and that competition is what is driving the improvement.
"They're more competitive people and some of it is because what they invest in the offseason because they worked really hard," said Leach.
Here are some notable things from Tuesday:
Kicking game - Both Wes Conception and Jordan Descalo got several punts off in a punt coverage drill. Neither was consistent nor really impressive for that matter. This competition is clearly up in the air and will likely be one of the last decisions made. Coach Eric Russell seems to be a man with a lot of worries on his mind. He's a perfectionist and it is clear he is nowhere near happy with where things are at right now. He's not getting the consistency he wants.
The two kickers, Erik Powell and Quentin Breshears, each got some kicks in at the beginning of practice Tuesday and they looked a world better than they did a week ago. They both were consistently hitting from 30-40 yards out. I haven't seen either of these kickers attempt anything beyond 40 yet.
Running backs - Gerard Wicks has come on to put himself clearly in the two-deep at running back with Theron West right now. I'm pretty sure the 'starter tag' at running back is going to be pretty nominal with Wicks and West both seeing the field a ton. Since playing time is a zero-sum game, Jamal Morrow is the one that has fallen out of the two-deep with Wicks' emergence.
The running back competition is right up there with the competition for Z receiver as the most enjoyable to watch in camp by far. The pre-camp depth chart listed Morrow or West as the No. 1 running back with Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell below them. Mason and Caldwell are buried under this camp in terms of getting reps. Caldwell occasionally sneaks in with the second team and Mason has almost been off the radar. Both players have been healthy throughout camp and have looked themselves when playing. West and Wicks seem to have brought something that has elevated the position to a new level. West is smaller and more agile. He can get in the flat really quickly as a receiver and can take off when given space. Wicks is explosive on the run and gets to the hole amazingly fast. He showed that off by breaking a run at midfield that would have went the distance but for the whistles of the coaches on Tuesday.
Not so fast - After Monday's practice it seemed as if there was a change in the depth chart with Sam Flor working with the first team offense at center and Charleston White with the defense at corner. Neither player worked with the ones today as Riley Sorensen returned to the center spot with the first team offense and Tracy Clark returned to the first team defense at corner. The battles at center and cornerback might be the two that go down closest to the wire.
Team session - There were a few notable plays during the team session. First, the big run from Wicks that I mentioned above. Wicks would go on to catch a touchdown pass from Falk during the team session. Kristoff Williams looked really good in both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 pulling in several nice catches including a touchdown pass from Falk in the team session. There was also an interception by Chester Su'a thanks to a nicely tipped ball from Ivan McLennan near the line of scrimmage.
Of interest was an "upset" of sorts by the second team units which outplayed the ones in an overtime drill at the end of practice. Usually, winners and losers during the team session are divided between offense and defense. On Tuesday both the offensive and defensive ones were assigned up-and-downs with the twos from both sides coming out on top of the competition.
Last day in Lewiston - The word that I received from Bobby Alworth, who is with the SID, is that the final practice in Lewiston on Wednesday is going to be a full pad scrimmage. Practice will start at 2:30 and, again, I'd encourage you to stop by and watch if you have a chance. This will be the closest you will be able to get to the team during a practice for the rest of the year. When they return to Pullman, it will be back to business as usual with practices closed to the public and media. With the Rutgers depth chart only days away - Leach said it would be determined next week - I'd expect the level of competition level to be high.