FROM LEWISTON -- The sounds of football penetrated the Lewis and Clark Valley on Saturday afternoon as WSU kicked off the first day of fall camp at Sacajawea Middle School. As per NCAA rules, the team practiced in helmets and shorts and will not be putting on shoulder pads until Monday. For the players less pads probably meant more comfort given the sweltering heat and above average humidity. The thermometer was well into the upper 90s by the time practice started. Fortunately, Mother Nature did her part to keep things moderate as the rising hot air produced a nice cloud cover over the playing fields.
Here are some of the highlights:
Yost on crutches - Talk about player injuries is taboo with Mike Leach. But there seems to be a gray area when it comes to coaching injuries. Inside receivers coach David Yost took "coaching until they stop me, Wilson" to the next level by working his way around the field on two crutches. When asked about the nature of Yost's injury, Leach would not divulge any specifics simply stating, "Some people want a golf cart more than others."
Loftus present - Drew Loftus was a full participant with the team days after getting arrested for 4th degree assault.
Quarterbacks - As expected Connor Halliday ran the first team with Luke Falk working in. True freshman quarterback Peyton Bender spent a significant amount of time in the wings watching and learning the system. Halliday was able to exploit the secondary connecting often with Vince Mayle who pretty much was a guarantee to snatch up anything that came his way. Halliday and Mayle are rooming together for the camp. Mayle noted that the two also spent extra time during the summer together working on routes. "Me and Connor hang out so there were a lot times we just said 'let's go throw.'"
Halliday seemed pretty content with the way the first day went. "The tempo wasn't where you want it. But that's what you expect day one." He was also satisfied with the way his backup Luke Falk played despite a few early mistakes. "Luke played great," Halliday said when asked him impressions on Falk. ""I think he has quietly gone around and done his business and now he is getting his time to get noticed."
Young guns on the line - The WSU offensive line is in the midst of a youth movement without a single senior on the two-deep of the depth chart. Cole Madison the apparent replacement to John Fullington at right tackle worked exclusively with the first team while Sam Flor handled first team center duties.
Kickers galore - There were not a lot of balls flying in the air from the kickers during the afternoon session. WSU now has four kickers on the roster: Wes Concepcion, Erik Powell, Quentin Breshears, and Jordan Dascalo. Concepcion punted for the Cougs in the final few games last year, but is listed exclusively as a kicker on the roster. Breshears is a former kicker at Fresno State who spent last season at Fresno City College at the JuCo level. He walked on at WSU in June. Powell is a redshirt freshman and listed as both a kicker and a punter. Descalo is listed as a punter. Who emerges to do what in the kicking game is anybody's guess at this point.
It's easy being Green - Calvin Green continues to look like the player he did in the spring game making several plays in both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Green forwent the latter part of his senior year of high school to enroll at WSU in January as a true freshman. With the spring camp under his belt, he looks absolutely fantastic on the field making several plays.
Lots of verts - Mike Leach customarily likes to spend the first few day of camp having receivers run vertical routes. The method behind the vertical madness is that receivers are required to adjust to coverage at different places on the route which forces them to be in sync with quarterbacks. "Typical first day with Coach Leach. Running verticals all day, getting your legs going, trying to fight the fatigue," said Mayle after practice noting that the heat didn't make things any easier.
Good first impression - WSU football players and coaches talk a lot about "flying around," a term Leach uses frequently to describe high-energy play where players are making plays on the ball without a lot of hesitancy. One player that seemed to be flying around throughout the practice was true freshman cornerback Sulaiman Hameed. Hameed's efforts even caught the attention Darryl Monroe, "He (Hameed) came out and made a lot of plays. He really doesn't know the defense too much, but he came out and made of lot of plays. He’s going to be a great player."
West at running back - Theron West took the majority of the reps at running back with the No. 1 offense.
Defensive secondary - Beau Glover took the majority of reps at strong safety. Leach was happy with the defensive backs on the day noting the group seemed to thrive off of their athleticism in spite of their inexperience. When asked about Sebastian Larue's status for the coming season, Leach said that there was no word as of yet.
D wins the day - The defense carried the day in head-to-head competition at the end of the practice. Destiny Vaeao and Xavier Cooper both looked stout on defense. Leach and Halliday were quick to point out that some of the defensive line success was the result of not having shoulder pads on for the offensive line to get their hands on. Taylor Taliulu had the biggest play on defense with an interception of a Connor Halliday pass near the end zone. Coaches keep a point score during the 11-on-11 scrimmage and the defense came away the winners with the offense having to do up-and-downs at the end.
Leach's thoughts - Leach seemed generally satisfied with the way things went on day one. "It was aggressive. A lot of times first days are out of control and sloppy. We we're aggressive and in control, but sloppy at times," said Leach. Leach attributed a large number of returning players and summer workouts to the improvement in this year's first day over last year's first day.
Well that's it for Day 1. What do you think? Can you handle a few months of Cougar football?