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Cougars battle fatigue on Day 4 of fall camp

Triple digits poured down on WSU's fall camp in Lewiston. The extra heat didn't do much to help players that are still trying to find their football legs and adjusting to running with pads on.

WSU running backs work with Jim Mastro
WSU running backs work with Jim Mastro
Andrew Crookston

From Lewiston -- Day 4 of WSU's fall camp is in the books. The heat hit triple digits Tuesday afternoon and the fatigue that sets in after a few days was evident in the energy level. Still, Mike Leach is pretty happy with the conditioning level of his team.

"The average team it's the third day. I think it's probably kicking in with our O-line, so the further you stretch it out, the better you are. But we came in in pretty good shape," said Leach after practice.

Besides the heat and fatigue, here are some other notes on the day:

Enter Gerard Wicks - Several names have circulated about who could emerge as the No. 1 running back on the Cougar offense this year. Theron West and Jamal Morrow have both been solid throughout the camp. But on Monday another name entered the mix in the running back rotation. Gerard Wicks had a huge day with an explosive run during the 11-on-11 team session. Leach didn't seem surprised to see Wicks doing so well.

"Good, explosive, powerful, and decisive. He's always been explosive and powerful. Now that he's decisive I think it's coming together real well for him," said Leach

Connor Halliday also took note of Wick's abilities on the field.

"What’s separating him (Wicks) from everyone else right now is how hard he is hitting the hole. He just runs like a horse with blinders. He’s running full speed no matter what," said Halliday on Wick's success.

Putting the ball on the ground - One thing that allowed for Wick's opportunity was the fact that the offense put the ball in the ground a handful of times during the 11-on-11 team session after only calling one run the day before. Connor Halliday took some of the blame for the lack of mixing it up on the offense.

"That's my fault. I need to stick with it (running game) a little better. I did today. We got four or five," said Halliday.

Blocking and pass catching abilities are an absolute must for running backs to play in Leach's offense with running plays making up a minimal part of the offense. Last year the Cougs passed the ball 756 times with only 243 rushes for a passing percentage of 76%. Still,  Leach thinks that the skill sets he is looking for at running back position are the same that are needed at the next level.

"What we're doing is a lot like you see in the NFL. As the running back, you have to be able to carry the ball, block, and catch. They have to have some dimensions in their abilities," said Leach.

Dotson update - Isaac Dotson's progress seems to be coming along nicely working with the first team during the 11-on-11. Dotson started the week in a yellow jersey but is fully participating now. Leach feels Dotson is starting to find his stride.

"Starting to get in a rhythm. I thought today was his best day so far," said Leach.

Scramble drill - In an ideal world a quarterback is able to remain in the pocket with time to throw the football. Obviously, that doesn't happen on every play. And when the quarterback has to scramble, receivers have to adjust their routes. Leach keeps a very consistent workout going day in, day out. He did throw in some variation today by adding a scramble drill to Mondays workout to help the receivers learn the proper adjustments when the quarterback is flushed out of the pocket.

Situational downs - For the first time today in the 7-on-7 skeletons and 11-on-11 team session  yard sticks made their way on the field as the offense was presented with several third down situations from varying distances. Points were awarded on whether or not the down was converted and punishment was levied out to the offense in up-and-downs based on the number of times they didn't convert.

Offense bounces back, almost - The offense bounced back today during the team session, but still weren't able to overcome the defense. There were a few explosive plays from the beginning. But once the offense got half-way down the field things began to fall apart with the defense putting more pressure on Halliday. Cyrus Coen ended up picking off a pass in the end zone.

Luke Falk kept it competitive with the defense working back down the field, but the defense was able to hold their edge. Because of the competitiveness of the play, Leach only doled out four up-and-downs to the offense. The defense now leads the overall team sessions in Lewiston three to one.