My weekends in the summer are almost always full of errands, lake time, river time and more. So when I had a rare opening yesterday, I took advantage and decided to head to Pullman for WSU’s scrimmage.
This would be the last chance I got to catch some practice because starting later this week, practices will be held inside a cone of silence, WSU’s indoor practice facility since 2012.
So, I plopped down inside Martin Stadium with about 100 others and got my first glimpse at the 2018 WSU football team. Here is a random list of what I saw, with some caveats to begin:
- First, I must say I am by no means an “expert” when it comes to judging this team. I’ve seen one scrimmage and some of the practice recap videos the school puts out, so don’t take my thoughts to the bank. Be sure to follow the coverage of The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson, who’s been at every practice and has much more insight than I do.
- Second, this was a scrimmage and the ball was never more than 50 yards from the end zone. I have no idea how the offense will handle an 80-yard drive, or being pinned in their own end.
- Lastly, I couldn’t get a good look at each and every position. I only have two eyes.
OK, onto the 10 thoughts:
- First, the quarterbacks: Gardner Minshew has all but secured the starting position, in my opinion. Perhaps the team already knows that, but it hasn’t been publicly stated by Mike Leach. Minshew got more offensive drives on Saturday and while he ran the offense well, even without throwing for a touchdown.
- If your heart rate rapidly increased last season when Luke Falk held onto the ball in the pocket, don’t worry: Your heart health should be back to normal, if the three drives I saw are any indication (and again, it was only three drives in a scrimmage). Minshew was decisive with where the ball needed to go. He didn’t stand in the pocket too long and when he sensed danger, he got the hell out of there. You can definitely sense his personality on the field.
- Tinsley and Gordon threw the ball well, too, though Tinsley had two consecutive plays where he wound up and the ball just slipped out of his hands, like Luke Falk against UCLA in 2016. Should we need to use more than one quarterback this season, we have two guys—Gordon and Tinsley—who have been in the offense for at least a year. That’s somewhat comforting.
- Cammon Cooper was inaccurate at times, but he was also playing behind the backups on the offensive line and was either under attack or pressured to get the ball away. I’m betting we’d see a better Cooper if he was with the first team offense, but WSU obviously needs to give those reps to the presumed starter and a presumed backup.
- Speaking of that group of linemen, Lawson noted the displeasure Mason Miller felt watching the young o-line. This normally wouldn’t be a huge concern, given that the guy who was yanked—Cade Beresford—is a true freshman and the general thought is it takes time for youngsters to learn to college game. However, Lawson has Beresford as the no. 2 guy at left tackle right now.
- James Williams is going to be awesome, and I’m excited for Max Borghi. While Keith Harrington had a bad fumble near the goal line, the three running backs in the rotation are more than capable of making up for the losses of Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks. I didn’t get a good look at who the defender was, but Borghi absolutely trucked over a guy in the flat.
- Finally, the receivers: Kyle Sweet had the best day by far, and there is a ton of young talent on this team. Kassidy Woods made a really nice touchdown grab and he’ll likely redshirt. Mike Leach has a difficult job of finding the best eight receivers to play, and that’s a good thing. I’m interested in what the team does with Calvin Jackson Jr. He has a redshirt year still to use, and he’s in a logjam at inside receiver, now that Robert Lewis is back. Brandon Arconado got some pub today and he impressed, and he’s still third in line at the “X” position. Also, opponents should give Rodrick Fisher room to run at their own risk.
- OK, onto the defense: Get ready to hear a bunch of new names on the defensive line. That’s what happens when you lose Hercules Mata’afa, Daniel Ekuale and Garret McBroom. To be honest, it was difficult to judge this group because guys were rotating so much. But as PJ alluded to this morning, this is looking like a red flag for this team. Of course, we were all worried about the defensive line heading into last season and that turned out OK (but when you have Mata’afa, there’s a sense of peace).
- The defense as a whole seemed to rotate a ton of guys, making it difficult to get a sense of how good it’ll be, but there are some young guys who should be good down the road. I’m thinking Dallas Hobbs, Ahmir Crowder and Fa’avae Fa’avae. Who knows, maybe they’ll be pressed into action sooner than later.
- Yes, the kickers had an awful day. Let’s hope that’s an aberration and not the beginning of a trend. I was actually optimistic with this group heading into the season, given Jack Crane’s strong spring.
So those are my thoughts. There are now less than two weeks until Cougar football!