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Cougar Football dons pads for first time in 2023

Lots of competitors competing!

Washington State University Football Fall Practice 13 - Brennan Jackson (80) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Spring football is about a few things: finding out which guys have excelled during offseason conditioning, welcoming transfers and early enrollees into the fold, and giving alumni and fans an excuse to descend upon campus and tailgate during an otherwise nondescript spring afternoon. Everybody wins!

But there’s one word above all that nicely encapsulates spring football: competition. That word, or other derivations thereof, is ubiquitous at practice fields throughout the country, and the team on the Palouse is no different. In Colton Clark’s dispatch from WSU’s opening session on Tuesday, that word came up several times. Heck, it was in the headline for each of the first two practice reports. So if you have a spring football bingo card, Competition should probably be the center square. And if you’re taking part in a spring football cliché drinking game, you should probably omit that word for fear of liver failure.

Saturday was no different, as the Washington State Cougars put on the pads for the first time. According to Colton Clark’s report, competition took place all over the field if you are to believe the player and coach quotes.

First was the defensive line.

“It’s huge just having a group with a lot of depth and experience,” (Brennan) Jackson said. “Everyone knows the technique, what it should look like, what the standard is. Having those guys not be young guys anymore and really being mature competitors at this point, it’s huge for the group and the development of the young guys coming in.”

Next came the linebackers.

“ ‘Huddy’ had a really good day today,” transfer linebacker Ahmad McCullough said. “Just keep looking out for the linebackers – we’re going to have some real good plays.

“We got some real good competition, and I love it.”

Next was the offensive line, where Jake Dickert singled out new left tackle Esa Pole.

Dickert expects Pole’s growth to be expedited by the competition he’s facing every day at practice – “a lot of (edge rushers) who have played a lot of football at this level,” Dickert said.

It didn’t take long for Pole to assume the starting left tackle position, overtaking incumbent Christian Hilborn. Dickert said on Saturday that Hilborn has been bothered by some sort of muscle injury, but I’ll admit to shuddering a bit when Dickert said Hilborn would be “starting right away” in the lead up to spring practice. There’s no question that left tackle has been a weak spot for a while now, and Hilborn has a long, long way to go before WSU fans feel comfortable about the position. Hopefully Pole moves in and establishes himself as the answer. No doubt there will be lots of, ahem, competition along the line!

As for the scrimmage on Saturday, there was more evidence that the defensive line is ahead of the offensive line thus far. Not entirely unexpected. Senior Brennan Jackson once again led the way, as Clark noted that he dominated both individual and team drills, outperforming everyone across from him.

There was a lot of your typical give-and-take spring action, as the defensive line’s dominance was countered by the fact that quarterbacks Cam Ward and John Mateer made their share of plays, combining to complete 31 of 42 passes.

The Cougs have 11 practice sessions that the spring game in which to compete until wrapping things up for this academic year. In all seriousness, competition is great during the spring, and even into the fall practices. But if we’re hearing about multiple “competitions” for starting spots with a week or two to go until the season starts, especially along the offensive line, alarm bells should ring loudly among the fan base. Here’s to zero alarm bells!

This Week in Parenting

The football team wasn’t the only group to wear Coug gear for a sporting event on Saturday. The 11 year-old also had WSU in mind for his golf lesson. (zoom in on the ball also)

Earlier in the week, he had a buddy over for the night. I went to check in on them some time in the evening, and my kid was playing XBox while the other kid was on his phone. “Hey, parents, can we have a sleepover so the two of us can ignore each other?” Obviously they didn’t do this the entire time, but it got me wondering what the point of a sleepover is if you’re just gonna do your own thing anyway.

On the 14 year-old front, there’s some part of his brain that apparently compels him to utter the semi-word “bruh” at random times, for no apparent reason. Really hopeful that he grows out of it!


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