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Observations and notes from day one of Washington State preseason football camp

August 5, 2018

PULLMAN – Under blue skies, Washington State opened preseason training camp Friday in Pullman with a practice that lasted just shy of three hours. The Cougars now make their annual trek to Lewiston, where they’ll spend six days working out at Sacajawea Junior High, before returning to the Palouse on Aug. 10.

Here are some observations and highlights from day one of WSU camp at Martin Stadium/Rogers field.

Observations and notes

– First, the QBs … Graduate transfer Gardner Minshew and redshirt junior Trey Tinsley each got a series during the “team period” that essentially amounts to a mini scrimmage near the end of every practice. Both moved the offense well, completing 60-70 percent of their passes without making any blatant errors. “I thought both of them looked pretty good in team, in particular,” Mike Leach said.

– Minshew and Tinsley also ran the 1-on-1 period, in which a single receiver lines up against a single defensive back, while Anthony Gordon and Cammon Cooper operated a drill with the running backs on the opposite end of the field. Mike Leach said

– Abraham Lucas, the Cougars’ projected starter at right tackle, is listed at 320 pounds on the new roster, meaning he’s gained 60 pounds since arriving on campus last year and is up 40 pounds from what he was listed at in the spring.

– Leach said Lucas was also in considerably better shape, but noted that redshirt sophomore Christian Haangana perhaps had the best summer in the weight room of the offensive linemen. “He looks like a different guy,” Leach said, “so most notable is probably him.”

– Rookie defensive backs Tyrese Ross and Halid Djibril both had strong debuts on Friday, each making a few notable plays. It appears Ross will play safety – a position in desperate need of depth – while Djibril, who chose WSU over USC and Oregon State, will play nickel. Senior starting nickel Hunter Dale praised both after practice. On Ross: “He’s a phenomenal guy, he’s asking questions, so he’s not just going out there and not knowing what’s going on. … Even after he makes a play, he comes up to me and asks ‘What could have I done better?’ ” On Djibril: “He’s learning on the run, on the fly, and he’s doing a great job at that.”

– Jersey number changes … It’ll take some time to get adjusted to seeing someone not named Luke Falk wearing No. 4. The former WSU QB racked up 14,481 passing yards in four years wearing that jersey, but now it belongs to wide receiver Renard Bell, who gave up his old No. 81 to freshman wideout Brandon Gray. Elsewhere in number changes, outside receiver Easop Winston Jr. is now wearing Tavares Martin Jr.’s No. 8. Winston’s No. 85 now belongs to JC transfer WR Calvin Jackson.

– WSU has clamped down on its rules regarding video footage at practice and, in line with what other schools in the Pac-12 have done, has prohibited reporters from filming drills involving both the offense and the defense (skeleton, O-line vs. D-line, 1-on-1, 11-on-11, etc).

– The Cougars were padless on day one, but will strap on shoulder pads Saturday, then be in full pads by Monday.

Highlights

– Winston had easily the best highlight reel of any Cougar on opening day. The receiver’s most impressive grab was a one-hander that he plucked out of the air – about shin high – while holding off a defender near the right sideline, and running the rest of the way for a touchdown.

– The junior outside receiver hauled in another one-handed catch – more of a basket grab – on a 15-yard toss from Tinsley in the back left corner of the end zone.

– Senior inside receiver Kyle Sweet broke free for a pair of touchdowns during team period – one from each quarterback.

– Freshman running back Max Borghi escaped for a 30-yard touchdown during the second series of the team period. It can be tough to judge the the running backs without pads/contact, but Borghi was untouched and would’ve scored nonehtless.

– Ross, a freshman safety, was outstanding all practice and made an impressive play to break up an end zone attempt from Tinsley. Ross deflected the ball into their air and nearly came back down with it, but defensive teammates still bull-rushed the rookie to celebrate as soon as the play was dead.

– Jalen Thompson intercepted Tinsley during the 1-on-1 period, tugging his receiver away before making a play on the ball in the end zone.

– Calvin Jackson Jr. corralled a pass with one hand over his right shoulder for a touchdown during 1-on-1. Jackson, the Independence Community College transfer who was featured on the last season of “Last Chance U,” drew a funny reaction from a nearby assistant, who shouted “Chill out, Netflix!” after the play was over.

Keeping up with the QBs

Gardner Minshew: Day 1 couldn’t have gone much better for the East Carolina transfer. Minshew wasn’t perfect during the 11-on-11 period, but completed 75 percent of his passes and moved the offense with good tempo and confidence. A few of Minshew’s passes fell short of their target, including one that went almost directly into the turf after leaving the QB’s hands. But the Mississippi native played with poise and authority, and certainly didn’t look the part of someone going through his first practice with a new team.

Trey Tinsley: Tinsley would probably love to have the first play of his series back. The redshirt junior overshot Renard Bell on a deep route that likely would’ve gone for an 80-yard touchdown. Tinsley’s completion percentage was slightly lower than Minshew’s, and he threw incomplete on three straight attempts at one point, including a shovel pass. But he responded by completing his next three passes, including a perfect toss to Winston in the back corner of the end zone.

Anthony Gordon: There wasn’t much to note. Gordon didn’t partake in 1-on-1 drills and didn’t get a series during the team period, but expect him to take a few more snaps in Lewiston.

Cammon Cooper: Ditto.

Quotable

“It smells terrible. It’s hot. The dorms aren’t that awesome. The practice field isn’t great. But just having your teammates around and everything – the chemistry. The ping-pong table, I do like ping-pong a lot. There will be a lot of ping-pong going on. I beat (SID) Bobby (Alworth) a couple times. But the chemistry of the guys is great, just having each other around instead of everybody just going straight home after practice. You become friends with guys you never thought you’d become friends with.” – Hunter Dale, on what he remembers about the Lewiston trip.

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