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

August 6, 2018

The Washington State Cougars have now braved three days of preseason camp and two under the scorching skies of Lewiston, Idaho. They’ll practice four more times at Sacjawea Junior High – Thursday’s session will be an abbreviated “varsity short” practice – before returning to the Palouse for Friday’s scrimmage.

Our notes and observations are on the short side, but here’s what we saw in Lewiston Sunday afternoon…

Notes and observations

– Temperatures rose to 95 degrees, but the real heat wave isn’t supposed to arrive until Thursday when thermometers are supposed to crank up to 109.

– The Cougars put on shoulder pads Sunday and there was a noticeably more physical tone to the practice session. Cornerback Darrien Molton said the speed of play generally increases when the pads come on, too. “I think for both sides, it helps out. You can play faster, you don’t have to worry about too much.”

– The addition of pads perhaps allowed the defense to put together their most productive day thus far. Mike Leach on that: “I thought they were aggressive, I think we’re quick up front and it was good to get the pads on. And I think they ran to the ball good, defensively.”

– Schematically, not a lot has changed for the defense and secondary unit under first-year coordinator Tracy Claeys. But a few things have. “(We’re) implementing a little more cover 3 this year than last year. Everything is the same, coverages are going to be the same but just different calls in different scenarios.”

– WSU’s defensive depth chart seems far from set, though the secondary has looked the same each of the last three days. The first-team cornerbacks have been Molton and Sean Harper Jr., at safety it’s been Jalen Thompson and Skyler Thomas and at nickel, Hunter Dale.

– We’ve seen a few different variations on the defensive line. Defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo and defensive tackle Nick Begg seem to have cemented spots with the first team, but Pono Lolohea and Taylor Comfort have both seen time at nose tackle.

– On Saturday, Dillon Sherman and Peyton Pelluer were the first-unit linebackers. On Sunday, it was Pelluer and Jahad Woods. I’d expect to see the second duo starting against Wyoming, but the Cougars have four backers – Justus Rogers being the fourth – who are capable of lining up with the ones.

– The Cougars experimented with different groupings on the offensive line today, rather than sticking with the five-man unit of Andre Dillard, Josh Watson, Fred Mauigoa, Robert Valencia and Abe Lucas. A unit consisting of Cade Beresford, Liam Ryan, Mauigoa, Valencia and Jarrett Kingston worked during the first series of the team period. Leach’s reasoning for that: “Trying to see what they can do, kind of trying to see where they’re at. Get those young guys acclimated some. Not really wholesale changes because we don’t want just a massive run through, we want to be able to get the play off.

Highlights

– Freshman outside receiver Kassidy Woods stood out during 11-on-11, hauling in a deep throw from Gordon that went about 30 yards. He was on the end of a 13-yard pass from Gordon later on in the series.

– The defensive line forced the offensive line into multiple false starts during Gordon’s period, which eventually caused O-line coach Mason Miller to pull Watson from left guard and replace him with Ryan.

– Gordon completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis, who eluded a few defenders before absorbing contact as he dove across the goal line.

– Nnamdi Oguayo sliced through a hole at the line of scrimmage to stone James Williams at the point of contact.

– Thomas made an athletic play near the end of the series, diving to break up an end zone throw from Gordon.

– After watching his pocket break down, Gordon rolled out to his left and waited for something to develop in the end zone before finessing a 6-yard pass to Tay Martin while on the run.

– Midway through Gardner Minshew’s series, Oguayo broke free to “sack” the QB before he could get a pass off. Oguayo then boomed “You can’t stop me!”

– Minshew lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to Travell Harris, who got a step on his defender, brought in the throw over his left shoulder and then pranced into the end zone.

Keeping up with the QBs

Anthony Gordon: After observing from the sideline on day No. 1, Gordon’s taken skeleton period and team period reps each of the last two days, but if Leach sticks to the same rotation, the redshirt junior will be watching again on Monday. Gordon’s completion totals on Sunday were similar to those on Saturday – and that’s a good thing. He threw incomplete just three times both days, finishing 25-of-31, and still hasn’t been picked off.

Gardner Minshew: Minshew’s 11-on-11 series didn’t feel quite as smooth and fluid as Gordon’s, though it wasn’t the QB’s fault entirely. His offensive line didn’t hold up quite as well and he was tap-sacked twice. Minshew completed 8-of-12 passes and one of the incompletions came when his line failed to pick up a safety blitz from Thomas, who shot into the backfield and forced the QB to throw the ball away. Minshew showed impressive touch on the aforementioned TD to Harris and he was decisive on the final play of his series when he scrambled to the end zone for a short 2-yard touchdown.

Trey Tinsley: If the rotation holds up, it’ll be Tinsley and Minshew running the skeleton and team periods on day No. 4.

Cammon Cooper: See Saturday’s update.

Quotable

“He’s kind of a crazy Luke Falk I think. He’s always wearing jorts and camo pants. He’s been wearing camo pants the last three days with his aviator shades on. He’s real fun back there and he gets us going on a tempo.” – Right guard Robert Valencia on Minshew.

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