On a brighter note, the first team offensive line has pretty much pulled away from the pack and has "done some good things," Mike Leach says.
LEWISTON, Idaho — After publicly declaring his dissatisfaction with the second team offensive line on Monday, Washington State coach Mike Leach experimented with a different configuration Tuesday, getting some young offensive linemen second team reps in offensive line drills.
“We’re taking a look at (Keenen) King and (Nilson) Gaisoa and seeing if they can get in the mix with the twos,” Leach said Tuesday afternoon after WSU’s practice at Sacajawea Junior High School.
Gaisoa is a 6-foot-5, 318-pound redshirt freshman from Waimanalo, Hawaii, while King hails from Las Vegas, and stands at 6-foot-4, 303 pounds. WSU experimented with Gaisoa at left tackle on Tuesday, but both players shuffled between guard and tackle spots.
However, in team period and 11-on-11s, the Cougars stuck with the second team offensive line that earned Leach’s ire the day before: Liam Ryan at left tackle, Cedric Bigge-Duren at left guard, Noah Osur-Myers at center, Robert Valencia at right guard and Josh Watson at right tackle.
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That’s largely because those five are most familiar with the playbook at this point, Leach said.
“We’re hoping everybody is elevating so it’s constantly competitive, but a portion of it is, so a guy can do something one-on-one, but as far as the continuity of knowing the play and all that, there’s a learning curve with a couple of those guys too,” Leach said. “So we go out there in team (period), and even though I want to get those guys out there and I want to rep them, the others just know the plays a little bit better.
“So we’re gonna try to elevate them and move some people around.”
The Cougars also had starting linemen Andre Dillard and Cody O’Connell take some second team reps at left tackle just to switch things up.
“They’d have to fill in there potentially or move somewhere if somebody went down,”
The good news is that the first team offensive line of Dillard, O’Connell, Fred Mauigoa, B.J. Salmonson and Cole Madison seems to be gelling as a unit.
“They do some good things, and if we continue to improve, we can be good,” Leach said. “But we definitely have a lot of improvement to make.”
Other notes and observations:
– Offensively, Tavares Martin Jr. had an inspired day. In team period, he caught a swing pass from Luke Falk and straight-lined it all the way to the end zone on an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Earlier in the day, he burned freshman cornerback George Hicks III on back-to-back plays, pulling in a 30-yard touchdown, then coming back and doing it again for a 20-yard score.
— The defense is starting to get more familiar with the offensive plays in 1-on-1s, which proved more challenging for WSU’s receivers on Tuesday. Kirkland Parker picked off a pass from Tyler Hilinski meant for freshman receiver Jamire Calvin, and he and nickelback Dymund Richardson also denied Calvin on two more plays early in 1-on-1s. Richardson, in particular, made a great second effort play to knock the ball out of Calvin’s hands after the receiver thought he’d secured it. But Calvin fought back, and finished that period with a touchdown against Richardson.
— Cornerback Marcellus Pippins, who has been limited in practice this week, got more work Tuesday and was able to participate in 7-on-7s even though he did not play in 11-on-11 or in the team period.
— Defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo and rush linebacker Dylan Hanser were limited in practice. So Derek Moore continued to rep with the first team defensive line, while Frankie Luvu and Chima Onyeukwu split reps at rush linebackers.
–Senior slot receiver Robert Lewis missed practice again, presumably due to the same illness that has kept him out in three of the last four days. Lewis last practiced Sunday, but did not participate Saturday due to what Leach said was an illness.
– Onyeukwu had a really good practice, sacking backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski twice in the 11-on-11 period.
– Defensive lineman Kingston Fernandez also sacked Falk once during the team period.
– Among the running backs, James Williams stood out Tuesday. He broke a 20-yard run during team period, spinning his way past the defense and into open field. Williams also took a shovel pass from Falk about 20 yards up the field.
– To start off practice, the coaches pitted the two freshman quarterbacks, Connor Neville and John Bledsoe, against one another in the one-on-one Bull in the Ring drill. Bledsoe won.