Senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins welcomed a young freshman receiver to college ball in his own special way, plus some observations from WSU's first practice in pads.
LEWISTON, Idaho — Three days into fall football camp, after finally being allowed to throw on their shoulder pads, the Washington State Cougars got feisty with one another… in a good way.
Friday marked the Cougars’ first practice at Sacajawea Junior High School in Lewiston.
In the Make-or-Miss drill at the end of practice — basically, an offensive and a defensive guy go one-on-one in a straight line and try to get around one another — senior cornerback Marcellus Pippins and freshman receiver Davontavean “Tay” Martin pushed the energy level to fever pitch.
At Jim Mastro’s whistle, Martin took it to Pippins full speed and managed to get an elbow in his chest plate. But Pippins was ready. He took Martin down right as he crossed the line that signified the end zone and knocked the ball out of the freshman’s arms.
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The defense went wild, thumping Pippins on the helmet and circling around him in congratulations. But the offense protested, claiming Martin had scored before the fumble.
“Let’s go again!” the ever exuberant Pippins insisted.
In Round 2, Martin hit Pippins hard, but this time, the senior knocked the receiver aside well before the goal line.
So, was outside receivers coach Derek Sage pleased to see one of his guys at least hold his own even though he finished 0-2 against a senior cornerback?
“Hold on a second, I disagree with your out take on the deal,” Sage told the reporter who posed the question.
Then, only half-joking, Sage said, “I believe he did score on the first one. If you go watch the tape – I believe the ball crossed the plane without extending the football, and then the ball came out. So it’s all up to Pac-12 officials in the box to review that.”
Pippins was gracious when asked about his two big plays against the freshman.
“We were just getting after it, just competing,” Pippins said. “It’s good to see that he has some fire to him. We don’t want to have no one that’s soft on your team. I’m glad we got to do that today.”
Both Sage and Pippins were effusive in their praise of the 6-foot-1, 183-pound Martin.
“Tay Martin comes in from Houma LA as a true freshman, it’s just good to see young kids compete like that, we’ve kinda put them on the stage and thrown them in the fire to see if he can make plays,” Sage said. “Not only can he make plays, but he’s gone hard. He’s busted some.”
“He can jump a little bit, he’s fast,” Pippins said. “As he learns more of the offense and learns his release and things like that, he’s gonna be really good in the next few years.”
Jamire Calvin draws praise from Mike Leach
Jamire Calvin looks as good as advertised.
The freshman who came to WSU as a highly coveted four-star recruit lined up mostly at Y receiver on Friday and more than held his own against the Cougars’ experienced defensive backs. At one point, he got away from Robert Taylor and caught a beautiful long ball from Hilinski on a corner route that was good for a 20-yard gain.
On another play, Calvin gamely went head-to-head against Jalen Thompson, and even though Thompson batted the ball away as Calvin tried to catch it, the 5-foot-10, 152-pound receiver showed that he’s more physical than his small frame might imply. He jostled against Thompson, fighting for the ball, and almost came up with it on the rebound. Calvin also returned some punts on Friday.
Calvin will likely play at inside receiver this year, but WSU coach Mike Leach thinks he could potentially dabble on the outside too.
“He’s real quick, real elusive, awfully tough to match up with. A guy as fast as him, it’s tough for them to put a corner inside, and they’re not inclined to. And then, so he’s quicker than a safety or a nickel guy. And you like really good change of direction guys inside although I do think he could play outside,” Leach said.
“He came out and I would have to say he came out a little more knowledgable and a little more ready to play than I expected,” Leach said. “I thought he’d be good but I thought it would take a little more time to evolve. Which, he’s got a lot of work to do, no question, but I think he’s ahead of schedule.”
Drew Bledsoe in town
Legendary WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe stopped by the Cougars practice at Sacajawea Junior High School in Lewiston Friday to watch his son, John Bledsoe, who joined the Cougars as a walk-on this fall.
Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt sporting the logo of his Walla Walla winery, Doubleback Winery, Bledsoe watched practice and chatted with the quarterbacks, including starter Luke Falk. Afterward, he stopped briefly to chat with Leach.
More observations from Friday’s practice
— Before he tangled with Pippins, Tay Martin turned heads with an acrobatic leaping one-handed catch in 7-on-7s that showed exactly why you should recruit basketball players to play football.
— Hunter Dale is still running with the first team at nickelback, but it was Kirkland Parker, the second team nickelback, who came up with two interceptions on Friday. On the first one, Parker picked off a pass from Luke Falk meant for Renard Bell. Then, he made a diving interception on a pass thrown by backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski.
— Grant Porter, who switched from receiver to defensive back toward the end of spring practice, also picked off Falk once in 7-on-7. He make a good read on a ball and jumped in front of the receiver.
— Now a sophomore, strong safety Jalen Thompson is playing with a new confidence and has taken on a more vocal role on the defense. On the sidelines, he frequently issues pointers to some of the newer defensive backs. Thompson also had a good showing on Friday, twice denying James Williams rushing touchdowns close to the goal line in team period, and forcing a pass break up against freshman receiver Calvin. Thompson made a nice play against Kyle Sweet, pursuing the ball even after it appeared the Sweet had caught it, and forcing a fumble.