D-LINE COACH JOE SALAVE'A
PULLMAN—To say the secondary got their hands on the ball on the first day of spring would be an understatement . Turnovers were a continuing theme, and bodies were flying all over the place in pursuit of any and all airborne objects. Meanwhile over at linebacker, there were plenty of new bodies lined up ready to give it a shot.
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The more the yelling and screaming from offensive coaches as a result of bad routes or passes, the louder the defensive player celebrations became. During 11-on-11 drills, the defense picked off Cougar QBs three times with Connor Halliday victimized twice, and David Gilbertson once.
During 7-on-7 drills, the swatted balls and interceptions continued. CB Brandon Golden had two great leaping picks (one off Jeff Tuel, one off Gilbertson). In total, the Cougars secondary had at least seven interceptions on the afternoon.
“It was hectic but with a lot of great enthusiasm,” defensive coordinator and secondary coach Mike Breske said. “We had kids bouncing around and coaches bouncing around -- and for a first day it wasn’t perfect but we had a lot of takeaways and a lot of batted balls. We took baby steps today and we’ll see where we are on Saturday.”
AMONG THOSE WHO enjoyed a great first day was safety Deone Bucannon. The junior had plenty of passes defensed and intercepted Halliday late in practice when he made a great read and flew to the ball.
Bucannon told CF.C after practice that the biggest change from last season is the tempo, and he is greatly enjoying the fast paced style that Breske employs.
“In my opinion it’s a lot better,” Bucannon said. “The quarterback doesn’t even know we’re there until it’s too late. It worked perfectly out there and we had at least seven or eight picks.”
Something else Bucannon said he enjoyed was the tone set out by the defensive coaches. Bucannon said he and the rest of the players know that once the whistle blows to start practice, they better get in gear.
“There’s no joking around,” Bucannon said. “You go out there and you get to work. That’s what he (Breske) expects and that’s what we’re going to do.”
JOINING BUCANNON AS the other starting safety was Tyree Toomer, and he also enjoyed a nice practice. Toomer intercepted Tuel during 7-on-7s when the senior QB tried to find WR Gino Simone in traffic.
Running with the 2s at safety included Casey Locker, Anthony Carpenter and Kyle McCartney.
AT LINEBACKER, there was so much mixing and matching going on it felt like musical chairs.
The LBs saw four new additions to the unit with Jared Byers (formerly a fullback), Eric Oertel (RB), Corey Laufasa (FB) and Max Gama (Safety) switching over to Jeff Choate’s group.
Explaining the change, Leach said the the Cougars are deep at the RB position and he wants to find a way for the quartet to see the field and contribute.
All four spent their day either working with the scout team or the 2s and showed some rustiness in switching to their new positions. It was something Breske expected on the first day from all of the linebackers.
“My biggest concern was just lining up correct but I thought for the most part we played fast,” Breske said. “We did have some misalignments but we looked good out there.”
THE LINEBACKER STARTERS were Tana Pritchard (WIL), Darren Markle (MLB), and Chester Sua (SAM). In Breske’s 3-4 defense, and as detailed in earlier articles here and here on CF.C, there also exists the BUCK linebacker and Travis Long, Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, and Logan Mayes were among those lined up at the position on the first day.
All four looked looked sharp in their efforts, especially Long who looked like a natural when backpedaling into coverage.
ON THE D-LINE, the starters during the 11-on-11 drills were DEs Adam Coerper and Xavier Cooper, with Anthony Laurenzi plugged in the middle at nose tackle. Kalafitoni Pole, who spent most of the day with the 2s, also saw some time at NT running with the 1s. The Cougs aren't going full contact but Pole did a nice job getting through the middle and providing a little pressure at times.
Joining Pole on the second team defensive line for the most part were DEs Pu'u-Robinson and Justin Clayton.