ERIC OERTEL TOOK ONE BACK TO THE HOUSE
PULLMAN—The first official scrimmage of the spring at Washington State saw the offense and defense split success pretty well right down the middle in Martin Stadium on Saturday. Touchdowns were thrown, interceptions were hauled in but if you ask QB Jeff Tuel, the day belonged to the offense. Mike Leach, meanwhile, wasn't overly pleased by the Cougs' performance.
The Cougs were in full pads for the first time this spring. But they began the day on the Rogers practice field for an hour or so before heading down to Martin for the scrimmage, where about 45 plays were run.
Mike Leach began the day with an Oklahoma drill, the highlight of which was WR Kristoff Williams and DB Tyree Toomer going toe-to-toe in a physical battle, with Williams coming out on top. But that was just a warm-up.
The real excitement came when the players headed to Martin. The defense started out on fire matched up against the scout team, holding them to two yards on six plays. The first-team D saw DE Lenard Williams, NT Anthony Laurenzi and DE Xavier Cooper up front, with linebackers Travis Long (BUCK), Chester Su'a, (WIL) Darren Markle (MIK) and Eric Oertel (SAM), with Damante Horton and Daniel Simmons at cornerback and Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer at safety.
QB Cody Clements was running the scout team and the first team D gave him a day to forget. He was regularly being pressured and forced to throw balls earlier than he wanted to, and the result was some passes that sailed on him. Clements tossed an interception when Simmons picked him off on an underthrown ball. More from Simmons:
The first teamers then lined up against one another. RB Marcus Mason has several nice runs during the first drive, and TE Andrei Lintz (do we still call him a tight end?) hauled in a 7-yard pass from Jeff Tuel. But Tuel then made a costly mistake however on the next play when he tried to hit WR Marquess Wilson on the outside but was picked off by CB Tracy Clark who made a juggling pick.
“We’re improving but today I thought we were up and down,” Leach said. “There would be good efforts and someone would have the upper hand then they’d lay down. With that said we’re better than I thought we would be.”
More from Leach:
Tuel bounced back on the next drive, leading the offense to a 5-play drive that ended with a 2-yard TD throw to WR Kristoff Williams. On the day Tuel was 11-of-17 for 95 yards and Two TDs, and Two INTs -- the last pick was made by LB Eric Oertel who took a swing pass back to the house.
“I think right now he’s trying to absorb a lot of stuff,” Leach said of Tuel. “He’s picked up a lot and I think he reacts quickly. I think sometimes he over-thinks it but part of it is we have to have reps. He’s been very impressive though with the number of reps he’s had. He’s done really well and I think his leadership qualities are really good.”
Following practice Tuel said he was mostly pleased with the way the offense played, but that he and the WRs need to get on the same page and communicate better. Given the turnovers, Tuel was hesitant to say the offense got the better part of the defense on Saturday -- but he changed his mind shortly after.
“I think with the 1s on the 1s we had a couple good drives,” Tuel said. We also had a couple stupid turnovers so I would say it was a tie….But the offense won.” More from Tuel:
IF THERE WAS one primary concern for Leach following the scrimmage, it had to be the play of the WRs. The unit is stacked but Leach expressed disappointment in how they’ve blocked. Outside WR Coach Dennis Simmons has been focusing on making the players more physical during drills, but it’s an area Leach said must improve before fall camp.
“We need to block better,” Leach said. “Right now we have too many guys buying into the notion that we’re receivers and we’re not physical. I’ve never had a good receiver that wasn’t physical that wouldn’t get after it. There’s some of them who think they’re going to play whether they block or not and that’s not the case.”
ON THE PLUS side, WR Blair Bomber had a nice day. The redshirt sophomore had two receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown from QB David Gilbertson, who ran the second team with Connor Halliday still on the mend, (Halliday wasn’t at practice, and Leach said it was because he had a family matter that he needed to attend to.) Bomber has been flying all over the field this spring, and Leach has noticed.
“He’s quick and knocking a little rust off,” Leach said. “He’s a very competitive guy and I like him so far. He’ll run out there into traffic and wants the ball to come to him. He’s king of a gritty player.”
On the offensive line, walk-on Zach Johnson jumped in with the 1s at left guard in place of fellow walk-on Chas Sampson. It was Johnson’s first action running with the starters this spring, and he did a solid job in both his pass protection and run blocking.
Leach said the offensive line started out a little rugged during drills, but stepped their game up during the scrimmage portion of the day. The first-team offensive line was LT John Fullington, LG Zach Johnson, C Matt Goetz, RG Elliott Bosch and LT Dan Spitz.
Held out of drills and working on the side, MLB Darryl Monroe and RB Rickey Galvin both missed Saturday’s action with undisclosed injuries (Leach doesn’t release information on injuries). They were joined on the side by Jordan Pu’u Robinson, Brandon Golden, Adam Coerper, Max Gama, Travion Smith, Spencer Waseem, Darryl Paolo, Curtis Selz, and Joe Dahl.
Before the scrimmage started, Leach and the QBs were doing footwork drills, while the rest of the team was working on special teams.
WR Gino Simone spent his day working with the 2s, hauling in a 6-yard TD pass from Gilbertson. Simone has been moving well this spring, but Bomber has had the upper hand thus far in the slot position.
DT Justin Clayton went down midway through the scrimmage with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
DT Steven Hoffart saw some action running with the 1s and took advantage by recording the lone "sack" of the day on Tuel.
To close out the day, Mike Bowlin and Andrew Furney went 8-8 on their field goal tries from 20-yards out.
Marcus Mason 3-19
Teondray Caldwell 3-1
Leon Brooks 1-0
Jeff Tuel 1-8
Carl Winston 1-5
Jeff Tuel 11-17, 95 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
David Gilbertson 5-8, 52 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Andrei Lintz 2-20
Carl Winston 1-9
Drew Loftus 2-30
Blair Bomber 2-22, TD
Kristoff Williams 2-10, TD
Leon Brooks 2-12
Bobby Ratliff 1-9
Bennett Bontemps 2-22, TD
Teondray Caldwell 1-2
Gino Simone 2-11, TD
K. Williams two-yard pass from Tuel
Bontemps 12-yard pass from Tuel
Simone six-yard pass from Gilbertson