FALL CAMP DAY 1: Surprise emerges at BUCK LB

BRETT BARTOLONE

LEWISTON, Idaho -- Logan Mayes. Ivan McLennan. Kache Palacio. Those have been the names fans have bandied about on the CF.C message boards for starting BUCK linebacker. But when Washington State opened fall camp Friday at Sacajawea Junior High School, none of them were settled into the position.

The starting BUCK linebacker, at this point and time at least, looks to be sophomore Destiny Vaeao.

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Vaeao's name never came up in the past at the BUCK position, but after a strong spring in the trenches, Breske and staff decided to make a change.

"We went through the summer and after meeting with strength and conditioning coach (Jason) Loscalzo, we decided we wanted our top four guys up front," Breske said. "We moved Xavier Cooper to the wide side, (Gauta) will play the nose, and Toni Pole. Those are our four guys and that's who we're going to go with."

Breske added Palacio and McLennan did nothing to lose the spot and will be competing throughout camp.

AS FOR THOSE and others, they spent the day adjusting to the grass surface in Lewiston.

"Typical Leach," quipped sophomore wideout Gabe Marks after practice. "Come to a middle school … a Pac-12 team."

Indeed, the field certainly isn't ideal, but for the next 10 days it will have to do. The grassy field used for practice is chopped up, undulated and a tad untamed, but players seemed to like playing on the natural surface as opposed to their accustomed FieldTurf.

"This is cool," Marks said. "I like this. I played on grass in high school. And it's cooler when it's really hot."

Coaches agreed. The surface has its benefits.

"Our enthusiasm was there," defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "It's good because our first two games are on grass. There was an adjustment. I don't know the last time these guys were on grass."

Regardless of how beneficial the surface may end up being in the long run, a few rolled ankles may be in the offing. Players slipped and lost footing all afternoon, though in time the team should learn to run more on top of the grass rather than digging into it.

As for how the team performed, the defense won the day. Fourth-year junior Connor Halliday had a strong session and showed a lot of zip on his passes while showing a good amount of leadership in teaching the new players.

Leach said Halliday was one of the more impressive players of the day.

"I need to just keep doing what I'm doing," Halliday said. "If I keep playing the way I'm playing, I'll be great."

Helping Halliday were several candidates on the receiving corps, including one surprise.

"River Cracraft has impressed me a lot," Halliday said. "I'd say River is going to be in a place to battle for a starting position."

Some bold words from a quarterback operating an arsenal of more than 12 receivers. Cracraft was thought to be a prime candidate to redshirt, but with his performance this afternoon, the presumptions may need to be tamed a bit.

One of the other new players, junior-college transfer Vince Mayle, struggled with a few false starts and dropped balls this afternoon. His size is as advertised, and he looks like the kind of player that can make an immediate impact.

Both Marks and Halliday had rave reviews for Mayle, who admitted he has a way to go.

"It was all new," Mayle said. "Everything was new. It's fast-paced. Everybody is good. You can't underestimate anybody."

Indeed, Mayle cannot underestimate a single player on the Cougar defense as it started right where it left off from spring ball – dominating.

In the defensive backfield, it appears freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown comes in with just as much bark as he has bite. Brown talks a mean game on the field, but backs it up with sticky coverage. He already has an interception this fall after picking off second-year freshman Austin Apodaca today. Breske said he's eager to watch him develop throughout camp.

"He's a very confident young man," Breske said. "He's very fluid. It will be interesting watching film tonight."

Fall camp continues Saturday. Leach said after practice that the team looked good for day one, but as expected, he wants more from each player tomorrow.

Running with the 1s on Day 1:
OFFENSE
QB– Connor Halliday
RB– Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X, H, Y, and Z receivers– There was about 12-15 players constantly rotating at the wideout position Friday. It appears too early to tell who the frontrunners are.
LT- Gunnar Eklund
LG- Joe Dahl
C- Elliott Bosch
RG- John Fullington
RT- Rico Forbes

DEFENSE
LT- Toni Pole
NT- Ioane Gauta
RT- Xavier Cooper
BUCK- Destiny Vaeao
SAM- Cyrus Coen and Tana Pritchard
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Justin Sagote and Tana Pritchard
CB- Nolan Washington and Damante Horton
FS- Casey Locker
SS- Deone Bucannon

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Two players -- freshman offensive lineman Matt Meyer and junior linebacker Chester Su'a -- were not in attendance Friday.

  • Second-year freshman cornerback Rahmel Dockery and sophomore safety Paris Taylor both rode the bikes for the majority of the afternoon.

  • Be sure to follow CF.C on twitter -- @COUGFANcom -- as part of our wall-to-wall coverage on the Cougs' fall camp. CLICK HERE

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