LEWISTON, Idaho – Day 2 of the Cougs fall camp saw tempers flare -- and even more defense than on Day 1. Young players impressed coaches and spectators, one freshman is already shooting up the depth chart and making an early push to start and one QB outshined the other. Meanwhile, there's a whole lot of defensive swagger going on and Xavier Cooper was leading the verbal charge on Saturday.
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Cornerback Daquawn Brown is a true freshman, but he may be a revelation at the cornerback position for the Cougs if the early going in Lewiston is any indication.
Firmly entrenched in a position battle in which the proverbial door is as wide open as can be, Brown has clearly made a favorable early impression on the Cougar coaches.
It only took one day for Brown to supplant fourth-year junior Tracy Clark on the depth chart Saturday as he ran with the second team alongside Anthony Carpenter. Brown was a scout team player yesterday on the first day of fall camp.
Brown on Saturday showed both strong production and aggressive play. Intercepting his second and third passes of the fall camp, Brown now leads the team in INTs after two days.
On top of that, he was also responsible for the first scrum of the year, getting into it with junior wideout Bobby Ratliff. It wasn’t necessarily his fault though, Brown’s ultra-aggressive play style will make him the antagonist in just about any one-on-one matchup.
The bravado should be a welcome sight to Coug fans after years of lackluster cornerback performance.
BUT IT WASN’T just Brown on Day 2, the defense as a whole has stepped up its game these first two days – although to put things in the proper context -- it’s early, today again saw the Cougs in helmets and shorts, shoulder pads won’t come on until tomorrow and full contact won’t take place until Day 5.
Still, these Cougars are feelin’ it on D.
When asked whether or not he expects the Cougs to win more games this season, third-year sophomore defensive end Cooper took it a step further.
“Fans ask, ‘are we going bowling?’ Yes we’re going bowling. Fans hear that all the time. Right now, we’re making it known we’re making it happen. Since I’ve been here I’ve never seen a group of guys more set on taking a team to that level,” said the 6-4, 303-pounder.
Cooper also opined on his rather large expectations for the front four (when including the BUCK) this season.
“This is not only the biggest front four in the Pac-12, it might be the biggest in the history of the Pac-12,” Cooper said. “I think we’re going to dominate. You don’t see lines this big in the NFL.”
Indeed, the current starting front four averages 297 pounds. Senior Ioane Gauta is 285 pounds at the nose, fourth-year junior Toni Pole (302) lines up at the left defensive end, sophomore BUCK linebacker Destiny Vaeao checks in at 290 and the aforementioned Cooper is 303 pounds coming off the right edge.
OVER ON OFFENSE, fourth-year junior QB Connor Halliday’s performance was head and shoulders above second-year freshman Austin Apodaca on Saturday.
It’s a small sample size, just two days in, but Halliday has shown poise and better reads this fall and he got the lion’s share of the reps on Day 2.
On the outside, Halliday’s favorite target continues to be sophomore Gabe Marks, who is showing why he is considered by many to be a virtual lock at the “Z” receiver.
And he’s got the early attention of his head coach.
“He wants virtually every ball,” said Mike Leach. “I can’t quite figure out why we throw it to anybody else but him.
“Sometimes practices drag on and somebody gets tired and doesn’t want the ball anymore. Gabe always wants the ball. As many balls as we gave Gabe, which is a lot, he thinks we should have given them all still.”
BUT MARKS IS only one piece of an extremely talented receiving corps, one that may very well end up breaking some program records in 2013 -- provided the o-line also does their part.
“As a group, everybody is out there battling trying to outduel each other,” Leach said of his wideouts.
Leach proceeded to list upwards of 10 Cougs that have impressed at the wideout position the first two days of camp. It will be interesting to see how the Cougs and Leach work to get everybody touches this season.
MEANWHILE, ON SPECIAL TEAMS, senior punter Mike Bowlin may have had his greatest practice since he joined the WSU program last year.
Bowlin was consistently bombing punts all afternoon. Saturday was a pretty good indicator of why he’s on the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list.
Running with the 1s on Day 2:
QB – Connor Halliday
RB – Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason
X, H, Y, and Z receivers – There was about 12-15 wideouts constantly rotating at the wideout position Saturday. It appears too early to tell who the frontrunners are, save for Marks.
LT- Gunnar Eklund
LG- Joe Dahl
C- Elliott Bosch
RG- John Fullington
RT- Rico Forbes
DE- Toni Pole
NT- Ioane Gauta
DE- Xavier Cooper
BUCK- Destiny Vaeao
SAM- Tana Pritchard and Cyrus Coen
MIKE- Darryl Monroe
WILL- Tana Pritchard with slightly more run than Justin Sagote
CB- Nolan Washington
CB - Damante Horton
FS- Casey Locker
SS- Deone Bucannon
Pritchard had a nice pick on the day – Pole burst through and got a “sack” on Apodaca but the play was allowed to continue and the third-year sophomore ‘backer snagged it.
Two players – freshman offensive lineman Matt Meyer and junior linebacker Chester Sua were again not in attendance on Saturday. Leach did not comment on either.
Legendary Cougar QB Jack Thompson was in attendance on Saturday.
3-star cornerback prospect Sulaiman Hameed out of Alameda, Calif. took in practice along with two teammates.
On the bikes this afternoon:
o Sophomore safety Paris Taylor
o Second-year freshman CB Rahmel Dockery
o Third-year sophomore WR Tyler Baker
o Freshman safety Darius Lemora (foot)
o None of the injuries appeared to be serious