WSU SPRING DAY 13: Young backs gain exposure

GERARD WICKS

PULLMAN — It seems a given that Washington State's defensive MVP during Thursday's spring practice would, well, play defense. But the Cougars' best player on that side of the ball may have been Kristoff Williams. The normally sure-handed senior wide receiver was the center of the two defensive turnovers on what was the final practice before the Crimson and Gray game Saturday.

On both plays, Williams reached out to grab the pass but ended up tipping the ball into the hands of the defender. The first miscue came on a throw from Connor Halliday in 7-on-7s that, after ricocheting off the hands of Williams, floated directly to safety Beau Glover.

The defense again put a blemish in Halliday's passing stats in the team period, when junior safety Taylor Taliulu picked off the senior quarterback after the ball was redirected by Williams.

"They had some good plays out there," Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. "Taylor Taliulu had a nice pick."

Halliday and the offense would eventually get their revenge, though. On the ensuing play in 7-on-7s, he rifled a pass to WR Vince Mayle, who bobbled the pass momentarily before snagging it out of the sky and heading into the end zone for a score.

Three plays later, the defense countered with another big play of its own, as freshman cornerback Marcellus Pippins swatted a pass away from Dom Williams just before the junior receiver could haul it in for a touchdown.

"Marcellus Pippins stepped up a little bit today," said Breske.

Halliday completed 15 of his 20 passes in the 7-on-7 drill with one touchdown and an interception. He was 11 of 17 in the team period with touchdown lobs to running Theron West and sophomore receiver River Cracraft in addition to the one turnover.

INSTEAD OF THE normal 1s and 2s, players on each side of the ball were divided up based on which team they would be playing on in the game Saturday.

Luke Falk took the snaps with the Gray team and was 7 of 12 in the team period with one touchdown and no interceptions. His score came on the final play of the drill when Kristoff Williams beat cornerback Sebastian LaRue in the back of the end zone. Falk also was "sacked" once by Destiny Vaeao in the period.

Falk had his most efficient 7-on-7 drill this spring, going 16 of 20, but failed to find the end zone in the period.

"We had a little lag in team period, which you don't like to see but I thought we did a good job battling through it," Falk said.

At running back, West continues to receive a majority of reps with the 1s, which running backs coach Jim Mastro said is due to the way West ended the 2013 season.

"T-West has had a great spring," Mastro said. "He had a great end of last year and our big thing was take it to the next level and he's done that."

Mastro said Marcus Mason has been battling injuries all spring, which is why the senior running back has received limited reps up to this point. "We know what he can do," Mastro added, "So him missing spring hasn't hurt us too much."

Typically splitting first-team reps with West is redshirt freshman Jamal Morrow, who Mastro said is one of the most improved men of the backfield this spring.

"Jamal has had a great spring, he's a really talented kid," Mastro said. "The thing about Jamal is he's constantly trying to get better, he's never satisfied. From the beginning of spring to the end of spring, how far he's taken his game."

Joining Morrow as most improved is Gerard Wicks. The redshirt freshman started off the spring slow, according to Mastro, but has practiced well during the last couple of weeks.

Teondray Caldwell is another back who hasn't received too many reps in spring but Mastro said he also was banged up to start spring.

"His big deal was consistency," Mastro said. "He's probably the most talented kid we got, but he's up and down — peaks and valleys. We need him to just peak all the time. He's had the best spring he's had since he's been here. He plays hard he's just gotta keep improving his game and stay healthy.

"He's so dynamic, at 200 pounds [he] can do things a guy at 170 should be doing. He shows that but he just teases us sometimes. He doesn't show it enough."



NOTABLE NOTES
  • The team practiced in only helmets on Thursday, which allowed for WRs Isiah Myers and Dom Williams to participate in more of the drills but ultimately the two sat out of the 11-on-11 period.

  • Although the prize is only pride, Falk said he made a bet with West that the Gray team would come out on top on Saturday. "He was talking, so I just decided to make the bet," Falk said.

    When the teams were split up, the Gray team got pretty jumbled aside from Falk at QB. But here's the what the Crimson team will look like:

    OFFENSE
    QB—Connor Halliday
    RB—Theron West
    X—Vince Mayle
    H—Rickey Galvin
    Y—River Cracraft
    Z—Kristoff Williams
    LT—Devonte McClain
    LG—Eduardo Middleton
    C—Sam Flor
    RG—Joe Dahl
    RT—Cole Madison

    DEFENSE
    CB—Tracy Clark and Marcellus Pippins
    S—Beau Glover and Darius Lemora
    MIKE—Jeremiah Allison
    WILL—Tana Pritchard
    BUCK—Ivan McLennan
    SAM—Cyrus Coen
    NT—Toni Pole
    T—Xavier Cooper
    E—Lyman Faoliu

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