PULLMAN – Suited up in helmets and shorts, Washington State football wasted no time hitting the practice field at 2 p.m. sharp Friday night.
The 2019 Fall campaign begun on the turf of Rogers Field where each position broke into specific drills with their respective coaches. But no more than 30 minutes in, Head Coach Mike Leach and the offensive unit crossed over into Martin Stadium for a series drills pitting gunslingers Gage Gubrud and Trey Tinsley against one another.
Redshirt senior Anthony Gordon was working with Tinsley and Gubrud during skeleton drills, while redshirt freshman Cammon Cooper, freshman Gunnar Cruz, and freshman Aaron Angelos rotated a separate skeleton drill on the opposing end of the field with second-team receivers. John Bledsoe was absent from practice.
Gordon is in the running for the starting job; however, Leach plans to split first-team reps between just two quarterbacks a day always leaving one as the odd man out. As he rotates through the three, the picture – in theory – will become increasingly clear with time.
Trey Tinsley put on a clinic completing his first six attempts highlighted by an explosive connection with wideout Tay Martin down the near sideline. Tinsley did prove himself mortal forcing an interception between the hashes – presumably due to halfback Max Borghi’s loss of footing – right into defensive back Shahman Moore’s lap. Tinsley ended his series with a trio of touchdown calls – two fades and a cross from five yards out – ending his completion tally at 11-14.
“After it’s all kind of done, you just take a breath and try to pick certain plays out,” Tinsley said. “I thought I tried to force a couple balls that were too tight. I got to watch the film and get better from it.”
Like the preceding man, Gubrud gave away possession toward the end of his reps. Despite freshman linebacker Travion Brown carding an endzone interception, Gubrud focused up completing 9-12 attempts. The graduate transfer did appear hesitant to throw downfield finding comfort in multiple screens and out routes contributing to eight of his completions. His final pass was a five-yard strike to Brandon Arconado in the east endzone.
Both quarterbacks worked an equal share of 7-on-7 reps through multiple series.
Tinsley narrowly edged out Gubrud in the first session ending at a 13-14 clip with the only blemish being a dropped wheel rout via Travell Harris. Gubrud’s 11-14 mark was faulted by an underthrown out route, a bad snap, and a dropped pass by freshman Texas native Donovan Ollie.
Leach told the media his receivers dropped more passes than he would have liked to see.
The defensive backs shined bright the second time around. Safety-turned-nickelback Skyler Thomas deflected a back-shoulder fade moments before cornerback Daniel Isom recorded a pass breakup. Later in Gubrud’s reps, freshman and sophomore corners Armani Archie and Derrick Langford proved their worth breaking up potential gains on quick routes.
The highlight reel saw no shortage of content.
Renard Bell pulled down a one-handed grab in stride to the end zone after Tinsley sailed one high between the hashes on a post route. Easop Winston Jr. carded a gem of his own the next series winning a hand-fight over redshirt freshman Halid Djibril on a go-route pitch from Gubrud.
Closing out Tinsley’s 11-on-11 series, Bell and Calvin Jackson Jr. scored on back-to-back five-yard corner fades to opposite pylons. Jackson Jr.’s toe-drag catch was a carbon copy of River Cracraft’s heyday.
Notably, Leach cited Calvin Jackson Jr. as the frontrunning candidate over Tay Martin for the starting “X” receiver position when talking with the media.
Many questions linger about the state of WSU’s backfield in response to James Williams premature departure to the NFL. Outside sophomore workhorse Max Borghi, several candidates stand in.
Deon McIntosh, formerly with Notre Dame before a JuCo stint, presumably headlines the group for obvious reasons. The six-foot redshirt junior saw one live snap, a delayed handoff, in an 11-on-11 series.
At his coattails look no further than freshman Jouvensly Bazil. His first step is quicker than a hiccup and flashes deceptive lateral movement. At five-foot-ten and 180 pounds, he may be best described as shifty.
Redshirt sophomore Cole Dubots and local freshman Braden Potter round out the group with help from Clay Markoff. Earning a good amount of snaps, Markoff appears to be emerging into a short-yardage back role.
Running backs coach Eric Mele will be available later in the week for comment and clarification as Markoff has been traditionally used for punt protection in years past.
General House Keeping
Offensive lineman Liam Ryan has moved from left guard to left tackle past spring and into this fall. Leach said the difficulty of adjustment is mitigated significantly due to not crossing over to the other half of the line.
Ryan says the offensive line has been meshing as a cohesive unit since spring practice. The squad allowed one sack through 26 cumulative drop backs durring 11-on-11.
“We try to give the quarterback as much time as we can and pick up the first five however it comes,” Ryan said.
Skyler Thomas felt confident when speaking with the media about the state of the defensive secondary. He admitted it will be tough out there with the departure of Jalen Thompson to the NFL Supplemental Draft, but explained the roster has stepped up by committee – the defense has no lack of vocal leadership in short.
Receiver Jamire Calvin is still in a boot and absent from action. However, another personnel surprise plays out more favorably for the other side of the ball with the addition of Federal Way product Trey Davis from USC.
The freshman defensive back spent this past spring with the USC Trojans.
Theo Lawson at the Spokesman-Review has a great piece on the former three-star recruit.
(Top photo: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)