The WSU defenders stole the limelight on day two of pre-season camp – the defensive back in particular. Cougar players were often forced to throw in tight coverage. The 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods were marked by a lot of pass deviations—about 12 out of about 60 attempted passes—and two interceptions.
The first hour and a half of training was devoted to individual exercises and mental training. WSU is early in the process of installing its new air offensive. “We want to lay the groundwork and the foundation,” Deckert said. The first Cougars’ attack slowed their pace, focusing on formations and basic layouts during a long period of strolling.
Deckert was impressed by the growth of quarterback Cameron Ward as an Air Raid captain. When asked about the sophomore’s development, Deckert said, “It’s the first thing I talked to him about – his behavior and his leadership. And I hear him the most. … He says things he never said in the spring. That growth is really important to him, and really important to his future, Because he is the biggest decision maker in this football team. We trust him to go out there and make the right calls.”
Ward completed nearly 16 of 23 passes through 11 on 11 and 7 on 7. He did some of his best out-of-pocket work, shooting accurate passes while sprinting. The Cougars seem to have focused on their fast game and sprinting options.
Veteran receiver Raynard Bell gave his assessment of WSU’s new QB, comparing Ward’s passing abilities to those of the connecting NFL signal star: “Cam would be really good. Cam would be really nice. He has an arm. He can make Patrick Mahomes throw and things like that.” …once he gets used to (Pac-12 speed), he is encapsulated from there.”
Seven-year-old Bale missed the 2021 season with an ACL injury. Feeling a deep sense of “happiness and joy,” he cried as he entered the locker room on Wednesday before WSU camp opened in the fall. Bell reconnected with an old friend at Rogers Field, too. Former WSU quarterback Luke Falk set a record fall camp attendance. Bell got started on the Cougars as a freshman in 2017 – Falk’s final season at Washington State University. “Wow, I still can’t believe it,” Bell said. “I’m getting older, but I have a lot of wisdom to return the favor.”
Deckert said WSU’s newbies in offensive skill positions have been somewhat leveled, but the Cougars are still trying to tease the “top five” up front. Looks like the left guard is ready to catch him. Freshmen Brooke Dew and Christian Heilborn get the bulk of the cast in the position, with sophomore Roderick Tilavia taking turns.
The Cougars are looking for a more reliable cornerback to replace senior Caleb Ford-Dimment, who will miss the year after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. Deckert said Armony Archie’s spare nickel is “very versatile,” and can be converted to CB if needed. Coach Gavan Robinson, a real freshman from Florida, was also mentioned as a potential candidate for a backup role on CB. Deckert said it was uncertain whether Ford-Dement would seek a red medical shirt.
The Lincoln Victor slotback started in a yellow no contact shirt and participated sparingly in practice on Thursday. The day before, the youngster from West Camas, Washington, had spent most of the training in light training after sustaining an apparently minor injury. Ron Stone Jr. was sidelined with a rimmed edge for the second day in a row, and nickel great Armani Marsh workouts were also halted.
Deckert did not go into detail when asked about these three players. Earlier this week, he said some of the more experienced WSU players will be on “court hits” — limited reps to reduce workloads — early in camp.
“They’re still coming back on it, and we just want to make sure there are no setbacks,” he said Thursday. “At this time of year, we can’t have any setbacks. So they are doing well. These guys have played a lot of football, and they will keep working again as we continue to progress.”
Outdoor backup receiver CJ Moore wore street clothes and practiced spectators. Moore sustained an unspecified lower body injury on Wednesday. Slotback Robert Ferrell, a major transfer from Incarnate Word, has been sidelined with a toe injury.
Cougars Preview Communication Drills
Linebacker Daiyan Henley spoke at length about WSU’s cohesive culture.
“All he (Deckert) talks about is being a family, being a unit — the Cogs are winning all the time,” said Henley, a Nevada transfer senior and WSU star in the making. “We compete, but in the end, the Cougs won.”
After Henley wrapped up his friendly thoughts, a reporter mentioned that the Cougar’s defense appears to have an advantage over its offensive counterparts in Thursday’s training.
“I know this might go against what I just said about ‘the Cogs always win,'” Henley said with a smile as Bell listened to the interview, ‘But when don’t we have the advantage? I mean, you might talk to Raynard Bell, and he might say he hit a pass…but it’s always about defense.
“We’re like little brother, step-son. It’s about being the ‘dark side’. That’s how we think of ourselves sometimes. We go out and spoil people’s days, because who wants to see the defense stop their attack from scoring?”
WSU straps on the shoulder pads on Friday morning. Henley is looking forward to it.
“Violent fun, friendly,” he said. “That’s how I feel. I hit people and it’s legal – usually – without yellow flags.”
Bale got his chance to answer the claim – that WSU’s defense has an advantage over the team’s offensive. He is eager to prove Henley wrong.
“We’re cheering,” Bell said. “I hope they go (cover) tomorrow. Press everyone. I pray they do, because it’s a cover. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing – landing. It’s just what it is. Go attack. But in the end, the Cogs won.”
Deckert expects internal exercises to test the durability of the air raid attack in the land and pound game.
“I’m an old defensive man,” he said, “and that’s in my blood.” “Once you put the pads on…everything will go up, the power will go up.”
“With (Mike) Leach, we threw about 100% of the time. With this air raid, I know for sure we’re going to run the ball a lot more. We have a tight end package. … It’s going to help us a lot, especially in a running game. That’s the main thing. – The running game. I think it’s going to be more than 60/40 pass/run, but whatever the performance of this game is, that’s what we’re going for.” — WSU Year Seven recipient Raynard Bell, asked to compare the new Cougars air raid offense to the Air Raid system used by former coach Mike Leach.