PULLMAN — All that sprinting Washington State’s defense has done between plays at practice this week is intended to serve a purpose greater than simply preparing for the Aug. 31 season opener at Auburn.
“There’s a lot of different offenses that we’re going to see,” linebackers coach Ken Wilson said. “We’re not just preparing these guys for Auburn. That’s our first test, but we’re getting them in shape for a whole football season here.”
That’s true. But since Auburn coach Gus Malzahn declared at Southeastern Conference media days that he wants his team to play “faster than anybody in college football,” WSU’s defense most certainly will apply its up-tempo preparation in the opener.
The Cougars’ defensive sessions against the scout-team offense earlier this week could best be described as frantic. Personnel frequently changed, with players sprinting to and from the sideline between every play during certain periods. Some of the scout-team drives lasted between 12 and 15 plays to help the defense develop the necessary endurance to stay on the field that long.
Freshman safety Isaac Dotson, who played quarterback at Newport High School in Bellevue, ran the scout team in an attempt to simulate the mobility of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
“I think you work on it all the way up to the last few days, and you worry about it the whole time,” Wilson said. “We’re doing everything that anybody’s thought of. We’re doing everything we can do at this point just to keep them in shape and ready to go, and trying to get depth so we can see every team that we play this year.”
The Tigers will be the first no-huddle, hurry-up team the Cougars will see this season, but they certainly won’t be the last.
Oregon’s penchant for pace is well-known. Arizona and Arizona State want to move as quickly as possible, and even Washington has spent its camp this season implementing a hurry-up offense.
WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said his group is still “nipping at it” when it comes to perfecting its hurry-up defense.
But Auburn won’t just move its offense fast. The Tigers also boast Marshall, whose playmaking abilities extend beyond his arm. The junior is considered particularly dangerous because of his ability to run.
For that reason, Salave’a said, “You can’t be out of control. You’ve got to be at your landmarks. You can’t give them any kind of creases for those guys to affect the outcome of that play. That’s where we’re at right now — just having a little bit of Football-101 knowledge about our landmarks and where we need to be. We do that, I think we have a chance.”
PETERSON REWARDED WITH SCHOLARSHIP
When fourth-year junior safety Mitchell Peterson attended his first classes Monday, he did so for the first time as a scholarship football player.
Coach Mike Leach gave Peterson the news Monday. Peterson, whose father, Mike, played receiver at WSU in the early 1980s, has earned the favor of the coaching staff through hustle and hard work on the practice field and his equally strong academic performance.
Leach said Peterson, who went to WSU on a baseball scholarship, is “just kind of the type of guy that as far as how he operates and conducts his business, (he’s a) pretty good example to the whole team.”
Peterson, from Spokane, is a third-string safety who will likely contribute on special teams.