Cougars work on hurry-up defense

THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (SPOKANE)August 22, 2013 

PULLMAN – All that sprinting Washington State's defense is doing between plays at practice this week is intended to serve a purpose greater than simply preparing for an Aug. 31 game at Auburn.

There's a lot of different offenses that we're going to see," said linebackers coach Ken Wilson. "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's coach, Gus Malzahn, declared at SEC Media Days that he wants his team to play "faster than anybody in college football," this up-tempo preparation by WSU's defense will most certainly be applied in its season opener.

The Cougars' defensive sessions against the scout-team offense the past two days can best be described as frantic. Personnel changes frequently, with players sprinting to and from the sidelines in between every play during certain periods. Some of the scout-team drives last between 12 and 15 plays to help the defense develop the necessary endurance to stay on the field that long.

And freshman safety Isaac Dotson, who played quarterback in high school, has been running 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 are 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 both want to move as quickly as possible, and even Washington has spent its camp this season implementing a hurry-up offense.

Defensive line coach Joe Salave'a said his group is still "nipping at it" when it comes to perfecting their 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."

When fourth-year junior safety Mitchell Peterson attended his first classes on Monday, he did so for the first time as a scholarship football player.

Coach Mike Leach informed Peterson of the news on 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 equally strong performance in academics.

Leach said Peterson, who came 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 is a third-string safety, but will likely contribute on special teams.

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