Washington State’s first day of fall camp in pads got off to a rough start on Monday when senior receiver Gabe Marks went down with what appeared to be a leg injury.
The injury occurred during a passing drill that pitted the receivers against the defensive backs. Marks lay on the field for a few minutes, then was helped up by the trainers. With a trainer on each side of him, he hobbled off the field and up to the medical tent.
Marks did not return to practice and the severity of his injury is undetermined because WSU football coach Mike Leach’s policy is to not talk about injuries.
When asked about Marks’ condition after practice Leach said, “He’s doing perfect, 100 percent healthy and he couldn’t be happier. He’s happy as a kid with a new bike.”
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In Marks’ absence, sophomore Kaleb Fossum and freshman Isaiah Johnson split reps at Z receiver with the first team offense.
But it’s not easy to replace a receiver who hauled in 104 catches as a redshirt junior. Fossum had some short receptions, and Johnson missed on a couple of passes, including a potential touchdown at the end of the team period that went through his hands as he leaped for the catch in the back of the end zone.
“I thought they did some good things,” Leach said when asked to evaluate how Fossum and Johnson performed. “They’re still kinda polishing things out. I think Fossum sometimes is very aggressive and needs to be a little more technical, and I like that, because he’s not afraid. He doesn’t hesitate much and I think that’s a good quality he’s got.”
Mike Leach assesses the offense
Johnson joined WSU as an early enrollee freshman in the spring and benefitted from going through spring practice with the Cougars, but is still learning the offense.
“Isaiah has some very definite abilities and talents,” Leach said. “His best plays, he can be unstoppable, and other times, he’ll hesitate and it’s kind of (playing with) uncertainty (though) there’s a lot less of that than there was in the spring.
“He’s a lot better player now, and he’s getting better quickly. He’s steadily improving.”
Justus Rogers switches positions
The Cougars signed former Bellevue quarterback Justus Rogers as an athlete in February, but allowed him to play quarterback through spring ball and the first two days of fall practice.
On Monday, however, Rogers made the switch to defense, swapped in his No. 2 blue non-contact jersey for a white No. 23 jersey and started learning the nickelback position.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder looked fairly comfortable in his first day on defense. He asked senior nickelback Parker Henry a lot of questions on the sidelines, and even forced a fumble in a contact drill.
“He made a couple plays,” Leach said. “I didn’t see the film, but he looked pretty good and was pretty fired up about it.”
With enough talent at the quarterback position -- WSU has six quarterbacks at the moment -- the coaches moved Rogers to defense to try to get him on the field earlier.
“He’s athletic, so he’s got a lot of skills. He’s doing pretty good on special teams and he’s closer to the field, so he’s got a chance to maybe contribute this year. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
O-line shuffling continues
The first two days of practice saw Noah Osur-Myers and Carlos Freeman line up at center with the second team offense, but on Monday, the Cougars mixed up the offensive line combinations yet again.
This time, freshman Frederick Mauigoa (6-foot-3, 289 pounds) got some reps at center with the second team.
Right tackle Cole Madison left the field with an injury in the second half of practice. He later returned but stood on the sidelines and did not rejoin the action.
In this absence, the Cougars slotted B.J. Salmonson in at right guard and moved the usual right guard, Eduardo Middleton, over to right tackle.