AP NEWS

Defense excels during WSU underclassmen scrimmage

October 7, 2016 GMT

PULLMAN – Since Washington State is about to play its fifth football game, and thanks to a few big wins allowing the Cougars coaches to get backups on the field, which freshmen will play this season and which ones will redshirt is relatively set.

Defensive lineman Derek Moore, wide receivers Dezmon Patmon and Isaiah Johnson-Mack, center Frederick Mauigoa, and defensive backs Jalen Thompson and Marcus Strong have all played just months after graduating from high school. The rest of the teenagers will probably not play this year, saving a season of eligibility in the process.

Those players, and the rest of the players outside of the two-deeps, still have chances to play full-contact football every week during the team’s Thursday Night Football scrimmages. And the players who are starting to separate themselves in those situations are setting themselves up well to compete for key roles next season.

”I think the guys are getting more comfortable in the defense, the young guys who don’t get a lot of reps,” inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson said. “If they embraced it like they do tonight they can make a lot of improvement. We start to see the guys we’re going to work with in spring football.”

D’Jimon Jones, for example, has drawn praise from the coaches for athletic plays made in the secondary. Inside linebacker Jahad Woods has a nose for the football and can routinely be seen at the point of attack when a run play gets stuffed, while Hunter Mattox kept constant pressure on the quarterback.

Sophomore Hunter Dale had the play of the day, a 102-yard interception returned for a score.

The young defensive players are ahead of their offensive counterparts, for the time being, holding the offense without a touchdown during this week’s scrimmage. But offensive lineman Noah Osur-Myers has played well wide receiver Grant Porter has shown big-play ability, good hands and mature route-running ability.