After 3 days of drills, Rolo likes what he sees

Then-Michigan State cornerback Chris Jackson, right, pulls Michigan receiver Giles Jackson out of bounds during a 2020 game. Jackson, who transferred to WSU earlier this year, has been commended by Cougar coach Nick Rolovich.

In recent years, Washington State has tended to schedule spring football practices for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The other days, the Cougars rested.

They’ll indeed settle into that rhythm this week. But the first spring under Nick Rolovich opened with three consecutive workouts. And he likes how they went.

“Three days in a row without rest can get to guys,” the coach said in a Zoom news conference Saturday after the longest of the practices. “The energy is going to die at some point, and that’s when we’ve got to dig deep. But today didn’t seem to be that day.”

Rolovich wasn’t as effusive in his praise as he’d been after Day 1, but he noted a Day 3 emphasis on installing a chunk of his run-and-shoot offensive schemes — which means the defense had plenty of opportunities to thrive. That may have colored his impressions, the offense-minded coach admitted.

“I thought the defense had a real complete day,” he said. “There were flashes offensively. The defense, they’ve got a real nice bond going, and they’re pretty accountable to each other, which is helping them be successful.

“It’s important to them. I would say it’s important to a higher percentage of this football team right now than it has been since I’ve been here.”

Asked to name under-the-radar players who’ve shined so far, Rolovich mentioned Chris Jackson, a junior cornerback from Georgia who transferred from Michigan State this year and “has been a good get for us. He seems to love football, has familiarity with the scheme.

“I like his approach to practice — that’s in conjunction with how J-Rich gets his guys ready,” he said of cornerbacks coach John Richardson. “He fits in real well.”

Rolo also singled out junior defensive back Halid Djibril, who “has had the best three practices since we’ve been here. People probably know him from some of the special teams things in years past. I think he’s probably hungry for a little more.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, these are the Cougs’ first spring drills since Rolovich was hired 14 months ago. When preseason workouts finally were allowed, they were significantly condensed. So the Cougs think they put out an incomplete product during a 1-3 season that included three virus-related cancellations.

Before the start of spring drills, Rolovich spoke of flaws in the Cougars’ mindset during their three losses, which were by 14, 25 and 17 points.

“We know we need to get better on all three sides of the ball,” he said, “but at this point right now we are a 1-3 football team that had elements of selfishness and, when things got out of hand, we didn’t want to fight back. I’ve said to them, that is something we need to shed to win more football games.

“When things are good, it’s always easy to be a front-runner, but when things are hard, are we going to hang together and inspire each other to do better and just keep fighting? That’s my biggest question mark as we enter into spring.”

After the first day of drills, though, his comments were consistently positive.

“This team, the way they approached practice was pretty incredible,” he said. “Much higher energy level than we had before.”

Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

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