LEWISTON — Recruiting junior-college football players is a famously hazardous business — for coaches and athletes alike — but everyone at Washington State these days seems pleased by the Cougars’ JC influx from the early signing period in December.
Coaches acquired four players from two-year schools during that time. All were defensive backs. All enrolled in January and got acclimated to Pullman. And all of them have displayed at least flashes of promise during preseason camp in recent days at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston.
In fact, three of them — junior safeties Bryce Beekman and Daniel Isom and intriguing 6-foot-3 sophomore cornerback Derrick Langford — are playing prominent roles. They’re going a long way toward easing the worries aroused by the loss of two regular DB contributors to graduation and another this summer to NCAA violations. Also in the mix from the JC ranks is sophomore safety Shahman Moore.
“Coming from JC, all four of us picked this school for a reason,” Beekman said Sunday, no doubt alluding in part to the possibility of immediate playing time. “I feel we’ve made the most of our opportunity.”
Defenders continued to punish quarterbacks and receivers for minor lapses in timing Monday, as the Cougars staged another competitive afternoon practice in approximately 100-degree weather, their third workout at Sac and their fourth overall of camp.
Trey Tinsley and Gage Gubrud were the featured quarterbacks of the day, and both enjoyed bright moments, especially in improvised and occasionally deep passing routes. But the DBs’ aggressive pass breakups on short routes, some of them via strips after seeming receptions, have been a repeated trope of camp.
On one play during Monday’s team period, Tinsley completed a screen pass to Brandon Gray, who was gang-tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
“Party in the backfield — the whole defense is invited,” rush specialist Ron Stone Jr. yelled.
The newbies from juco land can take some credit for this charged atmosphere on defense.
Beekman, a 6-2 Louisianan coming from Arizona Western College, was careful not to depict the transfers as a band of outsiders, as opposed to a vital segment of a tight secondary unit.
“But I feel like, coming from JC, you can tell we’re kind of different,” he said.
Someone asked if the Netflix series “Last Chance U,” focusing on East Mississippi Community College, is an accurate depiction of life in JC football. Yes, he said, for the most part. In other words, it’s a hardscrabble life players view as critical in their journey.
“Without juco, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now” Beekman said.
NO INTERVIEWS — Journalists and school publicists were surprised to learn after practice coach Mike Leach canceled interviews with players and coaches for the day because of the team’s annual swimming excursion at Orchards Pool.
The move was thought to be unrelated to the practice’s fractious conclusion.
After the umpteenth defensive pass breakup of the day, this one by Langford in the end zone, a brief scuffle between linemen broke out, and nose guard Lamonte McDougle was admonished by coaches for running on to the field from the sideline, which is prohibited in similar situations in games. McDougle did a few wind sprints as punishment.
But the media shutdown was impromptu. An assistant coach who’d been on the interview docket showed up in the media area anyway, only to be informed of Leach’s decision.