PULLMAN – A runaway train unable to pump the brakes, Will Rodgers III blew through his offensive lineman and barreled toward Cammon Cooper.
Rodgers knows the policy: Washington State’s quarterbacks aren’t to be touched or scratched in intrasquad scrimmages, so pinning them to the turf is certainly against the Crimson and Gray Game code of conduct.
But the Cougars want Rodgers’ vengeance in the fall, so it’s hard to ask the defensive tackle to restrain in the spring. Rodgers did make an attempt to slow himself, so by the time the junior reached Cooper, he was able to wrap the QB up without completing the takedown.
“I had beat my man, the O-lineman, and the momentum just wouldn’t let me stop on that one,” Rodgers said. “So I tried to pull up, but it happens sometimes.”
Rodgers will be one the players anchoring WSU’s pass rush in 2019, and Saturday’s spring scrimmage offered a glimpse of how effective that could be in the fall.
One year after it paced the Pac-12 with 38 sacks, Tracy Claeys’ defense rang up seven touch sacks in the Crimson and Gray Game to go with 10 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
In the middle of everything was Rodgers, who was credited with three sacks – though he assures that was a miscount.
“I think I had four,” he said. “It was an OK day, but as a D-line we have a lot we’ve got to improve on and keep building. Can’t get complacent because we had a good day and things like that.”
Rogers provides plenty of force and speed from the D-tackle position – “he should be better than he was a year ago, and so far he has,” Claeys said – which complements Lamonte McDougle’s power and strength at nose tackle and Nnamdi Oguayo’s agility and experience at D-end.
“Really as a D-line in total, I feel like we have a lot of pieces,” Rodgers said. “… I feel like we could have a big year this year.”
Andre Dillard, Gardner Minshew and James Williams will have some tense moments next week, but the three ex-WSU players most likely to hear their names called at the NFL draft enjoyed a casual Saturday in Pullman, taking pictures with fans and signing autographs as their former teammates competed in the spring game.
Dillard, a projected first-round draft pick who could be the first offensive tackle taken, said he’ll be attending the event in Nashville, Tennessee, with family members, his girlfriend and coaches, including WSU O-line coach Mason Miller. He’s set to be the first Cougar to go in person since Ryan Leaf in 1998.
Williams is returning home to watch the draft with family and friends in Burbank, California. The ex-Cougar running back, who left school a year early to pursue his pro career, said he’s invited ESPN cameras to his home to film.
Minshew, the quarterback who broke the Pac-12 single-season passing record in his lone year with the Cougars, was unsurprisingly a huge draw at the spring game and spent nearly 30 minutes signing autographs and taking photos with fans afterward.
A variety of other former players were in attendance, including Hunter Dale, Cody O’Connell, Logan Tago and Sean Harper Jr.
Quarterback Gage Gubrud went through prepractice drills, but the Eastern Washington graduate transfer was one of a few notable players who didn’t play in the spring game because of injury.
Gubrud’s still limited because of a foot/ankle injury sustained before spring camp.
He joined wide receiver Jamire Calvin and cornerback Marcus Strong as other potential starters who missed out on the scrimmage because of ailments.
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