Cougars put pads on

·3 min read

Aug. 6—The first day of full pads is often one of most anticipated for a football team in the early stages of fall camp and that was the case for Washington State on Friday at Rogers Field.

No more going through the motions. It was time to clash.

"We just love it, putting the pads on, no more patty cake and everything," WSU defensive tackle Antonio Pule said. "It's just hitting trenches, O-line, D-line going after it. We love it in the trenches."

It was a refreshing familiarity for the Cougars, but the first day of contact also came with some setbacks for WSU. Two offensive linemen — right tackle Ma'ake Fifita and backup guard Rodrick Tialavea — appeared to suffer lower body injuries and neither could leave the field under their own power.

"Praying for them," Pule said.

WSU coach Jake Dickert did not speak to the media after the practice, so the extent of the injuries is unknown.

Instead, the focus was on new defensive coordinator Brian Ward and the front seven of the defense. Ward is in his first year as WSU defensive coordinator after spending the past two years in the same role at Nevada.

Ward also coaches linebackers and he has a familiar face in Nevada transfer Daiyan Henley — a senior transfer who earned All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2021 with the Wolf Pack.

Henley was one of the "Juice Players of the Day," along with freshman running back Jaylen Jenkins.

Ward said he likes the team's depth at linebacker this year, a group headed by Henley at outside linebacker and likely junior Travion Brown or freshman Francisco Mauigoa at middle linebacker.

"We feel like we have five or six guys who are going to help us this year," Ward said of the group, listing off freshman Gavin Barthiel, sophomore Kyle Thornton and senior Ben Wilson.

"Guys are just continuing to develop and we're going to see when we get into our first scrimmage (Aug. 13) where we really are at when we start going live."

At defensive tackle, Pule said he's hoping the group can step up to help star edges Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. this season. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, the American Samoa product is one of the anchors in the middle of a sizable defensive line.

"This season, we improved a lot on our technique and play more on the ball and make more plays in the middle," Pule said. "Last year, it was Brennan and RJ making plays, but this year we're going to make a difference with the two guys in the middle."

Pule — who has long, wavy black hair — wasn't without some jokes too. When asked if he and long-haired teammates Nusi Malani and Rashad McKenzie had the best hair of any defensive tackles in the country, Pule smiled and pointed at his own head.

"You can put on Head and Shoulders (shampoo) for modeling," he said, laughing. "Put me on a commercial."

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.