Greg Witter: Player confidence appears to be at a level not seen in years. The offense has a couple of starting spots to fill on the line but otherwise looks pretty well buttoned down. The depth at the skill positions is deep and the impact of quarterback Jeff Tuel's return from the collarbone and leg injuries that ruined his 2011 campaign can't be understated. OL depth could be a concern, but the experience level of the returnees is considerable. Left tackle John Fullington figures to be an honors candidate.
Devils Digest: How has the transition been so far under Mike Leach. What have been some of his biggest challenges since arriving in Pullman?
Greg Witter: Based on the results of the team's four spring scrimmages, the offense has warmed quickly to the Air Raid. They adjusted quickly to the wide line splits.
Devils Digest: Going into fall camp what do you feel is the biggest strength of this team and what is its biggest weakness?
Greg Witter: Led by All-American candidate Marquess Wilson, depth at receiver is the biggest strength. Leach typically has a regular rotation of eight wideouts and the Cougars have the depth to go to 12. The biggest weakness is the front seven on defense. Aside from standout senior Travis Long, the group is largely inexperienced, having lost three starters (Anthony Laurenzi, C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi) to disciplinary matters.
Devils Digest: Looks like there is a healthy QB competition there in Pullman and how can that aid the new offense this year?
Greg Witter: The quarterback competition is probably on paper only. Tuel was nothing less than spectacular in spring workouts while Connor Halliday, who came on strong late last season, went down at the start of spring with pain from the lacerated liver he suffered in the overtime loss to Utah last season. Halliday is healthy now, and back up to 190 pounds after falling to 169, but it would take almost divine intervention to supplant Tuel.
Devils Digest: Which contest on the schedule do you think is a key game and why?
Greg Witter: The opener at BYU looms large right now. It'll be a huge test, on the road and on national television, and the confidence boost a victory would provide the team (and it's fans) would likely set the tone for the entire season.
Devils Digest: Name one player on offense and one player on defense that may be relatively unknown and that you expect to make an impact in 2012?
Greg Witter: Look for senior Andrei Lintz, who has moved from tight end to slot, to make a major splash. He was outstanding in spring ball and could be in line to catch 60-plus passes this season. On defense, linebacker Chester Su'a, a true sophomore who started four games a year ago, looks poised for a breakout. He's athletic, fast and has a big motor.
Devils Digest: What is your 2012 prediction and do you think that record is satisfactory?
The consensus among the pundits seems to be 6-6, but a victory in the opener at BYU could put this team on a glide path for seven or even eight wins. The offense is going to score a lot of points. The big question is whether, and how quickly, defensive coordinator Mike Breske can pull together his front seven.