Part I of wide-ranging talk with Mike Leach

WASHINGTON STATE's linebacking corps, already thinned by the dismissal of C.J. Mizell, is going to be another man down. In a wide-ranging, one-on-one interview with, Mike Leach said that injury-plagued Louis Bland is hanging up his cleats. That's just one of a number of notable developments Leach shared. Here's the first in a two-part summary of what the Cougars' head coach had to say.

Leach said Bland, who has missed the past 2 ½ seasons due to knee problems, has decided to give up football.

The coach said he believes Bland will remain in school.

Bland started nine games as a true freshman in 2008, when he was a third-team Freshman All-American.

Bland, who came to WSU from Modesto, Calif., is the third member of WSU's 2008 recruiting class to have his career ended prematurely by injury. The others are LeAndre Daniels and Cory Mackay.

ASKED IF HE EXPECTS quarterback Connor Halliday to be 100 percent for spring ball, Leach said, "I think so."

After passing for 494 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Arizona State in his first extensive action last season, Halliday made his first start the following week and played most of the game with a lacerated liver in an overtime loss to Utah.

Leach said he expects Halliday and Tuel to be battling hard for the starting job this season. (We'll have more on that later today in Part II of our interview with Leach.)

Elsewhere on the injury front, Leach said starting outside linebacker Sekope Kaufusi is "doing great" in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Leach, who as a general rule provides little or no information on player injuries, declined to say what Kaufusi's status will be for spring ball.

LEACH SAID MATT GOETZ, a junior college transfer who started at center in his first year at WSU last season, is set to return for his junior season.

Goetz, who started out his career at Texas Tech, had a falling-out with Leach there in 2009, and did not finish the season with the Red Raiders.

Leach, however, has praised Goetz for his hard work in Pullman.

"He's doing real good," Leach said.

SCOUT.COM RANKED WSU's new recruiting class 53rd among 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and 12th in the Pac-12.

"I don't pay any attention to it," Leach said of the rankings. "I mean, we looked at guys on film to see if we thought they could play. We're not planning to call any of these guys (at to ask them what to call on third down."


Leach, who was hired just two months before letters of intent could be signed on Feb. 1, said his staff is not yet complete. He is still looking to add an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

He also said two former Pac-10 offensive linemen, Kevin Freitag from WSU and David Lose from Oregon State, will serve as graduate or student assistant coaches this year.

LEACH SAID HE has not decided which recruits from the signing class will grayshirt (i.e. delay full-time enrollment until the second semester) but he is "sure we will" grayshirt some players. WSU recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick said recently that lineman B.J. Salmonson of Nooksack Valley is a likely candidate.

Leach also said he has not determined what players will be changing positions, but he added, "I'm sure there will be plenty of them."

ATTENDANCE WAS UP considerably from recent years when Leach spoke at fan events in Spokane and Kennewick earlier this month. Leach and a WSU contingent will also be on hand Feb. 24 in Seattle and March 4 in Beaverton, Ore.

"We expect a bunch of people in Seattle and Portland," Leach said. "We're thrilled to death (with fan support) and just excited to have the opportunity to share Cougar football with as many fans as possible."

Click back to CF.C later today for Part II of our interview with Leach.

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