"You see ability, but they've got to get used to other guys around them," Leach said.
While nose tackle Ioane Gauta is not a freshman, he also is among WSU's first-time starters. Gauta has started all three games for the Cougars (3-0), who host Colorado (0-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday (TV: FX). Gauta has 11 tackles, including two for loss.
"He's done a really good job," Leach said. "He's ahead of schedule and has adapted quickly. He's been a very pleasant surprise."
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Gauta is a transfer from Fullerton College in California. Similar to many junior-college transfers, Leach said Gauta had to learn "the intensity that is required" to succeed in the Pac-12 and improve his conditioning.
Gauta was one of the players made available Monday for interviews by Leach. He said that he understands his role is to take on two blockers to free up linebackers to make plays.
Because of that, nose tackles often do not generate impressive statistical lines. Gauta said he does not mind that.
In addition to his selflessness, Leach said Gauta has developed into a leader.
"He's that and he brings enough enthusiasm out there that he kind of ignites the other kids out there," he said.
"The reason [some reporters are] interested in injuries is because they're not creative enough to keep their stories interesting," Leach said.