When Leach called, Yost had to answer

SEATTLE – In a business defined by buttoned-down archetypes stretching from Halas and Lombardi to Saban and Meyer, David Yost looks about as out of place as a Cougar in a Don James RV commercial. But in the 10 years since he started growing his hair out simply for the heck of it, Yost has come to the realization that shortening those blond locks is no longer an option.

"It works in recruiting," the personable 43-year-old told Cougfan.com on Friday at the Night with Cougar Football dinner in Seattle. "They know who I am before I walk in."

But the Cougars' new assistant coach on offense is far more than an Owen Wilson lookalike and proven recruiter.

In 12 years at Missouri, the last four as offensive coordinator, Yost built a reputation as a keen offensive mind and molder of fine quarterbacks.

His title at WSU, inside receivers coach, suggests a contained role. Yet he will be anything but.

On game days, he'll be Mike Leach's main man in the press box, relaying observations and advice from his bird's-eye view. And while Leach serves as his own quarterbacks coach, Yost said he'll also be lending a hand in practice with the QBs. His responsibility with inside receivers naturally lends itself to the role, and the simple fact of the matter is that "quarterback is where all by my background is," he says.

His résumé with signal callers is impressive. At Missouri, he shaped Blaine Gabbert into a first-round draft pick, Chase Daniel into a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Brad Smith into a passing and running record breaker.


So what does he make of Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca?

"I've watched cut ups of Halliday -- he's very talented. He has a quick release, arm strength, accuracy and size," he says. "He's not just a thrower, but a quarterback. And you have to remember that he missed all of spring last year (with injury) … He's the type of quarterback, if one was available just like him every year, you'd want to take every time."

Yost is at more of a disadvantage in assessing Apodaca because there is no college game film on him. Apodaca redshirted last season and worked the scout team -- albeit quite impressively by all accounts.

"He's got the skill set to do the job," says Yost. "And I can tell you that he's really competitive based on what I've seen in Midnight Maneuvers."

The two already have spent serious time breaking down film, he notes.

As for the inside receivers, Yost said the combination of video clips and Midnight Maneuvers has him excited to get the group on the field for spring practices, which begin March 21.

The depth of the inside receivers unit looks outstanding, if not fully battle tested.

Sophomore-to-be Brett Bartolone (53 catches, 435 yards, 4 TDs last season) and junior-to-be Bobby Ratliff (30/399) are the top returnees, with senior Bennett Bontemps (14 career catches) offering veteran experience.

Then there's the unproven, but intriguing talent:

  • Junior Rickey Galvin, the former running back who missed most of the past two seasons with two different arm injuries, is fully healthy. He was expected to play significantly in the slot last season before going down in Week 3 at UNLV.

  • Junior Henry Eaddy, who caught 10 passes in 2011 but missed all of last spring and most of last season with injuries, is also healthy.

  • Freshman Robert Lewis, a grayshirt last season who enrolled at WSU in January, checks in at just 155 pounds but is considered one of the two fastest players on the team (along with corner Alex Jackson).

  • Second-year freshman walk on Adam West, a 6-0, 165-pound Mount Vernon product who redshirted this past season at NAIA powerhouse Carroll College.

    HOW YOST LANDED AT Washington State is a classic tale of serendipity.

    "I wasn't enjoying myself as much," Yost says of his 2012 season at Missouri. And in coaching, he adds, if you're not passionate you need to get out.

    So in December, he quit.

    Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel tried to talk him out of it.

    Yost had been at his side, going back to the Toledo days, for 17 years.

    "There's hardly an aspect of our program that he hasn't had a hand in, and we're going to miss his leadership and energy," Pinkel said of Yost's departure. "He was responsible for a lot of things, and he did them all very well."

    Yost's announcement appeared to catch everybody off guard. He was considered an innovator on offense and a star on the recruiting trail.

    "I was ready for a change," he says.

    "I looked into some non-coaching ideas, but was really prepared to take a year and be a dad."

    He and his wife Carrie have three children, ages 6, 4 and 2.

    "A couple of schools called, and I said no. There was not once ounce of me that had any interest," he says.

    Then one night after the kids were in bed his cell phone rang and Mike Leach's name popped up on the screen.

    One word went through his head: "Wow."

    He answered and the two talked for a good hour. Other than Leach's opening comments about the job at WSU, Yost said very little of the conversation dealt with football.

    "We just talked."

    Leach held a unique place in Yost's career, even though they'd never met.

    "I'd always been a big fan. Nobody in the last 20 years of football has changed the game like Mike Leach. At Missouri, we completely changed what we were doing because of him. In the Big 12, it became pretty clear that if your offense wasn't capable of scoring 50 points you weren't going to win. That was Mike Leach."

    After Leach left Texas Tech, he and Yost connected via text message. "I invited him to come to Missouri to talk, but the schedule didn't work out," says Yost.

    That was their only contact until Leach called in December.

    When that conversation concluded, he told his wife the perfect job opportunity may have just landed on the family's doorstep.

    On Jan. 2, he met Leach in Key West to talk philosophy – football, offense, recruiting. "A great visit. I wanted to know how I might fit and he made me comfortable."

    But he wasn't sold just yet. He and Carrie flew to Pullman shortly thereafter to see if the oft-ballyhooed family atmosphere was all it was said to be.

    It was, and Yost started work on Jan. 19.

    Joining Leach, in a place like Pullman, and wearing a couple of hats but not the four – offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator – that he was juggling in Missouri made the WSU opportunity too good to turn down.

    It fit perfectly with the "parenting piece," Yost said.

    "No question, I'm excited to be here."

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