Leach & Price hold court at Cougar Luncheon

SPOKANE – Mike Leach had plenty to say. So did Mike Price. Leach offered up a number of spring ball nuggets including naming some of the top performers – a list that included two walk ons. He was also effusive in his praise on the Football Operations Facility under construction, saying it will be second to none in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Price was also on hand to help kick off Spokane Week 2013.

The Spokane Cougar Club on Monday held their first football luncheon of the year, with Mike Leach highlighting numerous performances as he and his staff gear up for Saturday's Crimson and Gray spring football game.

Leach said the team has worked hard over the winter and will get back to hard work in the weight room as soon a spring drills are over.

"You want it that way," he said. "You want your guys working harder than the guys down the road."

Leach shared video highlights from spring drills and offered praised for a number of players.

Quarterbacks Connor Halliday (RS Jr.) and Austin Apodaca (RS Fr.) both have thrown the ball well, he said.

Asked about where in-coming freshman quarterback Tyler Bruggman fit in the mix, Leach said the highly regarded recruit would most likely redshirt this fall.

Receiver Gabe Marks (So.) drew kudos on numerous plays, with Leach singling him out as the team's best receiver this spring.

TWO WALK ONS -- running back Jeremiah Laufasa (RS So.) and defensive back Parker Henry (RS Fr.) -- both were praised for their ability to hit.

"We have a drill we call "The Ring," and whenever we put Jeremiah in there, there's going to be a collision," Leach said. "Parker Henry is the same way. If we put both of them in there … I like that idea – I may do just that tomorrow."

Laufasa is lighter and stronger now than he was last season, Leach added.

"He was a little heavy last year," he said. "He's more explosive now."

Kicker Andrew Furney has also caught Leach's eye.

"He's looking better now than he has since I've known him," Leach said.

LEACH, WHO DOES not talk generally talk about injuries, said junior defenseman Logan Mayes is recovering well from a leg injury.

"I will tell you that he infuriated his physical therapy people the other day," Leach said, breaking into a wry smile. "He was standing on the field on crutches when a loose ball bounced his way. He threw the crutches away and dove on the loose ball. He looked good doing it, too."

Former Lake Stevens offensive lineman Gunnar Eklund (RS So.), who started at left tackle last year, has been put on scholarship for the 2013-14 season, Leach noted.

THE COACH ALSO talked about recruiting plans, explaining that his staff will hit the road for five weeks following the end of spring practices during the May Evaluation period.

"I will tell you that we've had some very good luck with players who just drop by to see practice and look around," he said. "We have that hole in the ground that looks a lot like a strip mine, and it's already paying dividends.

"They ask us when we're going to fill that in and we break out posters and PowerPoint presentations and show them what we're going to do. We're going to have the best football operations facility in the Pac-12 for the next three or four years, until some other school breaks down and builds something better. And we're going to be in the top third in the conference for the next 10 years."

NOW RETIRED FROM coaching, Price is also set to appear at an event Monday night at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights honoring great games in Cougar football.

"It's so great to be back here," Price said. "We've been visiting two of my sons who are involved in coaching. One of them is at Hawaii and the other is at Tulane – and boy is that a tough place to visit on St. Patrick's Day.

"We still have our place on Lake Coeur d'Alene and will be spending plenty of time up here, and I'm definitely going to be at the Cougar Legends Golf Tournament and for Steve Gleason's fund-raiser."

Leach called his WSU predecessor "one of the all-time greats," and recalled the two met at a coaching conference.

"I'm sure Mike doesn't remember it, and I can't remember now if it was one of the conferences where Coach (Jim) Sweeney got into a fight or not," Leach joked. "Washington State was going great guns at the time and Mike had done all kinds of great things with the program. I was a graduate assistant or a low-level coach at the time and one of the guys I was with pointed to a guy and said ‘that's Mike Price!'"

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