QB legend breaks down Halliday, Apodaca

AS HE SAT in the stands at Joe Albi Stadium last Saturday, several thoughts raced through Hall of Fame Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson's mind. First off, that Cougar quarterbacks have some serious potential. And second, he kept asking himself "where in the heck was this offense in my playing days?"

Clad in crimson jacket and hat, Thompson said as he looked on in Spokane it was clear both Connor Halliday and Austin Apodaca have the talent to succeed in the Pac-12.

"The thing about Connor is that he has all the tools in the world as a quarterback," Thompson said. "When he was executing the offense, he was doing some great things out there."

Thompson, who broke the NCAA record for career passing yards during his All-American run at WSU, also saw some things he didn't like from the fourth-year junior.

"Anytime he got into some trouble, he would try to fit the ball into windows and he would have been wiser to check the ball down," Thompson said. "That's from an outsider looking in, though. It's easy to see those things from the stands.

"You're talking to a guy who had the confidence to fit the ball anywhere on the field too," Thompson added. "I think all the great ones at Washington State have a similar mindset, but Connor is fortunate enough to play for Coach Leach, who brings the whole game into the picture. The key here is for Connor to channel his great talents into moving the chains and scoring touchdowns. At the end of the day, that's what's going to win us games."

The key for Halliday, he said, is internalizing the essence of the Air Raid offense.
"Leach's offense is like a big game of chess and you don't need to force the ball because the offense is spread out and you have four wideouts out there doing their thing."

WITH APODACA, THOMPSON SAID he was favorably impressed with the second-year product out of Longmont, Colo.

"The thing that jumped out to me was his mobility," Thompson said. "I heard about it, but you can tell he has really good escapability. With Leach's offense, where spacing is a premium, when you add a quarterback who is mobile like he is, that adds another huge element that teams will have to defend against. There's nothing worse for a defense than having an offense spread out like that and the next thing you know, a quarterback runs off for a 20-yard gain.

"Now I'm not saying Connor isn't mobile too, but they're on two different levels there."

Apodaca, who ran the scout team last season, had his share of ups and downs throughout the spring season. CF.C's Joe Doyle reported on the occasions Apodaca struggled with consistency, but it was also clear most of the struggles for the 6-3, 190-pounder came early -- he was starting to really get into a rhythm during the final sessions.

That progress was displayed last Saturday.

"That was the first time I saw him play and I really liked what I saw," Thompson said. "I saw a competitor out there and I think he's really taken his game a long way having redshirted. From what I understand, leadership comes naturally to him too. I have relatives on the team (Tana Pritchard and Cyrus Coen) who speak very highly of his competitiveness and natural leadership."

As for who he thinks will get the starting nod against Auburn in the opener?

"Well, I think the numbers speak for themselves," Thompson said. "Connor was out there and attempted 58 passes (to Apodaca's 45) and got the majority of the snaps."

In addition to the performances from Halliday and Apodaca, Thompson added that he was excited with the play of many skills players. Kristoff Williams led the receiving corps with 136 yards and a touchdown, while Isiah Myers and Gabe Marks both had over 100 yards and a score.

"Man, I wish I could have played in that offense. I think I could have thrown for 25,000 yards," Thompson said with a laugh. "With the receivers I had back in my day, I think we really could have done something special. Coach Leach is a great coach and he has those guys ready to perform."

The Cougs ran out of a standard two-back, two-receiver, one tight end formation in Thompson's days.

Thompson said he also noticed the camaraderie showcased on the field last week.

"Ultimately, that's the attitude that Bill Moos is bringing to Washington State," Thompson said. "If you don't want to be there, then don't come. Period. We don't need guys like that and I don't want it. I want to throw that out there because we have to think that way. I take pride in wearing the crimson and gray and if you talk to guys like Drew Bledsoe or Mark Rypien, they'll tell you the same thing.

"At the end of the day, our program isn't a house of cards. It won't live or die over one or two kids. That's what Moos is all about and that's what Leach is about as well. We need to have that mindset moving forward with the future of our program."

Crimson & Gray Game Passing Stats:
Halliday 38-of-58, 406 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Apodaca 27-of-45, 279 yards, 1 TD, O INTs
Brown 4-of-6, 64 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs

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