WSU NOTEBOOK: 2013 Cougs are tight, says QB

LEWISTON – WSU quarterback Connor Halliday was one of the most outspoken Cougars when it came to players being, or not being, on the same page last season, so WSU fans will be encouraged to hear Halliday's take on the 2013 team. "This is the closest group I've ever been a part of," he said after Wednesday afternoon's practice. "We WANT to play for each other, and that's a huge thing in football."

"I don't think it's been that way the last couple years," Halliday said.
Halliday is one of many Cougars who say team spirit and camaraderie is much improved from a year ago, when some players balked at the demanding ways of the new coaching staff.

"When you have a team that's close," senior cornerback Nolan Washington said, "that means you can battle through anything."

"We're moving in a new direction," senior center Elliott Bosch said. "We're changing the culture."

"This team has totally bought in," Washington said. "Last year, we had some people that may not have been. But I think this past offseason, we weeded out anybody who wasn't bought in."

Players say team bonding has benefited from holding the start of camp in Lewiston. The team is boarding in dorms at Lewis-Clark State College.

"This was a great idea," senior safety Deone Bucannon said.

"Dorm beds – I kind of miss my bed, I'm not going to lie," senior offensive guard John Fullington said with a grin. "But it's good being together with the team and getting some good bonding time."

IN A NATION plagued by obesity, Halliday continues to stick out by … well, by not having his belly stick out.

Halliday, you see, can eat and eat and eat and not gain a pound. The 6-foot-4 junior remains stunningly lean, even though he says he's up to 191 pounds after finishing last season below 175.

"If I go one day without weight lifting, I'll lose 2 pounds," Halliday said. "My metabolism is just so fast that it's just hard to keep weight on.

"I just have to try to gorge myself when I eat, drink as much protein as I can and get into the weight room as often as I can."

NO MATTER HOW they fare on the football field, the Cougars always seem to be title contenders when it comes to talking. Here's some of the best leftover quotes from the early days of fall camp:

Linebacker Darryl Monroe, joking about the relationship between defensive and offensive players: "We kind of look at the offense like our little brothers. It's like, ‘Who gets the last cookie? No, I want it,' so you just knock ‘em around."

Fullington, explaining how undersized center Bosch plays so well at 6-4 and 280 pounds: "He's a little warrior. He's just got really good technique. He's got really good feet. He just masters his technique – that's really the biggest thing – and he knows the offense really well."

Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Mike Breske, discussing true freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown: "He's got great speed, great agility, and he's competitive. His nickname is ‘Cheetah.' He's got a lot of confidence, but we've got to get his skill set our better."

Linebacker Tana Pritchard, analyzing occasional angry exchanges between the offense and defense: "There's no one thing that's contributing to all the tempers flaring. Everyone's just out here competing and fighting for a starting job and wants to show the coaches what we've got."

Offensive tackle Gunnar Eklund, joking about why he doesn't charge for autographs (unlike, reportedly, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel): "I don't have a Heisman yet."

Safety Deone Bucannon, describing how WSU defensive players are motivated by all the attention that goes to WSU's high-octane passing offense: "We have a chip on our shoulders."

LOOKING AHEAD to the opener, Paul Finn, WSU's director of athletic ticket sales, predicts more than 2,000 Cougars fans will attend the season opener Aug. 31 at Auburn (4 p.m., ESPNU).

The Cougars will need all the help they can get in far-off Alabama, since the Tigers routinely sell out 87,451-seat Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Cougars said Wednesday they've sold 12,212 season tickets. That excludes an anticipated 12,000 all-sports student passes.

Finn said he expects a crowd in excess of 30,000 for the home opener Sept. 14 against Southern Utah. Last year's home opener against Eastern Washington drew a sellout crowd at Martin Stadium (33,598), the first since 2007. The Cougars sold 13,460 season tickets last season.

Start times for five of the six WSU home games have yet to be announced (including Sept. 29 against Stanford in Seattle). Times are generally announced in the 6- and 12-day windows before the game and in conjunction with the Pac-12 TV broadcast partners.

THE MARTIN STADIUM suites and loges built have again sold out, but the least expensive of the three levels of premium seats installed last year (club seats) again have availability. More than 800 of the 1,200 club seats have been sold, Finn said.

WSU has sold about 1,500 Apple Cup tickets. The annual grudge match with Washington will be held Friday, Nov. 29 (Thanksgiving weekend) at 12:30 p.m. at remodeled Husky Stadium in Seattle. Many of WSU's 4,200 allotted tickets for the game will be gobbled up by players and coaches.

Cougfan Top Stories