Leach insights on Halliday, Bruggman and more

SPOKANE – WSU quarterback Connor Halliday set an NCAA record with his 89 pass attempts on Saturday but the stat Mike Leach was asked about at Monday's Spokane Cougar Club luncheon -- the four interceptions in Eugene, giving Halliday an FBS-leading 17 picks. Leach offered his opinion on that, playing for a full 60 minutes plus the development of Tyler Bruggman and much more...

Leach pointed out that the Cougars' receivers didn't exactly help Halliday on one of them – tipping a ball into a defenders hands.

"One of those (other) interceptions he threw the ball while he was getting the hell knocked out of him by a couple defensive guys," Leach said. "That's something you ask for your quarterback to do, stand in there against pressure and still deliver the ball. I'm sure Connor felt he could still put the ball where he wanted it to go even if he was going to get hit.

"One of the things you want in a quarterback is someone who's willing to pull the trigger and make plays happen. Connor does that. He does need to kind of pull that back a little sometimes, but that's easier than getting someone to pull the trigger in the first place."

The coach was also asked about the prize recruit from last year's class -- quarterback Tyler Bruggman.

"A couple things have really stood out about him," Leach said. "First of all, I think he's even smarter and more athletic than I thought he was. Second, I think he may be the hardest worker I've ever been around. He's a real student of the game and he works hard to make himself better.

"He also works very hard to make sure his teammates know he supports them – he's building a foundation for being a team leader down the road."

Leach also said that the biggest impact last year's recruiting class will have on 2014 will be on the offensive and defensive lines.

"I'm really kind of excited to get into spring drills and see where we are," he said.

And that means with everyone, said Leach.

"This is fun bunch to work with and a big part of that is because they try real hard," he explained. "Everybody plays real hard, so every practice someone is revealing themselves to be able to do something they couldn't do the day before."

IT WAS TELLING that Leach opened his remarks by talking about how proud he was of his Washington State football players' effort Saturday in Eugene against the No. 2 Ducks.

Leach has in the past laid into his players after a loss, always when he didn't see enough effort. WSU lost big on Saturday at 62-38, but Leach was full of praise for his Cougars.

"I'm really proud of our players and the effort they put in against this team – I know we didn't come out on top and that's always disappointing," he said. "Autzen Stadium is a great game-day setting and I think our players responded to that. We didn't flinch or anything like that."

More than that, he said, the team battled from start to finish.

"Our guys played for a full 60 minutes," Leach said. "Everybody talks about that – play for 60 minutes, play for 60 minutes – but as I watch teams on film, they'll try to play for 60 minutes, but they'll lose their resolve, especially if they're battling a few disappointments. I think our guys battled the whole 60 minutes."

ALTHOUGH HE'S SINCE apologized, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti blasted Leach for doing just that Saturday – calling the fact that the Cougars didn't give up and run out the clock in the fourth quarter "total bull(crap)" and "low class."

Setting aside for a moment the contradiction between the Oregon coach's concept of class and how it applies to a team giving up and accepting defeat, Leach's only response to the outburst after the game was a text message to CF.C: "I don't criticize other teams or coaches. I focus on coaching my team."

A Cougar fan in attendance offered his thanks for the way Leach handled the situation – both at the end of the game as well as after. But Leach did make a promise.

"The one thing I will say is that we preach to our players that they need to play for the whole 60 minutes, so I figured we needed to do that ourselves," he said to great applause. "And we'll do that next time, too."

LEACH WAS ALSO asked about one of his former players at Texas Tech, NFL All-Pro receiver Wes Welker.

"He was the last guy we took in that year's recruiting class," he recalled. "Everybody that looked at him thought he was two things -- too small and too slow. He makes great plays, but he's too small. He plays great, but he's too slow. He's a great high school football player.

"When he got to campus that first year, you could see it in his eyes. We had big, All-State kids with chiseled bodies, but if you looked in their eyes you could see just a little seed of doubt about whether they could play at that level. Not him. There was no doubt in his mind whatsoever. By the time he left he had the most punt return yards in college football history and the most receiving yards in school history."

Clearly comfortable in front of Monday's audience, and once the last question from the crowd had been answered, Leach had another at the ready.

"Hey, part of this is me standing up here and talking about the stuff I want to talk about," Leach quipped.

"I get asked this question a couple times a week: Are you where you want to be?" Leach chuckled. "Hell no! I don't think you're ever where you want to be and you're always working to get better. I'd like to see the one coach who ever answered that question with an affirmative."

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