WSU OL progress has familiar feel for McGuire

SPOKANE – For WSU assistant Clay McGuire, the Cougar offensive line's progression is something he's experienced before – firsthand. McGuire, at the Spokane Cougar Club Luncheon this week, said he was originally recruited to play at Texas Tech by Spike Dykes, Sonny Dykes' father. But before LOI Day, Tech had hired a new coach, Mike Leach, and he didn't know if he still had a scholie offer.

"I'm from a little bitty town in West Texas," Clay McGuire explained. "It was December and we were still playing because I was lucky enough to be part of a successful program and we were in the playoffs. My phone rings and it was Mike Leach. Told me he wanted to honor my scholarship offer and he wanted me to come play for him at Texas Tech. That's all I needed to hear."

McGuire said it took a while for the Mike Leach system to become truly successful in Lubbock.

"Those first couple years I think (current Tech head coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) threw for something like 3,000 yards," said McGuire. "That third year, he was throwing for 5,000 yards and the rest is history."

McGuire said he was pleased with the play of his Cougar offensive line this past Saturday, and showed highlights from the final seven minutes of the Cougars' 24-17 win over Arizona.

WSU has wide splits but the Wildcats' defensive line employed extremely wide sets -- and so the Cougars countered.

At times, there was more than 15 yards of space between Washington State's tackles.

Even with that much distance between linemen, the Cougars were able to maintain lanes, create space for the running backs and provide time to quarterback Connor Halliday to find his receiver and deliver the football.

BUT THE COUGARS' success wasn't the result of any special design for the game, McGuire said.

"I think the most important hire a new coach can make is the strength and conditioning coach," he said. "I think our guys have done a great job working with our guys and getting them stronger and quicker. I think you can see the difference they've made on the field.

"We've always had our entire offense installed. It's all about getting our guys in the best shape they can be in in order to execute it."

McGUIRE WAS ASKED about the success of the Cougars' running game against Arizona, whose base is a 3-3-5 which lends itself vulnerable to the run game.

"I think Connor Halliday does a great job calling those plays," he said. "He does a great job checking out of a running play if it's not there and checking into one when it is. He's done a great job making those decisions at the line of scrimmage."

McGuire was effusive of a play linebacker Justin Sagote made on the second-to-last play of the game – one he said had a bigger influence on how the game ended than most people would think.

On third-and-six from the Washington State 15-yard line, Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker rolled to his left, looking for room along the sideline. Sagote read the play correctly, McGuire said, got to the sideline and forced Denker to turn back inside, where he was tackled.

In fact, the Cougar linebacker never touched Denker on the play, but that doesn't diminish how big Sagote's influence was, said McGuire.

"If the quarterback gets out of bounds, that game could have ended differently," McGuire said. "If he gets out of bounds and stops the clock, Arizona has time to get their personnel set and get a different play called. What Justin did was force them to make their final call on the fly-- and our defense was able to stop them."

On the final play, Denker threw to the end zone, but his receiver was blanketed by Anthony Carpenter's coverage and to get the pass to his wideout, Denker had to throw it out of bounds.

McGUIRE WAS ASKED specifically about how his offensive line will look next year.

Senior center Elliott Bosch will be a difficult starter to replace, he said.

"We ask our center to make all of our line calls and Elliott has done that very well," McGuire explained. "He's done everything we've asked him to do."

The right side of the line, with guard Matt Goetz and tackle John Fullington, will also make it more difficult to reload, said McGuire. But there are some standout young players waiting in the wings.

McGuire pointed to Riley Sorenson, who has seen some playing time this season.

And Cole Madison from Kennedy High in Burien, listed as a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder this season, reminds the coach of the kinds of linemen Leach and his staff recruited at Texas Tech.

"He was a big, lanky tight end and that's who we were always recruiting down there," McGuire said. "We'd get these big, tall tight ends and turn them into tackles and that's what we've done with Cole. He's already beefed up to 285 pounds and I'm excited for people to see what he can do."

McGuire saved his highest expectations for Cody O'Connell, a 6-8, 345-pound redshirting true freshman from Wenatchee.

"He was the kind of kid who you had to recruit based on what you hoped he could become," he explained. "You'd look at him on film and all you would see would be little guys diving at his knees trying to trip him up or else running three yards around him to get out of his way. You knew he was a good athlete because he threw 63-feet to win the state shot put championship.

"He's already a 400-pound bench press kid, and I'm excited to see where this kid can be in four years. I would not be surprised to see him getting a lot of NFL draft attention down the road."

Asked about in-state recruiting, McGuire was adamant.

"If there's a good football player in the state, we want him to be a Cougar," he explained. "At the same time, we're looking for the best players we can find to come here and play.

"One of the first things Coach (Mike) Price told Coach Leach was, ‘Your heart has to come from Washington, but your arms and legs need to come from California.'"

Bill Moos was also at the luncheon to tell the group about Leach's contract becoming a 5-year rollover deal. Moos reiterated, as he has on a few occasions this year, that he knew coming in that there would be no quick fixes for Cougar football. He went on to praise the work Leach and his staff have done on the field as well as in the community. "I think you're starting to see it on the field," Moos said. "Great things are ahead for this program."

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