Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

AN EXPERIENCED WSU baseball team opens the season with a three-game series at top-ranked Cal State Fullerton starting Friday. Coach Donnie Marbut will field a squad that looks to be long on defense and pitching. Right-handed juniors Scott Simon and Tanner Chleborad will lead the rotation. But one senior expected to play a big role, either in the rotation or out of the pen, is lost for the season.

J.D. Leckenby, who beat eventual national champion UCLA in relief last season, is out following recent surgery for a stress fracture in his right elbow. "I feel bad for the kid ... I thought this could his break-out year," said Marbut, who is entering his 10th campaign at WSU.

Marbut said Leckenby is progressing toward graduation and now plans to turn pro and bypass his final year of eligibility. The New York Mets drafted Leckenby in the 14th round last year.

Leckenby served as WSU's primary closer last season, but Marbut said he had not ruled out using Leckenby as a starter this year.

Baseball America projects WSU will make this year's 64-team NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 coaches poll had WSU finishing eighth. Oregon State was picked first. The past two NCAA champions have come from the Pac-12 (Arizona in 2012, UCLA last season).

As for opening the season at No. 1 Fullerton, Marbut said, "It's nice to get going against a good opponent right out of the chute ... They're No. 1 in the country. The reason why they are, they've got great players and coaches and great tradition ... their preseason ranking is well-deserved."

The Cougar baseball team's work in the classroom earned praise this week. In the fall semester, the Cougar baseballers turned in a team GPA of 2.92, one of the program's best semesters ever.

Senior catcher/outfielder Collin Slaybaugh, who led the Cougs in batting last season at .317, set the pace in the classroom as well with a 4.0 GPA.

According to Ken Casavant, WSU's faculty athletics representative, and Bill Moos, WSU athletics ranks third in Pac-12 graduation rates behind Stanford and UCLA. And the 2.96 grade-point average of WSU athletes last semester topped the 2.88 mark of all WSU students. In addition to Slaybaugh, 20 athletes posted perfect 4.0 GPA's in the fall semester and 28 fall athletes made Pac-12 All-Academic teams. "It's remarkable what has been happening," Casavant said while joining Moos on the AD's weekly radio show in Spokane.

ALSO DURING THE RADIO SHOW, MOOS didn't promise wholesale changes to the kickoff times of Pac-12 football games in 2014, but said the conference's television partners are listening to the complaints of fans about the increase in night football games as well as the Wednesday-Sunday pairings of conference home games in men's basketball.

"I just want our fans to know their concerns are not bouncing off deaf ears," Moos said Monday. "This (fans complaining) is happening across the conference, and our television partners are listening to us.

"I'm getting a pretty good feel that there will be a smaller amount of these night games in football, but maybe as not as significant (a cut) as our fans would like."

Moos was happy to report large, enthusiastic crowds were on hand for football socials featuring coach Mike Leach last week in the Spokane and Tri-Cities areas. A similar event in the Portland area was scheduled for Saturday but postponed to March 2 due to snow. These annual gatherings follow national letter-of-intent signing day. The fourth and final football event will be held in Seattle on March 7. Fans may register at

THE HONORS KEEP ROLLING IN FOR All-American Cougar safety Deone Bucannon. ESPN recently came out with its list of the top 25 college football players of 2013 and Bucannon was tabbed No. 16 player in the Pac-12. He has a busy month ahead as he preps for his shot at pro ball. He'll be auditioning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis from Feb. 22-25 and then be back in Pullman for Pro Day workouts on Mar. 13. rates Bucannon the No. 2 strong safety prospect in this year's draft class and the No. 82 prospect overall. projects Bucannon going to the Eagles with the No. 86 overall pick.

ON THE FOOTBALL COACHING CAROUSEL, former WSU football player and assistant coach Jody Sears was recently hired as defensive coordinator at Sacramento State.

Sears was fired as head coach at Weber State after going 4-19 in two seasons. Former WSU assistants Robin Pflugrad, Steve Morton, Jason Belford and Ryan Smaha were on Sears' Weber State staff. Belford has been named defensive line coach at New Mexico Military Institute, a junior college in Roswell.

Ex-WSU offensive line coach Bob Connelly has been hired to coach the O-line at Georgia Southern. Connelly worked under former Washington State coaches Mike Price (at WSU and UTEP) and Dennis Erickson (at Arizona State). Connelly did not coach last year after Erickson was fired at ASU at the end of the 2012 season.

Greg Burns, a standout defensive back at WSU in the early 1990s, is the new defensive backs coach at California. He comes to Berkeley from UMass. Prior stops were at Purdue, Arizona State, Kansas State, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and USC, among others.

One-time WSU defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has hired two former WSU assistants to join him with the Minnesota Vikings: Andre Patterson and Robb Akey. Patterson is the defensive line coach and Akey is the assistant defensive line coach. Original media reports listed Akey as the head defensive line coach.

Elsewhere in the NFL, former WSU Palouse Posse safety John Rushing has been named defensive quality control coach of the Green Bay Packers. Rushing has spent six years on the Green Bay staff, including the past two as an offense/special teams assistant.

TWO-TIME PAC-12 SCORING KING Brock Motum is averaging 8.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for his Italian pro team in Bologna. Another old WSU basketball standout, point guard Taylor Rochestie, recently left his Italian team to head to Russia. He's seeing more playing time and averaging 13 points and 4 assists with his new club in Niznhny.

Meanwhile, former WSU guard, Derrick Low changed teams after his minutes dropped in Ukraine. He's now averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 assists after three games in Konya, Turkey. Former WSU 3-point gunner Josh Akognon is again one of the most feared scorers in China. He averages 28.8 points for Quindao.

THE MIAMI MARLINS LIST FORMER Washington State star Adam Conley as a candidate to make their starting rotation. Conley, a second-round draft pick in 2011, compiled an 11-7 record and 3.25 earned run average at Jacksonville, Fla., in the Class AA Southern League last year. ranks Conley the eighth-best major league prospect in the Miami farm system.

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