Leach has quips ready with spring ball on tap

THE MOST HUMOROUS moment of Mike Leach's press conference previewing the spring session that kicks off Thursday at Washington State came when he was asked if starting quarterback Connor Halliday had gained any weight this offseason.

Leach first said he didn't know because he didn't weigh Halliday that often. Then he was handed the depth chart officially released this week by WSU.

"Well that's what this says but we just guess at that. That's a depth chart. I don't know if he weighed him or if he eyeballed him. What's it say he weighs here?" said Leach.

Told it listed Halliday at 197-pounds, Leach had another quip at the ready.

"Well that's good news, he weighed 165 last year. Yes, looks like he gained 30 pounds!" Leach said before turning serious.

"No, I don't know what he weighs… he's trying to put as much on, get him as strong as possible, make him weigh as much as possible and still be quick and strong. And then you figure out who's the best one and you play him."

Leach said QBs Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk will get plenty of reps this spring.

"I think Bruggman and Falk are both capable of pushing him, both really have a good skills set. Connor's got the advantage in experience and we're going to have the opportunity to rep (them a lot), we'll run two pass skells throughout the spring and rotate guys around and so they'll all have a lot of reps," said Leach.

THE COUGS LIST TWO punters on the spring roster in Wes Concepcion and Thomas Fossedal, and two kickers in Concepcion and Erik Powell. But it sounds like there might be more walk ons to come when summer rolls around.

"We've got several walk ons we're going to look at and see what they're able to do. Of Course Concepcion did some good things too. We're excited about him, we're going to see how much he's improved. He's certainly a good starting point. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if he wins the job but if he doesn't, some quality guy behind him will," said Leach.

ONE OF THE youngest, least inexperienced position groups is the defensive secondary. I asked Leach if given the greenness and the number of bodies, if there was any thought to moving a wide receiver over to corner or safety.

"We've got a lot of new faces out there, we'll have to see what their skills sets are," said Leach. "There's always thoughts on how to get people on the field. Everybody's got a certain athletic talent set, (you) try to identify what they are and get them on the field as fast as you can."

Asked about the status of redshirt freshman corner Daquawn Brown, the Cougs' most experienced corner who was arrested earlier this month on assault charges, Leach had this to say:

"We're going to have to wait and see how everything unfolds. Right now it's appearing that most of what's come out and been spewed around has been greatly embellished. So we'll just have to see how all that comes out," he said.

LEACH SAID THE Cougs are a more positionally-balanced team than people might realize because they haven't seen the players who redshirted last season.

However, he also said the corner and safety spots figure to be "really competitive" and that the position groups that figure to be the most "dynamic" competition-wise were the secondary, offensive line and "perhaps" the running backs.

MEANWHILE, ONE OF THE most experienced groups is the wide receivers unit, one that includes former 4-star prospect Sebastian LaRue who transferred to WSU from Texas A&M.

"Really quick, seems to pretty instinctive football-wise. Smart. The biggest thing is how explosive he is out of his cuts and things, and he does have some sense and knowledge on how to play receiver. Beyond that, really we've just got to have the chance to go out there and work with him where we're allowed to have (footballs)," said Leach.

LaRue is appealing to try and have the NCAA's standard transfer requirement of sitting out a season waived. Regardless of whether that comes to pass, LaRue was eligible to participate in spring ball after enrolling at WSU.

LEACH SOUNDED PLEASED with how the Cougs had worked over the winter and heading into spring but made it a point to mention the Cougs are young.

"I think the offseason is going good, it's a far cry from complete," said Leach "…Looking around the room we had a remarkable number of players that played for us last year that had never been through a college offseason… we're looking forward to continuing to move the needle here in spring.

"We don't have a lot of guys looking for ways to get out of work. They're all collectively working pretty hard. Those that are looking for the easy way are quickly getting outnumbered."

Leach said he won't go about this spring differently this season because while it's nice to have some familiar faces back, it's still "a developmental squad" and that spring ball in general doesn't change a lot.

Leach also said every starting job is always up for grabs.

"Everything's a competition. People have the opportunity to beat one another out and you'll earn your job every day. Now with that said.. guys that are ahead or performing better will get more reps to try and further develop their skills… Guys that started last year aren't set either so they've got to go battle it out," said Leach.

  • Asked about the National Labor Board's ruling that Northwestern football players can form a union, Leach said he wasn't for or against it. But he was just getting warmed up. "If somebody wants to be regarded as a professional, that actually kinda suits me. If these guys are professionals and they want everything to be like it is in the NFL that means shortly we're going to be having a draft. And I for one would be pretty excited about having a whole nation of quality athletes to draft from. So I'm looking forward to that," said Leach.

  • Leach said the current WSU staff, which remained intact from this past season, is "the best I've ever been on."

  • Leach downplayed the position change of Destiny Vaeao moving to d-end from the BUCK. "It's not a dramatic change. There's a lot of similarities between the positions anyway," he said, noting that Ivan McLennan and Emmitt Su'a-Kalio having completed their redshirt seasons provide more depth than before at the BUCK.

  • Leach said he's "always" felt his team needs to go to a bowl game every year. "That starts by winning one game a week, a lot."

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