WSU’s Volero: Staff gets a butt chewing

SPOKANE -- With two winnable non-league games slipping through WSU’s collective fingers, meeting a ballroom full of alumni and supporters probably ranked somewhere between cleaning out the gutters and a root canal. Washington State linebackers coach Paul Volero drew the short straw for Monday’s Spokane Cougar Club Luncheon. But those in attendance couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Paul Volero was blunt.

“We’re not happy down there right now,” Volero said. “But I can promise you this: We are going to get this right. We are GOING to get this right.”

Following Friday’s 24-13 loss to Nevada at Reno, Cougars coach Mike Leach told the media that part of the team’s problem lies with the coaching staff.

“The biggest thing is, we need to coach better,” Leach is quoted saying. “We have plenty of yards, plenty of plays, but we’re not congruent, not consistent. We don’t put them together in sequences that put you in the end zone.”

Volero was equally blunt describing what that coaches meeting was like over the weekend.

“I’ve been married for a while,” he quipped, “so I’ve had my butt chewed pretty good before. But …”

And he ended by explaining that he enjoys his annual appearance at the luncheon.

“Sometimes it’s just good to stay out of the hallway for a while.”

Volero wasn’t about to offer excuses for the 0-2 start, but he did remind the lunch crowd that there are 16 new faces in starting positions on both sides of the ball – including three spots on the offensive line – center, right guard and right tackle – two receivers and both running backs as well as three of four starting defensive backs.

“I think some of what you’re seeing right now are what I would call maturity issues,” he said. “After we get a penalty or have a bad play, it affects the next one or two plays and then you’re in a hole. This is college football. Anywhere between 3-5 bad plays can cost you a win.

“There’s a saying I like to use – I call it ‘Snap/Clear.’ You have a play, snap. You clear it out of your head and move on to the next play. Snap. Clear. Next play. We’re not clearing it and moving on and it’s affecting our play.”

Volero talked about a conversation he had with an unnamed player after the Sunday night practice. The player got under the block on a trap play and made the stop – a player who played in Leach’s first season because there was no one else to play that year, and he played last year and is still learning on the job.

“I told him, way to get under the slice,” Volero said. “He looked at me and said ‘Coach, I didn’t get under the slice last year against Arizona and they scored from nine yards out. I remember how I felt after that play and I am never going to let that happen again.’

“That’s where we are right now. These young guys are still learning.”

Volero went through a collection of highlight plays from the first two games, many of them touchdown throws by Connor Halliday.

“Don’t ask me what plays these are -- I’m a defensive coach,” he joked. “But I want to explain something. I know these look like great plays, but what they really are, are routine plays. We’re about making routine plays – routine play after routine play.”

As he went through the highlighted plays, he explained how each play developed -- how a cornerback got caught off the line of scrimmage and allowed a Cougar receiver to get outside position, create space downfield and haul in a ball Halliday threw to his outside shoulder.

What the Cougars need to do is get back to stacking routine play on top of routine play, Volero said.

“The players have to learn how to be accountable to one another,” he said. “The coaching staff has to learn how to be accountable to one another and we all have to figure out how to do this together.”

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