Graham Harrell with some great WSU QB insight

SPOKANE -- When you pull off a thrilling, come-from-behind Pac-12 road win, it means just one thing for a Monday Cougar Club luncheon: It’s a good time to send in the new guy and Graham Harrell offered some terrific insights on the quarterback stable at Washington State.

Graham Harrell is new to Washington State and while his job description is a little fuzzy, (he’s officially listed on the WSU site as “Offensive Analyst") his relationship with Mike Leach is perfectly clear.

Harrell was an All-America quarterback for Leach at Texas Tech setting school, conference and national records for passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns before spending a year with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League and three years with the Green Bay Packers, where he earned a Super Bowl ring.

Leach designed the Air Raid offense and knows every in-and-out detail of it from every perspective – save for one. He’s never actually lined up under center run the offense on game day. Harrell adds that perspective.

Indeed, he’s a living, breathing example of what Mike Leach’s program can produce working amongst a group of young players with lofty expectations.

“So, if three Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks all go down with injuries and your phone rings, how committed are you to your job,” a Cougar Club member asked.

“Well, I work out every day,” he said, sheepishly.

And then he explained that he’s always wanted to be a football coach. His grandfather was a football coach. His father was a high school coach and his little brother actually became a coach before he could, what with his diversion into the professional game.

Harrell’s job in Pullman is to offer a quarterback’s perspective. In defensive meetings, for example, he can offer insights to defensive backs looking for an edge.

Or he can help diagnose problems with the offense. For instance, take this sterling example on WSU record-setting QB Connor Halliday...

“Connor has a tendency sometimes to take the snap and just kind of stand there,” Harrell explained. “When he does that and the offensive line settles into their blocks, they’re right in front of him and he will feel that like he’s getting pressure. Coach Leach will see that and say ‘Well, our line just isn’t blocking very well.’ But the truth is, they’re blocking okay, it’s just that Connor isn’t getting his proper depth.

“It’s a little thing, but if he gets his proper depth and the offensive line settles into their blocks the way they’re supposed to, everything is just fine and Connor has room to work.”

Harrell brought his unique perspective to a discussion Monday of the upcoming game against Cal (7:30, Pac-12 Networks) and coach Sonny Dykes’ take on the Air Raid offense. Dykes was mentored by Leach and was Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator before leaving to be o-coordinator at Arizona, then head coach at Louisiana Tech before taking the top job at Berkeley.

“I love the Air Raid offense – I think it’s the best offense there is,” Harrell said. “You see a lot of teams going to some kind of the spread offense. They may say they’re running the Air Raid or the Pistol, but what they’re really running is a version of the triple option.”

It all comes down to a simple concept, he said.

“We’re going to be better at what we do than you are at what you do.” Harrell explained. “If you’re the quarterback in this system you need to know three things: You need to know your own offense perfectly. You need to know your own personnel inside and out, and you need to know the opposing team’s defense.”

As an accomplished quarterback, it was inevitable that Harrell would be asked about the Cougars’ quarterback cupboard and what can be found there.

“I think the future looks really bright at quarterback,” Harrell said. “Anytime you lose a guy like Connor Halliday people are going to worry about what comes next. “Luke Falk is a talented kid who is just so smart – I think he spends more time studying film than our coaches. Peyton Bender is a kid we’re redshirting. His footwork is borderline flawless and his arm strength is great. What we’re telling him now is that he really has to put in the time studying so that he knows what he needs to know so we can get him on the field.

“And we have an early commit, Tyler Hilinski who will be on campus in January so that he can compete in the spring. He’s an exciting kid, too.”

Note: Hilinski, a three-star prospect from Upland, California, signed a Financial Aid Agreement with WSU which made it okay for Harrell to comment on him. Most importantly, an FAA removes the normal NCAA contact restrictions, thereby allowing WSU to freely place a call regardless of what period it might be on the recruiting calendar.

Harrell on Monday also touched on some of those limitations -- He can’t recruit off campus, but he can talk to recruits on official visits. And compliance issues limit his involvement in some aspects of coaching.

“A lot of my job is pointing things out to Coach Leach,” he said. “There are some things that I begged him to do when I was playing for him and he kept saying no. Now he’s actually doing them and I’m a little jealous.”


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