Leach thrilled with Dom Williams' leadership

MUCH HAS BEEN said about the Washington State wide receivers this fall camp, and rightfully so. Many are saying this is the deepest unit the Cougs have had in years. And if you ask head man Mike Leach, he’d say you aren’t far off. During his radio show Thursday night, Leach spoke in depth about the receivers, the leadership of one player in particular and more.

Entering his senior campaign at WSU, a lot of eyes figure to return to Dom Williams -- much of the pre-game attention has been focused on the early progressions of Tavares Martin and Kyrin Priester, but you can’t forget about Williams’ explosiveness.

The 6-2, 200-pounder is coming off a big junior campaign, where he hauled in 43 receptions for 656 yards and nine touchdowns. This offseason, though, Williams took control of things in a different department, Leach said on Thursday night.

“Those guys have been doing a good job as a whole, but one guys I’ve been really impressed with is Dom Williams,” Leach said. “He’s done a good job for us as far as leading by example.

"He’s a very precise and developed player, but he does more than that for us. He’s become a great wide receiver from the neck up.”

Williams' leadership role has certainly helped out with some of the young talent, including Priester, too.

PRIESTER WON HIS appeal with the NCAA over the summer (as did multiple others with similar transfer situations) allowing him to play immediately at Washington State after transferring from Clemson. The 6-1, 190-pounder has been electric during his short time out on the Palouse.

“Priester is a physical, explosive guy,” Leach said. “He’s a fast guy, but he’s got quite a bit of power as well. He’s basically — when I was dating my wife, I’d wear baggy clothes and (I'd) say I looked like Priester underneath the clothes. Then once we got to know each other, she realized my body wasn’t like Priester underneath.”

Leach added that he expects Priester to make plays on special teams, too. He’s listed as the No. 1 punt returner and No. 2 kickoff returner on WSU's Week 1 depth chart.

“I think his best games are ahead of him,” Leach said. “He’s going to get better and better, and he’s only scratched the surface. He’s a student of the game and sometimes he just needs to relax a bit. This means a great deal to him. He’s intense and wants to get good real fast. Sometimes you have to be patient.”

THROWING THE BALL to Priester and the other WSU receivers on Saturday will be third-year sophomore quarterback Luke Falk, officially named the starter by Mike Leach earlier this week.

“We’ve got three quality quarterbacks and of course Luke has improved from last year,” Leach said. “He had an impressive start to his career, averaging 400 yards a game. He watches a ton of film and has refined his skills. He also does a good job of managing the unit.

“Bender does a lot of good things too. He’s a good quarterback and very polished. The most impressive thing about these three is they’re all young guys. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a pair of quarterbacks that were as smart as put together as those guys.”

Don’t forget about true freshman signal caller Tyler Hilinski, Leach added. He's expected to redshirt, of course, but Leach likes his mental game.

“We watched him in Thursday Night Football and he does a lot of good things,” Leach said. “Tyler is a very smart guy. He’s majoring in economics and he belongs in economics. There’s a lot of guys who say they’re majoring there, but they don’t belong there. Tyler does. He and the other guys look comfortable out there.”

AND A BIG REASON the Coug QBs are comfortable -- the strong play of the offensive line in fall ball, said Leach. Led by senior Joe Dahl, the hosses are an experienced bunch, who show up to work with their hard hats on each day, he added.

“Joe has done a good job anchoring the unit there,” Leach said. “The one thing about being on the o-line besides individual effort and being big and strong is that you have to be able to play with the guys around you. There’s a lot of moving parts and you have to complement one another.

“I think it’s the toughest position on the field and it’s my favorite position on the field, I make no secret about that,” Leach said. “You have to be physically bigger and stronger than others, but you have to be smart too.”

Leach was asked was he lookd for in an offensive lineman?

“Well, if they’re the right type of offensive lineman, they rule the locker room,” Leach said. “A bunch of them run in a pack. You never see one alone. They always whip everyone. Once in a great while, you get a defensive lineman who can whip one of them, but not all of them.

“There’s a reason they play football. They’re the ones with the dirt all over them and the tape and blood and boogers on them, ready to go toe-to-toe with the guys across from them.”

NOTABLE NOTE: Leach said the bonding in the weight room this offseason was substantial. Led by strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo, the Cougs put in overtime getting themselves bigger and stronger. “It was always kind of an event,” Leach said. “There’s was a lot of energy and competition. Guys were slamming weights around. You’d always hear guys talking and cheering. With so much competition, guys would forget how hard they were working. We had guys who would lose track of time. There were always about six of them that we’d have to kick out of the gym to get another session going.”

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