A new day dawns

IN JANUARY OF 2001, a new offensive coordinator was named at the football program of Washington State University. Two and a half years later, his offense will take the field...for the first time.

Mike Levenseller set several receiving records as a star wideout at Washington State.  He played in the both the NFL and the Canadian Football League.  He was an assistant in the CFL.  And he coached the wide receivers at WSU for nine seasons before adding the title of offensive coordinator to his resume.


Except being an OC under Mike Price was a little different than at anywhere else.


"This will not be Mike Levenseller's offense," he said the day he assumed his additional responsibilities.   Not that he minded the arrangement.  To the contrary. 


He often joked about being the "assistant offensive coordinator".  And he remains supportive and devoted to the man who recruited him out of high school and who's had a great influence on his playing and coaching careers.


The offensive game planning and preparation operated like a committee under Price.  Levenseller was the head of that committee, in a sense.  Every offensive assistant had input into the game planning.  And that probably won't change a whole lot.  It may still operate in much the same way. 


Because great observations and ideas come from a tight ends coach, a quarterbacks coach - not just an offensive coordinator or head coach. 


But the head coach who values input from every member of the staff is now Bill Doba.  And Doba will not be the de facto OC.  That responsibility is now Levenseller's - and not just the planning & prep. 


More noticeable on Saturday afternoons will be this change: the game day play calling.  In the past, the first ten plays were scripted with Levy and others all contributing during the week to those first ten plays.  But after that, the offensive coordinator on the sidelines was the head coach.


Price called the plays.  All the plays.  And while he got input from Levenseller during the game, the final call was made by Price.  "He's got the hammer," said Levenseller in ‘02, referring to Price as an offensive coordinator. 


But that's in the past.  What does the future hold?


Doba plans to continue a method favored by his predecessor.  He will allow defensive coordinator Robb Akey the freedom to call his game.  Unlike his predecessor, Doba intends to also extend that approach to the offense. 


This year we get to see what a Levenseller offense looks like.


Coach Doba has said he will not walk in the next morning and second-guess his coordinators and assistant coaches.  Doba has also emphasized he does not intend to fix things that aren't broken.  Wholesale changes?  No.  Changes?  You bet.


Not everything has yet been revealed about the offense.  You certainly don't want to let opponents know your game plan in advance.  But a few details have emerged publicly that offer a glimpse into what we'll see this coming year.


As a former wide receiver, one might opine that Levenseller favors chucking it deep, throwing it early and often.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Sure, with the speed and talent at receiver this season, there will be times the Cougs stretch the field. 


But there is value in the running game and in the short passing game.  And the offensive coordinator knows it.


The tight end will be integral in the passing game this year; a welcome bit of news for Cougs that recall names like Pat Beach, Butch Williams, and Brett Carolan.  And it doesn't end there for what is arguably the deepest position the Cougs field in '03.  The tight end has another responsibility this season, one just as critical as receiving yards.


There will be times the TE serves as the lead blocker for the ground attack.  Along with starter  Troy Bienemann - Jesse Taylor, Adam West, and Cody Boyd may all see playing time this season.  Taylor was actually recruited by UCLA as a fullback - watch for JT plowing the road this year.


With two potential gamebreakers in Jermaine Green and Chris Bruhn, Levenseller is looking to run the ball more than in seasons past.  To say there will be battles in the trenches is not wholly accurate.  Full-scale war is more like it.  And line coach George Yarno believes in smash mouth.


"We will be better up front," Levenseller said. "We have a good group of veterans and we will be better at knocking people off the football than we have the last two years." 


So along with Green and Bruhn, Jonathan Smith and Allen Thompson may also have opportunities to run through those big holes on the way to paydirt.


And let me close with this thought on Levenseller's offense.  Some in Cougar Nation are curious about the receiving corps after losing Mike Bush, Jerome Riley and Collin Henderson to graduation. 


Levenseller, entering his twelfth year coaching the wide receivers noted, "One thing that I think we are is pretty tough.  It's a real physical group of kids.  It's a real coachable group of kids that wants to get better…I think we have some real exciting young guys that nobody has heard about yet."


Can't wait.  I simply can't wait to see Mike Levenseller direct the offense.  For the first time.

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