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Mike Leach previews WSU spring football

SPRING BALL features his longest practices of the year, Mike Leach says, but it will still be a challenge to find enough reps to evaluate the four Washington State running backs featured in spring drills.

The first of 15 spring football practices at Washington State kicks off tomorrow and among the questions on offense: Can one running back can rise above the rest? Gerard WicksJamal Morrow and Keith Harrington all return and will be joined by second-year freshman James Williams in a crowded spring backfield.

“I don’t mind repping all three (in games) but if one of them really takes control and separates himself, we’ll definitely rep that guy more,” said Mike Leach.  “If you were to ask me among those three who was the best I would say, ‘At what?’ 

"In the spring the challenge is going to be how do you split up all the reps so you can evaluate all that. And that will be kinda tough… We have to see what James Williams can do. He’s extremely talented. We just have to see what he can do.”

Leach touched on a number of topics Wednesday in a conference call with media, including:

Luke Falk
“He works extremely hard and one thing he does a really good job of is if you tell him to work on something he really will, and he will hard. He’ll focus on it hard to the point… you’ve got to keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t overdoing it. He just needs overall improvement. And we need to make sure he’s not trying to make too much happen because Luke is already ridiculously highly motivated,” said Leach.

Justus Rogers
“The biggest thing is we’ve got to get him in a position where he learns the plays well enough he can go out and do it… In his case, it’s not like ‘Show us enough to stay at the (QB) position.’ He’s already shown us enough to stay at the position, at least for the time being. The deal in his case is he’s talented enough to do other things.. We just have to get a better idea of more that he can do… He’s got a wide enough range of talent there may be a point where he has a decision to make, but we certainly haven’t gotten there yet,” said Leach.

Comeback wins in 2015
“As far as close games I’m very proud of our team for being tough enough to stay in there,” said Leach. “We won six games where we were double-digit underdogs… the quickest way to avoid a close game is to score more points and stop ‘em more times.. so we need to work toward that. 

“We weren’t a deep team last year, I thought our first level was a group that played really hard. But by the same token, if we can keep our focus and every drive is like the last drive, then we can put some of these teams away and it doesn’t come down to the end.”

Gabe Marks
“Gabe is a really committed guy and Gabe has had a great path… initially didn’t appreciate and understand because there’s a point to where a guy comes in and you just don’t understand what’s required college-wise, because it’s different than high school…  He competes at every detail that we have him do… And as he elevates his effort, I think other people follow that… We have a bunch of young receivers he’ll be a good example to help bring along,” said Leach.

Andre Dillard
“He had a point where he put on a bunch of weight and then he had the flu or something for a month and he lost the weight… and now he’s put the weight back on. He’s up to about 290 so that’s good. And then he’s incredibly athletic: good feet, long arms and all that. He can really be good, he’s gotta settle in and recognize he can really be good, play hard and don’t press when bad things happen.  I was really surprised he didn’t have more (recruiting) traffic… We just have to get him as many reps as we can,” said Leach.

Recruiting and journalism
“If you look at the stars and the recruiting lists, then you’re letting journalists decide who picks your class. And we all love journalists, you know. But you guys have yet to ask me how to punctuate your articles, you haven’t asked me what you should write about… so with journalism’s failure to do that over the years I decided I’m not going to ask them who to recruit anymore. I really never did, to be honest, I’m just trying to deferential here,” said Leach.

Top areas he hopes to have questions answered this spring?
“We don’t have any gross imbalances, we’re a very young team and have an awful lot of our team back,” said Leach. “In most cases, the people unknown to the public aren’t unknown to us so, I can’t say we’re scrambling anywhere. Obviously we’ve replaced two o-linemen but it’ll be within the mix of people here who have developed in their time.

“We didn’t really lose much in receivers, we’ve got some young guys who are going to figure more prominently there. Linebackers, again the same thing (as the OL), with a lot of the linebackers and d-line, it’s a lot of guys who have been around to play some – they’ll just play more and their role will elevate.

“There are plenty of spots here it’s competitive as far as who will get the most reps and who will play most.  There’s a pretty big focus (in the spring about getting them) the reps they need to elevate their play.”

Hercules Mata'afa
“One thing on him and all those guys who have an early level of success, you’ve just gotta stay on ‘em. Sometimes there’s a temptation for a guy to think he’s accomplished something. Hercules is quiet enough to where you kinda what’s running through his head at times but.. whether prompted or not, we’ll still remind him he needs to stay focused and keep working hard. I think he can definitely continue to elevate his play. He had some bright spots last year… but that’s hardly a destination, it’s just a part of his journey, I think,” said Leach.

Leach said Calvin Green and Morrow, arrested in separate incidents the offseason, would be full participants on Thursday.

On the 11 Japanese coaches visiting WSU to watch spring football
“Over the years we’ve had a number of Japanese coaches come and watch us…  We’ve had a lot of countries; France, Belgium, a lot of teams from England, Scotland, seems like a German team at one point, (Finnish, Sweden). It’s always good to have these guys (here),” said Leach.


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