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Leach in Spokane reviews Cougs' spring position-by-position

SPOKANE -- A clearly excited Mike Leach likes the product he’s bringing to Joe Albi Stadium this Saturday. The Washington State head man offered a position-by-position review of the spring to a room full of crimson faithful Monday at the Spokane Club

“I’m really excited about our spring game this year,” said Leach. “We’ve got a bunch of young faces, but the good thing is that they’re not all new this year. We’ve got a bunch of guys we baptized early and now they’ve got a season under their belt. It’s been a very competitive spring.”

Leach started with the offensive line.

“We’ve got a bunch of linemen back and we’re fighting to get a little depth there,” he said. "We do have a lot guys who have played.”

Leach singled out fourth-year junior guard Cody O'Connell.

“We call him The Continent,” he joked. “He’s 6-foot-9 and he weighs 365 pounds.”

Leach said left tackle Andre Dillard, who started late last season as an injury replacement, now weighs in at 290 pounds.

“And he just has great feet,” he added.

Leach said it’s been a little difficult grading out the running game.

“You have to figure out what portion is about the running backs and what portion is the line,” he said. “Up front, we’re not quite as deep as we were last year, but I do think we can be as good.”

Leach said he’s especially excited about his backs, even with Keith Harrington out with an injury. Second-year freshman James Williams has been a nice surprise by being both fast and physical, and the coach reminded his audience that, while both Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks have been around for a while, they’re both still young and each has a couple seasons left in the program.

“Our receivers are young and explosive and they’re led by Gabe Marks and River Cracraft,” he said. “We’ve got some size and speed on the outside. Tavares Martin (pictured above) – I’m surprised we don’t have clip of him, I should have put a clip of him on here – he’s real explosive. He’s one of the fastest guys in the league.”

Isaiah Johnson, a true freshman from Florida, is a big target, he added.

“Defensively, I think we’re doing some really good things up front," said Leach. "We’re not quite as deep as we were last year, but I think we’re every bit as good.

“We’re trying to find some guys to give us some depth. On the edge, Frankie Luvu and Logan Tago are playing better than ever and we’re starting to get some good play out of some guys that we can move around and play nickel. They’re basically some physical DBs with some speed. Shalom Luani, who we could put up there, and Kirkland Parker. In the secondary, we have everyone back, but we’re also got some great competition for those spots.”

The biggest surprise in the defensive backfield?

“That would be Jalen Thompson,” the coach said. “This is a kid who should still be in high school right now. But he decided to spend his prom and all that stuff with the Cougars.

“He’s just a real fast guy and gets to stuff other people can’t get to. He acts like he belongs here.”

Leach brought a highlight package that singled out wide receiver Kyle Sweet as well as a textbook screen play run by the offensive line.

“Screen plays rarely go the way you draw them up on the chalkboard,” he said. “This one did.”

Leach showcased a play by Garrett McBroom, saying the fourth-year junior could start on the defensive line, and singled out coverage by cornerback Darrien Molton.

“You end up wearing a coat of Darrien Molton when he covers you,” said Leach.

And the coach narrated a 52-yard field goal by Erik Powell.

“This one goes right through the middle of the uprights,” he joked. “You can’t see it on here, but trust me. It does.”

A Cougar Club member, obviously still bearing a grudge about last year’s Apple Cup despite the 9-4 season capped by a  win in a bowl game, asked if Leach had anything planned for the Huskies this year.

“Well,” he said. “I plan to use my starting quarterback.”

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