Factoring in the personnel

In the second installment of our conversation with coach <b>Mike Levenseller</b>, he talks personnel with <i>Cougfan.com</i>. The offensive coordinator discusses some of the potential impact players on offense in '04 and addresses the question on if some traditional two-back offense is in the cards for next season. A special three-part, CF.C exclusive.

The emergence of Jonathan Smith this year meant one of WSU's most heralded recruits ever, Chris Bruhn, didn't see the field in '03 as often as he will next season. But the experience he did obtain might just be one of the more important keys to how well he performs in ‘04.

"I think he'll be real good," said offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller of the 6'3" 215-pound senior.

"And I think getting his feet wet this year was important. He did a nice job against Washington, a couple nice runs. Its important, (for the Cougs to be successful), that he has a good season, and matures within our offense."

But more and more, its also important to have quality depth that can step in and contribute at that position. That particular competition will wage deep into this coming offseason.

"I don't know who's going to back him up right now," said coach Levy. "We've got Kevin McCall back there - a redshirt freshman. And we're recruiting some backs, but I can't give you a definitive answer on that right now."

"If Allen Thompson is back and healthy, then he'll make a real run at this spot - he's a heck of a football player. If he can get that shoulder healthy.."

THE SCHOOL KNOWN as Quarterback U will head into this offseason with Josh Swogger having shown considerable promise in ‘03. But don't forget about Chris Hurd, coming off knee surgery, and redshirt freshman-to-be, Alex Brink.

"I think the quarterback position will have a huge impact on how we are," Levenseller mentioned.

"On Swogger, (as the year unfolded), I think he really settled down."

"I think in the Arizona State game, he was very polished and did a good job. And I think he showed some variance in the Apple Cup - he's just got to do a little better job in taking care of the football."

"But he showed his strength and his ability to move around. And he'll see those things quicker, in the future, (having gotten this year of experience.) Its just experience with him, he's got a real live arm.. He's got great feet."

"The future is bright."

ALSO A PART of that future; the talent stockpiled at tight end. These last two years, the TE has reemerged as a key component of the Cougar attack - that looks to continue in '04.

"The tight end position; Troy Bienemann and Cody Boyd are two exceptional players and they're really young still. Troy's got two more years and Cody's got three," noted Levenseller."

"I think we did a pretty good job (getting enough playing time for the tight ends) this year. The others are going to fight for playing time, those two guys have solidified themselves."

"And Adam West is a very good athlete. He's got to continue to improve and fight for that playing time. And I think Jesse Taylor can make a mark there. But I think the first two you're going to go with are Troy and Cody."

Wide receiver also boasts some young playmakers, as well as a senior whose potential remains limitless.

"I think Chris Jordan has a chance to be an exceptional player," said coach Levy.

"Trandon Harvey is a player that had a lot of success this year and done a nice job. And I think Devard Darling has got to be the number one returner on offense."

WITH A SLEW of injuries at tight end late in the year, the Cougs found themselves limited in what they could do on offense - specifically that lead blocking TE out of the backfield being used to plow the road.

Many fans have wondered if the Cougs will go to more of a traditional two back offense next year. As coach Levenseller notes, you first have to possess that kind of player personnel to be successful at it..

"I don't think we'd go a ton of two back - if we don't have that two back. We'll have to wait and see. This would have been the year to do that, we just never really got there because of injuries and other things but the concept of using the two tights, that formation of using one in the backfield is still very much alive."

"That keeps Troy and Cody both on the field; those are two of your better players and its something we need to try and do."

WITH ALL THE great pass-catch combos over the years, one major misconception about the Cougs is they they're primarily a passing team - that they throw it all the time.

In the last ten years, WSU has run 4,555 rushing plays (50.3%), and 4,492 passing plays. This season, the Cougs rushed the ball 451 times, while attempting 446 passes. Is fifty-fifty about the right balance for this offense?

"I think so. That's a good way to have it. You've got to have your runs, drop backs, play actions, screens.. (And coach Levy noted here he'd like to "improve our screen game, and we'll strive to do that..")

"A lot of it is just getting continuity."

"As a staff we'll sit down and figure out what we did well and what we didn't do as well as we'd like. And we'll build our package for next year from that."

But in building that package, its important to take into account the type of athletes you have - how best to utilize their talents.

"Also, you've got to factor in personnel," coach Levy said.

"What are we best at? What do we have? Who needs to be on the field the most?" he explained.

These are some of the questions coach Levenseller and the staff will be addressing this coming winter.

In the final installment Monday, coach Levenseller talks offensive line, recruiting, the art of play-calling and what it will mean to say goodbye to this senior class.

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