It all starts with the line

In the concluding piece from our conversation with <b>Mike Levenseller</b>, the offensive coordinator talks to <i>Cougfan.com</i> about the outlook for the offensive line in 2004 and what it will mean to say goodbye to this senior class. Also, how recruiting is shaping up and the art of calling a game -- from the sidelines to the by-play in the coaches box. Some of the answers may surprise you.

Being down on the sidelines carries with it obvious advantages for offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller. But one thing you do lose is the completeness of the overhead view. That's where coach Timm Rosenbach comes in.

"You need to be in the box, I believe, to call the game," said coach Levy.

"Mike (Price) had a good feel for it, for (calling a game from down on the field), because he did it for so many years."

"Timm probably calls a great deal of the game, if not most of it. We bounce ideas off of each other; I'll tell him I want something and he'll put it into the format that I want."

"But he gets in a really good rhythm up in the box.. We think a lot alike, and we're very similar in how we want to attack things. But it's a lot easier to see from up there."

Does coach Levenseller see himself headed up to the coaches box at some point?

"I like being down there. It still all comes through me," coach Levy explained. "I think Timm's really done well at it. But its really how you prepare your game plan. The most important thing is that. Its done by committee and everybody has a voice in it - and I like it that way."

THE CONCEPT OF offense by committee is not new to Washington State. And an important ingredient to its success is keeping a staff together. The last 15 years has seen the most continuity in the WSU football program since the days of Babe Hollingbery.

"Because as we get to know each other as a staff and be around each other, if we can keep some continuity in the upcoming years, you'll see it," Levenseller said.

"It'll get better and better."

One other thing to keep in mind; in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator, Levenseller is also the wide receivers coach and has game responsibilities to that end.

"Right now, I still have to think about what receivers I'm going to get in at certain times of the game, and there's a lot more that goes into it," said coach Levy.

WHILE SIMILAR TO Price in a number of ways, Levenseller does go about a number of things differently. And you get the feeling that this offense is evolving; that not everything about coach Levy's offense is in place just yet..

"We did a lot of (TE lead blocking) but then with the injury situation there.." and he let the thought hang in the air of what might have been.

"We're real similar on how we (coach Price and he) work. I probably talk less now, I throw a few ideas out there - and that's ok."

"But you know, we're doing a lot more than 2 back stuff; we did the 2 tights, and we've done a lot more with play action than we've done in the past - because of that ability, (because we now have the personnel). Timm's real good at that, and coach Kelly Skipper understands it very well because they did a lot of that at UCLA.."

"So I can sit back and listen to those ideas and that's kind of how it goes. We do it by committee and then Timm puts it in the right order and then they send it through me. There's not many things that get vetoed. If your preparation is good, and you're thinking along the same lines then there's not much of a reason for (ideas to get vetoed)."

COACHES CANNOT DISCUSS specific recruits until after Signing Day, but in a general sense, the Cougs' offensive coordinator could be described as cautiously optimistic on recruiting this year.

He's also cautiously optimistic that much of this class will be set earlier rather than later.

"Its early. We've had a bunch of kids that have committed.. So far, so good. There's still a ways to go on that, a lot of things can happen between now and (the end of) December," said Levenseller.

December? With Signing Day on February 4th, what about the month of January?

"I think more things will happen in December than in January. I think we'll be pretty much done in December."

ONE ITEM ON the minds of many Cougs is how the offensive line will perform in '04. There are several reasons for optimism.

"Its going to be interesting to see where we're at," said coach Levy. "We've got Sam Lightbody back, Calvin Armstrong back, Nick Mihlhauser back."

"I think probably Bobby Byrd steps in - the fact that we redshirted him (was beneficial), and hopefully he makes a significant contribution right away."

"Charles Harris has a chance to play next year, Sean O'Connor has a chance to really step up. Mihlhauser has come on a lot this last month, really pleased with him. Riley Fitt-Chappell has got to figure in there. There's enough (quality) people there."

Back to O'Connor - He did such an good job in the latter stages of the year as a situational run blocking TE, he might have played himself out of the position come next season.

"I think he can vie for a spot somewhere, either at center or guard. I think he's going to get better and better and better. And he's very committed. He's a great kid, one who wants to be better.. and I think he'll (continue to) work hard."

Coach George Yarno will have a year under his belt with the big skill players, and the players will have had a year with him.

"Its just going to be a real, real intense and demanding offseason for that group.. to get a bond, to really work together," said Levenseller.

"And it'll help them being in with coach Yarno for a second season - terminology will be a lot more understandable to them, the continuity will be better."

It is worth noting just how much is required for a player to be a good, solid offensive lineman in this league. And just how critical the offensive line is to the success of a team. Everything flows from the line.

"Being an lineman really takes dedication," said coach Levy.

"You really need to study a lot of video - It takes a lot. It's a different animal. You don't get a lot of (recognition) but sometimes its pretty obvious when your guy gets through and makes a play."

"You have to be somewhat thick skinned; you won't get a lot of the glory on Saturday. Typically, they're the guys that work in the trenches and don't get noticed unless they do something bad - and that's unfortunate."

"Because really the No. 1 thing, The No. 1 thing, that helps an offense develop and get better - is how your offensive line develops and comes along."

"You've got to be solid there. If you're solid there, you can get by with some things elsewhere."

BUT BEFORE TURNING our complete attention to the 2004 offense, there's some unfinished business in the Holiday Bowl against Texas.

This is perhaps the most successful senior class in the history of Washington State Football. And its going to be difficult to say goodbye after the Bowl game.

This group leaves behind a legacy - both for those who will follow in '04, and beyond. Its about working all offseason to get better. Its about dedication to your craft and to your teammates. Its about furthering what has now been entrusted to them.

"Some things start to get going with bowl preparations, but you start to feel that way now," remarked Levenseller, on how much he's going to miss the guys who are graduating.

"And these kids; maybe the most successful group to ever come through here. And a lot's to be said for that - when you lose those kinds of kids."

"And if you wondered how they got there, it was hard work and dedication."

"So yes, this will be a tough moment when that bowl game is over and you're done with those kids. But they'll stay close to the Program, they usually do. They'll have as much loyalty to the Program as the Program has had towards them."

"That has a tendency to surface quite often. And it helps you down the road."

If the last three years are any indication, this is a road upon which remarkable travels have just begun..

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