(William Mancebo/Getty Images)
By: Trevor Williams, Sports Radio KJR
On Monday, the NCAA opened its 2013-14 athletic season. One month removed from the opening of college football camps across the country, Mike Leach, the coach of the Washington State University Cougars, has reason to believe 2013-14 will be a better year.
In 2012, Leach took over as the head coach of a Cougars team that won just 4 games in its previous coach’s (Paul Wulff) last season.
Following an Apple Cup loss for the Cougars in
What Cougar fans experienced in 2012, however, lacked magic and excitement at times. WSU blew their homecoming game against Colorado (Buffalos came back from down 14 in the fourth quarter to win on their final possession), was massacred by Utah, and lost one of its most talented wide receivers, creating a controversy on the Palouse which exposed a WSU locker room that definitely needed an attitude adjustment.
Cougar fans didn’t have a chance to give thanks for the 2012 season until the Friday following Thanksgiving. WSU won the Apple Cup against their in-state rival, Washington, and did so in dramatic fashion. The Cougars came back from down 18 in the fourth quarter and when the Huskies’ kicker Travis Coons missed a 35 yard field goal at the end of regulation (that would’ve handed WSU a 2-win season) the Cougars forced overtime. Toni Pole then intercepted Keith Price on the opening drive of overtime and the rest is history. WSU’s magical early Christmas gift gave Leach and his coaching staff just what they needed to head into spring and summer workouts.
Fast-forwarding to today, Leach has now had a full season of recruiting and brought in his first full recruiting class. Scout.com ranked Leach’s recruiting class 50th in the nation and with it; Leach hopes to start plugging his kind of guys into the air raid offense.
Apparently, Leach has found some guys he likes and developed those who stayed in the program into players who fit his puzzle. A couple weeks ago, Leach spoke to Mark Packer on SiriusXM College Sports Nation and made quite the prediction. Talking about his expectations for next season, he said, “I always expect to go to a bowl and I expect this team to go to a bowl.”
If there’s one thing Cougar fans have learned from Leach, it’s that he means what he says. Take his one-strike policy on disciplinary actions surrounding his players in
So what does this all mean for WSU football in 2013-14? Hopefully, all signs will point to improvement. I don’t know that I’m ready to jump on Leach’s wagon and proclaim a bowl game for Cougar fans this year (they’ve been promised that for two years now), but I do think this season is going to show Cougar fans a lot of improvement and they can expect WSU to be a very competitive team.
Competition doesn’t necessarily translate to wins. WSU’s schedule is fairly difficult this season. With opening week games at
If WSU is to pull off an upset win on the road at
For WSU, a 2-2 record means the Cougs need to win half of their games over the rest of the season to qualify for a bowl. With games against Stanford,
This is why an upset victory over USC or
Coug fans should also expect a more productive offense. In Leach’s first year at Texas Tech he experienced the same offensive struggles Cougar fans watched in 2012. The good news was his team took-off offensively in his second season at Texas Tech.
Also, another goal going into the offseason for Leach and his staff was to build “strong fat” on the Cougar offensive line. If the training program was successful, a stronger and more athletic build for the big men should allow the offensive line to thrive in their extra-wide splits. This could create better opportunities for Cougar running backs and receivers.
Leach also noted that many underclassmen made appearances for WSU last season. The up side is always tremendous for these athletes, who have the potential to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Underclassmen are also now more familiar with Leach’s playbook and coaching schemes, so the learning curve shouldn’t be as steep for WSU’s position players this season.
The WSU football team is also expecting recruiting to pick up, thanks in part to the addition of their new football athletic offices and training center which is scheduled to be completed in 2014. This addition is connected to Martin Stadium and its construction marks another phase in the Martin Stadium renovations. Better facilities in programs will excite recruits and allow them to view
The most important piece to the Cougars rebuilding puzzle is the fact that as each year goes on, more and more of Leach’s guys will be in the locker room. Leach has a very specific way he runs his program and he thrives in organized and structured situations. By having more players in the locker room that he hand picked, Cougar fans can rest assured that the athletes will reflect the values put forth by the coaching staff and university.
The good news?
Even though Leach reportedly received interest from other college programs at the end of last season, he chose to stay in
So, about a bowl game?
Sure! Why not? Don’t buy your tickets yet, but get ready to start watching a WSU team that can at least threaten a bowl bid and keep Cougar fans on the edge of their seats.
Leach obviously believes in his abilities and knows that the future in
If the offense starts going (the defense remains fairly strong) and touchdowns rain down on the Palouse and visiting stadiums this season, we might see Leach’s bowl expectations take shape. For now though, Cougar fans will just trust the system and watch Leach steadily change pieces of a WSU program that is playing for the future. He’s done it once at Texas Tech. For now, believe he will do it again.
This guy... yeah, this guy. Enough said. Fan get's hit by foul ball and loses control of body and mind. Curious? Yeah check it out here...
Ugh I hate Alabama but I can sure see why any recruits would be interested in going here. WOW!