Today, our penultimate stop on the “tour” of Pac-12 spring football camps, with Washington State.
Starters returning: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense).
Refresher on 2013: Cougars, after playing national-title game participant Auburn to within a TD in the opener, shocked 15-point favorite USC, 10-7, the launch to their first bowl season in 10 years. They sagged in October, especially on defense, but rescued their season with a mid-November upset at 13-point favorite Arizona, then got the coveted sixth win at home against Utah and a bid to the New Mexico Bowl. But a winning season was squandered with some turnovers and bad clock management by coach Mike Leach in a closing loss against Colorado State.
Coaching changes: None.
Spring concerns: Replacing three OL starters and three in the secondary.
Developments: QB Connor Halliday had a solid spring and, as he begins his fifth year, is the unquestioned starter . . . but the backup spot is a guess, as walk-on Luke Falk dueled with highly regarded recruit Tyler Bruggman . . . Leach said ending spring that RBs Theron West, who burst onto the scene in the bowl game, and Jamal Morrow led a bevy of candidates that include 2013 leading rusher Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell . . . he said the OL is stronger, more athletic and deeper than in ’13, but younger . . . Joe Dahl, moved from inside to LT for the bowl game, stayed in that spot, having switched with Gunnar Eklund, who remains at guard . . . the other three spots are a close duel between Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson at C, JC transfer Jacob Seydel at RG and Cole Madison at RT . . . if the line protects, the offense could be incendiary, as the top eight WRs return, representing 381 catches led by Gabe Marks’ 74 . . . Halliday told the Spokane Spokesman-Review senior WR Vince Mayle, trimmed down to 220 pounds, “is a completely different player than last year.” . . . Joe Salave’a, DL coach, told ESPN.com he thinks he has a potential rotation of six players at the position, led by Xavier Cooper . . . DC Mike Breske said it’s the most depth in the three-year Leach regime at DL . . . Leach praised the work of DL Robert Barber, Daniel Ekuale, Emmitt Su’a-Kalio and hybrid rusher Ivan McLennan . . . Breske, talking about linebacker specifically and the defense overall, said, “Our athleticism is better. We run better.” . . . CB Daquawn Brown seems to have one corner spot, while veteran Tracy Clark made a bid for the other one but will have to hold off frosh Patrick Porter and Sulaiman Hameed in the fall . . . Newport grad Isaac Dotson battled an injury late in drills but would otherwise be a potential S starter . . . walk-on Beau Glover of Gig Harbor is also bidding for playing time there . . . ex-Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell joined the staff as an “analyst.” . . . Cougars again plan fall camp at Sacajawea Middle School in Lewiston, where they felt they took big strides a year ago.
Spring game: Before 6,233 at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, Halliday’s Crimson team won, 23-19, as he went 25 of 41 for 326 yards and three scores. Bruggman struggled, throwing interceptions on all three of his first-half possessions.
Quotable: Leach, on the secondary – “We’ve got some quickness and athleticism there we haven’t had.”
2014 schedule: Cougars open with Rutgers (freshly a Big Ten member) in the opener at CenturyLink Field Aug. 28 and add non-league games with Nevada and Portland State. The home schedule is attractive, with five Pac-12 games, including Oregon, Arizona, USC and Washington.