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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Leach ready to storm into spring practices

By Ted Miller

Mike Leach is not afraid of the weather in Pullman, Wash., which could be a bit nippy -- and perhaps snowy -- for the first day of Washington State's spring practices on Thursday.

Heck, it's not like his first spring practice leading the Cougars could be more inclement than his first leading Texas Tech in 2000.

Cold? Snow? Not as bad as hail.

"It's flying off their helmets like popcorn," Leach said recalling his first practice in Lubbock.

Washington State's Mike Leach
Tight ends typically don't excel in Washington State coach Mike Leach's system. That could change in 2012.
Or do you know what happens when a hard rain meets a dust storm?

"A couple of times a year there, it rains mud," he said.

Leach the raconteur took control of his chat with reporters Wednesday afternoon and was, as usual, highly entertaining. But getting specifics from him about what he sees with his personnel wasn't part of the plan, and it led to briefer answers. Of course, that makes sense because Leach isn't sure what he's got as he installs his "Air Raid" offense and a 3-4 defense.

Evaluation is obviously a top priority, but Leach used the terms "precise" and "efficient" repeatedly.

Or, as he said, "Getting as good as we possibly can at practicing."

The first order of business is finding a quarterback. Leach said reps will be split 50-50, at least during the early-going, between Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday. When asked if Halliday, who suffered a lacerated liver against Utah on Nov. 19, was ready to practice full-go, Leach said, "I assume."

Leach said the top two priorities for his QBs will be decision-making and accuracy. "Those two you really can't compromise on," he said. Quick feet also help, particularly for a team that has some questions on the offensive line.

Leach pointed out that he didn't pursue a JC QB because he's pretty satisfied with what he's seen on tape of Tuel and Halliday. "It's not like you're starting from zero," he said.

He seemed intrigued by his talent at receiver, noting that the crew was taller than what he typically had at Texas Tech. And, yes, he's been impressed by Marquess Wilson.

"What I like about him is he always wants the ball," he said.

On the other side of the ball, it will be interesting to see how things develop, particularly if the Cougars want to make new coordinator's Mike Breske’s 3-4 alignment their base scheme. After dismissing both C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi from the team -- both returning starters -- there's a decided lack of depth at linebacker. Count on there being some position shuffling, both from the backhalf and the line. Leach, in particular, seemed intrigued with Travis Long, who has started the previous three years at end. The 6-foot-4, 256-pound senior might be athletic enough to play an outside linebacker spot.

"He can do a lot of things," Leach said. "Moving him around as a player is pretty tempting."

It's obvious there will be a lot going on this spring in Pullman, so the often-challenging weather is not a chief concern. Getting guys into the right spot is.

Said Leach, "There isn't anybody who's not being evaluated."