Nov. 19, 2011; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) drops back for a pass against the Utah Utes during the second half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

WSU Spring Football 2013: Why Connor Halliday Will Win the Starting Job


Connor has a bigger and bigger advantage going into the Spring workouts tomorrow, the more I ponder it. It’s easy to think about him as a two year guy at this point, but really he has less than a full year of starter reps under his belt. He’s still pretty raw but he has all the tools and he’s only going to be a junior.

Remembering back to a couple seasons ago, even though he was in a fair amount of games, Marshall Lobbestael had the same thing happen to him over the course of 3 seasons. FINALLY he became an efficient quarterback and took a HUGE leap his senior year to make us competitive. The reason; Marshall finally had seen enough in his system to make the right reads. This is the point in time that Halliday should adjust to this offense and really take off.

Not only should Halliday be a better QB for his mistakes, but he should be better from all of the tutoring he received last season. It was tough love, but it was necessary for him to understand that he cannot just “throw people open” in this offense. He was used to the Levenseller game which was more “push the ball down-field” and “throw away from the defense” than what Leach’s offense is. The air raid offense is a lot of layered routes, pushing the corners and safeties back and picking out the best level to throw the ball to. In this offense there are already receivers open on the field, it’s just a matter of finding them and getting them the ball.

How many times did we see this in the UCLA game and 4th quarter of the Apple Cup? Just open receiver after open receiver and the quarterback takes the easy throw, only to see the receiver use his open field skills for another 10-15 yards. You can still throw a guy open, but it’s more reserved for little option routes and flares, along with short burst routes combined with a one to three step drop. Then of course there’s always the necessity to throw your guy to separation down the field, but that just doesn’t happen as often in the air raid.

Since we’re comparing, I really honestly think that the “Lobster” would have been suited to run the Leach offense a whole lot better than the Levenseller offense since he liked to get the ball out quick. In comparison, I think Halliday is better suited (originally) to run the Levenseller offense than the Leach but I think he was taught that way (to hold the ball, find you’re 1-on-1 and use your cannon to throw the guy open) as a freshman. 

The other factor for Halliday to consider is that his offensive line is split out wide for a reason. Throwing lanes are an advantage of wide splits that gets very undersold. The key is to find a lot of underneath or intermediate receivers early in the progression if they are open and let them do the work. Throwing lanes make it more possible to see those open guys immediately so Leach naturally implements those via the wide splits. Halliday has to take advantage of that.

I think he will. His understanding of what his coach is trying to accomplish will be much better and without a certain someone on the field he won’t try to force the ball as much to his “main” play-maker. If he can also begin to understand that his running game has to be supplemented by the short passing game to his running backs, he could really turn the corner. It would help the line out tremendously for him to realize this, because then they won’t have to work as hard for so long to keep him upright.

Basically it will come down to Connor Halliday’s realization that every pass he throws doesn’t have to be a superstar throw for a touchdown. There’s no doubt in my mind that with film and a better understanding of the offense, Halliday will be the starter opening day at Auburn.

I’m interested in what our readers think on this subject of Halliday as our starter going into the game at Auburn. Are you comfortable with him progressing like I think he will or do you see a guy that will struggle to adapt again? Join the discussion below Cougs!

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Tags: Connor Halliday Football Mike Leach Washington State Cougars

  • Korbin

    It all depends if he can grasp the offense. If he can, I think he can become a superstar; strong arm, with the smarts to throw to an open receiver. I sure hope he can put it all together!

    • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

      This!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricfdez Ric Fernandez

    He definitely needs to improve his accuracy. I would love to see him win the starting job as a lot of people soured on him last year. He has to learn to not force the ball as much. Last years OSU game was as ridiculous as it gets.

    • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

      The OSU game was like a replay of his Colorado mistakes that cost the Cougs the game. Throwing into triple coverage… not generally a good idea. However Connor did this constantly last season. I don’t even think it’s an accuracy issue as much as a force the ball issue (like you said). I think he’s a pretty accurate qb in general though.