A couple days ago we asked five questions pertaining to areas of concern for the Washington State coaching staff this Spring. In this week’s Round Table, George, Lew and I give some of our thoughts on possible answers. Again, in this set of questions we are covering Spring-only issues, not issues for the 2014 football season. If you missed the full intention of each question you can find them HERE.
How does WSU create more pressure up front without sending more bodies?
LEW: The Cougs didn’t use much press coverage allowing opponents QB’s to dink and dunk too easily. Another year of experience with 3-4-4 scheme should help since few guys coming out of HS are experienced with that base defense.
GEORGE: I propose a OLB/Safety hybrid of some type.
JOSH: In the hybrid 3-4 that Breske runs you need a hybrid player at BUCK. The Cougs haven’t had that yet. Long was a linebacker in a DE’s body, while Palacio and Vaeao are DL’s playing linebacker. So far, all of them have been a detriment in coverage and the staff needs to find a guy who can truly do both (rush the passer and cover). I have some ideas, which we’ll expand on in a later article.
Will the Cougs be able to withstand the loss of 5 seniors in the secondary?
LEW: Only two of the four DBs in 2013 had significant PT experience. That will be an issue this coming season because there’s plenty of talent, but not a lot of game experience. Playing within the scheme rather than letting eyes wander will be key to avoiding a step backward in secondary performance. Trust isn’t a typical trait of freshmen and sophomores. Trust the other 10-guys are going to do their job will be a crucial attitude for success.
GEORGE: They’ll miss the leadership more than anything. We have the athletes, we need to gain some discipline.
JOSH: Yes, if only from an athleticism standpoint. When the Cougs were beat on a route last season, it was over. They will still get beat due to inexperience this season, but the recoveries will be much better. What will be tough is replacing Bucannon’s and Horton’s knack for forcing a crucial turnover.
3 of 5 starting O-linemen are gone, what’s the key to success if the O-line is to gel this Spring?
LEW: The O-line will be better in 2014 because of a big time jump in athleticism/size. Determining who replaces Elliott Bosch is the key. The components are going to be there but to function at a high level WSU needs a hoss like Grasu for the Ducks to line up at center and make assignment calls.
GEORGE: I have an idea for Mike Leach: Yoga. Put the guys through some of this stuff during Spring ball, and their work out will reduce soft tissue injuries and improve footwork for those huge splits come spring. Plus, can you think of a better idea for bonding then a bunch of big guys sitting around in bare feet and attempting to stretch?
JOSH: Athleticism will improve, but 3 freshman inserts would be a disaster. There is no better spot for a stop-gap player than on the offensive line. The Cougars have gone to great lengths to secure at least three unused JUCO transfers to battle with their experience this upcoming season. Between Seydel, Machado and McClain, one of them needs to be good enough to earn a starting role.
Is an expanded running game important for success as we move forward, or not?
LEW: If you will allow for RB touches to describe the CougAir running game, I would say yes. Carrying the ball isn’t as important and getting the ball into the hands of a quality running back…which WSU will have two newcomers filling the bill.
GEORGE: The running game has been my concern from snap one last year. The clock management problem manifested initially during the UNLV game last year. Things are improving, but please, CML, could we please get an I formation or even better, really screw with the D coordinator and give them a wishbone.
JOSH: Contrary to popular opinion, ideally, Leach wants to run the ball probably at least 5-10 more times a game. To Lew’s point I don’t think it’s completely necessary if they get enough check downs and screens to get them heavily involved, but especially with a young OL running more helps. I do think more variety is extremely important and the backs that Leach likes land somewhere between the current Mason/Laufasa duo.
Will the Cougs change anything in year 3 on offense or defense?
LEW: Looking at who CML and his staff have targeted in recruiting, expect tweaking rather than significant change. Breske will still be running the D with better depth across the DL and comparable experience coupled to better athletes at linebacker. WSU offensive and defensive schemes are fine. With more athletes who possess a skill set to match the schemes (and are Pac-12 caliber players), there may be the inevitable tweak but by no means a need for a change in course.
GEORGE: … (continued from previous question) Wisdom is defined (in mixed metaphor) as the abilities to see (not necessarily admit) when you are wrong and to change. If Leach changes nothing, well, I hope he’s smarter than that. Just give us some basic stuff. You’re brilliant, intriguing, and well, perplexing, CML, but systematic obstinate adherence to a system is beginning to seem obtuse.
JOSH: Expanding on my previous answer, Leach is bringing in guys that can at least audition for an H-back (offset hybrid between a TE and FB) role as well. The QB’s Leach recruits are not read-option types, but that’s what they are running currently so more variety is very key. Defensively I think Breske and Co. experiment with some different things than they did last year to get better fits at certain positions. BUCK’s an important piece to find and I’m hoping that they play around with more nickel options for 3rd down and long as it’s a serious disadvantage to have 4 backers and 2 safeties on the field covering the 4 and 5 WR sets that the Pac-12 is famous for.