Washington State Football: Examining the Walk-Ons Pt One


Sep 14, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts to a play during the second quarter against the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State football team is comprised of 85 scholarship players, but it also has several non-scholly players that have an impact on the program. Some kids who come in like this actually crack the two-deep eventually and earn themselves a scholarship, not to mention getting plenty of reps on gamedays.

But it doesn’t happen easily. Before we get into the actual names that will be around the program, let’s take a quick look at the challenges these kids face.

If it’s not obvious, not every player in a sports program has the luxury of a scholarship awarded to them. In many cases these are players that come from smaller high schools or got lesser offers than they felt they deserved at a competitive level. In others, the kid just has to be part of the program and even though they didn’t get offered, they go to their dream school to try and compete.

Preferred Walk-Ons are kids whom the coaches recruit, like and mostly offer a chance to play on the team but don’t have a spot left to give a scholarship because they’ve offered to “better” players. Either way you slice it, a walk-on faces the extra challenge of having to pay their own way through school. And that’s before they step onto the field with guys that are generally bigger, stronger and more highly regarded than they are as athletes.

These kids have to work extra hard, just to earn the respect of their teammates. Then they have to earn the respect of their coaches and show them that their talents just cannot be left off of the field. It takes an amazing amount of prep work and out-working the guys in front of you, but sometimes that’s the difference in the opportunities that arise to certain kids who otherwise would be playing flag football on the rec-squad.

As it is these guys are scout-team extraordinaire, competing against the number ones on a daily basis while giving them a look at the opposition. If they actually look like the opposition, there’s a good chance the guy is cut out to be a rotational player.

What we know is that a coach like Mike Leach will take good talent that works his butt-off with effort, attitude and concentration every day over great talent that merely gets through on his God given ability. Guys like the ladder give coach Leach a headache like he has in the picture above. Guys like the former become scout-team legends and end up as scholarship contributors on gameday.

In pt II we’ll begin to examine some of these unknowns you should be paying attention to as we get into the Spring and Fall practice sessions.

Go Cougs!