Knowledgeable fans of college football think offense when any topic involving Coach Mike Leach is brought up.
Folks on hand at Joe Albi Stadium joined by Pac-12 Network viewers were primarily focused on the Washington State offensive unit. No surprise, the reviews following the conclusion of a lively scrimmage which produced a modest 43-points of offensive scoring were tepid, reserved and critical.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this 3-part series, there is good reason to expect Connor Halliday will be the starting quarterback against Auburn at the end of August when Cougar football cranks it up in 2013.
As a believer in the adage football is a team sport, here’s my take on the other 10 positions on offense.
It would be generous to describe the performance of WSU’s offensive line as “lackluster” this past year, Coach Leach’s first in Pullman. Then again, it would be wishful thinking to believe six guys can fill five positions on the field as was the case in 2012. Magnifying the challenge was the fact two of those young men were walk ons.
Turning the page to the current Cougar football roster reveals good progress in developing an OL unit that can compete in the Pac-12. Check that. There has been massive progress in the development of WSU’s offensive line. More, bigger, athletic guys rates a “massive improvement” review.
Instead of concern over whether or not he’ll have five OL guys available to huddle up, Coach Clay McGuire will have choices to make when tapping a starting unit. What a difference a year can make. I’m not saying Washington State will be confused with Stanford in 2013, but they should be ignored by media rather than ridiculed.
Coach Leach has guys who can learn to execute his preferred wide-splits across the line. If Leach is to run his Air Raid offense, h the makings of a good O-line are there.
In particular, Rico Forbes and Gunnar Eklund looked solid and effective at the tackle slots. Both John Fullington and Joe Dahl looked nasty inside at the guard position. No question Elliott Bosch will be the man at center this fall.
Wide receivers proved to be the most impressive unit on the field Saturday.
Kristoff Williams earned the attention of many with a couple of spectacular run-after-catch receptions. Williams finished with a monster 136-yards on 7 catches including a highlight reel touchdown romp down the middle of the field.
From my view, Gabe Marks will be a star in the conference this fall. No question about it. If possible, Marks looked smoother on his routes in the scrimmage than in games last season. He definitely has improved his ability to avoid getting chucked at the line while retaining great hands. Great hands? You hear that description applied to a boatload of players. In the case of Marks, it’s not hyperbole.
Saving the least for last, Coach Leach will be shaking his head watching scrimmage video of running plays.
For his team to compete at a higher level in 2013, Leach will need to continue searching for answers to “what running game?” There simply wasn’t visible improvement when rushing attempts were called. To make matters a bit more dire, neither offensive squad was able to do much on the ground against a defensive line missing three of their best players sidelined by injury…er, coach’s decision.
Final thought regarding the Cougar offense.
Have to believe Coach Leach needed to see more video than anticipated for evaluation when discussing plans for the Crimson and Gray scrimmage. Going into Saturday he was thinking 80 or so plays would be enough. Instead, Coach Leach called for nearly double that amount made possible through ramping up the tempo a couple of notches. Players and coaches combined will benefit greatly in the coming weeks leading into fall camp with a wealth of video to learn from.
Bottom line, the Washington State offense looks better than last season. But for fans mimicking young kids eternal curiosity, “Are we there yet?”
Not just yet, but soon. Very soon.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
– Kristoff Williams day was an impressive 7 catches for 136-yards and 1TD
– Gabe Marks hauled in 11 receptions for 107-yards and a pair of touchdowns
– Isiah Myers caught 8 passes for 111-yards and 1TD
– Ricky Galvin caught 7 passes for 57-yards
– Marcus Mason grabbed 7 tosses coming out of the backfield for 44-yards
– Dominique Williams pulled in 6 passes for 85-yards