Nov. 10, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Teondray Caldwell (34) gets past UCLA Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Spring ball officially ended for the Cougars last Tuesday and you can already tell Mike Leach has changed the mindset of this Cougar football program. After having one year under Mike Leach’s system, players are starting to realize what Leach and his staff are looking for. Leach said in an interview with Coug fan.com that he can’t wait for the Fall.
The Cougars were able to finish on a high note specifically on offense. Red-shirt junior Connor Halliday looked good on the final day of practice as was able to complete most of his passes. With the completion of Spring practices, Halliday has developed solid chemistry with sophomore wide receiver Gabe Marks. The battle for the quarterback position is still up in the air, but Halliday looks to be the favorite since he’s been the most productive quarterback this spring.
Red-shirt Freshman, Austin Apodaca struggled on the final day of practice by throwing multiple interceptions, however has had an overall good spring. This Spring was the first time Apodaca had worked with the first and second team offenses, and Leach said he was impressed with the way his young quarterback was able to battle through this Spring.
By the way Halliday has played well so far in the Spring and having more experience with this offense I believe will give him the start against Auburn in the first week of the season. Halliday seems confident in the way he has been playing and is showing his leadership abilities by letting everyone know the Cougars will be working hard in this summer.
The biggest improvement that the Cougars have made this off season has been with the offensive line. After seeing the Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday get sacked an extraordinary amount of times last season, the offensive line needed to improve in order for the Air-Raid offense to progress. Compared to last season, the offensive line is healthier, and is trusting one another which is key. To have a successful offensive line, everyone needs to be on the same page.
On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary has improved the most. Redshirt Freshman, Rahmel Dockery is already making a name for himself after having seven interceptions this entire spring. Dockery, along with freshman safety Taylor Taliulu were named the most improve players during Spring ball.
BUCK linebacker Kache Palacio was also added to the list of most improved players as well. Junior college transfer Ivan McLennan has made an impact this Spring as well with his explosive speed off the ball, and play-making ability. Senior cornerback Damante Horton has made his improvements and is ready to put in the hard work this Summer which will only benefit him this Fall. Horton will need to step up this year for the Cougars since this was one of the worst pass defenses in the Pac-12 last season.
Overall this Cougars football team is improving each day and is heading in the right direction. The mindset is different than last season, the players have had one year of playing under Mike Leach, and are now ready to put WSU football back on the map. The addition of the 2013 recruiting class over the summer will only lead to more success for this football team. Bring on the Fall!
–Evan Baron (Follow Me On Twitter: @BaselineBaron09)