Jul 26, 2013; Culver City, CA, USA; Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks to the media during PAC-12 media day held at the Sony Studios Lot. On his right is outside linebacker Elliott Bosch and left is defensive back Deone Bucannon. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Going into his second fall camp as the head man for Washington State, Coach Mike Leach remains consistent when it comes to media interviews.
Reflecting on the Pac-12 Media Day open session questions fielded by Leach, he didn’t disappoint in terms of expect the unexpected.
Controversy makes for interesting writing and reading. Heck, when was the last time you paused to read a story about a man feeding his dog? That same man bites his dog and most of us stop and check out what happened.
Last season Cougar Nation was tantalized by the debate over who Leach should start at quarterback. There were two good options with Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday. The crafty veteran vs. the young gunslinger.
The controversy over naming a starting quarterback continued this past spring with a similar theme. Would Leach favor a young crafty freshman, Austin Apodoca, or the veteran Halliday who brings a strong arm and no fear?
Following the end of spring camp Coach Leach wasn’t endorsing either Apodoca or Halliday as the guy who will lead his Air Raid offense into battle this fall.
Sure enough, the last question posed during the Pac-12 Media Day open session sought to continue brewing up a quarterback debate fueled by a quotable Leach comment or two. The response wasn’t necessarily soundbite material, but the content sure was.
"“If we were to play today, Connor Halliday would be the quarterback.”– WSU Coach Mike Leach"
Leach went on to make his case by describing the good spring practice and great job Halliday turned in this past March-April. The WSU head man cited Halliday emerging as a leader “…and how he has taken the team on his shoulders and is one of those guys who really brings people together..”
“I’m really excited to see where he’s at,” Coach Leach went on to mention ever so casually.
Since voluntary workouts this summer specifically prohibit coaches from working with players, the public line has to be one of curiosity.
In this day and age of virtually everyone having video capability in the palm of their hand, do you really think there isn’t much chance the coaching staff hasn’t seen how much progress players are making “on their own”?
No question the response by Mike Leach boosted the confidence of Halliday while lighting a fire under Apodoca who is certain to be a more-than-capable Pac-12 quarterback.
The importance of having a quarterback who can lead the team can easily be the difference between winning and losing. It’s possible that off-season reflections by Coach Leach and his staff favor a slightly different approach to how they publicly portray the team image. Connect those dots and you turn down the volume on a discussion/debate over the starting quarterback.
"“The most significant role that a quarterback plays is enhancing the skills of the players around him. Each team, you go out there with a certain arsenal of weapons and his ability to utilize them most effectively in a crisp, timely manner is huge as far as maximizing the offensive effort.” – WSU Coach Mike Leach"
Once fall camp begins next week, Leach has taken action to shift attention from quarterback contestation to player development, unit development and who the Cougs play next…always the most important game on the schedule.
There may be six guys listed as quarterbacks on the current WSU roster, yet to the surprise of those who follow Cougar football, Coach Leach knows who he’d start at quarterback today.
Then again, the first game isn’t until August 31st and a lot could change between now and then. You better believe the other five quarterbacks didn’t come to Pullman to become backup to Connor Halliday.