On Wednesday, Washington State coach Mike Leach, quarterback Connor Halliday and linebacker Darryl Monroe had lots of time to speak to reporters without side distractions such as preparing for football games. In the relaxed atmosphere at Paramount Studios the Cougars opened up about a variety of topics once they were done with TV interviews.
Follow the jump for notes, quotes and stories from Pac-12 media day.
-- Already finished with Geronimo and Swing Your Sword? Leach talked extensively about one of his favorite books, Wooden, referring to it early in the day and toward the end. The coach said that he reads it all the time, and will read it during fall camp. Not into basketball? Don't worry. Leach said that if it was a book about basketball, he wouldn't read it.
-- The assembled Pac-12 writers and TV types made much ado about the 10 returning conference quarterbacks, headlined by Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Monroe acknowledged that guys like Mariota, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and UCLA's Brett Hundley will present challenges for the WSU, but likes his own guy, too.
It's a handful. But I'm prepared because I face the best quarterback every day. I mean he may not be as fast as Marcus or some of the other guys, but as far as, like, being a half-step too slow in my zone, not being close to my man in coverage, that part he's the best one in the Pac-12 when it comes to that, and threading the needle, and (punishing you for) having your feet too slow or just being that close to an interception. I face that every day so I feel I'll be prepared. As far as a scrambling quarterback, I'll just have to practice on the running backs. Assuming they can throw the ball it's all good.
-- WSU doubled its win total from the previous year last season, beat USC on the road and made it to the first bowl game in a decade. But the Cougars didn't get much more respect from the media this year, which voted WSU fifth in the Pac-12 North and many media members used WSU's podium time to transcribe quotes or get lunch. By the end of WSU's 40 minutes former S-R WSU beat writer Christian Caple and I were the only two reporters talking to Halliday, and it was mostly about golf.
The thing that gets me I guess is getting WSU to a bowl game in 10 years, that never gets talked about. I guess there are two sides of it. I understand that WSU isn't the big deal here and there's Marcus Mariota and all those guys, but at the same time it is a little frustrating. I'm going into my senior year and what else in the world do I have to do to get a little recognition? I broke damn near every school record last year, so that's my deal I guess.
-- Monroe has bulked up considerably from last season's playing weight of 230 pounds and is now a chiseled 240 pounds. In other words, it looks like strength coach Jason Loscalzo put him on the Deone Bucannon diet. Bucannon, if you recall, put on a lot of muscle before his senior year last season, made a lot of big hits, and was drafted in the first round of the NFL drafted by Arizona. Monroe said that watching Bucannon's success last year inspired him to head down a similar path this offseason.
His senior year I watched him prosper, I seen his work ethic, I watched the way he took care of his body. He calls me or texts me, like, "make sure you're doing this, make sure you're doing that." He's pretty much showing me the way. I'm just working harder, trying to be the first one in the weight room (and) the last one to leave, even on my off days. Pretty much everything that he did, as tiring as it is seeing it pay off for him, hopefully it will pay off for me.
-- Halliday spoke at length about what it's like to be the starting quarterback under Leach, and noted that the coach can get a little long-winded during film room sessions.
The young quarterbacks, when we're in meetings the young quarterbacks are scared to ask questions about like, when they're watching themselves on film and they make a bad throw, they're scared to ask what they're supposed to do right there because when you ask a question the answer is going to take 45 minutes. Everybody's scared to say something because anything that reminds him of anything he's done that day – like when the presidential election was going on, he hates Barack Obama, so that just went on and on and on about how he can't run the country and everything.
-- That being said, he also thinks a lot of the things Leach says tend to get blown out of proportion, and that few people have ever seen the side of Coach that Halliday has.
I think people don't realize that he is messing around, 99% of the things he says are for his own enjoyment. He's doing it to laugh, like he's not, 90% of the things he says are lies, he's just saying it to make other people laugh and make himself laugh. Seeing him with his son, his son comes to our meetings a lot. He loves that boy. He's a junior in high school, sophomore, his eyes light up around him, he beams. He is so proud of his son, wants to talk about his wrestling, his baseball, his camp down in Texas. He seems like a great father.
-- Halliday joined Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston and others as counselors at Peyton Manning's Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana this summer. He got there a day early, and one of the camp employees told him that counselors rarely ask Manning many questions, so Halliday made sure to make the most of his time with the reigning MVP.
hearing that was kind of a greenlight to ask questions, so I got to talk to him for a little bit 1-on-1 for 30 minutes and that was really cool.”
“I had a bunch of questions about protection schemes at the next level if I get a chance to play there, so audibling protections, seeing what you’re going to do pre-snap protections, and then I do a good job of getting in a rhythm and completing 5, 6, 7 passes, and then a lot of the times I get on a roll like that and take a stupid shot down field and that kind of gets the whole team out of a rhythm. So I was asking him what he does to keep himself in that rhythm without getting too confident to take that shot. He was saying that was one of his big problems in high school – I really doubt how big of a problem it was – so he had some good answers for me with that, and I asked him some things about how to handle different personalities, receiver-wise, how he works individually with different receivers. I took a lot of things from him.
-- While Halliday was at the Manning camp, Loscalzo texted him saying that redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Bruggman didn't show up to a workout. Halliday said that Bruggman's transfer totally surprised him, but that he hadn't been so surprised by backup quarterback Austin Apodaca's transfer earlier in the year. He added that he's confident that walk-on quarterback Luke Falk is ready to handle backup duties.
He had a heck of s spring. He deserves a scholarship. They should be able to give one to him. Can’t wait to see what he does with the team next year. Absolutely can’t wait to see what he does with the team next year. He’s a great kid. Love hanging out with him. I can’t say enough good things about that kid.