PULLMAN – Washington State isn’t the only Pac-12 football team in the Northwest conducting practices in preparation for the 2012 season.
The Cougars are, however, the only Pac-12 football team in the Northwest whose players are already attending classes for fall session.
School started in Pullman on Monday, as it did at Utah and Arizona. And fall classes begin at Colorado and USC next Monday.
But for Washington, Oregon and Oregon State – all of which use the quarter system – school doesn’t start until Sept. 24, by which point some of those teams will have already played four games.
WSU coach Mike Leach said he’s often wondered if there is an advantage or disadvantage to starting school early or late. Texas Tech, where Leach coached for 10 seasons, is on the semester system like WSU, but Leach said they always started school a little later.
Stanford (Sept. 24) and UCLA (Sept. 27) are also late-starters.
For schools on the quarter system, Leach said, “essentially it’s kind of like you’re in camp three games into the season. I can see some advantages to that as far as holding the focus and everything like that.
“It depends who you ask, but I’ve talked to some guys on the quarter system and their complaint on it (is) that it seems like they’re there a long, long time where it’s just the football team there, where there’s not a lot of other students around and they kind of hit the doldrums with not so much happening around campus.”
Another disadvantage for quarter schools is that some of them don’t finish summer classes until well after practice has started, though most are finished before any game preparation would begin.
Inside receivers coach Eric Morris, who played for Leach at Texas Tech, said he thinks semester schools that begin classes slightly later than WSU – such as Texas A&M, he said – have an advantage because they get to at least play their first game of the season before having to worry about their players juggling academics.
“I think that’s a little bit of an advantage for them, but they’ve got to get used to it at some point,” Morris said. “That’s something you’re looking into in recruiting. We want kids that can handle that and we try to do extensive background checks on them, just to see if they can handle that stuff. We don’t want kids that buckle under pressure.”
WSU players will not be made available to the media until after the season opener at Brigham Young on Aug. 30.
The Cougars aren’t just getting down to business in the classroom, either. Leach has begun creating the feel of a game week, introducing his “Thursday night football” routine in Tuesday’s practice to simulate the feel of what would typically happen in a Thursday practice during the season.
Thursday night football refers to a weekly 11-on-11 team session between the scout team and lesser-used players – about 35 plays this time, Leach said – in order to allow them more reps.
With WSU playing its opener on a Thursday, Leach is shifting their routine forward by two days.
“It was pretty good – better than average – which is exactly why we do it now so that we’re as sharp as we can,” Leach said of the session. “There’s a certain rehearsal to the process.”