PULLMAN – Mike Leach won’t be spending much time duplicating 16-millimeter film this spring.
Because that’s no longer in style, the Washington State coach hasn’t bothered with playbooks, either.
Instead, Leach has assembled and distributed DVDs with cut-ups of his air-raid offense to the players who must learn it on the field when the Cougars begin spring practice at 3:10 p.m. today.
“I can’t draw a good enough picture as good as I can videotape,” Leach said during a 33-minute press conference on Wednesday.
There will be plenty for Leach and his new staff to accomplish during 15 practices that begin today and end April 24. Developing depth on the offensive line will be key. Deciding who will start at quarterback is important.
But perhaps the most interesting, from an outsider’s perspective, will be how well the Cougars pick up Leach’s offense, which features four starting wide receivers, wider splits across the offensive line and a whole lot of passing.
It’s not that complicated, though, Leach insists. In fact, he expects that players will start to at least get the hang of it by the team’s fourth practice.
“The idea’s not to make it over-complicated, because once you get the thing installed, the bulk of your time you want to spend developing your skills and going through your drills and things like that,” Leach said. “Because the one edge you have offensively, provided you make choices on what you’re going to run, you can make sure that you rep it more than anybody works to defend it. But you have to make those choices and you have to get it in and work to develop the skills to do it with as much precision as you can.
“It’s kind of like once you learn the alphabet, and then you write a lot.”
Leach said that as of right now, the plan is to split reps “50-50” between senior Jeff Tuel and redshirt sophomore Connor Halliday at quarterback, but that could change. Asked if Halliday, whose 2011 season ended with a lacerated liver, could handle the work load, Leach said, “I assume.”
David Gilbertson and Cody Clements will get reps, too – Leach uses two passing skeleton drills during practice – and that he’ll evaluate their performance on film each day.
A challenge of installing the offense, Leach said, is that he has to teach it to the entire roster. Typically, the juniors and seniors can help out the underclassmen. That’s obviously not the case this year.
But one of the advantages of this offense is that once the package is installed in the spring, the upperclassmen can help teach it to the freshmen during the summer. Quarterbacks and receivers don’t necessarily need defenders in place to practice timing and execution on their own once spring practices end.
Leach said the plan is to put film of each specific play together at the end of spring – “the zone left, you put them all on one tape. Y-cross, you put them all on one tape. All your vertical routes, all on one tape” – so players can continue studying the offense over the summer.
Leach said he likes the size of WSU’s returning receivers, who are “taller than the guys I’ve worked with in the past, which I like.” He praised junior Marquess Wilson’s desire to have the ball in his hands on every play, and said that while the group is inexperienced, that’s not a unique challenge.
Leach said every player on the roster would be available for spring practice, though it’s not known how many might sit out because of injury. Leach has a policy against discussing injuries.
Some offensive players could move to defense, Leach said, to make up for lack of depth on that side of the ball.
Skylar Stormo, a defensive end who would have been a redshirt senior this season, is no longer with the program. Leach did not give a reason why. Stormo joins linebackers Louis Bland, C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi, as well as defensive tackle T.J. Poloai, as scholarship players who will not return for the 2012 season. … Nine new walk-ons are listed on WSU’s roster, including safety Jack Wilson, a Gonzaga Prep product who was a special teams standout as a freshman in 2010 before sitting out last season. … Leach said he hasn’t heard any updates on the progress of a potential HBO documentary Peter Berg was reportedly filming earlier this year at WSU. Leach said Berg and a camera crew came out for a couple of days of filming, but that “it was kind of the most boring days we had to offer because everyone was coming and moving. I haven’t heard anything.”