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Pac-12 media day: Cougars quietly build winning attitude

<!-- WSU logo, Cougs logo, Cougars logo for use with homepageleadpromo spots --> (The Spokesman-Review)

Few at Pac-12 media days want to listen, but WSU contingent confident in upcoming season

CULVER CITY, Calif. – Elliott Bosch said he felt honored to be here on Friday as one of two players representing Washington State at Pac-12 media day, though the senior center was not heartbroken about being asked exactly zero questions during WSU’s time on stage.

“It’s pretty cool to be invited and be a part of it,” said Bosch, a Spokane native and former walk-on from Ferris High. “It’s not really my cup of tea or my style. I rather would just keep to myself. But it’s been a great experience and I think I’ll look back on it later in life and be really happy I did it and have a lot of memories from it.”

Seated at a table during the lunch portion of the festivities at Sony Pictures Studios, Bosch paused, scanned the zoo of reporters and coaches and school employees, and added: “It’s a show, that’s for sure.”

And it’s no secret that most in attendance were not here to see the Cougars, who were picked by media to finish in last place in the Pac-12 North division.

That comes with little surprise. WSU is coming off a season in which it finished 3-9, won just one conference game and lost at home to Colorado, one of the conference’s worst teams in recent memory.

But listen to Bosch, and listen, too, to senior safety Deone Bucannon, and it’s obvious the expectation is for better things this season.

Both players – also not unsurprisingly – described this summer as the best they’ve had in their college careers.

“In the afternoons we’ll do 7-on-7 and O-line and D-line drills, and everyone’s showing up, everyone’s working hard three times a week. And also just when the strength coach says do something, it gets done the first time. You can really tell everyone’s trying to do whatever they can to get this thing rolling in the right direction.”

In past years, Bosch said, “you just had a lot of guys that make excuses in order to miss (workouts), and we were only doing it twice a week, so we got a lot more work in this summer, which we needed. Everyone’s showing a lot more commitment to winning.”

Yes, they can do without the spectacle of media day, the podium portion of which upheld its reputation as an event most yawn-worthy.

WSU’s on-stage contingent of coach Mike Leach, Bucannon and Bosch received a total of five questions, four of them directed to the coach, two of which were obviously intended to force the kind of off-the-wall answer Leach so frequently provides.

Yes, he spent part of the summer co-authoring a book about Apache leader Geronimo with WSU professor Buddy Levy. And yes, there was another question about zombies and empty corpses, to which Leach offered a response that included an accountability-laced remark about being the “head zombie.”

And you’re not going to believe this, but Leach was asked a pair of football-related questions, too. News didn’t result, though he did say (again) that Connor Halliday would be the team’s starting quarterback if the season started today.

Afterward, while forking through a plate full of blueberries and pasta, Leach told a handful of reporters that he thinks “there’s no question” his team’s ceiling is higher this season than he expected it to be last year.

“The core of our team is the core that’s really committed,” said Leach, who also lauded his team’s offseason effort. “Those that are unsure are quickly converted, because they’re outnumbered.”

Bucannon, who has visibly bulked up to 215 pounds, said he expects a consistency that was often lacking in 2012.

“I feel this last year was a lot of hiccups, a lot of distractions,” he said. “We had a lot of people not make the team, get kicked off the team, quit. We just had a lot of distractions that took away from us actually playing the game.”

“Everyone talks about changing the culture,” Bosch said. “But it’s finally looking like it has.”