April 29, 2014 in Sports

WSU spring football: Former Leach protégé Graham Harrell lends helping hand

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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(Full-size photo)

PULLMAN – There is a new helping hand around the Washington State football program and it wears a Super Bowl ring.

Graham Harrell, who started at quarterback for WSU coach Mike Leach for three seasons at Texas Tech, has joined the Cougars as an offensive analyst. Because the Cougars already have nine assistant coaches he cannot provide “technical or tactical instruction related to the sport at any time” per NCAA bylaws.

But the three-year NFL vet can help the team in a number of ways, not the least of which by being an example of someone who quarterbacked the Air Raid offense to a great deal of success.

Harrell was an All-American his senior year at TTU, a Heisman candidate throughout the year and the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Despite going undrafted out of college he played his way into the NFL and was Aaron Rodgers’ primary backup in Super Bowl XLV.

He will also help the coaches watch and analyze film, evaluate plays and players, and any other odd offensive jobs the coaches come up with.

WSU held its last spring practice on Tuesday and the coaches only get eight hours with the players over the summer, meaning that Harrell’s early work will be in the film room and on the drawing board.

“(He is) very knowledgeable, always been a student of the game. His dad is a coach so he’s studied it since he was a child and then just the opportunity for people to be around him, who understands football to the extent he does,” Leach said. “And he’s been to the Super Bowl and all that other stuff and has a lot of great experiences he can share.”

Perhaps the way Harrell can best help the team is by serving as a sounding board for the players, particularly quarterbacks, who are getting used to the rigors and demands of big-time college football and their head coach.

Having been through the same process he understands the expectations placed on the players, as well as what they can do to meet those demands. He is also well aware of the potential payoff to fulfilling those expectations, having led the Red Raiders to an upset victory over No. 1 Texas as part of an 11-2 season.

Now Connor Halliday is Leach’s senior quarterback, who Harrell refers to as the “guinea pig” because he never had a chance to grow up in the Air Raid offense and observe other, successful quarterbacks.

While Harrell can’t give him technical advice he can lend an ear and guide him down a similar path to success.

“No question at times that’s the most important thing I can do for him. Just someone that has been through it and coach is tough on his quarterbacks. He expects a lot out of them,” Harrell said. “So at times when he is tough on you, to have someone that’s been through it and kind of bounce ideas off of or say, ‘how did you handle it?’ at times I think that is my role.”

Snoop Couggy Coug

After Saturday’s Spring Game some of the Cougars got a treat, meeting rapper Snoop Dogg who was in Pullman performing as part of WSU’s Spring Fest. The artist, who sponsors the Snoop Youth Football League, is an uncle to cornerback Daquawn Brown and coached him when he was younger.

“He was my offensive coordinator, actually, because I was a running back,” Brown noted on Saturday.


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