May 1, 2014 in Sports

WSU spring football: Cougars ready to improve over summer

Spring practices lead to summertime growth
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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2014 SEASON OPENER
Thursday, August 28:
Washington State Cougars vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights at CenturyLink Field, Seattle, TBA

The hibernation portion of the college football calendar has begun for fans and media. While spring football affords followers an opportunity to whet their appetites during the eight-month break between bowl games and season-openers, those 15 practices are in the past.

So no more pads, no more scoreboards and no more touchdowns. But the next few months are a lively time for coaches and their players, so much so that spring’s importance is best measured in how well it prepares the players for some real growth in the summer.

“Without question it’s one of the most important times of the year and that’s critical (for) improvement, to get the most out of your summer work,” coach Mike Leach said. “That’s one of the most important roles of spring is to equip everyone with their assignment and technique with as much precision as you can so they can use that period of time to improve further.”

In the past the coaches would simply have to hope that they had armed their team with as much knowledge and skill as possible in the spring. Those spring practices better have been packed with all the necessary tools the players would need until August because the coaches could not observe them until then.

The starting quarterback and other team leaders had better be good coaches themselves because the offseason workouts they organized held the key to a season’s worth of improvement.

But the NCAA is now allowing coaches to spend up to eight hours a week with the players over an eight-week period in the summer, with a maximum of two hours spent on film study.

They will balance that time against what recruiting they are allowed to do in the late spring and throughout the summer, primarily evaluating players since they currently cannot speak with a recruit unless the player calls or otherwise contacts them.

The coaches can now require the theoretically voluntary offseason workouts, as well.

“That allows us to kind of circulate through the weight room a little bit,” Leach said. ”We’ll make sure things are going well for our student-athletes, so there will be that, and then maybe a little meeting time as we get, you know, to keep people focused on drills and doing things precisely.”

It also gives the coaches a head start working with the incoming freshmen that will arrive the last week of June to begin summer school.

While the Cougars have said that their depth is the greatest it has been since Leach arrived in 2011, next year’s freshmen will still have a chance to see the field. This summer will be a critical time in a hurried process to prepare them for Pac-12 football just months after graduating from high school.

“The biggest thing is to equip them with as much knowledge and things that they can so they can go out there and as they rep, build on their skillset,” Leach said. ”From there, develop them more quickly because they kind of know a little bit more about what they’re doing as they were. You never know. We’ve got plenty of holes to fill, everybody does.”

Notes

The Cougars prefer to have two running backs share the bulk of the playing time and it appears that there could be two relatively new faces in the backfield next fall. Leach said on Thursday that if the season began tomorrow Theron West, a senior who saw his first extensive action in last year’s bowl game, and Jamal Morrow, a redshirt freshman, would be WSU’s top two running backs. … Also, Leach added that Sam Flor is slightly ahead of Riley Sorenson in the competition to start at center. … The Cougars will again hold part of fall camp in Lewiston, and Leach said they will be there “a little longer.”


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