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Morning links: Halliday calls it a career

Spokane and Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday ended his prolific career, retiring from football just before Washington started its rookie minicamp.

John Blanchette wrote that Halliday doesn't need to explain the surprising decision, which I reported in this blog post and story.

In other news…

— The NCAA men's basketball rules committee proposed a number of rule changes yesterday, which we covered here.

— Joe Pistorese threw a gem to lead the WSU baseball team past Arizona State.

— A pair of Wildcats faced off for the first time as pros at the NBA combine in Chicago.

— Arizona State signed a late addition to its 2015 recruiting class.

— Oregon's basketball team just secured a commitment to play from the top junior college recruit in the country.

— A Stanford safety may skip his senior season to pursue a professional baseball career.

— The Pac-12 Blog examines who from the conference could be a Heisman Candidate next season.

Updated: Halliday is done with football

3:55 p.m. update: Connor Halliday told 700 ESPN this afternoon that he is not injured but has decided that he is done playing football.

Connor Halliday has been rehabbing since November to prepare himself for professional football, but now appears to be finished with the sport.

Washington signed Halliday, who was not drafted, but the quarterback is no longer listed on the team's roster ahead of this weekend's minicamp. John Keim of ESPN reported this morning that Halliday may be done playing football permanently.
  

If so, the timing is curious considering the work the quarterback put in to reach this point after breaking his ankle against USC on Nov. 1. Halliday was invited to the NFL Combine but did not throw there, waiting instead to conduct his own pro day at WSU on April 1, following an extensive rehab process in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Halliday threw well at his pro day, and Washington general manager Scot McCloughan seemed to take a lot of interest in him as a player, scouting him heavily throughout the pre-draft process.

In the past, the Spokane native has said that eventually he wants to coach high school football. His former coach at Ferris High, Jim Sharkey, says he has not spoken with Halliday about leaving football and that earlier this week he seemed excited for the chance to earn a roster spot.

I have reached out to Halliday and will update when we know more.

 

Connor Halliday signs with Washington

Connor Halliday wasn't selected in the NFL draft but will get his shot in the pros with Washington.

The news of his signing comes courtesy of the Baltimore Sun's Ravens reporter:

Because Halliday wasn't drafted, he was free to sign with any team that offered him a spot, allowing him to search for the team where he was most comfortable with the coaches, personnel, scheme and depth chart.

Washington makes sense for a few reasons. The organization took a long look at Halliday during the buildup to the draft and he's likely pretty comfortable with general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Jay Gruden at this point.

However, the team also has three quarterbacks under contract already: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and the recently re-signed Colt McCoy. So, Halliday will need to beat somebody out.

His college coach at Washington State, Mike Leach, certainly thinks he has the tools to succeed in the NFL. In a recent teleconference with reporters, Leach said: "I think he's got a better arm than anybody in the draft. The ball comes off his hand quicker than anybody in the draft. He's got quick feet, makes better decisions and he showed he can move the ball downfield."

Leach added: "I think he's a very good pro prospect. I hope he's not under-drafted."

Just because Halliday went undrafted doesn't mean he can't be an NFL success. NFL stars like Arian Foster, Wes Welker and quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Warren Moon all went undrafted out of college.

Morning links: A good day for WSU

Yesterday was a pretty good day for the Washington State athletic programs.

The good news started in the morning, when highly-regarded junior college center Conor Clifford sent in his Letter of Intent, giving Ernie Kent a 7-foot center for next season and his biggest recruiting win since arriving in Pullman. We have a story on the signing and a blog post with Kent's comments.

Things continued into the afternoon with freshman Derek Bayley leading the Cougars to a great start in the Pac-12 golf championships, which are being hosted by WSU.

The WSU baseball team capped off the evening by beating Washington in a nonconference game in Seattle, their third win over the Huskies this year.

In other WSU news, Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times has this feature on Connor Halliday, and Bob Meseroll of the Missoulian caught up with Joe Pistorese. The Pac-12 Blog has a story about defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's desire for takeaways

Halliday and Mayle perform for scouts

There were NFL 13 scouts on hand to watch Connor Halliday and Vince Mayle work out on Wednesday, and one general manager.

Scot McCloughlan, the general manager of the NFL team in Washington D.C., planned to be on hand for the second WSU pro day, but it's unclear if he actually made it out to Pullman. Still, there were plenty of representatives on hand to watch Halliday and Mayle perform, and it sounds like they saw what they needed to from both players.

Below is my story from pro day that will run in tomorrow's paper.
  

PULLMAN—Neither Connor Halliday nor Vince Mayle have had an easy journey from Washington State to the NFL so it was fitting that during a workout in front of NFL scouts and executives on Wednesday, the two former Cougars did it the hard way.

Such workouts are usually conducted indoors but because of poor lighting and worse turf in WSU's indoor practice bubble, Halliday and Mayle elected to stage the workout outside on the Rogers practice field.

That meant a little rain, plenty of wind and temperatures hovering just under 40 degrees.

"I've been doing this ever since I was a little kid," Halliday said. "I'm from Spokane, played football here. It doesn't affect me but it does affect the ball a little bit. It is what it is and every ball I threw I threw into the wind. So, hopefully the scouts appreciate that."

The two Cougars began on adjacent practice fields. Mayle running through a gauntlet of four sets of cones spaced exactly 10-yards apart while Halliday played catch with a quarterback that was never drafted but managed an 11-year NFL career.

Mayle, who has signed an endorsement deal with Adidas, wore exclusively his new brand's apparel: cleats, socks, shorts and a skin-tight shirt with the long sleeves rolled up, all a subtle reminder no doubt to the scouts that the 222-pound receiver's obvious strength is his greatest strength.

Halliday, not beholden by any contractual agreements, clashed a thick long-sleeve Under Armour top with black WSU shorts by Nike.

On hand for the workout was Jim Sharkey, who coached Halliday for two years at Ferris High, as well as former WSU football players Jason Gesser and Brandon Gibson.

Xavier Cooper was on hand and had a private workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Halliday threw with an audience for the first time since his ankle was broken on Nov. 1 against USC. Mayle is still nursing a broken thumb that hampered him at the NFL combine.

"It's (still) pretty bad," Mayle said. "It's something I've got to play through."

After posting an uninspiring 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the combine, Mayle's biggest priority on Wednesday was showing the 13 scouts – including three receivers coaches – that he has the speed to outrun NFL defensive backs. He did so on his final attempt, clocking in unofficially at around 4.5 seconds.

"The time doesn’t really concern me that much," said CBS NFL draft analyst Rob Rang. "If he can run in the 4.5s, 4.6s at 222-pounds, I know he's got hops, I know he's got lateral agility to make people miss and I've been impressed by his work ethic. When he signed there were all these questions about his commitment to football and I think he's answered those questions."

Perhaps the biggest obstacles for Mayle are the numerous rising receivers in this year's draft class who are surprising scouts while he simply tries to get back to full strength.

Halliday threw 70 passes, completing all but six. All six incomplete passes were drops, yet the receivers also saved Halliday on a couple occasions by catching poorly thrown balls.

He threw passes to Mayle; former WSU running backs Marcus Mason and Theron West; former Eastern Washington receiver Cory Mitchell and former WSU receiver Jeffrey Solomon.

Conducting the workout was former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn, who coached Halliday's dad for two years at Boise State prior to his long career as an NFL coach and is now helping Connor Halliday prepare for the draft.

Zorn and Halliday reconnected recently at the Western Sports Star of the Year Awards, but Zorn first began scouting the quarterback as an NFL prospect a year ago.

"He came out to a spring practice out here around this time last year to see if I was worth a crap and thought I was alright," Halliday said. "He told me after my senior season that he wanted to work with me."

Halliday acknowledged after the workout that he still doesn't feel 100 percent – he's only been throwing for a couple weeks. But while both Cougars likely could have used a few more days of recovery, time is getting precious.

The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 30 and ends the following Saturday, meaning that teams need to start paring down their lists of prospects. But at least, for now, Halliday and Mayle have their biggest tests behind them.

"I can say it's been pretty stressful but now that I've finally got my pro day over with I can just relax and work out," Mayle said. "A coach told me last night to just enjoy this time because it's the last time I can be careless, be free."

 

Numbers from WSU’s second pro day

Connor Halliday and Vince Mayle were each recovering from injuries at WSU's pro day. But scouts were on hand to watch them workout Wednesday.

While these things are usually held indoors, the Cougars braved the elements on a windy, at times rainy, Pullman morning in which the temperature never got above 40 degrees.

Mayle, still wearing a wrap on his broken thumb, struggled during his first attempts at a 40-yard dash, unofficially running in the 4.7 range. On his final attempt, however, he clocked just over a 4.5, pretty good considering the conditions.

While Mayle was running, Halliday warmed up by playing catch with former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn, who coached Halliday's dad for two seasons as the Boise State quarterbacks coach.

Halliday threw 70 passes on the day to Mayle, former Eastern Washington receiver Cory Mitchell and former WSU receiver Jeffrey Solomon. Theron West and Marcus Mason also ran routes as running backs. Halliday completed 64 of his passes and the six misses were all drops, although a couple of those completed throws would have been incomplete if not for great plays by the receiver.

Mayle made a couple nice snares to bail out his quarterback, but also had a couple drops and it was obvious the wrap is affecting him.

Mayle said he hasn't been able to work out in two weeks but weighed in at a svelte 222 pounds. Halliday checked in at 199.

I saw scouts from around 10 NFL teams there and Scot McCloughan, the general manager of the NFL team in Washington D.C., was on hand as well.

Highlights from Mike Leach’s 710 Seattle interview

Mike Leach was in Seattle yesterday for the final "A Night with Cougar Football" but first dropped by for a visit with 710 ESPN Seattle Danny Dave and Moore.

We've got highlights from the interview below and you can listen to the whole thing here.

Leach said that these days he's watching a lot of video of high school film as the WSU coaches try to pare down the thousands of prospects on their radar to a manageable recruiting list.

Dave Wyman – a former Stanford and NFL linebacker – asked Leach about the advances in video technology that make it possible to simply press a button and call up a recruit's film, rather than cut tape reels together and Leach acknowledged, while he "barely touched the 16 mm phase where you touch shiny side to shiny side," the current system is "one of the best things ever."

Then he told a story about being in Arizona trolling for film back in his days as an assistant at Kentucky.

Leach said he was in Scottsdale, Arizona and only had two days to get tape from a bunch of schools but he met with a coach who told him, "I just got fired; here's all the film and if you get your own tapes you can record the whole conference."

While waiting around Leach wandered over to the school's art department and met the department head, who told him if he came back later he'd love to show him what the students were working on.

"I go back there and go into the thing looking for him and right in the middle of the floor is a nude model," Leach said. "And I've got the Kentucky shirt and I'm the last guy to walk in and it's like a warehouse and there's a whole circle around the model either drawing or painting."

Unsure of how to proceed, Leach decided to "walk around to their paintings and drawings and would nod my head like I was a real connoisseur of art."

Leach was asked about social media and says he tweets occasionally although he also has people do it for him. He has SnapChat on his phone that he essentially only uses to receive short videos of his infant granddaughter.

The hosts then changed the subject to the NFL draft, specifically what makes evaluating quarterbacks so difficult.

"I think there's a lot of things that make it tough," Leach said. "It's the most poorly-evaluated position and everybody's starting QB isn't a first rounder but everyone picks them in the first round."

He added that the rate at which coaches are hired and fired in the NFL makes it so that teams don't always want the same traits as the guy they just drafted and pointed out that quarterbacks often come from smaller schools while running backs generally come from powerhouses as evidence that quarterbacks are harder to evaluate.

"The quarterback's ultimate job is to make the people around him better," Leach said. "If you're accurate and can throw 45 yards or better and you can develop those skills at a lot of different places."

He added, "All teams have defensive ends that can throw the thing a mile and they'd love to play quarterback."

The hosts asked about the personality of quarterbacks and what sort of things he asks recruits to determine if they have the right mental makeup.

"I want to get a feel for them and you want a guy that has a little charisma that you feel like your players and the rest of your team will draw from," Leach said. "What their coaches and classmates think of them."

He also said he doesn't like bad GPAs because if recruits have bad grades they "might be dumb but the biggest thing is they're lazy—if you've got a bad GPA, you're lazy."

Leach said the most important trait for a quarterback was confidence.

Moore asked Leach about Connor Halliday's draft prospects.

"I think (he will do) really well, I think he'll get drafted," Leach said. "He's got the best arm of anybody coming out. Throws it better, throws it more accurately, comes off his hand quicker. It's unfortunate he got injured but if you're going to get injured a clean ankle break is about as good as you can hope for."

In fact, Leach said that Halliday told him that the ankle that was broken feels stronger than the other one since he had a rod inserted.

"Isn't this sort of like breast implants," Leach says he asked Halliday. "Why didn't you get them both done?"

Morning links: Cougars prepare for NFL combine

By now Connor Halliday and Vince Mayle are already in Indianapolis registering for the NFL Scouting Combine and Xavier Cooper is en route, since west coast prospects are allowed to travel a day early.

The Combine will be important for all three former Washington State players and for different reasons, since all three have pretty different situations and expectations. For Mayle, expected to be the first Cougar drafted this spring, the week will be about confirming to NFL scouts what they already suspect: that he's got speed to go with his size.

The 40-yard-dash, cone drill and shuttle drills will be important for the receiver, who just needs to confirm that he has the requisite physical tools to translate his superlative numbers in college to the NFL.

It will also be important for Mayle to not drop many balls during the receiver drills since that’s an area in which he struggled late in his college career.

I spoke with Cooper a bit yesterday and he says he's excited to show off his power and explosiveness at the combine and if he, currently expected to be picked in the middle or later rounds, can put up better than expected numbers at the Combine he's got a chance to make himself some money. He's been training with EXOS and says that going up against other pro-ready players – like Donovan Smith out of Penn State – has reaffirmed his belief that he has what it takes to play at the next level, as well as his decision to declare for the draft after his junior season.

Cooper says that he will receive a list of what teams he's going to interview with once he gets to the combine, although he believes he'll be meeting with Denver and Kansas City.

For Halliday, who is still recovering from his season-ending injury, the combine will be about the interviews where he can hopefully impress teams with his knowledge of the game, ability to grasp their offensive concepts quickly, and handle all the other weird stuff that happens in these interviews.

Seriously, they get asked some pretty weird questions.

On to the links:

— The Cougars added an offensive quality control assistant to the football staff.

— On Monday we took a look back at WSU's loss to Arizona.

— Jeff Nusser has an interesting examination of WSU's transition offense.

— Cooper is doing a draft diary with FOX Sports leading up to the NFL Draft. Here is part one.

— Don't miss this profile of Josh Hawkinson, written by Bud Withers.

— Jerry Brewer asks why Washington didn’t win more games with so many players coveted by the NFL.

Three Cougars invited to the NFL scouting combine

Three former Washington State football players have been invited to attend the NFL scouting combine.

Quarterback Connor Halliday, wide receiver Vince Mayle and defensive lineman Xavier Cooper all received invitations to the annual showcase in which players perform drills designed to measure their strength and athleticism and meet with representatives from NFL teams.

Mayle is likely to perform well in this setting given his incredible size/speed ratio. Cooper can greatly help himself by putting up good numbers that show off his explosiveness, which for Halliday the combine is likely to be about proving that he's on the mend after his late-season injury and has been able to continue to put on muscle and weight.

Vince Mayle named Second Team All-Pac-12

Washington State receiver Vince Mayle was named Second Team All-Pac-12, the conference announced Tuesday.

Mayle tied for the national lead with 106 receptions and set the WSU single-season record with 1,483 receiving yards.The redshirt senior led the Pac-12 with six 100-yard receiving games and was the only college football player this season with two games of more than 250 receiving yards. He was also a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation's top receiver.

More after the jump.

Key numbers from the WSU season

WSU finished the regular season with the nation's No. 1 passing offense margin, throwing for 477.7 yards per game.

How good was Washington State at moving the ball through the air? Well, Western Kentucky was No. 2 in that category with 365 passing yards, or 112.7 yards per game than the Cougars.

All those yards didn't always produce points, however, and the Cougars were merely 45th in scoring offense. In sports the numbers never tell the whole story, but they can serve as a pretty compelling guide.

We take a look at some of the numbers that define WSU's 2014 season after the jump.

Halliday’s ankle broken at fibula and tibia

During Monday's press conference Washington State coach Mike Leach clarified what exactly the injury suffered by quarterback Connor Halliday is, a break of his fibula and tibia low enough to be considered part of the ankle. Halliday is still in the hospital, where he is greeting a steady stream of teammates. Here's our story on that. The photo above is from mdguidelines.com.

Video: Connor Halliday at WSU press conference

Connor Halliday spoke to the media at Monday's Washington State football press conference. The video is courtesy of WSU athletics and a transcription is after the jump.

 

Connor Halliday added to the Maxwell Award Watch List

One of the byproducts of the types of record-setting numbers the Washington State offense has been putting up is that the Cougars are starting to get some attention from the various national awards. Already receivers Isiah Myers, River Cracraft and Vince Mayle have been named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list and now quarterback Connor Halliday has been named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented annually to the country's college football player.

More information on the award and the statistical numbers Halliday has put up are in the press release from WSU, which is after the jump.

 …

 

Connor Halliday is Pac-12 Player of the Week on offense

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is the Pac-12 Player of the Week on offense for week six, the conference announced Monday morning. Halliday set an FBS passing record over the weekend, throwing for 734 yards in WSU's 60-59 loss to Cal. The senior quarterback also threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions. Only 15 players in FBS history have ever thrown for 600 or more yards in a game and Halliday did it during the third quarter.

Halliday is the first Cougar to receiver a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor this season.

The conference's other winners for week six were Utah's Nate Orchard on defense, who sacked quarterback Brett Hundley four times in Utah's upset of UCLA, and Cal's Trevor Davis on special teams for returning kickoffs of 98 and 100 yards for touchdowns against WSU.

Highlights from WSU player availability

Connor Halliday, Darryl Monroe and Vince Mayle addressed the media on Saturday afternoon to talk about Thursday's loss to Rutgers, Friday's game at Nevada and more. Highlights from those interviews are after the jump.

WSU practice a bit sloppy

There was a lot going on at practice today. The Pac-12 Networks were in town filming and Rick Neuheisel took a keen interest in what the Cougars were doing, observing the drills closely, particularly the ones involving quarterbacks.

The Cougars also made use of the scout teams against the first string for the first time, which always creates some confusion. After practice coach Mike Leach had a bucket of water dumped on him for a good cause, which you can watch here.

The coaches acknowledged that there are always a few dud practices at this time of the year. But that doesn't mean they're happy about it.

"I didn't think it was a very good practice. I thought we started out pretty good, didn't do a good job of finishing practice," Leacj said. "Today was the first day we traded scouts so sometimes, a lot of times that has an impact. It shouldn't, it shouldn't but yeah I thought both sides were soft in the team period. Prior to that I thought we were doing some good things but we have to be better than that tomorrow."

More after the jump.

A return to normalcy

After a pair of shortened practices — one for rest, one for scrimmage — Washington State resumed its normal camp schedule on Sunday. The offensive line took a more familiar form as well with the return of Joe Dahl at left tackle, who had been limited most of this week. Dahl's return slid Gunnar Eklund back to his familiar role at left guard, and Devonte McClain, who had also been limited, returned to bolster the depth.

Quarterback Connor Halliday celebrated their return by torching the defense during team period. All that and more, after the jump.

Tyler Bruggman to Louisville

Tyler Bruggman will be transferring to Kentucky's Louisville University to play for coach Bobby Petrino, as first reported by Mike Hughes of InsideTheVille.com (reading this article requires a 24/7 Network subscription). Bruggman redshirted last year after signing with Washington State in 2012 as coach Mike Leach's most highly-anticipated recruit to date.

Bruggman ran the scout team during his redshirt season and drew praise from coaches and was widely considered to be the next logical choice at quarterback after senior starter Connor Halliday graduates, but struggled to hold of walk-on quarterback Luke Falk during spring football. He surprised teammates and coaches with his recent decision to leave the program.

Leach addressed Bruggman's transfer at media day on Wednesday, acknowledging that the Cougars do not have much depth at the position (backup quarterback Austin Apodaca also transferred this offseason) but said that the extra practice reps will be good for Falk.

If Bruggman transferred in search of playing time than his choice of destinations is curious. Louisville already has eight quarterbacks on the roster fighting to replace Teddy Bridgewater. Bruggman will almost certainly have to sit out this season, and will compete in 2015 as a redshirt sophomore with three years to play.

Notes, quotes and stories from media day

On Wednesday, Washington State coach Mike Leach, quarterback Connor Halliday and linebacker Darryl Monroe had lots of time to speak to reporters without side distractions such as preparing for football games. In the relaxed atmosphere at Paramount Studios the Cougars opened up about a variety of topics once they were done with TV interviews.

Follow the jump for notes, quotes and stories from Pac-12 media day.

Spring Practice Report: Day 15

From Pullman — The Cougars held their 15th and final spring football practice of the year on Tuesday. That means no more football until fall camp in August. So that's not going to be fun. Our last practice report for far too long is after the jump.

Spring Practice Report: Day 13

From Pullman — The clouds broke for the final Washington State football practice before the spring game. The coaches have split up the roster into two teams and are hoping for as competitive a game as possible. I will have those rosters for you sometime tomorrow morning. It wasn't a very newsy practice today with the teams split up and the Cougars in just helmets (and jerseys, pants, etc. But my point is that they were not in pads).

The practice report is after the jump.

Spring Practice Report: Day 7

From Pullman — Washington State finally put on full pads on Thursday. The coaches put on headsets and officials were in uniform. The reason for the extra accoutrements? The Cougars had their first live-tackling session of spring. More on that after the jump.