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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.

WSU practice day three: Defense wins on the final play

I finally made it out to Martin Stadium to watch the Cougars in their third spring football practice and saw an impressive stand by the defense.

While the offense appeared to have the upper hand for most of practice (more on that in a bit), the defense rallied around booming defensive line coach Joe Salave'a's cries of "fourth quarter!" and forced a tie of 23 points apiece with one play to go from just a couple yards away from the end zone.

Quarterback Luke Falk thought he found a receiver in the end zone, but linebacker Jeremiah Allison tipped the ball high in the air and snagged it like a centerfielder, completing the defense's comeback and forcing the offense to do up-downs.

Here's what else I saw at practice:

— The starting team offensive line from last season returns intact and from left to right still goes: Joe Dahl, Gunnar Eklund, Riley Sorenson, Eduardo Middleton, Cole Madison. While the receivers sub liberally, it appears that if a game were played today the starters would be Dom Williams and Calvin Green on the outside, with Gabe Marks and Tyler Baker inside.

— There is obviously plenty of time for that to change, however, and those starters are influenced in part by the players that were limited during today's practice. Nick Begg, Brett Bartolone, Nate DeRider, Robert Barber, Ngalu Tapa, River Cracraft and Frankie Luvu all wore the yellow jerseys today, and I expect Barber and Cracraft will continue to throughout the spring.

— Alex Grinch wasn't lying about running a base nickel defense. The Cougars spent all practice in nickel with Darius Lemora appearing to take over as the starting nickel back. That left Allison and Peyton Pelluer as the starting linebackers, Marcellus Pippins and Charleston White as the starting cornerbacks and Daniel Ekuale, Darryl Paulo and Destiny Vaeao on the defensive line.

Kache Palacio was the starting Rush linebacker, which is similar to last year's Buck position except Palacio began far fewer snaps with his hand on the ground.

— Based on seeing him this one time, it looks like Clemson transfer will be one of WSU's better receivers next year. Shame that he won't be playing. Priest will have to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules but he should give the starting defense fits as a member of scout team. From what I saw, he runs very good routes and runs the quickly, has good ability in the open field and has good hands. In fact, I only saw him drop one pass …

— Priester dropped a pass because he was leveled by David Bucannon, little brother of Deone. The younger Bucannon had one of his best practices I've seen, laying a couple big hits and generally making his presence felt. In fact, I'm pretty sure Priester dropped the pass before Bucannon's hit because he knew it was coming. Bucannon, a redshirt junior, hasn't played much for the Cougars but appears to be taking full advantage of the "clean slate" given by a new defensive coordinator.

— Dom Williams also had a good day at receiver, and it looked like he's gotten a little better at contorting his body with the ball in the air to adjust to its flight path since last season.

— Robert Lewis really looks like he's coming into his own. Between the drills, skeleton drills and team period, he probably had more catches than anyone on the day. His most impressive came when he stopped in his tracks on a comeback route, sending Bucannon sprinting past him and opening himself up for an easy grab.

— Gabe Marks was solid as well – he ripped off a nice run during team period – but it was an otherwise pedestrian day for the receivers. The new crop of walk-ons, some of whom may not have played football for a year or more, could use some Stickum.

— A couple former Cougars at practice today. One was Xavier Cooper, who is preparing for the NFL draft. He's been very productive since the season's end and has season his stock rise rather quickly. We chatted for awhile toward the end of practice and he told me that NFL teams are telling him they expect him to be drafted as early as the late first round and not later than the early-to-mid third round.

Also dropping by practice was cornerback Daquawn Brown, who was dismissed for violating team rules after the season. While Brown had no contact with the coaches, he spent most of his time shouting encouragement to the defensive backs – OK, he also taunted the receivers a bit as well.

People close to the program told us and other outlets when he was dismissed that the Cougars did not intend to provide an avenue for him to return to the team, but situations can obviously change and if there was a way to get back in good standing with the team, showing up at practice can't hurt.

— The kick returners on Tuesday were Jamal Morrow, Gabe Marks and Marcellus Pippins.

— Now, for the quarterbacks. Falk and Peyton Bender split reps pretty evenly, although Falk spent a little more time with the first string offensive line, for what that's worth. Falk is clearly ahead and it's because of his command of the offense. There are times it seems like Bender throws a little better ball or pulls out a nice move, but he also throws the ball to the wrong spot or makes a bad read, occasionally. Falk almost never does either, at least in practice.

Falk also ripped off about a 30 yard run when he saw that the defense vacated the left side of the field on a passing play.

In the first skeleton drill, Falk completed 10 of 12 passes with the two incompletions coming on drops. Doesn't get much better. Bender missed his first pass and then completed the next 10, finishing 12 of 14.

During team period Bender went first  and his first pass was tipped by Greg Hoyd III. I had him finishing 9 of 13. He threw a bad interception to Charleston White – it went right at the DB – but responded well by throwing a touchdown to Calvin Green on the next play. He also had a touchdown pass up against the goal line to Gabe Marks.

I had Falk finishing 8 of 12 with Gerard Wicks scoring on a seven-yard touchdown run. Lemora made a nice play in the slot from his new position, sticking with speedy Robert Lewis to break up a pass.

— The Cougars will practice again at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. The public is welcome to attend, and come say "hi" if you see me.

A quick note on the LaRue situation

Cornerback Sebastian LaRue, expected to compete for a starting spot on next year's team, was dismissed from the Washington State football program for violating a team rule.

While we don't know the nature of the violation, coach Mike Leach has three often-cited rules that are grounds for immediate dismissal if broken: Don't steal, don't hit women and don't do drugs. Any time a player is dismissed, we take a look at the local court records. These are publicly available online but those records do not describe the nature of any offenses, just the names, dates and case numbers.

I wanted to mention that because the search for LaRue's name yielded a pair of March results, which I followed up with a public records request. Because neither offense violated any of Leach's cardinal rules, and neither were violent, I believe it's appropriate to address them here.

LaRue was pulled over early this month for speeding with a headlight out and was pulled over again, just a couple days ago, for speeding. That's all, and neither would likely be cause for any discipline from Leach or even attract his attention.

It's still possible that LaRue was dismissed for committing some crime or other, and the coaching staff obviously considers whatever he did to be serious. But the offenses that pop up during an online records search are not malicious, and I thought it was worth nipping any potential speculation on them in the bud.



Highlights from Mike Leach’s teleconference

I'm about to hop on a plane so I wont be transcribing coach Mike Leach's entire teleconference, but I've jotted down the highlights:

— Leach confirmed that Sebastian LaRue, Jordan Dascalo and Wes Concepcion are no longer on the team. LaRue's departure leaves an already thin secondary a little thinner, and Dascalo and Concepcion were the only two punters listed on the roster, so that will be something to watch this spring.

— Leach said that while he would ideally like to start spring practice a little earlier, he doesn't want to break the schedule up to accommodate spring break.

— He heaped praise on Luke Falk for his performance last year, calling his play "… as impressive as any freshman I've ever dealt with" and saying that, "Luke's five games as a freshman are probably better than any freshman in history."

That being said, he said that Falk will split first-team reps with redshirt freshman Peyton Bender and that Falk isn't necessarily the presumed starter.

— I asked him a bit about Alex Grinch and what the new defensive coordinator should expect during his first practices in charge of an entire side of the ball. Leach said secondary and offensive line coach are the best assistant positions to prepare someone to become a coordinator.

"You have to be mindful of the technique at your position but also broaden it out so you're seeing the big picture," he said.

Leach said that in the time he's spent with Grinch so far he's been very impressed. "Every time you talk to him he's talking about teaching. How do we teach this how do we teach that."

— Leach said there are three main things he hopes to accomplish each spring: 1) "Evaluating your talent because none of it stayed the same. The vast majority improved and developed and you need to plug new faces in to where they can best impact the team." 2) "Arm them with as many skills and things as you can within the context of their role so they can continue to develop their skills over the summer." 3) Experiment with new stuff. This is the least important of the three, according to Leach.

— I asked Leach what the characteristic that will define Grinch's style will be. Here is his answer: "At Missouri what really allowed them to excel in the SEC, and one thing impressive about Missouri, you know the SEC and not the conference as a whole, but you saw the same stuff I did and a lot of it was kind of fan-based rather than conference based but the SEC insulted their intelligence to even have Missouri in the conference. And then what have they done they've won the East the past two years and I think the biggest place they improved was their defensive identity and unifying that and there was a sense that Mizzou wasn't going to stop these SEC offenses and that proved to be false."

WSU releases a spring roster missing a couple notable players

I just got off a plane here in sunny Las Vegas to see that Washington State has released an updated football roster. Notably missing are cornerback Sebastian LaRue and punter Jordan Dascalo. Larue was expected to contend for a starting spot in the secondary — or maybe switch back to offense — and Dascalo showed a booming leg as WSU's starting punter last season.

The punting depth in particular took a hit, since Wes Concepcion, who made a few career starts, no longer appears on the roster, either. I also see that linebacker Nathan Hundeby is no longer on the roster.

No reason to speculate on their status with the program — coach Mike Leach is about to hold a teleconference so I'm sure we'll get an update shortly.

Here is the roster: 

WSU adds safety Hunter Dale

During this brief layover at SeaTac I turned on my computer to discover that the Cougars have added a 25th player to their 2015 recruiting class. 

They're already calling us to board, but here is the release from Washington State:

Cougar Football Adds Hunter Dale to 2015 Signing Class
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State head football coach Mike Leach announced Monday that safety Hunter Dale has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Cougars this fall.
Dale is a 6-0, 190-pound safety from New Orleans and was a four-year starter at John Curtis High School, helping the Patriots to three-straight 3A state titles his first three seasons. He earned All-State honors as a junior and senior and also helped the Patriots to an undefeated season and a national championship as a sophomore. He picked off eight passes as a junior and recorded 53 tackles with three interceptions this past season, helping JCHS to the 3A state title game. He finished his career with 16 career interceptions and 110 solo tackles.
Dale is rated a three-star prospect by ESPN.com. Scout.com and 247Sports.com and ranked the No. 81 safety prospect in country and No. 4 safety in Louisiana by Scout.com. Dale also plays baseball for the Patriots, recording nine doubles, two triples, one home run, 24 runs scored and eight stolen bases as a junior.


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?"

Former Leach, NFL QB Graham Harrell is new WSU receivers coach

As a player at Texas Tech, Graham Harrell threw an NCAA-record 134 touchdown passes in Mike Leach's offense.

In his first college coaching job he will train the players on the other end of such scores. Harrell, hired last spring as an offensive analyst, will take over as Washington State's new outside receivers coach, a position that was recently vacated when Dennis Simmons left for Oklahoma.

The 29-year-old Harrell played three seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers before coming to WSU to help with offensive planning and film breakdown. During his days as a Red Raider (2004-08), Harrell passed for 15,793 yards, the second-most in NCAA history.

When the 2015 season begins next fall the Cougars will have a very different coaching staff, one that is decidedly younger. In addition to Harrell the Cougars also have new assistant coaches in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, outside linebackers coach Roy Manning and special teams coordinator Eric Mele.

Like Harrell, Mele held a non-coaching role with the team before he was promoted following the midseason dismissal of Eric Russell last year.

Both Harrell's father and grandfather were high school football coaches in Texas.

Doug Samuels first reported the news of Harrell's promotion.

Live WSU chat

Feb 11 2015, 10:59 AM
srchatHi, it's Jacob. Fire away if you've got any questions about WSU basketball, football, recruiting or something else.
Feb 11 2015, 11:05 AM
Guest1084 (guest)Do u know if nick begg is or was in fall practising as TE till the end or did he get moved over to oline?
Feb 11 2015, 11:06 AM
srchatHe was practicing with the tight end in fall camp but was pretty quickly done in for the year by injuries.
Feb 11 2015, 11:07 AM
Guest206 (guest)Hey Jacob, who has been hired to replace coach Simmons?
Feb 11 2015, 11:07 AM
74CougAny idea when Simmons' replacement will be named? Is Jackson the name?
Feb 11 2015, 11:09 AM
srchatI haven't heard anything new on that front but I don't believe they've hired anyone. I don't think they're in a big hurry because the next recruiting class is a long way off and they've got coach Yost to work with outside receivers if need be.
Feb 11 2015, 11:09 AM
Guest1365 (guest)Is it possible that we see an entirely new secondary next year? (Farrar, Larue, Broughton, Luani) If so,do you think it'll be improved?
Feb 11 2015, 11:10 AM
srchatIt's certainly possible, although I think guys like Charleston White and Sulaiman Hameed played well enough when healthy that I still think they will end up starting. I know it's tempting to look at the roster and assume that the guys that can't play are better, but I didn't get the impression in practice that Farrar or LaRue is going to be immediately better than White and Marcellus Pippins.
Feb 11 2015, 11:11 AM
Guest192 (guest)Where did Darryl Monroe land
Feb 11 2015, 11:11 AM
srchatHe transferred to Akron.
Feb 11 2015, 11:12 AM
74CougAny insight on how defense might change under Grinch?
Feb 11 2015, 11:14 AM
srchatWell I know that in the hiring process Mike Leach was really looking for someone that would bring more pressure so I think right off the bat Grinch will try to do that. It sounds like they will be pretty multiple but the base defense will look largely the same. I wouldn't be surprised either if you see four or five guys switch positions and it will be interesting to see what he does with guys like Paris Taylor who have already switched once.
Feb 11 2015, 11:14 AM
Guest9978 (guest)How many Pac-12 wins do you think the Cougs will end up with?
Feb 11 2015, 11:16 AM
srchatNext year the Cougars have a pretty rough schedule in terms of which games are at home and which are on the road. I expect them to beat OSU and Colorado at home, and I think the games at Cal and at Washington will be close to toss-ups. After that it gets tricky.
Feb 11 2015, 11:19 AM
Guest9978 (guest)My bad i meant Basketball
Feb 11 2015, 11:22 AM
srchatOh, sorry. All the football questions put me in that mind frame. I would expect them to win two out of the three against UW, USC and ASU, and maybe pick up one other win somewhere else. So, 6 or 7 Pac-12 wins, which would be double or more than last season and probably tied for around 8th or so.
Feb 11 2015, 11:22 AM
74CougEven with defections, the FB class just signed looked pretty solid. Who are the likely early contributors?
Feb 11 2015, 11:25 AM
srchatAll the junior college kids, for one. The kicker Matt Abramo will be given an opportunity to play and actually the walk-on punter we wrote about in this morning's blog post has a good shot to compete from what I've been told. James Williams at running back could provide depth since they don't have many on the roster at that position right now and cornerback Sean Harper and safety Kam Powell will likely also have chances to play early.
Feb 11 2015, 11:27 AM
Guest9967 (guest)Is the absence of Dheensaw why the Cougs are losing all these close games?
Feb 11 2015, 11:28 AM
srchatIt's reasonable to think she could have made the difference in the Cal and Oregon State games. The Cougars still have a strong backcourt but she gave them a post presence they can't just replace.
Feb 11 2015, 11:29 AM
Guest9978 (guest)What position does Hercules Mataafa play? Heard a lot of good things about him. Do you expect him in the 2 deeps after spring ball?
Feb 11 2015, 11:30 AM
srchatHe plays defensive end although I think he's the kind of guy that can slide inside on obvious passing downs. Yes,he was one of their most disruptive players last year and I don't think there's any way they keep him off field,particularly with Xavier Cooper gone.
Feb 11 2015, 11:32 AM
Guest6867 (guest)Jacob, tell me something positive I might not know
Feb 11 2015, 11:34 AM
srchatIf you go to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland and sneak through the bushes surrounding the parking lot you end up right on the Willamette River and there is a tiny dock you can walk out on for an amazing view of the city at night. The last two times I've been I saw marriage proposals.
Feb 11 2015, 11:35 AM
Guest7724 (guest)Assuming the predictions in your earlier comment about the likely results for the Cougs upcoming football season end up being correct, in your opinion would Mike Leach's job be in jeopardy?
Feb 11 2015, 11:35 AM
srchatNope, no matter what happens I think Leach is pretty safe because of the nature of his contract.
Feb 11 2015, 11:36 AM
Guest5878 (guest)Ever see a recruit on campus? If so, what did you gather?
Feb 11 2015, 11:37 AM
srchatI've found that recruits generally seem quiet and like they're not having fun when they're being shepherded around campus to at games but generally they're just a little nervous being around so many new people. I've come to think that the player-hosts play a bigger role in the final decisions than I used to because they're the ones who have the best opportunity to set a kid at ease in a new environment.
Feb 11 2015, 11:40 AM
Guest7724 (guest)Do you see Mike Leach making any more of a commitment to the running game, particularly the power running game (it can be done even out of spread sets)?
Feb 11 2015, 11:40 AM
srchatI don't think he'll change the way he coaches but I do think Falk could check into a couple more runs per game,particularly if Morrow and Wicks are having a lot of success.
Feb 11 2015, 11:44 AM
Guest7724 (guest)I guess I would call it adapting his coaching style instead of changing. No doubt he is committed to the air-raid style of play. But the fact that we cannot run the ball for first downs in the second half of games has cost us throughout his tenure, and, if you are correct, will likely continue to cost us wins next season.
Feb 11 2015, 11:45 AM
srchatHe's had the same style for long enough that I think that's what you're going to get. But he would probably say that it's an inability to pass for first downs in the second halves of those games that has cost them the wins.
Feb 11 2015, 11:49 AM
Guest7724 (guest)I think you're correct that is what he'd say. The results speak for themselves. Thank you for your time.
Feb 11 2015, 11:53 AM
Guest9967 (guest)The Coug women are 4-8 in conference play with some good non-league wins(Maryland, Dayton,Gonzaga). What record do they need to have to qualify for the NCAA's?
Feb 11 2015, 11:54 AM
srchatThe only way I could see them making the NCAA tournament without them winning the conference tournament would be a 5-1 or 6-0 run to end the season and a couple conference tournament wins.
Feb 11 2015, 11:58 AM
Guest511 (guest)Even without Daquan, does the secondary get better next hear with the additions of Powell, LaRue,Farrar, etc. and also factoring in more experience for White,Pippens, and our other young guys that played last year?
Feb 11 2015, 11:58 AM
srchatOverall I expect the unit to be better and it will certainly have more depth.
Feb 11 2015, 12:01 PM
srchatWe'll end now so thanks to everyone that joined our live chat and we'll do it again soon.


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.

WSU adds a cornerback to 2015 recruiting class

The Cougars announced 23 signees yesterday during the first day of the signing period, but that doesn’t mean they were done recruiting.

In fact, Washington State coach Mike Leach said that they planned to take a full class of 25 recruits. This afternoon the Cougars filled one of the vacant spots by signing cornerback Sean Harper out of Hartwell, Georgia's Hart County High.

Harper is the sixth defensive back to sign with the Cougars in the 2015 class (seven if athlete Logan Tago ends up in the secondary), two of which are junior college transfers.

Harper is 6-foot-1, 180-pounds and claims scholarship offers from Indiana, Louisville, Nebraska and other schools. Below is a video of WSU's newest signee in action.

Morning links: Signing day come and gone

Yesterday was the first day football recruits in the class of 2015 could sign letters of intent.

Washington State signed 23 players in the class and while there could be a couple late additions, there is already plenty to digest.

The basketball team plays tonight at Oregon State at 7 p.m. and I'm just now making the overland trek so let's get to those links.

— WSU signed a very good class but it could have been great if not for some late defections.

— We've compiled profiles of each signee including rankings, video and Mike Leach's assessments.

— Here is our look at WSU's recruiting budget relative to its peers.

— We've got a story on one recruit who should contribute immediately.

— Here is the official release from the school.

— Leach confirmed yesterday that assistant coach Dennis Simmons is headed to Oklahoma.

— We also have a story on basketball coach Ernie Kent's return to Oregon, where he played and coached.

— SportsPressNW takes a look at the Washington schools' respective signing day hauls.

— The Pac-12 Blog grades the recruiting classes.

— The Huskies lost to the Ducks in a game that was close throughout.

— UCLA and USC had the best classes of any Pac-12 schools and the rivalry got a little juicier when Snoop Dogg's son spurned the Trojans for their rival.

WSU receivers coach Dennis Simmons to Oklahoma

Mike Leach confirmed on Wednesday recent speculation that outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons will be taking a similar position at Oklahoma.

The Football Brainiacs first reported last week that Simmons was a candidate for the vacant position at OU. Leach was asked about it during today's signing day press conference and confirmed that Simmons will be leaving the Cougars. Simmons has long been a Leach protege, serving as his chief of staff at Texas Tech and as a receivers coach.

He is highly-regarded as an assistant and has seen stars such as Michael Crabtree, Lance Lewis and most recently, Vince Mayle develop under his tutelage.

Shortly after Leach's press conference Simmons spoke with Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and explained that the decision to move was good for him both professionally and personally:

"… this is an opportunity I couldn't pass up. My 5-year-old daughter (who lives Arlington, Texas) will only be a couple-hour drive away now and my wife's family will be much closer. It's an opportunity for me to have both of my kids grow up around each other and for my wife's mom to be able to watch her grandson. I never had a father in my household. My mother played the role of both parents in the household. Personally, this is very important to me.

The Cougars now once again have a vacant coaching position but without the deadline of an impending signing day. 

Washington State football signees

The faxes are humming in Pullman so check in frequently as we update this list of which recruits have signed with the Cougars.

The school is announcing letters received via its official Twitter account, @wsucougfb. We'll have general information on the recruits here as well as some video. Cougars coach Mike Leach will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today after which we'll update this post with his thoughts on each player.

And at 12:30 we'll have a live chat on the blog with WSU recruiting expert Britton Ransford of WazzuWatch.com to answer all of your questions about the class.

The most recent signee is nearest to the top.

— T.J. Fehoko, defensive lineman; HT: 6'1 WT: 265
Cottonwood High, Salt Lake City, Utah
ESPN: 3-Star, 79 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 89 defensive end.
Also considered: Nevada, North Carolina State.
Leach's comments: "Has played on the end as well. Plays inside and on the end and just a quick, athletic defensive lineman."

Shalom Luani, defensive back; HT: 6'1 WT: 200
City College of San Francisco, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 79 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 4-Star, No. 19 junior college prospect.
Also considered: Illinois, Oregon State, Washington.
Leach's comments: "One interesting thing about him is from what I understand he was on the Samoan national soccer team. Has great feet, very quick and an aggressive player and smart."

— Amosa Sakaria, offensive lineman; HT: 6'3 WT: 280
Tafuna High, Pago Pago, American Samoa
ESPN: 3-Star, 71 grade. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: 2-Star, unranked.
Leach's comments: "Good, solid, strong player."

— Logan Tago, linebacker; HT: 6'3 WT: 205
Samoana High, Pago Pago, American Samoa
ESPN: Unranked. Rivals: 2-Stars, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 96 outside linebacker.
Also considered: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon State, Washington.
Leach's comments: "Great athlete, can play on either side of the ball … Really good athlete. Versatile. I'm gonna name the positions he could play, safety, linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver, inside wide receiver, he could play a lot of stuff."

— Kameron Powell, defensive back; HT: 5'11 WT: 195
Upland High, Upland, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 75 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, No. 40 safety. Scout: 4-Star, No. 31 safety.
Also considered: Boston College, Colorado, Oregon State, Washington.
Leach's comments: "Might be taller than that … Not only a very intelligent player but also very quick into sorting it out and breaking on the ball."

— Kyle Sweet, wide receiver; HT: 6'1 WT: 190
Santa Margarita Catholic, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 75 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 99 receiver.
Also considered: Hawaii.
Leach's comments: "Great feet, great coming out of his cuts. Has also played a lot of positions because of his ability to pick things up and being intelligent as a football player."

— C.J. Dimry, wide receiver; HT: 6'6 WT: 210
Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, Calif.
ESPN: No profile. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: 2-Star, unranked.
Also considered: Syracuse.
Leach's comments: "Big target, great vertical route-runner and good at catching the ball over his head."

— Davis Perrott, offensive lineman; HT: 6'5 WT: 270
Mountain Pointe High, Phoenix, Ariz.
ESPN: 3-Star, 77 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 89 offensive tackle.
Also considered: Boise State, California, Indiana.
Leach's comments: "Kind of a mean-streak guy. Quick feet."

— Hunter Mattox, defensive end; HT: 6'4 WT: 255
Sierra Canyon High, Chatsworth, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 74 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 126 defensive end.
Also considered: Fresno State, Oregon State.
Leach's comments: "Big, strong football player. Good hands and very active out there at the line of scrimmage."

— Matthew Abramo, placekicker; HT: 6'2 WT: 170
Casa Grande High, Petaluma, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, No. 24 kicker. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, unranked.
Also considered: Cal Poly, San Jose State, Yale.
Leach's comments: "Very strong kicker. Most notable thing about him is how strong his leg is, one of the strongest high school kicker's legs that I've seen."

— James Williams, running back; HT: 5'11 WT: 185
Burbank High, Burbank, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 76 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, No. 53 running back. Scout: 3-Star, No. 113 running back.
Also considered: Arizona, California, Utah.
Leach's comments: "Extremely explosive, low center of gravity but great out of his cuts."

— Treshon Broughton, defensive back; HT: 6'0 WT: 180
Riverside CC, Riverside, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 79 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 57 junior college prospect.
Also considered: Fresno State, Oregon State.
Leach's comments: "Great cover corner, quick feet, instinctive."

— Darrien Molton, defensive back; HT: 5'10 WT: 165
Chaparral High, Temecula, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 77 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 128 cornerback.
Also considered: California, Colorado, Duke, Utah.
Leach's comments: "As he continues to develop he'll get better and better. Incredibly quick."

— Aaron Porter, linebacker; HT: 6'3 WT: 230
Cerritos College, La Habra, Calif.
ESPN: 4-Star, 80 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star.
Also considered: Nebraska, San Diego State.
Leach's comments: "Great at pursuiting the ball. Passion to play football. Great tackler."

— Joseph Price, offensive lineman; HT: 6'6 WT: 270
East Valley High, Redlands, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 75 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 163 offensive tackle.
Also considered: California.
Leach's comments: "Another mean-streak guy that plays with a very aggressive mentality and has great feet."

— Tyler Hilinksi, quarterback; HT: 6'4 WT: 200
Upland High, Upland, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 74 grade. Rivals: 4-Star, No. 10 pro-style quarterback. Scout: 3-Star, No. 41 QB.
Also considered: California, Utah State.
Leach's comments: "He's on campus now … A big guy but also kind of mobile. Extremely productive both when he's in the pocket and outside the pocket."

— Jeremiah Mitchell, defensive end; HT: 6'4 WT: 265
Riverside City  College, Riverside, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 73 grade. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: 4-Star, No. 28 junior college prospect.
Also considered: Arizona State, Oregon, Purdue.
Leach's comments: "On campus. A big, strong, tenacious pass-rusher. A very high-motor guy and a great player."

— Kyrin Priester, wide receiver; HT: 6'1 WT: 185
Liliburn, Ga.
Clemson transfer
Leach's comments: "On campus now … Very good in workouts. Big, strong, extremely physical at wide receiver as well as being fast. Just really an outstanding athlete."

— Deion Singleton, defensive back; HT: 6'2 WT: 180
Chiawana High, Pasco
Leach's comments: "On campus now … Tall, lanky safety. Also great feet."

— Nnamdi Oguayo, defensive end; HT: 6'4 WT: 215
High Point High, Beltsville, Md.
ESPN: Unranked. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: Unranked.
Also considered: Indiana, Pittsburgh.
Leach's comments: "Big, tall, lanky. Big hands, big feet, outside linebacker who runs well and is going to turn into a very big, solid player, has a big frame to put a lot of weight on."

— Cedric Bigge-Duren, offensive lineman; HT: 6'6 WT: 310
Oceanside HS, Oceanside, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 72 grade. Rivals: 2-Star, unranked. Scout: 3-Star, No. 99 offensive guard.
Also considered: Montana, Nevada, San Jose St.
Leach's comments: "He might be bigger than that … A big offensive lineman who continues to develop and get better and better. Already had pretty good feet."

— Thomas Toki, defensive tackle; HT: 6'1 WT: 307
Saint Francis HS, Mountainview, Calif.
ESPN: 4-Star, 82 grade. Rivals: 4-Star, No. 21 defensive tackle. Scout: 4-Star, No. 27 defensive tackle.
Also considered: Arizona State, Oklahoma State, UCLA.
Leach's comments: "Very traditional, hard-nosed, aggressive nose guard."

— Noah Myers, offensive lineman; HT: 6'5 WT: 300
Las Lomas HS, Walnut Creek, Calif.
ESPN: 3-Star, 71 grade. Rivals: 3-Star, No. 43 offensive guard. Scout: 3-Star, No. 88 offensive guard. 
Also considered: Montana, Weber St.
Leach's comments: "He's gotten bigger and stronger since we recruited him … Noah, like all these offensive linemen are fairly flat-stomach guys. Fairly athletic people that, in addition to their current frame, which is fairly big, we can put additional strength and weight on them."

The Cougars are spending more on recruiting but so are their peers

USA Today compiled a database showing how much each FBS school spent on recruiting in the 2012-13 school year.

Today, one day before national signing day, the newspaper made its findings available online. It shows that while the Cougars have spent significantly more on recruiting in recent years, Washington State still ranks No. 11 in the Pac-12 when it comes to recruiting expenditures.

The Cougars spent $363, 683, more than only California ($313,329) and far behind conference frontrunners Washington ($709,212), Oregon ($674,755) and Arizona State ($660, 299).

But WSU does have one of the fastest-growing recruiting budgets, seeing an increase in spending of 92.9 percent since the 2008-2009 school year, more than any other conference schools besides UW (184.3 percent), ASU (159.2 percent) and Utah (117 percent).

Spending on recruiting appears to be a good investment since the schools ranked in the bottom three in overall recruiting budget (Cal, WSU and Colorado) still spent the most on recruiting per win on the field.

Stanford and USC, which likely spend quite a bit on recruiting, are not included in these lists because as private schools they are not required to disclose the relevant figures.

You can see the database of all the FBS teams and search by school or conference here: USA Today.

Maryland linebacker chooses WSU

Maryland linebacker Nnamdi Oguayo will travel across the country to play his college ball.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive prospect has accepted a scholarship offer from Washington State according to Braulio Perez  of Cougfan.com. Oguayo's commitment comes on the heels of former WSU linebacker recruit Kyahva Tezino's decision to open his recruitment.

Oguayo listed scholarship offers from Illinois, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Purdue and other schools and took visits to IU, Pitt and WSU. He told Perez that he called new WSU linebackers coach Roy Manning to tell him of his decision to become a Cougar and that the coaches are recruiting him as a Buck linebacker.

Oguayo is listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com and is unranked by Scout.com.

Here is some video of WSU's new recruit:

New WSU assistant salaries

Washington State made the personnel action forms for new assistant football coaches Alex Grinch and Roy Manning available on Wednesday.

And while the budget for assistant coaches did not  dramatically increase, both coaches are making more than their predecessors. Grinch, WSU's new defensive coordinator, will make $425,000.04 next year and Manning, the new outside linebackers coach, will make $236,500.08.

Former defensive coordinator Mike Breske's final annual salary at WSU was $376,500 while former outside linebackers coach Paul Volero made $181,500.

Grinch's salary would have made him him the country's 98th best-compensated assistant coach in 2014 according to USA Today. But many of the assistants ahead of him are grouped at schools such as LSU, which had two assistants making $1.3 million; Ohio State, which had five assistants making $400,000 or more; and Washington, which has three assistants that all make $3.96 more per year than Grinch. 

Mele to stay on as WSU special teams coordinator

Washington State coach Mike Leach announced on Tuesday that Eric Mele has been named special teams coordinator at WSU.

Mele took over as the interim coordinator after Eric Russell was fired in the middle of last season. I wrote a profile of Mele soon after the transition. Prior to his promotion last year Mele spent two years serving as an offensive quality control assistant at WSU.

The Cougars allowed six kick or punt returns for touchdowns last season, more than any other FBS team. But only two of those returns came in the final six games in which Mele served as an assistant coach.

Only two FBS teams allowed more than WSU's 17.3 yards per opponent punt return over the course of the season but the Cougars had just two punts returned over their final three games for just two total yards.

“Eric did a nice job coming in midway through last season,” said Leach in a release. “He is organized, hard-working, energetic and has a great rapport with the players.”

Leach also announced that Brian Odom has been hired as a defensive quality control assistant. Odom spent the last three seasons at the University of Houston as a co-director of sports performance and after spending seven year at Arizona in a similar role.

“Brian brings a great work ethic and an experienced football mind to our staff,” said Leach. ”He has been a part of football staffs that have seen a great deal of success and he will be an asset for our program.”

Former USC recruit chooses WSU

After spending months committed to playing at USC next year, Taeon Mason changed his mind this week.

Just days ago he told the USC coaches that he changed his mind and on Sunday he used his Twitter account to announce his decision to play at Washington State.

Scout.com lists the 6-foot, 170-pound Mason as a four-star receiver, ranked No. 47 in the country at the position. Rivals.com also gives Mason four stars, but as a cornerback where he is rated No. 34 nationally.

Mason plays at Muir High in Pasadena, California and dealt with some injuries this season, missing the season-opener because of an issue with his back. But he came back after the injury and obviously played well enough to keep schools interested.

His commitment only helps WSU's precipitous rise in the recruiting rankings and it seems all but certain that the program will sign its most highly-ranked recruiting class since the online services became prominent in the early 2000s.

Scout.com ranks WSU's class No. 23 in the country and gives six of WSU's committed recruits four-star grades and Rivals.com has the Cougars 29th with four four-stars.

Here is a video of WSU's newest announced recruit:

WSU’s Dave Emerick named a Director of Operations of the Year

Washington State's director of football operations Dave Emerick got some recognition from CBS.

From linebackers coach Ken Wilson:

What does a director of football operations do, exactly? Here's a Spokesman-Review profile of Mike Leach's chief of staff from 2012

Texas defensive back commits to WSU

Spring, Texas cornerback Willie Sykes committed to play football at Washington State on Monday evening.

Britton Ransford of Rivals.com first reported the news, and says that Sykes chose the Cougars over scholarship offers from Purdue, Nebraska, Oregon State, Utah and others. Both Rivals and Scout.com rate Sykes as a two-star prospect but his scholarship offers seem to indicate he's a good prospect.

Sykes is 6-foot, 180-pounds and is supposed to be very fast.

He is the third defensive back Mike Leach's staff has recruited out of Texas, joining Charleston White and Darius Lemora.

Here is some video of WSU's newest recruit:

California offensive lineman gives verbal commitment to WSU

 Offensive lineman Joseph Price of California's Redlands East Valley High will play at Washington State next season, according to his coach.

REVHS coach Kurt Bruich tweeted the news along with a picture of Price at his home with WSU coach Mike Leach. Offensive line coach Clay McGuire and linebackers coach Ken Wilson were also on the visit.

Scout.com lists Price as a 6-foot-6, 267-pound offensive tackle and gives him a three-star grade. He reportedly also holds scholarship offers from California and Fresno State.

Price is the fifth known offensive lineman in the 2015 recruiting class to accept a WSU scholarship offer.

WSU makes manning hire official

Washington State announced on Sunday that Roy Manning will join the Cougars and coach the outside linebackers.

Here is the release from the school: 

WSU Names Roy Manning Outside Linebackers Coach
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State Head Football Coach Mike Leach announced Sunday that Roy Manning has been named the Cougars’ outside linebackers coach. Manning arrives in Pullman after serving the past two seasons at his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
“Roy is an outstanding technical coach, a passionate recruiter and a great person who loves football,” said Leach. “He will be great for our players and our program.”
In 2014 Manning served as the cornerbacks coach at Michigan after coaching the outside linebackers in 2013. Under his direction, Michigan’s SAM linebackers Cam Gordon and Jake Ryan combined for 70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2013 while defensive back Raymond Taylor earned 2014 All-Big Ten honors in 2014.
Prior to arriving back in Ann Arbor, Manning served as the running backs coach at the University of Cincinnati in 2012. That season Manning's group led the Big East in rushing in 2012, averaging 201.5 yards per game. Running back George Winn totaled the second-best rushing season in school history with 1,334 rushing yards (102.6 per game) and 13 touchdowns, both conference bests.
Prior to joining the Cincinnati staff, Manning served as offensive graduate assistant at Michigan, where he worked with the offensive line and was part of a coaching staff that led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and a victory in the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Manning's first coaching experience came at Cincinnati in 2010, when he worked as a defensive assistant.
Prior to his appointment in Cincinnati, Manning spent three seasons in the NFL with five different teams. He signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He played in 15 games and started two contests as a rookie, tallying 41 tackles and one pass breakup. Manning tied for third on the team with 21 tackles on special teams. He also had stints with the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals.
Manning played in 37 career games and made 10 starts at linebacker as a fifth-year senior with Michigan. He was named the Roger Zatkoff Award winner as the team's top linebacker in 2004 after posting 39 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and one sack. Manning finished his career with 72 stops, nine TFLs and three sacks.
Manning earned his bachelor's degree in general studies from Michigan in 2004.