PULLMAN – Before the ball is snapped, the defense implemented by new Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will look pretty similar to the one employed by his predecessor, Mike Breske, at least in structure. The Cougars will still run a 3-4 base defense and with so many young starters last season, the personnel will for the most part be the same.
Where Grinch hopes the difference will lie is in the ability to generate turnovers, repeatedly saying that it was “imperative” the Cougars find ways to take the ball away from opposing offenses.
This past season the Cougars ranked No. 123 out of 125 teams in turnover margin, recovering five fumbles and intercepting just three passes.
“The brainwashing needs to begin in earnest so the guys understand that their responsibility is to get the ball back for the offense,” said Grinch during a Friday morning teleconference, his first media availability since his hire was announced on Wednesday.
“Coach (Mike Leach) wants to find a way to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. I think (Grinch’s defensive) package lends itself to that,” Grinch said. “He wants to produce more takeaways. I think our teaching and practice structure will lend itself to that. It’s important to get off the field on third downs. There’s going to be a huge emphasis on that.”
Grinch comes to WSU from Missouri, where he spent the last three seasons as the safeties coach. Just 34-years-old, he is the youngest defensive coordinator in the Pac-12.
He spoke of a “find-a-way” approach and said he hoped that the current WSU players give him a fair shot in the same manner that he plans to keep an open mind when evaluating the current roster.
During the call he answered some general management questions, saying that the coaches have yet to determine what his regional recruiting responsibilities will be and that he has not decided what position group he would like WSU’s remaining defensive hire to coach, saying that he is open to hiring someone to coach the secondary, outside linebackers or defensive line.
“Our aim right now is to get the best teacher, the best recruiter we possibly can to bring in here to help us on the defensive side of the ball,” he said, adding that he feels comfortable coaching the secondary himself if the Cougars do not hire a defensive backs coach.
Grinch also clarified the timeline of his hiring process, which began about a week ago following a phone call from inside receivers coach David Yost, who coached with Grinch for a season at Missouri.
Their relationship dates back to the early 2000s, according to Grinch, and Yost gave Grinch’s name to head coach Mike Leach, who initiated contact shortly thereafter.