Mike Leach might liken the 2017 Cougars to a sharp cheddar, rather than a fine Swiss. There just aren’t many holes.
Like every team in the country, the Cougars will have their deficiencies – and a great deal of those will be exposed when WSU opens camp at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Pullman – but Leach came up blank when asked if his squad appears to be noticeably frail at any one position.
“I don’t really have a position that I think is a real weak position, and that’s kind of what you shoot for,” he said Tuesday during a conference call. “You’re always trying to get better and everyone’s trying to improve, and what position do you want to improve? All of them. And that’s the case with us, but I don’t see where we have a glaring weakness. I can’t say that we have one glaring strength after the next, but I don’t see where we have any glaring weaknesses.”
It’s thought by most that the defensive line is the closest thing the Cougars have to a weakness. But even though three D-linemen elected to leave the team this offseason, fracturing the overall depth, Leach is quick to caution that the only real contributor the group loses is tackle Robert Barber.
“We’ve got kind of a young core there,” the coach said. “We didn’t really lose anybody that played much other than (Barber).”
“I think in some cases, it will be definite addition by subtraction and then I also think that you just work through guys. Guys step up.”
Leach, who’s sure to be peppered all season with questions about record-setting quarterback Luke Falk, was asked what strides, if any, his signal-caller can take during his final year in Pullman.
In short, the coach views Falk as an embodiment of the team: no glaring weaknesses, but plenty of room to improve.
“He’s still improving and then, as far as some of the folks at Media Day scoffed at the notion that it’s possible for Luke Falk to improve,” Leach said. “And of course that’s ridiculous because he’s trying to improve every single day that he plays football, and he will just like good quarterbacks in history have.”
A finalist for multiple national awards in 2016, Falk will use the month of August to build a rapport with some of the team’s less familiar wide receivers, now that he can’t throw to Gabe Marks or River Cracraft.
Leach singled out Isaiah Johnson-Mack, C.J. Dimry, Tavares Martin and Dezmon Patmon for their efforts in the spring and also hinted that Kyle Sweet could take on an expanded role this fall after a productive 2016. The coach spoke highly of Easop Winston, who’s “very versatile and looks like he could do a lot of good things on each side.”
“We’re looking forward to seeing what unfolds (at receiver),” Leach said, “because if they’re as good as they were in the spring, we’re going to be decent. But if they improve at all, and I will wear them out to improve, then we have a chance to be even better.”
The Cougars return seven starters on offense and nine more on defense.