Washington State coach Mike Leach held a conference call with reporters to preview the Cougars’ preseason training camp. Leach talked about the quarterback competition – he’d like to name a starter at least 10 days before fall camp – addressed the team’s depth at wide receiver, spoke about the importance of getting Robert Lewis and Peyton Pelluer back and talked about returning to his home state of Wyoming for the season opener.
Below is a full transcript of the conference call.
Q: What does the QB depth chart look like right now?
A: Well, it’s pretty deep. I guess that’s where the finesse comes in. We had Trey Tinsley who did a good job in the spring. I’d have to say he probably did better than I expected. Then in the spring we also had Anthony Gordon who also did a really good job. Arguably maybe the biggest eventual talent of the group was Cammon Cooper, who’s only been here since January, but he has a bigger, strong arm, good feet. The whole thing. Then Gardner Minshew transferred from East Carolina and has had a great offseason too. So we’re going to habve to pair them up and there will be a lot of evalutation at that position. I do feel good about probably four guys, so we’re going to have to sort it.
Q: What is the time frame for you to name a starter?
A: I’d like it several days before so we can put some reps in him, because in all cases the guys aren’t terribly experienced on the field here. Gardner probably has the most game experience. And then so we would like to get it 10 days or so before the game so we can get a lot of reps. And I do think it’s important for everybody.
Q: How tough is it for a transfer to come in and pick things up in just one camp?
A: Well, I think it varies. I think it depends on the individual. I think it varies. I haven’t had a ton of experience with that. But picking a quarterback is easy from the standpoint of, regardless of how good they are, you figure out who the best one is. And in the end, the most important thing is who moves the offense the best. Who elevates the play of the guys around them. But he’s a smart guy, in high school he played in a system somewhat similar to ours. He’s been training in that direction prior to being here, to the point he can kind of recite plays and reads and things like that. And a smart, mature guy so we’ll see.
Q: How will you divvy up the reps between the QBs?
A: I doubt it’ll be equal. We’ll look at all four of them and keep an eye on the others as well. We’ll look at all four of them but we’re going to try to channel it toward the top two as quickly as we can and then go from there.
Q: Other than QB, what are some other positions you’re looking at as camp starts?
A: Well always it’s all of them because something’s improved, somebody’s gotten better. They’re all moving targets, generally to the positive, occasionally to the negative. We have all our receivers back, so we’ve got quite a number there. So there it’s kind of again channeling who’s on top, but we play with eight of them. Then running backs, we’ve got a good group there and I guess one thing is to see how much Max Borghi’s improved because we thought he had an impressive spring. And then James and Keith have played before here. Then offensive line wise, we need to develop some depth at that position. Leaving spring, we had a pretty good first group. Robert Valencia kind of entered the lineup in particular at right guard. Josh Watson had a really good spring, too, at left guard and then Abraham Lucas had played at right tackle some. So the first group right now going in based on spring is Dillard, Watson, Fred (Mauigoa), Valencia and then Lucas. After that, we’re going to try to develop some depth. You try to always have 10. Most of my teams have had seven or eight. Then of course the freshmen, too, at all positions there’s some freshman scattered in there and we’ve got to see where they’re at. Then defensively, we’ve got a lot of the secondary back. We’re looking for one or two guys there, then linebacker we’ve got a few back there. And not all of them are back or heavily featured guys that the outside is familar with, but we are. We’re excited about them and think there will be some cases they’ll be better than the guys before. Then we still have some good quickness on our defensive line. I’d say in partciular some big guys in the middle, we need them to develop. Some of those big guys inside.
Q: You’ve said the receiving corps will be your deepest at WSU. What stands out about them?
A: Well they’re deep. They’re young, though. They’re young. We’ve got Robert Lewis back and then Kyle Sweet’s a senior. You’ve got Tay Martin who played significantly last year, who is big, explosive, strong for a wiry guy. Then Rodrick Fisher, then we’ve got freshmen and we’re excited to see what they can do – (Kassidy) Woods and (Drue) Jackson. Then the inside receivers, Jamire Calvin had a really good spring and had a good offseason. Then Renard (Bell) and he played some last year. Brandon Arconado played last year and then Travell Harris had a really good spring. Then Dezmon Patmon played some last year and a guy that really had a good spring, this spring, we redshirted him last year, was Easop Winston. Just a very crafty, knows all the tricks. Elusive, slippery guy.
Q: How important was it to get Robert Lewis back for a sixth year?
A: Well, if you know him, he’s one of the greatest kids there is. Tough background, all the stories about the neighborhood and all that. Has a great father who’s really pushed him, supported him and really provided a lot of guidance there. Then Robert’s just a really fantastic guy who’s played before and played successfully. Robert Lewis, in my opinion, on any given year he played, was the best blocker of the receivers even though he’s a small guy. The most famous block I guess was, as we’re coming back against Utah, we hit Vince Mayle on a post and we didn’t have that much time left. And Robert Lewis peels back, blows up this safety. And I mean he just smokes him. Then of course Vince scores a touchdown, but Robert Lewis had as much to do with that play. It was the right thing to do and such an unfortunate deal he got injured early last year. Just been a real solid guy here so it’s great to have him back.
Q: What are you looking in particular for this team to achieve during fall camp?
A: Well we’ve got to evaluate where everybody’s at, get them in the best position we can to get their talents on the field. We have a few wrinkles we want to install and get those either solidified or cast them off if we don’t like them. You know, the plays. And just really put together a cohesive unit that operates together, then from there go out there and win one game a week.
Q: It seemed like a long offseason. How excited are you to get started?
A: A little of both. I think it’s definitely time and we’re all anxious because now it’s time. But those offseason are important. And we had a really good offseason. It’s one of the most important periods for the development of your team. We needed it, I think we really got the most we could out of it and it’s an important period that you can’t just circumvent and get right into it. Although if they let me reset football, we’d go year-round. We’d expand the roster, we’d go year-round, we’d have to have a varsity season in the fall and then we’d have a season in the spring where we work younger guys that didn’t play as much. Get them some games. Everybody would have a great time and of course they’d televise the games and it’d be great for everybody. They’re probably not going to do that but that way I’d get to coach year-round and then of course the offseason for the guys who played in the fall would be in the spring and the offseason for the guys who played in the spring would be in the fall. Great fun would be had by all and for those who want football year-round it’d be fantastic.
A: Yep, maybe someday they’ll do it.
Q: Will all the guys you signed in the spring report to practice tomorrow? Is there anyone who won’t be there?
A: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware off. And they’ve all been through the offseason.
Q: On defense, how important was it to get Peyton Pelluer back?
A: Great leadership, very instinctive, by example if nothing else. Fantastic example for the entire defense, very intense. Literally grew up in football with his fathers and uncles and all those guys having played. He’s one of those guys that all the intangibles, he knows those. And I happen to believe if you’ve got a guy like that, that rubs off on the others.
Q: Have you had a chance to watch any film on the Wyoming defense?
A: Well I can see why they’re confident, they’ve done a lot of good things and they do a great job of coaching over there at Wyoming. They’re an intense group, they have a game before we play them, which I think is beneficial. At this point, we’re pretty much worried about ourselves and being the best we can be and then as we get closer, then we’ll more tightly tailor it to them specifially.
Q: You grew up in Wyoming. Is there anything more special about returning home?
A: I wish I could say so. The time you have down there is awfully limited. You fly in, you spend the night, you play, you fly back. There’s not just a ton of time to go down memory lane. And obviously there will be some people that I know who’ll be at the game and will show up, because I went to high school with a lot of Wyoming graduates and know a lot of Wyoming graduates. So I think there’ll probably me more of that with them, because there’s a point to where, the Cowboys themselves out there on the field running around kind of occupy your time and your thoughts and things like that. Where I’m from specifically is quite a long ways from Laramie. I’m from Cody and now a lot of my high school went to school there and I’ve been to University of Wyoming. Laramie’s probably about 380 miles from Cody.
Q: Have you given much thought to the Urban Meyer situation at Ohio State or read into it much?
A: I haven’t read any articles about it, I’ve gotten fragments of texts. It’s a tough situation and I can’t really deal into it. Obviously it sounds like they’ve got a lot of issues to work through and things like that, so they’re more equipped than I am from over here. But I wish all the people involved the very best, as far as getting to the bottom of it and putting everything in the best fashion they can.
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