I'm still dealing with the death flu, but I did have a chance to crawl up to Bohler and attend WSU's Monday afternoon press conference. As usual, Mike Leach spoke freely about everything from leadership to the quarterback situation. He explained why Connor Halliday is his guy, while also calling out some of his seniors -- both good and bad.
Since I still feel like crap, and didn't transcribe the press conference as a result, I'm stealing from Christian. Thanks, buddy!*
*But seriously, go read his transcript. It takes forever to transcribe these things.
Everybody is dead
This is the quote gaining all of the attention today:
"I think it's mixed. I think some it's stellar. I think Gino, Gino's a guy elected team captain this week. Came from not playing hardly at all to elected team captain. A lot of it is just he's kind of accelerated his focus and effort. Some of them have been great and some of them have been very poor. Some of them have had kind of this zombie-like, go through the motions, everything is like how it's always been, that's how it'll always be. Some of them quite honestly have an empty corpse quality. That's not pleasant to say or pleasant to think about, but that's a fact. That's why it's been necessary for us to have the youth moment that we've had."
If you've followed the program, this quote isn't really a surprise. There are seniors on this team that, Leach points out, are beaten down and broken -- probably beyond repair, actually. It's not a surprise, but there are bright spots, as Leach pointed out.
Some guys were made to power through adversity, while others just can't cut it. Leach is calling the latter out while also recognizing the former. He wants his players to deal with adversity and come out fighting -- and acknowledged that to get to WSU, every player had to overcome some kind of adversity. But you've probably seen some seniors completely disappear. That's who he's talking about.
So Jeff Tuel is dead, right?
"He's one of the greatest team guys I've ever been around. Very supportive guy, works hard, very skilled, good player. If he was our quarterback, I'd feel real comfortable."
Some have wondered if the "empty corpse" quote was a subtle jab at Tuel. Simply, that couldn't be further from the truth. I've watched Tuel get his ass beat for the past three-plus years. He takes a whipping on the field, then shakes it off like he's fine and gets right back to work. Even when things aren't going his way, he's not down.
Right now, Tuel is the backup. It's an odd spot for him. He's been the anointed starter since he arrived, only derailed by injuries. Yet he's always been out there leading the offense in a vocal way, and he continues to do so. He's coaching Halliday up and continuing to be supportive of everyone.
As an aside, it was kind of amazing to watch him last year. He wasn't actually able to practice while dealing with a broken collarbone, followed by his ACS injury, but he still contributed. Every once in a while, he'd hobble out with the scout team, throw a bomb to a wide receiver, then hobble back to watching and coaching from behind the offense. That's just what he does. He's not dead.
Why is Halliday starting?
We're back to the whole quarterback controversy thing, and many wanted an explanation from Leach as to why Halliday was the clear starter. The OR tag is gone on the depth chart, and Leach made it perfectly clear that Halliday is the start.
"He'd been playing the best until he threw three interceptions, and then we're at the point in the season where we have to invest the reps in somebody," Leach said. "We just have to make a choice and I think Jeff's certainly done some good things and I think a lot of Jeff. (I) initially sat Connor down to see if Jeff could give us a spark, let Connor see the field and settle down and he just needs more reps, more experience and learn from experience, really."
It's become clear to me that Halliday is Leach's guy -- with the typical disclaimer that nobody has a clue what Leach is really thinking. Earlier, Leach mentioned that Halliday just didn't have the reps coming out of fall camp, a product of a liver injury that needed time to heal. He's getting those reps now.
From the quote above, and everything else Leach has said, it's fairly obvious that he believes Halliday is the guy with the best chance to execute his offense. There are mistakes -- as we saw on Saturday -- but they're mistakes Leach thinks can be corrected with time, reps and live-action.