Washington State football players will be back on the practice field on Tuesday for the first time in an official capacity since the 2014 season ended. The Cougars will hit Rogers practice field for the first of 15 spring football sessions. There is a lot to watch this spring with new coaches, new faces and an unsettled quarterback depth chart.
The quarterback situation will probably garner the most coverage this spring with Luke Falk, Peyton Bender and Tyler Hilinski all competing for the job. Falk of course got some playing time last season when Connor Halliday went down with an injury. He had some very good moments, but there were some issues at times as well. That's not unexpected for a freshman thrust into his first playing time, but it also means Falk didn't lock down the job. Instead, it will be an open competition that may, or may not, get settled this spring. According to Jacob Thorpe, Mike Leach said Falk and Bender will open splitting the first-team reps and Thorpe's read is that Falk isn't ahead in the competition.
Even if the competition continues into fall camp, these sessions will be vital for all three players. Bender will get his first legitimate time with the No. 1 units. He excelled in Thursday Night Football last season, but this is obviously a step up from freshman practices. Hilinski enrolled early and the spring sessions will be his first college practices. Even Falk has somewhat limited experience. The reps -- and there will be a lot of them -- are going to be crucial.
While the attention will be on the quarterback stat lines, there will be a lot else going on. WSU has a lot to to sort out in the secondary, while new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch runs his first practices with the Cougars. There will be a few new coaching faces with Roy Manning at outside linebacker and Graham Harrell at outside receivers. The receivers lose a couple key players as well, opening jobs and leaving plenty of potential targets up for grabs.
Spring may not sort it all out, but it is the start to the 2015 campaign. Practice will begin at 2:30 p.m. PT for those of you in Pullman wanting to check it out.
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.
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:
That's what the Cougars are doing. Grinch was good enough to sit down with me and watch a little film and lay out his vision for his first spring in Pullman, which I lay out in this story for today's paper. For one, he wants a speedy defense, and the Cougars will ride the wave of schools spending most of the time in sub packages by primarily employing a nickel defense.
Washington State begins the task of trying to rebound from a disappointing 2014 season when spring practice opens Thursday. The Cougars will have 15 practice dates in Pullman and play the annual Crimson and Gray game on April 25 in Spokane.