When it comes to Cougar football, not many names hold more regard than Jason Gesser. As a player he was the leader of some of the best teams in WSU history. He's stayed close to the program since his playing days ended and few promote WSU the way he does.
Now serving as part of the WSU broadcast team, Gesser has great insight into the program. We tapped into that and asked him about what turned this team around, what bowl he hopes the Cougars play in, his thoughts on Luke Falk and more.
"What is different this season is the players have confidence in the coaching staff. Not everyone was buying in, they are now," said Gesser. "An example is that right before last season the team had a barbecue, around 17 players showed up. This season's barbecue had around 70 players. With everyone buying-in like this, the team has found success."
This says a lot about the effort that WSU's coaching staff has done to really get these players to believe in them. In his first year as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has helped this defense improve in nearly every category. His confidence and his message has resonated within the locker room.
"You don't have to go back four years to see the changes that Leach has made, his message to the team has been the same all along," said Gesser. "Look back to last year, a good amount of the same players are here but the two differences this year are DC Alex Grinch and QB Luke Falk. These guys bring confidence, leadership, and chemistry to the locker room."
This young Cougar team could have easily tanked after the loss to Portland State, but by buying into the team mentality of Leach and Grinch they have become the scariest team in the Pac-12.
An impact on recruiting:
Gesser believes that because of the success this team is having, it will pave the way for the program to receive more attention with the media and with recruits.
"The Cougars are the most exciting team in the Pac-12 and maybe Top 5 in the nation. Recruits are going to see the excitement and WSU is going to recruit the players that fit best," said Gesser. "With the facility and the full season of being able to use the building, combined with the success on the field, this is the launching of where this program will be for years to come."
Luke the warrior:
"I never felt like I was part of the game until I took my first hit, it got me going and brought out my competitive nature in me," said Gesser. "I think Luke is one of those guys that lays it all on the line to win."
Falk may not feel the same, but he certainly took enough hits against UCLA to bring out more than enough competitive fire. Gesser saw what was happening on the field and knew Falk was going to make the Bruins pay.
"You get a little bit more when some guys are trying to hurt you or hit you extra hard. Some players don't have it and want to curl up and quit," said Gesser. "Luke is one of those guys that steps to the plate and says 'let's go'. He wants to bring it."
What bowl do you think the Cougs will end up playing in?
"My gut feeling is the Sun Bowl. But I hope to see them end up in the Alamo or Holiday bowl," said Gesser. "We have to hope that someone from the Pac-12 squeezes into a big bowl and that AD Moos can work some magic."
Stanford and Utah have some chance to secure an at-large bowl bid and allow WSU to sneak into the Alamo or Holiday bowl. For more on how the Pac-12 bowl selection works click here.