WSU's roster will undergo a dramatic change next week with upwards of 25 players expected to sign with the Cougars. In some cases, the new additions will have an immediate impact and dramatically change the depth chart. In others, you'll hardly know they are there, at least for now.
We'll breakdown every position group between now and signing day. That process starts today with the quarterbacks.
Current depth chart:
Walk-ons: Connor Ennis (RSFR), Luke Falk (RSFR), Domenic Rocky (RSFR)
Projected depth chart:
Starter - Halliday
Backup - Apodaca or Bruggman
Third string - Apodaca or Bruggman
Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Barring injury Connor Halliday is going to be WSU's starting quarterback in 2014. Sure, he threw too many interceptions and yes former 4-star recruit Tyler Bruggman is off his redshirt year. Both of those things are true, but they won't change the fact Halliday is the starter.
For one, Halliday is likely the best quarterback on the roster. I say likely because I personally haven't seen Bruggman practice, so I have no idea what he is capable of, other than what we've all read in practice reports and watched on high school highlights. Even if Bruggman or Austin Apodaca have as much or more talent than Halliday, he still has a massive leg up in experience. As we've seen, it takes time to master the Air Raid. You don't just step under center in your first game and start shredding defenses.
The other key is while he threw 22 interceptions last season, Halliday was playing really well late in the season. The more reps he got, the better he played. It's easy to look at his overall numbers and say "he throws too many interceptions" but, that ignores the significant progression he made during the season. Take a look:
|Yards Per Game
|Yards Per Attempt
|First 7 games
|Final 5 games
His completion percentage and yards per attempt actually dropped during the final five games of the season, but he threw touchdowns at a much higher rate and his interceptions dropped dramatically. Those are both very good signs. If you project his numbers during the final five games to a full season with 700 attempts, the stat line would look like this:
4,410 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.
It's not like he played a cupcake schedule over the final five games either. Four of the five opponents ranked in the top 37 of Passing S&P+ with Washington at No. 6 and Arizona at No. 15 the top two. He still has to prove he can play at that level for an entire season instead of just five games, but the chances of that happening are much higher than Bruggman, Apodaca or anyone stepping in and playing better with no experience. And that's without considering the fact Halliday could be even better than he was during that five game stretch.
That doesn't mean there won't be competition in fall camp. Halliday, Bruggman and Apodaca will battle for the starting job. When Halliday seals that, the other two will battle for backup duty. Apodaca served that role last year and saw limited action while Bruggman redshirted. Regardless of who wins the No. 2 job, it will be nice to have three scholarship quarterback active on game day. WSU didn't have that luxury last season.
Peyton Bender, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A consensus 3-star recruit, Bender committed to WSU in March and hasn't wavered. At 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds, he isn't the biggest quarterback in the world. That doesn't appear to be a problem though, as he has plenty of arm talent. Bender's best quality may be his quick release. He's also accurate and appears to have more than adequate arm strength. The combination should make him a great fit in the Air Raid.
Rivals and 247Sports are the highest on Bender. Rivals ranked him as the No. 25 pro style quarterback in the country while 247Sports has him at No. 22. In addition to WSU, Bender also received an offer from Penn State. Like Mike Leach, Bill O'Brien has an excellent reputation for developing quarterbacks and spotting talent.
According to Rivals, WSU offered two other quarterbacks. David Cornwell is committed to Alabama while Christian Chapman committed to San Diego State. Ronald Monroe is currently committed to WSU, although the Cougars recruited him as a wide receiver.
With Halliday, the Cougars should be in good shape next season. They'll have three active quarterbacks on gameday and Apodaca and Bruggman will likely both see some time, especially early in the season. Bender is destined for a redshirt season unless injuries hit at epidemic levels. Even then, Luke Falk or another walk-on might get a shot, depending on the circumstances.
The race for the backup job will be one to watch as whoever wins will likely be the favorite to start in 2015. Most think that will be Bruggman, but Apodaca could very well win that job.