Details Need to Become Habits
The above statement is a quote heard from Washington State head coach Mike Leach following Tuesday’s practice earlier this week.
It couldn’t be more accurate.
The first season under Leach was one full of turmoil and disappointment. The high-flying offense was more like a low-walking shit show, and the reason was mainly the system. The complicated air raid Leach runs can only be efficient when every player is on cue and playing with a high level of chemistry. It’s like clockwork.
Leach made that statement following several words of encouragement for his team thus far this preseason. And you can bet words of encouragement mean something coming from a man who openly criticizes his players when he feels the need to.
So with the Week 1 battle against the Auburn Tigers coming up this Saturday, we take a look at the offensive players that need to make a difference if the Cougars want to start the season off with a W.
Connor Halliday, QB
No surprise here that the quarterback of a Leach-coached team will be the deciding factor between winning and losing.
Connor Halliday saw a solid amount of playing time last season during the QB carousel between him and Jeff Tuel — and for good reason. He has the talent to be a great quarterback in the Pac-12. It just comes down to timing and decision making.
Fortunately, these have both been areas he has improved during the off season. The coaching staff has been raving about Halliday’s poise in the pocket this preseason, as well as his drastic improvement in accuracy.
With the arm strength of this young man accompanied by precision, the ceiling is sky high.
Gabe Marks, WR
Coming into his sophomore season, Gabe Marks has been one of the more talked-about receivers on the roster. He was a three-star recruit out of LA who had good speed and a lot of upside. His freshman season was decent (49 catches for 560 yards and two tds), granted those stats are coming from one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the nation.
Marks has a lot of talent, but he has been known to catch with his chest too often. This has been a focus for him this offseason, and the improvement is there.
With one year of this system under his belt and an improved catching ability added to his list of abilities, all roads lead to a breakout season for the young wide out.
Teondray Caldwell, RB
It is rare that a running back plays a large role in this system. And Teondray Caldwell will likely see limited carries on Saturday as it is — the Cougars ranked 124th in the nation last season with 29.1 yards on the ground per game.
However, if there was any indication of a breakout candidate for Washington State’s running game, it is Caldwell.
Listed as the starter, Caldwell is coming into his sophomore season physically stronger and faster than last season. And if you saw him last season, you would find it hard to believe that he could run faster.
But that is what he has been showing in camp. The mishaps behind the line have been greatly limited, as Caldwell has been patient and hitting the holes with bursts of speed.
The running game is a very minuscule part of the offense, but short gains can set you up for play action. Not to mention a little daylight for a guy with Caldwell’s ability could mean “house” from anywhere on the field.
Look for these players to lead the offensive against Auburn this Saturday. And keep an eye on junior college transfer Vince Mayle. He has a lot of talent and could be a secret weapon heading into this season.