David Hawbaker/The Daily Evergreen
With only a couple weeks before the pirate ship sails to Provo, Utah, to take on Brigham Young University (BYU), Head Football Coach Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars are taking one step at a time as they continue to grind it out during fall camp.
Along with his 10 consecutive winning seasons and 10 straight bowl trips at Texas Tech University, Leach has brought his high-tempo, competitive approach to WSU's Rogers Field.
“Practices are a lot different, a lot faster and a lot more intense when it comes to competition,” redshirt senior safety Tyree Toomer said. “Each play, every rep, every level - everybody is competing because everyday you’re fighting for a spot on this team.”
The most anticipated and heated competition throughout the spring and fall camps lies between the quarterbacks senior Jeff Tuel and redshirt sophomore Connor Halliday.
Leach has yet to name which quarterback will lead the Cougars at the first game on Aug. 30, but both Tuel and Halliday have the skill to start.
“They’re both real talented,” Leach said. “They’re talented to the point where when I got hired here we were reached out to by virtually every transfer, and we weren’t interested in any of them.”
Halliday and Tuel are relishing the competition as both have responded with strong fall campaigns thus far. They carved up the Cougar defense during the fall scrimmage with Tuel going 14-19 for 183 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Halliday hit 12-20 for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
While the potential greatness on offense has many Cougar fans salivating, Leach says the improvement of the defense is often overlooked.
“I think our linebackers have been playing really well,” Leach said. “We have had a lot of guys emerge at that position. Also, in the secondary we ended up with more depth than we expected; some pretty good speed guys, and we continue to improve on the D-line.”
Toomer echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We are developing good team chemistry; just trying to get a swagger amongst ourselves,” Toomer said. “We are grasping the defense a lot better than we did in the spring, so it allows us to play fast and just fly around and hit people and make big plays.”
While the anticipation grows for fans and players alike, Leach knows there is still a lot of work left to do during the fall camp.
“We are in getting-better mode,” Leach said. “The thing is, I am really focused on one practice to the next and doing the best we can each practice.”