#74 Washington State Football 2014 Preview

Washington State Cougars

Overall Rank: #74
#10 Pac-12

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Coach Mike Leach turned around the Cougars during his second year with Washington State. The program reached a bowl game for the first time since 2003. But the New Mexico Bowl did not go very well. The Cougars lost to Colorado State 48-45. Year three could be even better for WSU, but the schedule is tough and getting back to a bowl game will not be guaranteed.

2013 Record: (6-7, 4-5)
2013 Bowl: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State (L 45-48)
Coach: Mike Leach (9-16 at Washington State, 93-59 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Breske

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marcus Mason, RB, 429 yards
Passing: Connor Halliday, QB, 4,597 yards
Receiving: Gabe Marks, WR, 807 yards
Tackles: Darryl Monroe, LB, 94
Sacks: Xavier Cooper, DT, 5.0
Interceptions: Daquawn Brown, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR River Cracraft, WR Vince Mayle, WR Dom Williams, LB Cyrus Coen, LB Tana Pritchard

Key Losses: DB Deone Bucannon, LB Justin Sagote, CB Damante Horton, K Andrew Furney, OL Eliott Bosch, OL John Fullington

As with most Coach Leach teams, the strength is in the passing game. Connor Halliday threw for 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns during his junior campaign. However, he also threw 22 interceptions. Halliday’s decision making did improve throughout last season so that is a positive sign. Wide receiver Gabe Marks caught 74 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns and leads a very talented group of pass catchers. River Cracraft is coming off of an extremely promising freshman campaign in which he caught 46 passes for 614 yards. Vince Mayle and Dom Williams caught seven touchdown passes a piece. The run game has a lot of improving to do, yet there is promise. Marcus Mason was the leading rusher a year ago with 429 yards, but he will have competition from Theron West and freshman Jamal Morrow. The unit ran for just 53.4 yards per game in 2013 and even having more options is a bonus.

The concern on offense though is the line. Washington State lost a lot of experience. Coach Leach is bringing in talent, but the experience is gone. Without consistent and solid play in the trenches, Halliday is not going to get the time he needs to operate and the ground game is going to continue to struggle. For a team that ranked just eighth in the Pac-12 in total offense and scoring offense, the offense will need to at least be more efficient and much of that will fall on the line. The massive losses in the secondary could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. While there is very little experience left from a unit that ranked 112th in the nation in pass defense, Coach Leach hopes the new found speed will make the difference.

The Bottom Line:
The secondary will also be helped by a decent line, led by tackle Xavier Cooper, who totaled 5.0 sacks and 13.5 tackles-for-loss. Cooper does need more help from nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole and end Destiny Vaeao. Washington State totaled just 1.62 sacks per game in 2013 and that number has to get better if the secondary is going to improve. Daryl Monroe can get into the backfield, but he has more to worry about as the leader of the linebackers. The Cougars are bringing in the players needed to improve the defense, yet it will take some more time with the new look secondary. Unless the offense can improve their efficiency Washington State will not make back-to-back bowl appearances.

Projected Bowl: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 53.4 (123rd in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 368.0 (4, 2)
Total Offense: 421.4 (54, 8)
Scoring Offense: 31.0 (52, 8)
Rushing Defense: 187.2 (84, 9)
Pass Defense: 270.8 (112, 11)
Total Defense: 458.0 (102, 10)
Scoring Defense: 32.5 (96, 10)
Turnover Margin: -0.4 (93, 10)
Sacks: 1.62 (90, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.46 (91, 9)


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