Tomorrow we take a look at Washington State in our continued "First Look" series. The series is intended solely to take a glance at what the team returns, what they lost and some basic early thoughts on the offense and defense.
The article itself will go over the specifics tomorrow. But, wow, this team does not look to have very much promise for 2013. And how in the world does a college football team average 29.1 yards per game rushing?
I know Mike Leach is known as the master of the Air Raid offense, but you have GOT to run the ball in the Pac-12 to be competitive. No, they don't have to be like Oregon and average 300 yards per game on the ground, but when Kenjon Barner gains more yards against USC than the Cougar leading rusher does for an ENTIRE season, there is a problem.
The problem is the offensive line. Putting it as nicely as possible; they are terrible. The offensive line allowed a conference worst 57 sacks last season... that is atrocious by any standard.
Mike Leach is learning that the Pac-12 conference is a lot better than it is sometimes given credit for, you cannot just come in and throw the ball all over the field willy-nilly and win big. Part of the reason he got away with some things at Texas Tech had to do with the most important word in real estate: location.
By being in Texas, he had access to one of the deepest talent pools in the nation. Plenty of big strong linemen to be had in Texas and he was close enough to the Southeast to get some big strong guys that could protect his quarterback. Not such an easy task in Pullman; especially in Pullman. The place is difficult to get to and their facilities are woefully inadequate. Sure, former Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos is doing some pretty impressive things with their limited resources, but it is an uphill battle for sure.
And the battle gets tougher with every year. IT seems the entire Pac-12 is upgrading and Washington State simply cannot keep up. It kind of mimics what is happening on the field each week.
Will the Cougars be better this year than last? Probably. But that "better" won't be much. Incremental at best. I am not sure how long of a leash Leach is on in Pullman, but if the season turns ugly early, there could be some talk of a quick hook and ending the experiment that was the Leach hiring.
Leach was supposed to bring his personality to the recruiting trail and tear it up, so far, he hasn't really done much to improve the talent and depth of the football team.
Expect some rumblings about Leach's future if the Cougars struggle again this season... and if they cannot manage more than 30 yards per game on the ground, they will be in for another long season.