Mike Leach talks QB race, rule changes and defensive leadership leading up to fall training camp

On Thursday, WSU head football coach Mike Leach hosted a conference call regarding the start of 2019 fall practice. Unfortunately, there were no mentions of pirates, Bigfoot, or any of the classic off-topic answers Leach is known to provide. However, he did offer insight on how the Cougars will prepare for the 2019 season. Here’s what Leach covered:

The QB Race:
Leach said the quarterback race will be similar to last preseason, with QBs splitting time until they narrow the spot to a starter and backup. Leach hasn’t announced a frontrunner for the starting job, and he has a lot of talent to choose from with Anthony Gordon, and Eastern Washington University graduate transfer Gage Gubrud.

“I want to have as many good quarterbacks as I can,” Leach said. “I’d love to have the spot narrowed down to a backup and a starter today, but the competition will make everyone better.”

Last year after Gardner Minshew won the starting job, he said the team usually chooses the quarterback, and it’s the coaches’ job to read that. Leach said he “sort of” agreed. He said while the team rallied behind Minshew and trusted him as a leader, Minshew earned his job based more on the coaches assessment of his ability.

A good quarterback is essential to Leach’s air-raid system. After Falk entered the NFL in 2018, most writers and fans counted WSU out. ESPN had the Cougs going 6-6. Instead, Minshew lead the cougars to the most wins in a season in school history and contended for the Heisman Trophy. WSU’s new QB seems to be the biggest factor to determine their success in 2019. Leach seemed relaxed when he described the potential of his depth chart.

“All the quarterbacks have looked sharp,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

Defensive Leadership:
With the loss of vocal players like Jalen Thompson and Peyton Pelluer, there’s been concerns WSU may be lacking leadership on defense. Despite playing high-powered offenses like Oregon, UW and Cal, Leach said he’s not worried about someone filling that role.

“Ideally everyone should be a leader themselves,” said Leach. “We don’t need a leader per-say, that’s what coaches are for.”

Leach said when players elevate their play and performance, the leadership roll will fill itself, and that players will naturally follow those who work hard and play well.

Rule Changes:
Leach said he did not favor this year’s rule change regarding blind side blocks. Under the new rules, players will no longer be allowed to deliver blind side blocks by attacking an opponent with forcible contact. This now results in a 15-yard penalty.

“I’ve always thought that with the head in the front, block in the back rules it should just work itself out,” Leach said. “I’m not fan of the referees having to sort out whether or not a player was blind sided.”

WSU begins fall camp on Friday at 2 p.m. at Rogers Practice Field and Martin Stadium.