WSU’s Mike Leach previews fall camp, upcoming 2018 season

WSU’s Mike Leach previews fall camp, upcoming 2018 season

Washington State Head Football Coach Mike Leach previewed fall camp and the upcoming 2018 season Thursday afternoon during a conference call with local reporters.

Coming off the graduation of Luke Falk and the death of Tyler Hilinski, there are a lot of questions surrounding Washington State’s starting quarterback going into fall camp and the season opener next month against Wyoming.

“It’s pretty deep. I guess that’s where the finesse comes in,” Leach said about his quarterback depth chart.

Redshirt junior Trey Tinsley, redshirt junior Anthony Gordon, freshman Cammon Cooper, and graduate transfer Gardner Minshew are all competing for the starting quarterback role. Out of the four, only Minshew has prior collegiate quarterback experience from his 17 games played at East Carolina University from 2016-2017.

Leach says all four quarterbacks will be looked at for reps during fall camp, but doubts all four will be able to get an equal amount of reps.

“We’ll look to all four of them and keep an eye on any others, as well,” Leach said. “We’re going to try to channel it to the top two (quarterbacks) as quickly as we can and then go from there.”

Leach also mentioned he’d like to have his starting quarterback named several days before the Sept. 1 opener at Wyoming, so that quarterback can get a good amount of first-team reps the week leading up to the game.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from Leach’s presser was when he named his starting offensive line unit going into camp. Redshirt senior LT Andre Dillard, redshirt sophomore LG Josh Watson, junior C Frederick Mauigoa, redshirt senior RG Robert Valencia, and redshirt freshman RT Abraham Lucas will begin camp as the presumed starters up front.

One strength of the 2018 team appears to be the wide receivers. Leach describes the receiving corps as deep, but young, with just two seniors in Robert Lewis and Kyle Sweet.

“You got Tay Martin who played significantly last year who was big, explosive, and strong for a wiry guy,” Leach said describing some of his current receivers. “The guy that really had a good spring – we redshirted him last year – was Easop Winston. He’s just a very crafty – knows all the tricks, and just a slippery guy.”

While the Cougars lost a handful of starters to graduation last season, the team benefited from the NCAA granting Lewis and linebacker Peyton Pelluer a sixth-year of eligibility. Lewis was out for the entire 2017 season after suffering a leg injury last off-season, and Pelluer suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the season last year against Oregon State.

“If you know him, he’s one of the greatest kids there is,” Leach said of his sixth-year receiver. “Robert is just a fantastic guy. He’s played before, he’s played successfully. Robert Lewis, in my opinion, in any given year he’s played, was the best blocker of the receivers even though he’s a small guy.”

“Great leadership, very instinctive by example if nothing else, and a fantastic example for the entire defense,” Leach said of Pelluer. “He’s one of those guys that – all the intangibles, he knows those. I believe if you got a guy like that it rubs off on the others.”

The Cougars’ opener against Wyoming marks Leach’s return to the state where he grew up in. Although born in Susanville, Calif., Leach grew up in Cody, Wyo., and graduating from high school there.

“I wish I could say so,” Leach said when asked if his return back home would be anything special or just business as usual. “The time that you have down there is awfully limited – you fly in, spend the night, you play, and then fly back. There’s not just a ton of time to go down memory lane.”

Leach says they’ll be a handful of people he knows in attendance at War Memorial Stadium for the game.

“Where I’m from specifically is quite a long ways from Laramie,” he said. “I’m from Cody and a lot of my high school went to school there and I’ve been to the University of Wyoming and hung out.

The Cougars will open fall camp on Friday in Pullman for practice before heading to Sacajawea Junior High School in Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday. The team will spend a week in Lewiston before returning to practice on Aug. 10 to continue camp.

Washington State kicks-off the season against Wyoming at 12:30 PST on Saturday, Sept. 1 on CBS Sports Network.