Washington State Cougars spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
6:00
AM ET
2012 record: 3-9

2012 conference record: 1-8 (last in North Division)

Returning starters

Offense: 9; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Connor Halliday, WR Gabe Marks, S Deone Bucannon, K Andrew Furney

Key losses

QB Jeff Tuel, OLB Travis Long, OT Wade Jacobson, WR Marquess Wilson

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Carl Winson (280 yards)
Passing: Jeff Tuel (2,087 yards)
Receiving: Marquess Wilson (813 yards)
Tackles: Deone Bucannon* (106)
Sacks: Travis Long (9.5)
Interceptions: Deone Bucannon* (4)

Spring answers

1. Better on the O-line: The Cougars surrendered 4.75 sacks per game last year, which ranked last in the nation. So the only way to go on the line is up, and that appeared to happen this spring. The biggest improvement was just bodies -- there were enough guys for two full units and plenty of competition. Veteran players with starting experience won't necessarily hold onto their jobs. And that's a good thing.

2. Breakthrough potential at receiver: Five of the top six receivers from 2012 are back. Sophomore Gabe Marks leads a young but deep crew, with 12 players listed on the depth chart, most of whom can contribute. Junior college transfer Vince Mayle arrives this summer and he'll also be in the mix. And new coach David Yost, Missouri's former offensive coordinator, adds an elite offensive mind to coaching this position.

3. Comfort with Leach: Year one with coach Mike Leach didn't go smoothly, as high hopes for immediate returns evaporated and the Cougs struggled with Leach's demanding ways. Leach was no less demanding this spring, but his players better understood what he wanted. Players showed better commitment and dedication, and Leach smiled more.

Fall questions

1. Is Halliday Leach's guy? While the odds still favor veteran Connor Halliday winning the starting nod at QB, Leach went out of his way to praise redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca, who had a better spring game than Halliday. Leach is pushing Halliday, who still needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making.

2. Secondary concerns: The Cougars ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2012. Most of the depth chart is returning, and there seemed to be improvement this spring. Still, other than Deone Bucannon at strong safety, there are unresolved competitions here.

3. Replacing Long's production: Travis Long had 9.5 sacks to lead the Cougars in 2012. No other defender had more than three sacks. The secondary will improve against the pass if the defense gets more pressure without resorting to jailhouse blitzes. Logan Mayes, likely to replace Long at "Buck" LB, is the most obvious candidate. It didn't help that the defensive line was banged up this spring.

Ted Miller | email

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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Tuesday, 12/23
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Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
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