The big 2014 Washington State football guide: The full Leach experience

Washington State improved 45 spots in last year's F/+ rankings and reached a bowl for the first time in a decade. Mike Leach has made the Cougars fun and interesting again. But how much higher can they climb in an increasingly daunting Pac-12?

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Fully Leachian

His quarterback is now in his third year in the system. His top eight targets are back. Former Texas Tech assistants and quarterbacks litter the coaching roster, even more than before (hello, Graham Harrell). He's signed three recruiting classes.

There are still quite a few Paul Wulff leftovers, and it takes more than three recruiting classes to set the culture of the program the way you want it. But it's safe to say that, after a couple of years of tweaking and a surge from three wins to six in Year 2, Washington State is getting close to becoming Fully Leachian, for better and occasionally worse.

We saw all of the ups and downs of Mike Leach's coaching style during a downright silly 2013 season. Wazzu ...

  • beat USC in L.A., beat Arizona in Tucson, and damn near beat Auburn on the Plains in the season opener.
  • scored at least 38 points six times.
  • allowed at least 37 points six times (and allowed at least 52 four times in a five-game midseason stretch).
  • beat three teams ranked 31st or better in the F/+ rankings.
  • lost to No. 42 Oregon State at home and No. 66 Colorado State via last-second drama in the New Mexico Bowl.

Not a lot about Wazzu's 2013 season made sense, but after a decade in the wilderness, Leach brought Wazzu back to a bowl game. He'll have to fight to do the same in 2014 thanks to an increasingly tough Pac-12, but one should probably never bet on a Leach team, good or bad. Just sit back and watch.

2. Keeping up with the Pac-12

In the above chart, Wazzu's 2013 surge is almost overshadowed by the dotted line above it. The average F/+ rating in the Pac-12 in 2013 was plus-16.2 percent, which means the average Pac-12 team was 16.2 percent better than the national average. (SEC: plus-15.4 percent.) Six conference teams ranked among the F/+ top 18, and only two ranked worse than 53rd.

Both Colorado and Washington State underwent stark, noteworthy improvement last fall, but thanks to similar surges from teams like Washington, Arizona State, and UCLA and the sustained elite play of Stanford and Oregon, the Cougars and Buffaloes barely made up ground, going 5-13 in conference play.

The Pac-12 in its current state shows us the power of increased money and strong hires. When your conference has a lot of both, your conference gets stronger. And while Wazzu could very well improve again in 2014, the Cougs play only one team projected worse than 45th after September 13. They'll pretty much have to improve just to stand still at six wins.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 53
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Auburn 4 24-31 L 27.2 - 21.9 W
7-Sep at USC 11 10-7 W 15.5 - 10.9 W
14-Sep Southern Utah N/A 48-10 W 32.8 - 18.1 W
21-Sep Idaho 116 42-0 W 34.6 - 13.2 W
28-Sep vs. Stanford 3 17-55 L 26.5 - 40.6 L 6.4
5-Oct at California 103 44-22 W 22.6 - 34.8 L 2.9
12-Oct Oregon State 42 24-52 L 23.3 - 37.3 L -0.8
19-Oct at Oregon 5 38-62 L 38.0 - 37.3 W -3.6
31-Oct Arizona State 13 21-55 L 22.1 - 35.8 L -10.7
16-Nov at Arizona 25 24-17 W 31.2 - 19.8 W -5.6
23-Nov Utah 31 49-37 W 42.1 - 31.1 W -0.9
29-Nov at Washington 18 17-27 L 24.1 - 23.0 W 2.1
21-Dec vs. Colorado State 66 45-48 L 27.1 - 30.0 L 1.4
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +1.5% 54 +1.6% 54 +0.6% 53
Points Per Game 31.0 51 32.5 96
Adj. Points Per Game 28.2 69 27.2 61

3. A WTF October

Granted, timing inflated Wazzu's 2013 ratings a bit. The Auburn offense of August 31 was not the Auburn offense of December 7. The USC offense (if that's what you want to call it) of September 7 was not the less shackled version of November. The Cougars held these two teams to 38 total points and 4.6 yards per play, and that probably wouldn't have happened had the schedule order been reversed.

Still, the Wazzu defense of the first four and last three games of the regular season was consistently above average, a unit with no profound strengths but no pronounced weaknesses. And the Wazzu defense of Games 5-9 was as bad as anything produced during the Paul Wulff era.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Wazzu 27.5, Opponent 16.0 (plus-11.5)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Opponent 37.2, Wazzu 26.5 (minus-10.7)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Wazzu 31.1, Opponent 26.0 (plus-5.1)

During that wretched five-game stretch, WSU allowed 604 yards per game, 7.5 yards per play, and 49.2 points per game. Yes, four of the five offenses in that span were explosive and scary. But damn.

There were no specific injuries, no specific changes to personnel. WSU's defense just stunk in October. And then the Cougs held Arizona to 17 points and 4.8 yards per play in a road upset that, when paired with a home win over Utah, made them bowl eligible.

The offense, rather average through most of the season, picked up the pace late in the season, too. If we chalk up September to timing, the big question for 2014 becomes, which was more indicative of Wazzu moving forward: the doldrums of October or the saltiness of November?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.18 43 IsoPPP+ 97.6 77
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.5% 74 Succ. Rt. + 108.6 32
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.4 80 Def. FP+ 97.4 84
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 61 Redzone S&P+ 114.9 19
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 30.0 ACTUAL 35 +5.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 54 50 32 47
RUSHING 125 51 22 125
PASSING 4 64 37 10
Standard Downs 71 44 114
Passing Downs 22 24 22
Q1 Rk 52 1st Down Rk 73
Q2 Rk 23 2nd Down Rk 64
Q3 Rk 55 3rd Down Rk 21
Q4 Rk 96

4. The Pirate's Navy

It's an efficiency-based offense with minimal big plays, nearly socialist ball distribution, and tremendous red-zone execution. That's a sentence you could write about either Navy or Washington State.

Navy ran the ball 86 percent of the time on standard downs, and Wazzu passed the ball 85 percent of the time on passing downs, and the effect was rather similar. If you're looking for things to love about college football, that's a big one. There are thousands of ways to move a football.

In 2013, 14 Wazzu players had at least 10 intended touches (targets plus carries). Fourteen Navy players had the same. Navy fullbacks averaged about 19 intended touches per game; WSU tailbacks averaged about 23. Navy slotbacks averaged about 18; Wazzu slot receivers averaged about 19.

There were obviously different methods for delivering the ball (WSU running backs were targeted by 131 passes, Navy fullbacks seven), and touches for quarterbacks and wideouts varied dramatically, as one would expect (QB: Navy 23 per game, WSU two; WR: WSU 27, Navy five). But aside from spacing, the pre-snap alignment for these two offenses wasn't drastically different, and each offense strived to peck and poke away at a defense, hoping to turn a short delivery into a long success.

And adjusting for run-pass ratios (since runs are less likely to end in a stopped clock), Navy actually operated at a higher tempo.

College football is neat.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Connor Halliday 6'4, 197 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 449 714 4597 34 22 62.9% 31 4.2% 5.9
Austin Apodaca 21 42 187 2 2 50.0% 1 2.3% 4.2
Luke Falk 6'4, 206 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Peyton Bender 6'1, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Marcus Mason RB 5'9, 192 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 87 429 2 4.9 3.6 43.7%
Teondray Caldwell RB 5'9, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 50 271 1 5.4 3.7 48.0%
Jeremiah Laufasa RB 35 157 7 4.5 2.3 42.9%
Connor Halliday QB 6'4, 197 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 19 60 0 3.2 2.4 26.3%
Austin Apodaca QB 6 27 0 4.5 1.8 66.7%
Theron West RB 5'7, 171 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 4 18 0 4.5 1.3 50.0%
Jamal Morrow RB 5'8, 187 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Gerard Wicks RB 5'11, 204 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Calvin Green RB 5'10, 165 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Gabe Marks WR-Z 6'0, 179 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 118 74 820 62.7% 16.3% 67.8% 6.9 -88 7.2 89.6
Dom Williams WR-X 6'2, 188 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 80 40 647 50.0% 11.1% 47.1% 8.1 92 8.3 70.7
River Cracraft WR-Y 6'0, 197 So. 3 stars (5.5) 74 46 614 62.2% 10.2% 55.4% 8.3 47 7.8 67.1
Kristoff Williams WR-Y 6'2, 214 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 72 51 490 70.8% 10.0% 65.1% 6.8 -99 7.6 53.5
Marcus Mason RB 5'9, 192 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 66 52 390 78.8% 9.1% 71.2% 5.9 -182 6.6 42.6
Vince Mayle WR-X 6'3, 219 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 66 42 539 63.6% 9.1% 69.8% 8.2 27 8.7 58.9
Isiah Myers WR-Z 6'0, 183 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 63 37 425 58.7% 8.7% 50.0% 6.7 -45 6.8 46.4
Rickey Galvin WR-H 5'8, 171 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 57 39 311 68.4% 7.9% 57.8% 5.5 -147 6.0 34.0
Bobby Ratliff WR-H 40 27 243 67.5% 5.5% 64.5% 6.1 -76 6.2 26.6
Teondray Caldwell RB 5'9, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 33 26 130 78.8% 4.6% 55.6% 3.9 -156 4.3 14.2
Brett Bartolone WR 5'10, 186 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 18 10 53 55.6% 2.5% 70.6% 2.9 -78 3.1 5.8
Jeremiah Laufasa RB 13 9 38 69.2% 1.8% 42.9% 2.9 -67 2.2 4.2
Leon Brooks RB 12 11 24 91.7% 1.7% 100.0% 2.0 -89 0.7 2.6
Theron West RB 5'7, 171 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 7 3 50 42.9% 1.0% 60.0% 7.1 4 9.6 5.5
John Thompson WR 5'7, 189 So. 2 stars (5.3) 3 2 6 66.7% 0.4% 100.0% 2.0 -18 1.7 0.7
Drew Loftus WR-Z 6'2, 197 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)
Keith Harrington WR 5'9, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Barry Ware WR 6'3, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

5. So much experience, so much ball distribution

Connor Halliday probably isn't much of an option quarterback, but he turned into a pretty good air raid signal caller in 2013. He still had his Heroball moments (a problem in 2012), his completion rate was still a bit too low, and his interception and sack rates were still too high. But they all improved dramatically last fall.

Halliday attempted a patently absurd 745 passes (including sacks), and unlike 2012, the job was all his. Barring injury, it should be again*, and he'll have one of the deepest, most experienced skill position units in the country at his disposal. Granted, there aren't actually many stars in this bunch (only three players averaged better than 7.1 yards per target, and none averaged better than 8.3), but there are options. The top two running backs return, as do the top seven receivers. Of the 11 players targeted by at least 14 passes in 2013, 10 are back. This offense will know its collective role far better than its two Leach predecessors.

Of course, there's still room for improvement. Z-receivers Gabe Marks and Isiah Myers combined to average just 11.2 yards per catch 6.9 yards per target, and while the inside receivers (WR-Y and WR-H) combined for a lovely 67 percent catch rate, they barely, if ever, broke any long gains (10.2 yards per catch). Meanwhile, the running backs were some of the least-explosive in the country, averaging 5.0 yards per carry (but almost never gaining more than 10) and 4.7 yards per target. Experience and chemistry go a long way in such a timing-based offense. But big-play ability still dominates, and Wazzu had very little of it last year.

* The backup quarterback situation got cloudier over the weekend, when four-star redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman, Leach's first big get at WSU, evidently decided to transfer. Last year's second-stringer, Austin Apodaca, also transferred, which means that the top two options appear to be redshirt freshman Luke Falk and incoming freshman Peyton Bender. So uh, don't get hurt, Connor.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 109.8 3.11 2.96 43.6% 76.9% 16.6% 126.6 3.6% 6.4%
Rank 30 42 92 19 16 23 40 37 57
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
John Fullington RT 43
Elliot Bosch C 25
Matt Goetz RG 22
Gunnar Eklund LG 6'7, 310 Jr. NR 20
Joe Dahl LT 6'4, 307 Jr. NR 13
Rico Forbes RT 5
Zach Brevick C 0
Jacob Seydel RG 6'6, 298 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Devonte McClain LT 6'5, 307 Jr. NR 0
Riley Sorenson RG 6'4, 315 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Eduardo Middleton RG 6'5, 319 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Sam Flor C 6'4, 307 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Cody O'Connell RG 6'8, 345 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Carlos Freeman LG 6'3, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Cole Madison RT 6'5, 294 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
B.J. Salmonson RT 6'4, 279 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Sean Krepsz LG 6'5, 324 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

6. Starting over up front

Part of the draw of an air raid-style system is that it takes some pressure off of the offensive line. It's a lot easier to find one good quarterback than it is to find five good linemen. With with wide splits and quick passing, the line doesn't have to do quite as much work as it would in other systems.

That said, line play still matters. Leach inherited a reasonably experienced line in 2012, and it ranked 124th in Adj. Line Yards and 93rd in Adj. Sack Rate. A lack of skill position quality and experience contributed to that, but a lot of it was on the line.

In 2013, the rankings improved to 30th in Adj. Line Yards and 40th in Adj. Sack Rate. Continuity is a good thing; WSU had it last year but very much does not have it in 2014. Four of six players with starting experience are gone, leaving two starters (guard Gunar Eklund and tackle Joe Dahl), 33 career starts, and minimal experience elsewhere.

Halliday will have to be on the same page with his receivers, because he might not have as much time to throw.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 84 IsoPPP+ 103.1 45
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.5% 91 Succ. Rt. + 100.0 52
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.1 69 Off. FP+ 101.5 44
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 67 Redzone S&P+ 107.6 35
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.5 ACTUAL 30.0 +6.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 103 51 52 58
RUSHING 86 51 54 36
PASSING 114 65 66 78
Standard Downs 73 60 74
Passing Downs 38 55 9
Q1 Rk 58 1st Down Rk 69
Q2 Rk 53 2nd Down Rk 36
Q3 Rk 44 3rd Down Rk 34
Q4 Rk 41

7. The box-o'-chocolates defense

Washington State allowed 139 rushing yards to USC and 383 to Oregon, 134 to Utah and 282 to Arizona State. The Cougs allowed 153 combined passing yards to Auburn and USC and 506 to California, 181 to Washington and 369 to Colorado State. Good, then horrendous, then solid.

To some degree this makes sense. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske brought a volatile, aggressive 3-4 defense to Pullman in 2012, and he didn't have all the pieces to craft a consistent unit. He dialed back the aggressiveness a bit (WSU fell from 92 tackles for loss in 2012 to 76 in 2013), and it helped in terms of passing-downs success and big-play prevention.

It also helped to improve WSU's overall Def. F/+ ranking from 76th to 54th. But it was still volatile, and with a bit of a rebuild in the secondary, it will likely be so again in 2014.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 102.9 2.99 3.54 40.0% 65.6% 18.7% 79.8 3.2% 6.1%
Rank 50 69 88 74 58 72 101 102 80
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Xavier Cooper DT 6'4, 298 Jr. NR 13 42.0 5.3% 13.5 5.0 0 0 2 1
Ioane Gauta NT 13 36.0 4.5% 8.0 3.0 0 4 1 0
Kalafitoni Pole NT 6'1, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 21.0 2.6% 4.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Destiny Vaeao DE 6'4, 288 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 11 20.0 2.5% 3.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Darryl Paulo DT 6'2, 272 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 8.0 1.0% 3.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Lyman Faoliu DE 6'3, 265 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 9 5.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Bock DE 11 2.5 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Robert Barber NT 6'3, 292 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Moritz Christ NT 6'5, 321 Jr. NR
Daniel Ekuale DT 6'3, 271 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Ngalu Tapa DT 6'3, 275 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Justin Sagote WILL 13 83.0 10.4% 2.5 0.0 0 2 0 0
Darryl Monroe MIKE 6'1, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 77.5 9.7% 8.0 2.0 0 3 2 0
Cyrus Coen SAM 6'0, 211 Sr. NR 11 49.5 6.2% 6.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Tana Pritchard WILL 6'3, 228 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 43.0 5.4% 4.5 0.0 0 3 0 0
Kache Palacio BUCK 6'2, 224 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 36.5 4.6% 6.5 4.0 0 2 2 0
Jared Byers MIKE 13 21.0 2.6% 1.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Eric Oertel SAM 9 5.0 0.6% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jeremiah Allison WILL 6'2, 224 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mitchell Peterson SAM 6'1, 214 Sr. NR 8 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ivan McLennan BUCK 6'4, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Chester Su'a WILL 6'1, 227 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Paris Taylor SAM 6'3, 206 So. NR
Peyton Pelluer MIKE 6'0, 216 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Greg Hoyd LB 6'2, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Dylan Hanser MIKE 6'4, 211 Fr. NR








8. More havoc, please

WSU has indeed improved from 94th to 76th to 54th in Def. F/+ during Breske's tenure, but if the Cougars are going to take another step forward, they will need to once again add to their disruption numbers, and not only because the secondary's going to need a little more help.

Of the nine linemen or linebackers to log at least 3.5 tackles for loss, eight return, including disruptive tackle Xavier Cooper and two strong blitzing linebackers in Cyrus Coen and Kache Palacio. But even with these players, WSU ranked just 101st in Adj. Sack Rate and 72nd in Stuff Rate. They need help.

As with the offense, the level of experience is strong here. Guys like tackle/treestump Toni Pole and middle linebacker Darryl Monroe have been steady contributors for a couple of years now, and again, familiarity and chemistry can make a difference. But if some young playmaker were to emerge, there's some playing time available, especially on passing downs.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Deone Bucannon SS 13 96.0 12.0% 4.5 0 6 1 3 0
Damante Horton CB 13 45.5 5.7% 3.5 0 5 3 1 0
Daquawn Brown CB 5'11, 170 So. 3 stars (5.7) 12 43.0 5.4% 2.5 0 2 5 0 0
Taylor Taliulu FS 5'11, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 42.0 5.3% 0 0 0 1 1 0
Casey Locker FS 13 35.0 4.4% 1 0 1 0 0 0
Nolan Washington CB 13 32.5 4.1% 0.5 0 1 6 1 1
Anthony Carpenter CB 11 15.0 1.9% 0 0 1 0 2 0
Isaac Dotson SS 6'1, 206 So. 3 stars (5.5) 7 8.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tracy Clark CB 5'11, 189 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)
David Bucannon SS 6'0, 196 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Beau Glover FS 5'9, 170 So. NR
Darius Lemora SS 5'11, 187 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Charleston White CB 5'10, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Marcellus Pippins CB 5'10, 162 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)







9. Starting over in the secondary

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

Heading into 2013, Wazzu returned 82 percent of its tackles, 67 percent of its tackles for loss, and 71 percent of its passes defensed from the previous year. The predictable result: across-the-board improvement. Granted, because of the quality of opposing offenses (not to mention the fact that WSU held more leads in 2013), the Cougars ranked 114th in passing yards allowed per game. But they moved from 94th in Passing S&P+ to 65th.

Heading into 2014, the numbers are just a bit different: Wazzu returns 29 percent of last year's tackles, 21 percent of tackles for loss and 25 percent of passes defensed. Sophomore corner Daquawn Brown appears to be a keeper, and safety Taylor Taliulu had a role to play in Wazzu's stellar big-play prevention numbers, but that's it. All-conference safety (and no-conscience hitter) Deone Bucannon is gone, as are corner Damante Horton and last year's top three reserves. Wazzu really only played about eight DBs last year, and five are gone.

Even if Brown is the real deal, this unit will regress, and the front seven will have to make up the difference.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Mike Bowlin 52 39.2 1 13 19 61.5%
Wes Concepcion 6'0, 187 Sr. 12 36.3 1 8 3 91.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Mike Bowlin 49 63.2 16 4 32.7%
Andrew Furney 30 63.0 10 0 33.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Furney 49-50 8-9 88.9% 8-11 72.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Rickey Galvin KR 5'8, 171 Sr. 24 22.4 0
Teondray Caldwell KR 5'9, 202 Jr. 14 22.4 0
Leon Brooks PR 21 9.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 53
Field Goal Efficiency 20
Punt Return Efficiency 31
Kick Return Efficiency 103
Punt Efficiency 108
Kickoff Efficiency 16
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 74

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug vs. Rutgers 78
5-Sep at Nevada 70
13-Sep Portland State NR
20-Sep Oregon 3
27-Sep at Utah 45
4-Oct California 82
10-Oct at Stanford 6
25-Oct Arizona 36
1-Nov USC 9
8-Nov at Oregon State 43
22-Nov at Arizona State 21
29-Nov Washington 28
Five-Year F/+ Rk -16.7% (107)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 60
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -5 / -6.5
TO Luck/Game +0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (8, 7)

10. A strong start is a must

Drastic experience at the skill positions, and minimal experience on the offensive line. Well-seasoned play-makers in the defensive front seven, and a nearly total lack thereof in the secondary.

This team is hard to read this year. (That goes for special teams, as well -- some iffy return men return, and a great place-kicker departs.)

Teams tend to regress toward the mean sometimes after a strong step forward, and moving up 45 spots in the F/+ rankings (from 98th to 53rd) certainly signifies quite a step. There's enough experience here to prevent too much of a drop-off, but despite this team getting closer to the Leachian ideal, the offensive line and secondary will probably prevent another positive step.

That makes September success vital. Washington State plays only five teams projected 45th or worse, and all five come up on the first half of the schedule.

If the Cougs beat Rutgers in Seattle and sweep Nevada, Portland State, and Cal, then they'll only need an upset or two to get back to bowl eligibility. But with one early slip-up, Wazzu will need 2013-level silliness to get back to 6-6.

It's an interesting time to be in the Pac-12. The upward mobility derived from a good hire is negated when everybody else is making good hires, too. Leach was clearly a good hire, and it didn't take him much time at all to make Washington State interesting and competitive for the first time in a decade.

But the Cougs' future is curious in a division with established Oregon and Stanford programs, a Washington squad that also surged in 2013, and an Oregon State team that has long since staked a claim to the "salty and speedy underdog" rep.

If Wazzu's gains are barely outpacing that of the conference as a whole, how long does it take the Cougs to get to the eight- or nine-win mark? And is that the ceiling?

A second straight minor bowl wouldn't really answer that question, but that's probably the closest we're going to get in 2014.

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