SPOKANE —Washington State football coach Mike Leach has a well-earned reputation for his willingness to speak at length about football and virtually anything else.
“Our coaches meetings go on forever,” one of WSU’s assistant coaches muttered half-jokingly in the fall.
On Monday, however, Leach was quick and to the point when asked if he will definitely be coaching the Cougars in 2013.
“Yes,” Leach said following his appearance at a Cougars booster luncheon.
Leach was making his first public appearance following the latest wave of rumors about other schools inquiring about his availability after one year at Washington State.
Leach’s comments during and after the luncheon echoed what he has said repeatedly this season. To summarize: He and his family enjoy living in Pullman; he’s excited about WSU’s recruits and the large group of young players returning; and he values the leadership of school president Elson Floyd and athletic director Bill Moos.
“I’m happy here,” Leach said.
Leach figures to be even happier if senior quarterback Jeff Tuel receives a medical hardship year of additional eligibility from the NCAA. Leach said Monday that WSU’s compliance department believes a decision may be made this week.
“If he gets it, I expect him to come back,” Leach said.
Tuel, who will earn his communications degree next month, has said he won’t decide whether to remain at Washington State until the NCAA makes its ruling. Tuel’s options include turning pro and attending another school.
“He wants to come back, from what I understand,” Leach said. “He’s expended a lot of time, energy and effort to file this appeal, which he certainly wouldn’t have done if he isn’t planning to come back.”
After playing in three games last season because of injuries, Tuel started the first two games and last five games this season. Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday, who started at quarterback in the other five games, both expressed frustration with what Halliday and Leach termed the “musical chairs” situation at quarterback.
Leach said recruiting is “going real well; way ahead of last year.”
David Emerick, Leach’s right-hand man and unofficial recruiting coordinator, said the Cougars have received 19 verbal commitments and will sign 25 players to letters of intent.
Leach said the Cougars are focused on defensive linemen “in particular,” but hope to land two junior college offensive linemen.
Washington State started three seniors and five freshmen in the final game, a 31-28 overtime victory over Washington last Friday, to finish the season 3-9 overall, 1-8 in the Pacific-12 Conference.
Asked if it is realistic to expect the Cougars to go to a bowl game next season, Leach said, “I think so. I think it is every year. Shoot, I think it was this year. We just need to keep doing the same things better.”
The Cougars began working toward a 2013 bowl when the team held its first offseason weightlifting session at 5:30 a.m. Monday. Soon after, construction started on WSU’s first football operations building, which is scheduled for completion in mid-2014.
Leach said linebacker Travis Long is the only Cougars player he expects to be taken in the 2013 NFL draft. Long started every game in his four seasons at WSU before sitting out the final game. Leach, who rarely discusses injuries, said Long underwent knee surgery last Thursday after being hurt the week before at Arizona State. … Leach, who was highly complimentary of Huskies star Austin Seferian-Jenkins during the luncheon, later said he was unaware that a fan sucker-punched the big tight end on the field after Friday’s game. Leach said the fan is “lucky he (Seferian-Jenkins) didn’t get his hands on him.” WSU police are investigating. … Leach made it clear that junior wide receiver Marquess Wilson will not rejoin the Cougars. Wilson, WSU’s all-time leading receiver, quit the team with three games to go. “The book’s entirely closed on Marquess Wilson,” Leach said. … At least 19 players on scholarship have left the program since Leach arrived last December. Leach said he’s “sure” some would-be seniors won’t return next year. “There always is, especially guys close to graduation,” Leach said.
rating mike leach’s first season
A look at the highs and lows of Mike Leach’s first season as coach of the Washington State University football team:
• Winning the Apple Cup. When the Cougars beat the Huskies, it makes things a little better whatever their final record is.
• Passing offense. The “Air Raid” offense had its failings, but when you finish first in the Pacific-12 Conference in yards per game (330.4 per game) and ninth in the nation overall, you’re doing something right.
• The final record. Eight-game losing streak? One Pac-12 victory? Three wins overall? Not exactly what everybody had in mind after the 2011 team seemed to turn the corner.
• Tarnished image. The Marquess Wilson situation and harsh critiques in the media made headlines for all the wrong reasons.Staff report