Halliday shifts into coach mode

The Spokesman-ReviewMarch 29, 2014 

New Mexico Bowl Football

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday (12) looks to throw against Colorado State during the first half of the NCAA New Mexico Bowl college football game on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Matt York)

MATT YORK — AP

PULLMAN — Connor Halliday has been many things to many people in his time as a Washington State quarterback.

He has been the backup and the starter. He has been the guy who threw too many interceptions. He has been the guy who threw five touchdowns in one half during WSU’s first bowl game in a decade.

Now he has to be a coach, too.

The Cougars took the field Thursday for the first spring practice of the year, and offensively, they have the luxury of experienced starters.

True, the Cougars will be green along the offensive line, but they have solid running backs, more returning wide receivers than most teams carry on a roster, and Halliday.

The senior quarterback enters spring firmly entrenched as the starter at the game’s most important position, particularly in coach Mike Leach’s pass-heavy Air Raid offense.

Last season, he completed 62.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,597 yards, 34 touchdowns and a host of school and Pac-12 Conference records.

But his backups are redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk, who haven’t taken a college snap.

If Halliday suffers an injury, as he did in his freshman and junior seasons, the Cougars will rely on Bruggman or Falk to carry them until he can return.

So, Halliday’s personal duties have more to do with maintenance than absorption.

“Just getting better consistency with the receivers outside and then the young guys,” Halliday said. “Sebastian (LaRue), Calvin (Green), getting those guys used to how I throw the football and the depth of our routes, things like that.”

But his most important agenda is to prepare a successor for whenever one is needed. Indications are that it will be Bruggman, who led the scout team last season and received the majority of the reps behind Halliday on Thursday.

“Tyler had a heck of a redshirt year,” Halliday said. “He picks up things quickly, and Luke isn’t far behind him, so I think you guys will see we’ve got some depth at the position this year.”

As the scout-team quarterback, Bruggman simulated WSU’s opponent, facing the first-team defense in practice last season.

As Halliday’s primary backup Thursday, he finally had a first-team offense at his side.

The change in personnel, or perhaps in speed, flustered Bruggman at first. His first pass during the team period was an incompletion.

His next was an interception.

But he followed that with a 30-yard pass and a 60-yard touchdown.

While Bruggman doesn’t yet look ready to face Pac-12 opponents, the Cougars will need him to be well on his way by the end of spring.

“I thought he started out trying to make too much happen,” Leach said. “And I thought as he relaxed, he got better and better.”

EARLY RETURNS

Trying out as punt returners for the Cougars were wide receivers LaRue, Brett Bartolone and Robert Lewis, cornerbacks Daquawn Brown and Marcellus Pippins, and running back Jamal Morrow.

LaRue, a transfer from Texas A&M, had the best day. But Pippins had the best return, taking one cut to burst free from the coverage and score.

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