PULLMAN – The past and future of the Washington State football program collided this week.
Under the shadow of the daunting but not yet completed Football Operations Building, former WSU quarterback Jason Gesser watched the young Cougars practice.
“It’s awesome,” Gesser said of WSU’s contribution to college football’s facilities revolution. “It’s a different feel with all the construction going up; obviously, the new press box and the new football facility there. It’s a different feel from the inside (of Martin Stadium), you know? But it’s a cool feeling at the same time.”
Gesser’s been where the Cougars want to be, leading WSU to the Rose Bowl in 2003 and was named the Pac-10 Conference co-Offensive Player of the Year.
After briskly rising through the high school and college coaching ranks – including stops at Federal Way and Franklin Pierce high schools – Gesser was caught up in the recent coaching turnover at Wyoming.
Gesser was back in Pullman this week to take advantage of a standing offer from Cougars coach Mike Leach to watch as the present WSU football team tries to emulate his past in the near future.
“He’s a sharp mind and a good guy and a big part of the legacy of Washington State,” Leach said. “So I think all of our players are excited to have Jason out here and excited to see him out on the field.”
Naturally, Gesser spent most of practice watching and chatting with the quarterbacks, particularly Connor Halliday, whom he has known since the Cougars’ starter was at Ferris High in Spokane.
Though Gesser technically can’t provide much insight to any of the players due to NCAA limits on the number of coaches a team may have, he’s quick with an encouraging word or reminder.
“I’ve been lucky,” Halliday said. “First we had (former Leach quarterback at Texas Tech) Graham Harrell come through this weekend, and it was cool to see him. Then Gesser comes out; I’m privileged.”
Gesser said Halliday has made notable strides since the middle of last season, particularly in his fundamentals. In the first three spring practices, Halliday’s consistency and accuracy far outpaced the younger quarterbacks.
In one drill Tuesday – the first day WSU could practice in shoulder pads – Halliday completed a pass to a receiver in the corner of the end zone on three consecutive throws, despite tight coverage on every play.
“He’s got a good arm, he’s got a good release, good anticipation; but when he gets lazy with his feet is when he sees his accuracy go down,” Gesser said.
It’s only a matter of time before Gesser gets back into coaching, he said. He hopes to take advantage of the opportunity to spend some time in the film room with Leach, picking the veteran coach’s brain.
WR LOFTUS LOOKS GOOD
Wide receiver Drew Loftus sat out last season after getting arrested for stealing alcohol from a store, and looks ready for a big role with the Cougars.
The transfer from Hawaii trained with Halliday throughout the offseason. The junior from Kennewick had a number of receptions Tuesday and has emerged as one of Halliday’s favorite targets.
“He’s a heck of a receiver and he’s a lot faster than anybody gives him credit for, so be looking out for him,” Halliday said.