The Washington State Cougars open spring practice today and they have plenty of questions to answer following a disastrous 3-9 (1-8 Pac 12)campaign in 2012. The biggest among them, however, is who will be under center next season? Will Connor Halliday be able to take control over the position after splitting starts last year or will redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca make a push? Mike Leach intends to find out this spring.
For Halliday, he has the experience on his side, but that may not totally be a positive. The junior quarterback spent last season bouncing in and out of the starting lineup, splitting playing time with departed senior Jeff Tuel. The back and forth stemmed from neither quarterback being able to grab hold of the position, which left Leach visibly frustrated on more than one occasion.
He has the skills to succeed in Leach’s Air Raid offense with a strong arm and aggressive playmaking ability down the field, proven by his 1,878 yards passing and 15 touchdowns in six starts last season. His downfall, however, was his decision making as he often forced the ball into coverage, resulting in just a 52.2 percent completion percentage and 13 interceptions.
That inconsistency will open the door for Apodaca to get his opportunity in spring practice. Halliday will have to show some growth in his game from last season to hold off the freshman. Leach, meanwhile, isn’t overthinking the quarterback race.
“[Quarterback competitions] aren’ts as complicated as everybody makes them out to be. You go out there. you rep them, and the guy that plays the best, you play him more than the other guy. But I think it will be a pretty good contest.”
Leach plans on splitting the reps with the No. 1 offense 50-50 between Halliday and Apodaca for at least half of spring ball before shifting the reps more towards one or the other. The second-year WSU coach is looking for someone to lock down the position this spring, but will be open to the possibility of a third option under center in fall camp.
That’s when highly touted recruit Tyler Bruggman will make his Pullman debut. If Leach isn’t blown away by Halliday or Apodaca this spring, he’ll check on where the three quarterbacks are in August and reassess his quarterback depth chart.
For Washington State to have success under Mike Leach, they need to have better play from the quarterback position. Who will get the next chance to be Leach’s latest gunslinger? We’ll start to find out this spring.