The Washington State Cougars were the worst running team in the country last season, averaging less than 30 yards per game. That lack of balance kept the Cougars from finding an offensive rhythm under first year head coach Mike Leach. While the running game is never a priority in Leach’s Air Raid attack, having a viable option in the backfield is important to keep defenses honest. After WSU’s first full-padded practice, could the running game show up in 2013?
Running back Teondray Caldwell had one of the longest gains of the day during the full-team session when he took the handoff, shook a defender in the hole and blew past safety Anthony Carpenter for a 50-yard run. He also walked untouched into the endzone during a goal-line period from a few yards out at another point during practice. Leach says the improved running game is thanks in part to a vastly improved offensive line that is well ahead of schedule.
“I thought our offensive line has gotten better and better, they’re playing with lower pads, we’ve got a lot of enthusiasm but I think they’ve probably improved at a little faster rate than I thought they would. They were young but also they had a really good offseason too. They’re starting to get an identity as far as a unit and things like that.”
Developing the offensive line could be the key to turning the offense around in 2013. Last season, the group was terrible and the team had to shuffle guys in and out of the lineup, many of them young and inexperienced, due to injuries and/or ineffectiveness. They gave up more sacks than anybody in college football and couldn’t open up a running lane to save their season.
If they can gel with a strong starting five and start to develop a running game, it will open everything up for the offense to start hitting the big plays down the field in the passing game. Don’t expect them to finish in the top half of the Pac 12 in rushing anytime soon, but having any sort of running game will be a major boost the Cougars’ offense this fall.