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Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2018

Oregon Ducks Football

Oregon Ducks Football

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

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In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2018, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2018


"There’s a lot of similarities between Texas A&M and Arizona. Kevin Sumlin was a great hire. You assume from Day 1 he’s been able to build a relationship with Khalil Tate, who really is a special talent, where Tate can believe in Sumlin’s track record of maximizing dual-threat quarterbacks."

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"I don’t think Arizona will look like a team with a new coaching staff this fall. Most of their offensive talent is back; Sumlin can work with a lot of the concepts Rich (Rodriguez) used. Tate looked more aware of the offense as the year went on. I think he might run less with Sumlin and Noel Mazzone, at least by design, but he’ll be able to freelance. The running back (J.J. Taylor) is really explosive. This is a staff unafraid of creating a superstar and building around him."

"Keeping (defensive coordinator) Marcel Yates was interesting. It could be a short-term play to keep the roster and this year’s recruiting intact."

"I thought Kylan Wilborn was one of the best defensive players in our league last year. He kind of came out of nowhere. Those are the best kind of recruits. You see the potential, and then it develops into something completely out of the ordinary. He’s not the biggest guy. But he’s got such a quick first step, he’s hard to block. They better get some help for him, because they couldn’t tackle anyone last year. It was YAC (yards after catch/contact) for days last year against them."

"At Arizona, you can either go to L.A. or Texas to fill out recruiting, and obviously they can sell in Texas. Sumlin will be able to go as far east as Dallas and compete for talent. Can’t remember a time when Arizona could do that."

"Considering all that program was going through, to be able to hire a guy with a proven track record of recruiting and winning is huge. If you’re Kevin Sumlin, you can just as easily sit out and sit on your money from Texas A&M and not jump into the mess someone else created. But I also think Kevin looked at the roster and looked at Khalil Tate, and said, yeah, I can work with this."

"Khalil Tate is as close to what Rich had with Pat White at West Virginia as you can get. At this point in their careers, Pat was a more comfortable thrower. But Khalil is such a threat in the run game; if he gets to the second level, strike up the band. The more he improves in the passing game – where I can see Kevin making a significant impact on him, like he did with Johnny Manziel, who was raw when he got him – the more dangerous Arizona can be."

"Offense will not be a problem there. They’re going to make a lot of us in this league look bad. But measure that against their one-man defense, and you see why Tate can only do so much."

Related: College Football's Starting Quarterback Rankings for 2018

Arizona State

"We don’t know what to expect from Herm Edwards. I don’t think it’s as crazy as Arizona State and the media have made their ‘plan’ sound — coaching is coaching — but there’s a lot of questions. You replace Todd Graham, who was struggling but also gave that program a floor of going to bowls, with an unknown in Edwards. That’s a high-risk move."

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"The idea of hiring a new head coach with existing coordinators is dumb. (Phil) Montgomery and Billy Napier were right to get out. The new DC (Danny Gonzales) ran a great unit at San Diego State."

"(OC) Rob Likens is an Air Raid tree guy who worked under Sonny Dykes. If you’re telling me Likens will get to call his offense with (quarterback) Manny Wilkins, that can work."

"When your whole deal is defense, you better find a way to play sound defense. That’s why Todd Graham didn’t make it there. If they were playing defense and winning nine or 10 games a year and winning a division every couple of years, he’s good. You can’t sell yourself as something and not produce on that side of the ball. You also can’t be the guy in charge when your boss decides to hire his best friend. But that’s another story for another day."

"I don’t get the whole media meltdown over Herm (Edwards) getting that job. Was it because he hasn’t coached in a while, or hasn’t coached in college? He’s a football coach; it’s not like you forget it or walk away from it and don’t follow the progressions on both sides of the ball."

"The college game is different than the NFL. It's about building relationships with families and recruiting elite players – and then developing them. Have you ever talked with Herm? The guy is one of the most charismatic, dynamic personalities I’ve ever met. People just glom onto him wherever he is. He’ll do fine there; a lot better than most of the media think he will."

"Herm gets a solid quarterback (Manny Wilkins) and a solid group of receivers, and a decent offensive line. So they’ll score points if they can figure out protection."

"If there’s an NFL approach on the day to day, I’m not sure that will pay off with the team we’ve seen the last two seasons. They certainly don’t look self-disciplined enough for that kind of treatment. Coach Edwards has a lot of respect in the industry, but this thing could crash and burn. If it does, it’s probably because of recruiting. I’m not sure they’re ready for what it takes to get a program like ASU stocked with talent."

"They just don’t have guys that can control the line of scrimmage. And if you’re not getting pass rush, it won’t matter how many you have covering in the secondary."

Related: Pac-12 Football 2018 Predictions


"Justin Wilcox was a breath of fresh air there at Cal. They went from throwing the ball all over the yard and trying to win games by outscoring teams, to a nice balance on offense and a defense that kind of turned the corner in November. By the end of the year, you could tell they knew what the hell was going on – and that’s the first big step. The next is getting players, and then it all comes together."

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"Justin is this even guy on the sidelines, very cerebral. He’s nothing like that in person. He’s very engaging, and will recruit well there."

"Cal is becoming a tough job as that division keeps getting better, but bringing in Justin Wilcox was good for the athletic department and their base. He’s a local guy who wants to be there long enough to build something consistent. That doesn’t mean Sonny Dykes didn’t have some legit complaints about the school, but you have to want to be at a place like Cal or it won’t work."

"It’s a strong staff. Beau Baldwin and Tim DeRuyter are veteran guys who know the West Coast. They looked young on offense, especially in conference. You can tell they’re starting over from scratch, but it doesn’t look like they really know who they want to be on that side of the ball."

"They looked better in every phase on defense last season; they just didn’t have the depth against the better teams in the conference. Schematically they’re making sense in the 3-4. Now it’s the issue of recruiting to fill those positions and keeping some consistency year over year. You can see what the staff is trying to do — create an identity that’s meaner and tougher than what Cal is known for and try to take that out in recruiting and change the perception of the program."

"Patrick Laird did some nice things in the run game that allowed them to slowly move toward a balanced, ball-control offense. Justin wants to run a system similar to what they had a Boise State when he was defensive coordinator there. Despite all the hoopla about the trick plays, that’s a run-first, dominate on the ground offense. They’re Year 1 into that change, and it’s going to take some time. But there was effort last year. Those guys played hard, and wanted it."

"Quarterback Ross Bowers did some nice things for them. He certainly had his issues with ball security, but he also managed that completely revamped offense and they kept improving week after week, albeit sometimes very slowly. They’ll get there on offense. (offensive coordinator) Beau Baldwin is too good a coach for them to take a step back."

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2018


"Mike MacIntyre is a great defensive coach, and they’re going to need him to develop that side of the ball. They fell off after 2016 because they didn’t have the talent ready to cycle through, especially up front. They’ve recruited better, but they’ve got to get those guys ready quick if they want to compete in the South."

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"That step back last year was expected. They had a lot of experience on that 2016 team, and a few things broke their way both in the schedule and the way the South (Division) shook out. The difficult thing if I’m Mac (Mike MacIntyre) is how in the world did we lose in November – with the postseason on the line - to two teams (Arizona State, Utah) that had no business beating us? That’s a bit of a red flag for me."

"As a coach watching quarterback Steven Montez, he just makes me crazy. He clearly has a ton of talent. Big arm, moves well in the pocket, can hurt you in the run game. But my gosh, he has to stop making dumb decisions. He’ll throw a beautiful deep ball, and the next series come out and make a throw he has no business throwing. One of those, ‘What are you seeing?” throws. That has to frustrate the hell out of that staff."

"Their offense runs tempo really well, better than even Washington State at times. Steven Montez looks comfortable doing it, but their offensive line just has to get better."

"I’d love to have Steven Montez because most times, guys like that can be coached out of that stuff. This is Year 3 for him now. He has to be more mature."

"You look at Colorado and see a program that made a great run in 2016 but might not be able to sustain that. There’s still questions about how they fit into the conference in terms of identity. This was a program that was successful in the Big 12 by using that Texas footprint to recruit. They need to go back to that in a bigger way."

"There wasn’t anything radically different about what they were doing from ’16 to ’17 — you just saw a decline in skill in a lot of key places and almost everywhere on one side of the ball."

"Mac’s the right guy there, though."

"They were bad on defense last year; didn’t really get much of a push and were below average in the front seven. The only way that changes is with more experience and different players. I would expect both of those things to happen."

"I love the way S Evan Worthington plays. He was one of the best in our league last year. A tough hitter, and a guy who’s way underrated in coverage."

"The kid from Virginia Tech (RB Travon McMillian) will help Montez and the offense. He’s a big time back. He can move the pile and he’s got some juice. Two years ago, CU had the ability to run the ball and the balanced offense was huge factor in their rise. Last year, not so much. Or at least, not enough. It was all Phillip Lindsay; he had no help."

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2018


"Willie Taggart put things on a better path, but no one’s certain how much of what he set up on offense will carry over under Mario Cristobal. It’s hard to talk about them and not mention the injuries on offense last year. They could’ve had a completely different season on the back end and helped carry the defense through. Injuries really showed how thin they were."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oregon

"I don’t think people realize what had happened to Oregon until they suddenly started losing games. A lot of games. It’s recruiting, pure and simple. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. If you’re not recruiting, you’re not getting better. It wasn’t just one year with Mark (Helfrich); they struggled to get players like Chip (Kelly) and his staff did."

"A program that has played for it all twice in the last decade is on its third coach in three years. That’s how quickly it can all fall apart if you’re not recruiting. Now, on the positive side, Willie Taggart recruited well in one year, and Mario (Cristobal) is one of the best recruiters in our business. They have the tools to get back on track. It was smart to give Mario the job. He deserved it, he earned it, and it kept some continuity.

"They recruited receiver pretty well, and they need it. Their running back and receiver positions don’t look like the ones on Oregon teams that won the conference. (QB) Justin Herbert looked strong before he went down."

"They were a different team last year with a healthy QB Justin Herbert. He’s a difference maker. He’s a lot better than most realize because we’re way out here on the West Coast, and if you’re not winning, no one is watching. He’s the real deal. If he stays healthy, they can win eight or nine or more games. He’s that good."

"(DC) Jim Leavitt coming back is good for them. He can find ways to compensate where they’re thin; that’s what makes him a good coordinator. Their defensive line looked like a work in progress last season. They were substantially better at the end of the year."

"Cristobal was the right move for them. They got a Saban guy who can coach ball and develop but also manage the internal discipline issues they started to battle with under (Mark) Helfrich."

"They have a ton of starters returning, and you have to feel for those guys who are hearing a third voice from the front of the table in less than three years. If they can find that mix of confidence and guys who want to play instead of playing out the string or protecting themselves for the NFL - that stuff happens all the time in coaching changes – they can take a big step and build a little momentum."

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2018

Oregon State

"I think the program had a clear decision to make with their next head coach — try and do something completely different and unique to fight against the problems you have at a place like Oregon State, or go the opposite direction and find someone who knows the school already and can adapt to the limitations."

College football rankings: Oregon State

"That program couldn’t have hired a more perfect person for the job. It’s not just that Jonathan (Smith) is a great offensive mind; he is. He’s an alum, he knows what it takes to win. He knows what those people look for, what they hope for, what they’ll get behind. He’s a young guy, a tireless worker, and a guy who’s invested in that program from long ago."

"Jonathan Smith bringing Mike Riley with him means they want to close ranks. Maybe that will work, but they’re in a division that’s only getting tougher. They need team identity. Who are you going to be on offense? How are you going to recruit to defense when you’ve got Nike money against you in-state and national title contenders in the division?"

"I think it’s a benefit to OSU in the short term that Smith and Riley are natives and consider that area home, while Oregon lost a coach to a Florida school and replaced him with another Florida guy. You’ve got a former walk-on as your head coach. I think you can sell that to high schools in-state."

"It’s a mistake to look back at Riley’s success as a blueprint because the conference has changed considerably. If I’m Smith, I’m selling state pride locally and finding something unique to recruit to."

"It will be interesting to see who plays quarterback. That’s Jonathan’s position as a player, and a position of need in this league. Jake (Luton) was pretty good before he got injured. He wasn’t setting the world on fire, but you could tell he has some skills. He’s a big kid who stands tall in the pocket and can make all the throws. It will be interesting to see how he develops."

"When Oregon State has been good in our league, they’ve been able to get after the passer on defense. They’ve had those guys on the edge that were overlooked in recruiting, and were developed by the staff. I'm not sure of the numbers, but I know they’ve been the worst pass rushing defensive line in at least two or three seasons in the Pac-12. They just haven’t gotten pressure. That’s recruiting, developing, coaching; whatever you want to call it. You’re going to have a lot of long Saturdays if you can’t force the quarterback into quick decisions."

"You watch the tape, and they have players. You can see talent. I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of trust between players and coaches. Gary Andersen didn’t just up and leave for no reason. There’s internal strife there. That’s where Jonathan will make the biggest difference. He’ll get everyone on the same page. Players, coaches, administration."

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"They didn’t look like themselves at a few points last season, but they’re better for it now. They’re deep in all the right places on offense. The question for them is if their quarterback (K.J. Costello) can put them back at that Andrew Luck level. He looked like it a few times towards the end of the year. That’s a lot to ask, but those were the Stanford teams that had legitimate national title potential — great defense and total balance on offense. They could stretch you out and kill you passing just as easily as they could run."

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"Bryce Love is great. He’s another one of their type of guys. But it takes more than that now; they have to be more than the physical, smart-guy team. Although, man, they really are a smart team. They don’t play out of position. They don’t make little mistakes. They do a lot of the simple things really well. Their system isn’t about power running or tight ends."

"The offensive line is really good. It’s beginning to look like those lines of a few years ago when they were all four- or five-star recruits. I don’t know how many stars these guys have, but they’re really good. Walker Little was crushing guys as a true freshman last year. It was fun to watch, even when you’re preparing for him."

"Defensively, they’ve fallen off a bit. They’re losing a lot of their front guys, and they redshirt and ‘system’ their players, but that’s still the heart of who they are. You have to account for that turnover. They looked outmatched against USC’s offense both times."

"It’s great that Bryce Love came back to school, and Stanford has a 2,000-yard back as the nucleus of its offense. But that’s not the key, and it really never has been. They run the ball, it’s what they do. They have elite backs every year. Gerhart, Taylor, Gaffney, McCaffrey, Love. They’re good, they’re championship level, when they have a championship level quarterback."

"For a majority of last year, they didn’t have that championship-level quarterback and I’m still not sure they do. K.J. Costello played really well in spots last year, but then the TCU bowl game happened and it was clearly a struggle. You can clearly see it on tape, and you can see where he can be exposed. But he’s young, and he has a load of potential. It’s going to be exciting to watch him develop in the offense. David (Shaw) does such a nice job of handling and managing his quarterbacks. I think he has a good one right now."

"They had some really nice games on defense last year, and then others where you’re wondering if it’s the same team."

Related: Pac-12 Football 2018 Predictions


"Everyone is very interested to see what Chip Kelly will bring back to the college game. Having Chip back helps this league in terms of attention and competition."

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"Chip Kelly was way ahead of the curve when he was at Oregon. Everyone was going to Eugene to figure out what they were doing, and how they could implement it at their place. Now everyone has caught up to what he was doing at Oregon. Many have made it better. Now Chip is back and how does he adjust? How does he change what he was doing to make it more prolific than it was at Oregon?"

"When Kelly left for the NFL, teams were starting to take his ideas. You have to assume he’s spent time working on the next thing. His old Oregon offense isn’t the exception in our game anymore. Look at how Scott Frost took it to a power option. We know he’s overhauling the offseason program. He’s very invested in building his type of athlete from the ground up, and that takes time."

"His defensive hires are mostly guys he’s been with for a long time. They’re changing to a three-man front with Jim Mora’s 4-3 personnel, but there’s some talent. The previous defenses were inconsistent. You could wear on them and dictate your own tempo. Last year they were terrible fitting the run — any kind of run, really. You can’t grow three-down run stoppers in one offseason, but they should still play with more discipline than last year’s front."

"Speed is what we talk about with Chip, but Oregon teams sometimes used speed to compensate for size or physicality. He won’t have to do that in Los Angeles."

"I don’t think that team is all that talented. They just don’t have guys that you’re forced to deal with. They’re not fast, they’re not physical. They’re just kind of there, and every once in a while, someone makes a play. That’s what Chip is walking into."

"I thought Devin Modster did some nice things when he played last year. He fits well with what Chip wants to do offensively."

"Jim Mora tried for years to make UCLA tough again. Are we really at the point where this program can line up with teams and trade blows? I don’t think so. They’re not a physical team. Chip’s Oregon teams were physical, they imposed their will on teams. That’s going to be the biggest change there. That’s got to be the No. 1 priority."

"They’re moving to the 3-4 on defense, which is a run-stop defense. That’s a line in the sand. We are going to be physical, period. They’ve got a couple of solid guys along that line and will fit nicely in that system. But you’ve got to tackle and you’ve got to want to tackle. There was no “want” on that team defense for the last couple of years."

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"You have to hand it to Clay (Helton). He’s created a stable environment after everything the program went through. They’re back to getting top-level talent, but they’re not as physical as they need to be. They won’t fight back at you like Pete Carroll’s old defenses would. Those USC teams were fighting harder in practice than they were against most conference opponents."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: USC

"I’d ask (OC) Tee Martin, what’s your identity? What are you going to build around? Their offensive line got handled in the Cotton Bowl. That game showed how far they still are from being that top-five-level program on offense."

"I don’t know that I’ve seen USC with this much uncertainty at quarterback since long before Pete Carroll. They better figure out who’s playing quarterback because they’ve got Stanford on The Farm in Week 2."

"I think JT Daniels will be the starting quarterback at some point in the season. He has the potential to be unique. No high school quarterback has thrown a deep ball like he did in a long, long time."

"The quarterback is so important there for obvious reasons, but also because that offense is loaded everywhere else. If they get the right guy, they’re going to make life miserable for the rest of the Pac-12."

"Whoever wins that quarterback job, they’ve got a couple good ones already there in WR Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr., and a freshman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, who will be the next in a long line of those freshmen receivers that step right in and play big for them. He’s a high school teammate of JT Daniels, too."

"They should have enough to run heavy early in the year and play great defense. Their two-deep started to look more complete last year, where they were rotating guys and you didn’t notice immediately. Lots of talent at linebacker."

"They’re the program that defines the conference whether we like it or not. I think the conference needs them to beat Texas in Austin early in the season, and Texas will be much better."

"The expectation around there is that they’ll run through that division even with their own questions. But that’s USC."

"Running back Stephen Carr is going to be a star. He got dinged early last year and they moved toward Ronald Jones almost exclusively. Carr is one of those guys that can touch it and score." 

"Their linebackers are really good. Fast, active, athletic. If Porter Gustin stays healthy, they’re going to be a deep group that can clean up mistakes along the front."

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2018 


"Stanford gets the attention for being physical, but Utah can be just as aggressive. They’re a team with an obvious mentality. It took adjusting, but Kyle Whittingham has done a great job building them back up and developing players since they joined the league."

NCAAF Top 25 Rankings: Utah

"They seemed better than their record, at least on tape. Some of that is probably because of their injuries. The QB (Tyler Huntley) didn’t look the same after he was injured last season. Changed their offensive identity."

"QB Tyler Huntley was so hit and miss for them. He’s really dangerous in the run game, but he throws way too much into coverage. They’re like a lot of teams that haven’t found a difference-maker at quarterback: they’re just trying to get by in the passing game. That’s why they lost six games last year. At some point, they have to develop a quarterback."

"Getting Gary Andersen is a big pickup for that staff — he can really push that defense, and he knows the league extremely well coming from OSU." 

"They will play you very aggressively on defense, but not always with discipline. It shows on film, and it’s something that you can exploit, but they’re also dangerous, really dangerous when they’re at home. Salt Lake is a tougher place to play than people outside the conference probably think."

"There’s some debate if they’ve got it together enough to be better than good and compete for a conference championship. They have talent and stability right now, and outside of USC, no one else in their division can claim that."

"They don’t truly appreciate what they have in (Kyle) Whittigham at Utah. He has been so consistent over the years, and all anyone can complain about is they’re the only team in the South that hasn’t won the division. There’s a lot of work to do outside the lines at that place to get to that point. That’s not an easy recruiting sell, yet they continue to get impact players."

"If you could put Utah’s toughness and desire inside the USC or UCLA players, you’d have a team. That’s engrained in them, and it comes from the top. Every year you’re in a battle with those guys. They’re there, and they want you to know they’re not leaving. They may not be as talented, but they sure as heck bring it – especially on the interior lines. They’re just tough SOB’s."

"They’re going to line up on offense and get physical with you. They’ve always focused on running the ball and setting the tone on the ground, but it has become more of a factor in the last three or so years because of their problems in the passing game. So they’re lining up and playing defense and trying to set the tone of the game by running between the tackles."

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"One of the most well-coached teams in the country. They’re tougher than you think, too. The perception of this entire league could have been different last season if they’d hit those field goals at Arizona State, because on tape they looked better than the ’16 team that went to the Playoff. If the jury is still out on USC, this is the most complete program in the conference right now."

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Washington

"Chris Petersen has this program on the same track as the monster he built at Boise State. By that I mean when they lose, it’s usually not by more than a score and it’s usually a game they could’ve or should’ve won. Last year was no different. They’re going to be really good again."

"The whole Jake Browning junior season thing is a head-scratcher. I’ve heard the shoulder injury, but there’s more to it than that. He completed passes at a much higher rate, but threw significantly less touchdown passes. You don’t go from 43 to 19 without something going on. His decrease in pass attempts wasn’t significant, but when we watched tape, you could tell the protection wasn’t the same and they weren’t winning on the outside and getting open. His yards per attempt were almost a full yard below 2016, so he was dinking and dunking more."

"Offensively they’re actually a very simple team, it’s just that they’re really good at what they do and they do it multiple ways. That’s great coaching. It jumps out on film. Adding (Jacob) Eason to follow Browning means they can recruit on offense with certainty."

"They’ll miss Vita Vea; he’s a game changer, true NFL talent there, but they could be an even better defense this season. Their other impact guys are back. They can play with aggression and still maintain their discipline in coverages. It’s the best secondary in the league from what we’ve seen."

"Chris Petersen doesn’t get enough credit for how he recruits. They recruit talented kids to their scheme, and they do a fantastic job recruiting to their culture. The staff evaluates West Coast talent better than most."

"They return a lot from that defense, and they’ve played as well as anyone in the country on that side of the ball the last two years. This will be their best defense, and that’s saying something."

"(Jaylen) Johnson and (Greg) Gaines up front are just beasts, and they’re deep all over the front seven. They’ll rotate as many as eight or nine in the front three, and a bevy of linebackers. They lost a lot from that terrific secondary of 2016, and then guys like Taylor Rapp get their opportunity and there’s no drop off."  

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Washington State

"Lots of attrition in the offseason with their staff, that’s the first thing people are talking about. Not enough people recognized what Alex Grinch was doing for them. They were a feisty team on defense. What they did was smart, and it really complemented Mike Leach’s offense. They created movement that did a good job covering up where they weren’t big or physical enough."

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"Luke Falk was a great system guy. They’ll miss him."

"You know exactly what you’re getting with Leach, so it’s really a matter of recruiting. He’s been in Pullman long enough to understand what he can get up there. Is it enough? No one thinks they can sustain winning nine or 10 every year. The question this season is how far they’ll dip."

"Leach has done it many times. He's going to find a quarterback, he always has. I'd guess the starter will be Trey Tinsley or Anthony Gordon. Whoever it is, they’ll throw for 3,000-plus and 30 TDs. It’s just what Leach does."

"Can Tracy Claeys be successful coaching opposite a Leach offense? He’s a solid coordinator, but there’s the talent deficiency issue at that school and a time of possession issue with Leach. Coaching a defense for Leach is one of the toughest jobs in the country."

"Leach was serious about going to Tennessee, and Washington State knows that. He’s lost a lot of his longtime guys on the staff, plus Grinch, plus the AD who hired him."

"If Mike (Leach) was going to win a championship at Washington State, last year was the time to do it. He had a record-breaking senior quarterback, an offense that could put up points and his best defense since he arrived there. And they couldn’t make it happen. That’s a tough one to swallow."

"Mike has this unique personality that will allow him to forge through all of the distractions, all of that heartache, and find a way. He always has."

"I thought Mike made a great hire with Tracy Claeys as his new defensive coordinator. Losing Grinch was tough because of his success and because Mike sort of found him. Tracy is a guy that has been around the game for years, and is really popular with players. He and Mike have similar personalities: it’s business, but it’s not so serious."

"Tracy is one of six new assistant coaches on that team, as if there weren’t enough turnover this offseason. Those new guys are going to have to get used to coaching with Mike, and that might take some time. He’s an acquired taste."

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