The Air Raid & The Pistol: A grand experiment

PULLMAN--Air Raid, Throw the ball, Air Raid. It's all people want to talk about now that Mike Leach is the new man in charge at Wazzu. But Jim Mastro, Leach's new running backs coach, says hold on a minute. The potential of the ground game is so high, he himself can barely wait for spring ball to get under way. And oh by the way, what happens when you take the Air Raid, and add the Pistol to it?

"In my 22 years of coaching it's probably the most excited I've ever been to start a spring ball and just get after it," Mastro said.

The Cougars are returning every running back from the 2011 season except senior Logwone Mitz who rushed for 135 yards and one TD. Slated to take the field in 2012 are the top three rushers from last season -- Rickey Galvin, Carl Winston and Marcus Mason. Galvin will be a redshirt sophomore in '12, Winston a senior and Mason a sophomore. The three combined to rush for 1,197 yards and 10 TDs this past year.

"I like all the guys who played last year that are returning," Mastro said. "They all bring a little bit something different to the table. It's just going to be a little different system that they're going to have to adapt to."

A new system can be difficult for any athlete to get used to, but Mastro said the effort has been there.

"They've worked in the offseason and I like how dedicated they've been to the switch," Mastro said. "They've been responsive to everything... but it's going to be a work in progress. As we go through spring they're going to have a lot to learn, but I like what I see on tape and I like the production that the position produced last year."

ONE THING THAT might not be difficult for the players to get used to will be the Pistol scheme Mastro will implement into the offense.

Leach acts as his own offensive coordinator, and Mastro said implementing the pistol is something the two have talked about for years if given the chance to work together.

"It's similar to what he (Leach) already does, it's just a different formation you're going to put them in," Mastro said. "We're going to experiment with that in the spring and I think it really fits the 'backs that we have here. They're downhill guys who run hard downhill. They're not afraid of getting up in there so I think it's going to be fun."

On top of the three RBs mentioned above, Mastro said he's equally excited about RBs Teondray Caldwell and JC transfer Theron West. West is slated to get here in the summer, but Caldwell has been in Pullman since the start of the semester taking classes and partaking in workouts with the team. Mastro said Caldwell has a good chance of seeing immediate action next season because he grayshirted, and because he's different from any other running back he's recruited.

"I loved him when I was at Nevada and I loved him when I was at UCLA," Mastro said. "Once he got the test score to qualify no matter where I was at, I was going to try and go get him. He fits what we do well. He's a 200-pound kid who's athletic and physically mature for his age. That's hard to find these days."

As for West, Mastro couldn't stop raving about the incoming playmaker from Los Angeles Harbor Junior College. West is a smaller running back checking in at 5-7, 170 pounds, but he turns heads with his explosiveness and ability to catch the ball out of the back field.

"He's just dynamic as heck," Mastro said. "The thing that stood out about him is that he's constantly making plays. Every time I turn on his tape he's there making another play and that's what this offense is looking for. We want guys who are going to make plays in space, and he's definitely going to be good in space."

IT'S BEEN A dream of Mastro's to work with Leach since he started coaching, Mastro said, one that dates back to 1989 when the two were grad assistants together at Cal Poly.

Mastro comes to WSU from UCLA and said adjusting to the Pullman lifestyle from the stars and big city life has been no trouble at all.

"I hated L.A., it was not my deal at all," Mastro said with a smile. "I love the community (in Pullman) and the small town atmosphere. Everything it close knit and everybody's friendly. It's just a great environment for college football."

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