The most recent dismissal, DT Anthony Laurenzi, a projected starter at left d-tackle, was another blow to a front seven that had previously lost DL T.J. Poloai and LBs C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi due to team violations. Laurenzi, Mizell and Kaufusi were starters.
First year Cougar d-linemen who could have their redshirts burned include JC-transfer Ioane Guata and American Samoa’s Destiny Vaeao and Robert Barber. Leach said they, along with every other freshman who arrived to Pullman this summer, can make a push for instant starting time.
“The starting lineup will be based on performance and not on how many games you’ve played or how long you’ve been here,” Leach said. “I didn’t know any of those players by stars when I recruited them and that won’t affect them while they are here either.”
Leach said that any freshmen who end fall camp on the two-deeps will generally play in 2012, while those not in the two-deeps will most likely redshirt.
As for Laurenzi, Leach said the defense will have to make up for his loss, but that spring ball also provided several options.
“It’s difficult to say he had the first crack to begin with,” Leach said of Laurenzi. “We played a lot of people there and will continue to. I don’t even know if he got the majority of reps. We’re going to run drills and figure it out to give our defense as much dimension as possible doing a variety of things.”
BACK TO THE matter of the Cougs’ depth, it’s what Leach and his staff will work on diligently to improve throughout camp.
“In our first level guys, I feel good about them -- but at the same token you want reps to get guys established so they’re comfortable with what they’re doing,” Leach said. “There will be an evaluation process for them to move up. We need depth pretty much everywhere and the doors are certainly open depending on how they improve.”
AT QUARTERBACK, Leach has yet to announce an official starter heading into camp, though it seems a certainty senior Jeff Tuel will be running the Air-Raid offense against BYU on Aug. 30.
Leach said the general plan is to have a clear cut starter between the first week and 10-day mark. At that point, the starter will get two-thirds of the reps, the back-up getting one-third of the action with the 1s.
“You want to evaluate what you have and evaluate everyone when it comes to working with the 1s,” Leach said. “We will rep them and spread them out so we can take a look at everybody but then there will be a point where we have to tear it down and appoint a No. 1 and 2.”
OVERALL, LEACH said “the basics” are the main objective -- not just during camp, but over the entire season. Leach said he wants his players focusing on blocking and tackling along with the simple fundamentals they learned as young men.
“Whoever your Junior High coach was, providing he was above average, everything he taught we’re going to emphasize big time,” Leach said. “I know it sounds strange but there’s no one too good where they don’t have to play with low pads, there’s no one too good who doesn’t have to cut quickly.
“Fundamentals never go anywhere but it will be accelerated and intense in the first two weeks. If we do lose sight of this, you (reporters) let me know and don’t be polite about it because the worst thing you can do…is take your eye off that ball as a coach.”
WSU has seen plenty of positive recognition during the offseason, highlighted by junior WR Marquess Wilson who was recently named to CBSSports.com’s pre-season first team All-America list. Leach said though humbling, the Cougs have bigger things to consider and won’t be affected by them.
“Well for all those individual awards, I look at them as team awards,” Leach said. “No one accomplished anything without the rest of the team. At the same token we won’t focus what we’re doing around that. Occasionally there’s a weak minded guy who might feel entitled and I worry the individual might get distracted by that but I don’t think our team will.”
LEACH WAS ASKED about being the “savior” of the Cougar football program. He was quick to say nothing has been accomplished and he isn’t a one-man show.
“I’m just happy to be a part of the legacy Washington State has,” Leach said. “I’m not the savior of anything. I have a great coaching staff and great players. We’re going to work together to do the best we can but always discover ways to do even better. All anybody has is their best efforts and that’s what they (the fans) will get out of all of us.”
The L.A. Times reported 2012 CB Raymond Ford had signed on with WSU. When asked if the reports were true and if Ford would line up for the Cougars this season, Leach said, “I can’t comment on that.” Ford and his prep coach, cited in the LA Times, have not yet returned messages left by CF.C. Ford was ranked three stars and the No. 38 ranked CB in the country by Scout.com in the ’12 class.
Leach was also asked if it gets harder to dismiss a player from the program. “You’d like to save everyone,” Leach said. “That’s why you’re in coaching. You invest time to make them as good as players as they can be. At a certain level if you’re not successful and you don’t save them, you feel failure as a coach. I think you look at the mirror and ask what you could have done different.
“When it becomes a problem with someone’s behavior, the first thing you ask is can I change it. If you can’t change it, can I tolerate it? If you can’t tolerate it, then you have to get rid of them. It’s as simple as that. A lot of times you focus on one guy but you have to focus on the other 120 on the roster. The other 120 are more important than the individuals.”
Asked if he was interested in Penn State standout RB Silas Redd (transferring to USC) or any other Penn State players in the wake of the sanctions leveled on the Nittany Lions, Leach said no. “We’re more focused on the guys we have here,” Leach said.
Leach said he spent some time in Key West this summer, but remained hard at work and it felt more like his office moved down there. He remained active on the phones and fax machine and said his wife’s e-mail was rolling at a pretty steady rate.