2018 Washington State projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
Mike Leach changed the outlook of his team’s season in March when he landed a commitment from Gardner Minshew, a transfer QB from East Carolina. As Jake Wimberly pointed out in his story about Minshew choosing Wazzu, Leach can elevate an average team if he has solid quarterback play. In fact, initial (pre-launch) Hour Glass projections for the Cougars had them going 6-6, but that mark upgraded to 8-4 with the addition of Minshew.
Not only does Minshew’s accuracy, IQ and overall skillset fit perfectly in the long line of star signal callers under Leach, he also brings a championship pedigree having won an NJCAA national title at Northwest Miss CC back in 2015, prior to his two seasons at ECU. It’s a homerun for Leach, who has been able to steer the ship right in Pullman, following a slow start upon his arrival. Good quarterback play has been a staple of that. Earlier this offseason Minshew opted to commit to play his final season at Alabama. A native of Brandon, Miss., Minshew wants to pursue coaching following his career, and that factored into his decision to potentially back up Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama. In the end, coming to play for Leach gives him a chance to chase his NFL dreams before he chases his coaching aspirations.
Meanwhile, for the Washington State program it restores hope at the quarteback position. Luke Falk is off to the NFL after a decorated career for the Cougs, and his heir apparent Tyler Hilinski passed away tragically earlier this offseason. While Leach loves Cammon Cooper’s potential, an experience signal caller gives his team a better chance in 2018.
James Williams is another piece for the offense to build around. He led the team with 92 carries in 2017, good for 395 yards which was second-best on the team. In the passing game he also led the team with 71 grabs, for a team second-best 482 yards. That will be the key for the running back group this offseason, developing their ability to make plays in the passing game. However, with productive pass-catchers Kyle Sweet, Tay Martin, Jamire Calvin, Renard Bell, Dez Patmon and Williams, for that matter, coming back in 2018 expect the Cougs to hurt teams in a big way through the air.
Leading returning tacklers Jalen Thompson and Jahad Woods, a safety and a linebacker respectively, will again guide the Cougar defense in 2018. However, replacing the sack production of Hercules Mata’afa and Frankie Luvu will be a tall task for Wazzu. Nnamdi Oguayo is the prime target to do so, and he has the talent to make the jump needed. Justus Rogers, another linebacker, and Hunter Dale, also a safety, will also be star names on the unit this fall. Last season the Cougs tallied 44 sacks, 15 interceptions and allowed 28% conversions on third down. Those will be key numbers to work towards again this season to compliment a potent offense.
HG analytics pick: 8-4, 4th in PAC-12 North
My pick: 7-5, 4th in PAC-12 North
2017 Washington State analytic pick 7-5; actual finish @ 9-3 (83 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 48th – outside our College Football Playoff talent line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Mike Leach on HG Scale: 20th (Leach Stamp at 10) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning WA State quarterback play rated 47th in the country in our overall rankings with a stamp of 11.1. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3.