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UCLA Football Preview: Washington St. Should Look Similar to Oklahoma

That’s because Oklahoma’s coaches are a part of the Mike Leach coaching tree.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Having looked at the Cougar offense and defense, let’s conclude our previews of the Washington State Cougars with a look at the Wazzu coaching staff and special teams.

The Cougars are led by head coach Mike Leach, aka the Pirate. Leach is an interesting guy. He always manages to make his interviews interesting. He’s one of the most fun Pac-12 coaches to speak with. He’s one of the few coaches in college football who didn’t play at the college level. He went to law school at Pepperdine.

At the same time, he likes life in Pullman, probably because it’s got a similar small-town feel to Cody, Wyoming where he grew up. After he graduated from law school, his early career featured stops at Cal Poly, College of the Desert, and the Pori Bears in Finland. When he joined the staff at Iowa Wesleyan his offense really started to take shape under head coach Hal Mumme. Leach followed Mumme from Iowa Wesleyan to Valdosta State to Kentucky. He spent a year under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma before being hired as head coach at Texas Tech. He’s known for his Air Raid offense and he actually has a very large coaching tree including Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma, Sonny Dykes, Art Briles, Ruffin McNeill and Dana Holgorsen.

Leach is also one of the few coaches in college football who has no offensive coordinator. That’s because Leach himself also serves as the OC.

Leach’s defensive coordinator is Tracy Claeys. Claeys joined Leach’s staff in 2018 following the departure of Alex Grinch, who became the DC at Ohio State and is now the DC for last week’s opponent Oklahoma. So, expect Washington State to be well-prepared for the UCLA Bruins this week.

Given that Lincoln Riley coached under Leach, expect the Washington State offense to be very similar to the Sooners. And, now that Leach has developed his Cougars to fit his offense, look for the Cougars to play a similar style of offense as UCLA saw lasteekend against the Sooners. It will likely be another blowout for the UCLA Bruins.

Before joining the Cougars, Claeys was head coach at Minnesota where he took over for Jerry Kill on November 11, 2015. He led the Golden Gophers to a 9-4 record in 2016.

Interestingly, like Leach, Claeys didn’t play college football.

Turning to the Cougar special teams, redshirt sophomore Blake Mazza, who transferred from Arkansas, is will handle PATs and field goals. He’s been perfect so far. He’s made all five PATs while also making all five field goal attempts including one from 50 yards.

Meanwhile, redshirt junior Jack Crane will handle kickoffs for the Cougs. Fourteen of Crane’s twenty-six kickoffs have been touchbacks.

Should the Cougars need to punt, then Leach will turn to Oscar Draguicevich III. So far this year, he’s averaging 38.1 yards per punt on just seven punts. That’s just over two per game. Something tells me he won’t be on the field that much on Saturday.

The Cougars’ main return man is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Travell Harris. Harris has Washington State’s only punt return this season and he gained 16 yards on it. Harris has also taken most of the Cougs’ kick returns also. He’s averaging 28.7 yards per kick return on three returns. Rodrick Fisher and Max Borghi have also returned one kick each.

And, with that, we conclude our Washington State previews.

Go Bruins.