Cougars returning to junior high school for fall camp

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CULVER CITY, Calif. – The launch to the second year of the Mike Leach regime at Washington State will take place in modest surroundings 30 miles from the WSU campus.

Leach, whose team will be trying to rebound from a disappointing 3-9 season, said Friday at Pac-12 football media day that the Cougars will stage roughly their first 10 days of fall practice, starting Aug. 2, at Sacajawea Junior High School in Lewiston, Idaho.

The move is necessitated by construction to WSU’s football-operations building just beyond the west end zone of Martin Stadium. Construction materials take up some space on the east side of WSU’s practice facility.

WSU players will be housed at nearby Lewis-Clark State College.

“Aw, I don’t mind it,” Leach said. “It’s all right. We’ll be on grass fields. It’s logistically laid out in such a way that it’s pretty convenient.”

Leach said he has had little experience with fall camps off campus. In his last coaching job at Texas Tech, the summer-school schedule ran days past the opening of camp, so drills always took place on campus.

Referring to the possible bonding effect, Leach said, “I don’t think it hurts at all. It’s probably helpful.”

Leach said the Cougars, picked by media to finish sixth in the Pac-12 North, would start junior Connor Halliday at quarterback if they were to play today, but added, “He’s got to go out there and play well, compete well and maintain control of it.”

Leach said he believes the Cougars are clearly better than in his maiden season in Pullman, partly because of experience, familiarity with the system, and “we’re quite a bit stronger team. We had a good offseason, a good spring and our work ethic is higher than it was a year ago at this time.

“Now the core of our team is really committed and those that aren’t sure are more quickly converted, because they’re outnumbered.”

A year ago, in his first offseason after taking over at WSU, the many-faceted Leach went bear-hunting in Alberta as part of the Outdoor Channel’s Gridiron Outdoors series. In May, as part of the same series, he went to New Zealand and spent time with the renowned All Blacks national rugby team.

Later, Leach worked to finalize a book on the legendary Apache warrior Geronimo with WSU English professor Buddy Levy. He noted the tedium of the editing process in writing a book.

“After a while, you’re so sick of your subject you can’t stand it,” said Leach. “When the last book was about me (“Swing Your Sword,” his autobiography), that made it all the more difficult. I’d get to the point where I’d look in the mirror to comb my hair and I was sick of the guy.”

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