Can Mike Leach Get the Athletes He Needs for the Air Raid at Washington State?

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Can Mike Leach Get the Athletes He Needs for the Air Raid at Washington State?
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Washington State head coach Mike Leach, for all of his idiosyncrasies and pure craziness, is an offensive genius. Don't be deceived by his relatively vanilla Twitter feed; this is the same man who referred to his players last season as having an "empty-corpse quality" and being "zombie-like." And then there was the basset hound reference.

None of those are exactly terms of endearment, but college football players enjoy playing for Leach for another reason.

His air raid offense, one of the most wide-open versions of the spread in the nation, while effective at putting up yardage by the ton, requires a certain kind of talented football players.

Whether or not you feel the air raid is the type of offense that can lead a team to elite status on a national level, it's what Leach has a history of running, and running well.

But that was at Texas Tech; this is Washington State.

Will Leach be able to recruit the athletes needed to make the offense hum in Pullman?

That's not just referring to skills positions, either.

The air raid takes athletic wide receivers and running backs, as well as a quarterback with excellent timing and great touch on short passes.

Multiple wide receivers are needed, as the offense features a short passing game almost in place of the rushing game.

Take Washington State's balance last season. The Cougars attempted more than twice as many passes per game last season (52) as they did rushing plays (21).

They finished the season with a whopping 91.9 percent of the team's offensive production coming by way of the pass.

While last season was a little more imbalanced than usual, even for a Mike Leach offense, that's how this offense is run. Pass, pass and more pass.

The passing is almost as gratuitous as the violence in an episode of Game of Thrones. Every down is a passing down, with very little variation from the offense.

That said, it appears Leach will be implementing some principles of the pistol offense, which involves much more rushing than the offense to which we have become accustomed out of Leach-led teams.

So the essential pieces, outside of quarterback, which Connor Halliday should have sewn up, are on the offensive line and at wide receiver.

Last season, both of those groups were a mess, as star receiver Marquess Wilson left amidst allegations of abuse and the offensive line gave up more sacks per game than any team in the nation.

But the players were not Leach's recruits, and if he can hang around for a few more years without getting fired, his recruits will be taking the field to run the offense.

But will he have the talent to run the air raid? In both the 2013 recruiting class and the upcoming 2014 class, Washington State is only ranked 53rd in the nation.

That's not going to cut it.

While recruits such as wide receiver Vince Mayle and quarterback Tyler Bruggman coming into the fold could have an immediate impact on the team's ability to run the offense effectively, there will still be a long way to go.

Leach has done better than 53rd, though, recruiting classes at Texas Tech ranked 33rd, 45th, 52nd and 25th in his final four seasons with the program.

To sum it all up, here is what can be expected out of Leach: Washington State will develop an excellent offense, and the team will move from the bottom of the Pac-12 to the middle of the pack, occasionally trending up in the standings.

Yes, Leach and his staff are going to recruit enough athletes to run the offense, there is little doubt of that.

However, there is more to winning football games than just offense.

Whether Mike Leach has learned such a lesson after his stint at Texas Tech remains to be seen, but rest assured, this offense is going to put up bigger numbers each of the next three seasons as Leach's recruits start to see playing time, and Leach perfects his newest version of the offense.

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