Washington State has seen better days then the past handful of seasons. It seems like a millennium since three straight 10 win seasons including a Rose Bowl appearance but with Mike Leach at the helm there is hope to return to winning seasons and bowl games on the Palouse.
#12 Connor Halliday – QB
6’3” – 190 lbs. – JR
One of the biggest benefactors of the Air Raid offense ran under Mike Leach is Connor Halliday. Halliday is a Spokane native that was pushed into duty as a redshirt freshman after injuries to the two quarterbacks ahead of him and showed flashes of his ability including throwing for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns versus Arizona State in an upset victory at Martin Stadium.
Strengths – Halliday’s arm strength is above average but not in the elite category. As a pocket passer, he has very nimble feet where he has shown the ability to move around in the pocket and create time to throw the ball when the pocket breaks down. Halliday has the frame and height to gain weight and be at a pro typical sized quarterback at the next level where he stands at 6’3” and a skinny 190 lbs. right now.
Weaknesses – Halliday struggled in year one of the Mike Leach era but coming off of a solid spring is looking to rebound in this high octane offensive scheme. Halliday struggled in being able to quickly diagnose defenses and make quick throws in the Air Rad offense to keep the offense moving at a high rate of speed. He has some mechanical flaws that need to be cleaned up on his drop back to release where he has a tendency to be a hip slinger at times but still displays a quick release when loaded.
Overall – No player on the WSU roster will benefit more than Halliday once he becomes comfortable inside the Air Raid system but the talent level on the roster needs to improve to see a significant change. Halliday has shown grit and toughness in his first two seasons that will benefit him in the Leach system. Word from the Palouse is that Halliday has a good grasp coming into this season on the offensive scheme which means he could put video game like numbers throwing the ball around.
#20 – Deone Bucannon – S
6’1” – 198 lbs. – SR
Deone Bucannon is known as a safety that is looking to light up players that come across the middle on pass routes and disturb receptions. Bucannon is a player that has been through the doldrums of Cougar football but has grinded to become a very good safety earning Second Team All-Pac-12 Honors in 2012.
Strengths – Bucannon has good range from sideline to sideline with very good size and length for a free safety. His biggest strength is his willingness to put his nose into a ball carrier or a potential receiver whether attacking the box or in the open field. Bucannon reads and diagnoses plays very well from the safety position and puts himself in great position to make plays which is shown by recording 106 tackles in the 2012 season for the Cougars to lead the Pac-12 from a non-linebacker position.
Weakness – Bucannon is stiff in the hips in his back pedal to transition when moving from side to side. He can be physically taken advantage of by bigger wide receivers and will need to improve his upper body strength to be able to battle down the field and in the red zone at the next level. Even while recording 106 tackles, he has to finish more plays when he is in the area and drive through ball carriers where he has a tendency lunge at feet instead of going through the ball carrier.
Overall – Bucannon is the leader of the Cougar defense and with improvement in his fluidity has the chance to rise up many draft boards. Bucannon’s strength is the ability to read the play before the snap as well as post snap and reacting to the play. He has good speed to come up and make the play as well as the willingness to do so. With some added strength coming into the 2013 season, Bucannon is set to have a good Senior season and play himself into the first half of the 2014 NFL Draft.