Washington St prepares to play BYU on Thursday

New Washington State football coach Mike Leach declined to

reveal Tuesday whether veteran Jeff Tuel or sophomore Connor

Halliday will start in Thursday night’s season opener at BYU.

”Both are playing really well,” Leach said. ”They both are

very similar in how they play.”

The depth chart for the game lists either Tuel or Halliday

starting.

Leach said last Saturday that if the game were to be played that

day, Tuel would start. Tuel also took the majority of reps with the

first team during training camp.

Tuel threw for 2,780 yards with 18 touchdowns as a sophomore,

the one season he stayed healthy. He missed most of last season

with a shoulder injury. Halliday stood out as his replacement until

a lacerated liver ended his season.

Leach won’t be rotating both quarterbacks.

”I can’t think of very many people who have done a good job of

that,” Leach said. ”With rare exceptions, I can’t think of many

teams that were very good at it.”

Quarterbacks need to get into the rhythm of a game, and they see

and evaluate the field better as a game goes on, he said.

Leach sat out the past two seasons after he was fired at Texas

Tech, and the game at BYU, which is his alma mater, marks a return

to the sidelines.

He has admitted being a bit nervous about being rusty.

”I’m anxious about the first game too,” Leach said.

To prepare, Leach called plays from the sidelines during

practices to simulate game situations.

Leach said he has seen plenty of film of BYU.

”We’ve watched 13 games’ worth, to the point where we’re really

not interested in seeing blue Cougars,” Leach said. ”We’re only

interested in seeing red Cougars.”

This being the eclectic Leach, he also has admitted to being

impressed by the surfing skills of BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.

”Probably one of the more interesting things about Bronco is

that he’s a really good surfer, and so getting some points of view

from him on that subject is interesting,” Leach said. ”Bronco’s

an interesting guy and does a lot of interesting things. I’d be

more interested in talking to him about surfing than football at

this point.”

Leach took Texas Tech to 10 bowl games in his 10 seasons before

he was fired in a controversy involving a player with a concussion.

He was hired by WSU last November to replace the fired Paul

Wulff.

Leach said the offensive line has shown the most improvement

since he has been with the Cougars.

”I think it’s also the area where we had the most room to

grow,” Leach said. ”We’ve got a lot of really young guys, kind of

young unsung guys that I didn’t know that we necessarily would be

talking about that are in the mix.”

Washington State went 9-40 in four seasons under Wulff,

including 4-8 last year. Long-suffering fans have heaped

expectations on Leach, with many hoping the Cougars qualify for a

bowl game this season.

”I think that we’re pretty capable,” Leach has said. ”I think

our players had a really dedicated offseason, worked incredibly

hard.”

”But the whole `where are we at?’ I don’t know,” Leach said.

”I wish I could tell you.”