2011 Record: 4-8; 2-7 Pac 12
2011 Bowl: N/A
Head Coach: Mike Leach
Odds to win Pac 12: 60/1
Odds to win Pac 12 North Div: 20/1
Odds from Bovada
QB Jeff Tuel could be the third best QB in the Pac 12 behind Keith Price of Washington and Matt Barkley of USC. That will help keep the offense competitive, as they ranked 2nd in the Pac 12 in passing yardage last year with 322.3 yards per game. Tuel did well in the spring game, completing his first 15 passes and finishing 19 of 21 with 285 yards. Tuel appears to lead the tight battle at QB over Connor Holliday, who threw for nearly 500 yards in November, but his liver was lacerated against Utah and it held him out of the spring game.
Rickey Galvin will end up catching more passes than running this year. Tuel does have some options at WR, though, with Marquess Wilson (82 catches for 1,388 yards, 12 TDs last year), Kristoff Williams, Andrei Lintz, and Gino Simone. Wilson drew criticism from head coach Mike Leach for what was perceived to be poor work ethic, though. He’s not physical enough and doesn’t like to block much, but remains a good option on pass plays. His talent alone at catching the ball leaves his ceiling very high.
The Cougars have a lot of offensive weapons, but Tuel may not have a lot of time in the pocket with a rather weak line, which has been ravaged by injuries. Still, throwing the ball 50 or 60 times a game will likely improve the offense, if anything.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske is a big fan of blitzing QBs. It’s risky, but can pay big rewards. Travis Long is the leading sacker returning, with four last year. They’ll be shifting from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and Long is quick enough and strong enough to be a great pass rusher. He’s even quick enough to cover tight ends.
LB Chester Su’a is tough as nails and will be a great feature for the line. Darryl Monroe will be in the middle and should be fully recovered from the Achilles’ injury he suffered last season. The Cougars are good at linebacker and have some options this year. Logan Mayes, for instance, had 4.5 sacks in the spring game. The back end of their defense should be strong, too, with Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer doing their best to control receivers and prevent big passing plays.
Andrew Furney hit 14 of 16 last year and will be the placekicker from short range this year. JUCO transfer Michael Bowlin will likely handle the long range field goals though, as well as serving as the punter.
Their main returner will be Rahmel Dockery, a true freshman.
The Cougars have a chance to return to bowl play and are predicted by Athlon magazine to go 6-6 this year. The change in defensive schemes will be worth keeping an eye on as it could prove crucial to the improvement of the team, but Breske may need to calm down with the blitzing to prevent disastrous plays with long-term consequences. If not, he could end up having a short tenure as defensive coordinator.
The high upside for the Cougars is likely an eight win season, and that would constitute success enough for Leach to hang his hat upon it and bring in some more strong recruits to build the program in 2013.