Nov. 12, 2011; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars football helmet sits during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

Pac-12 Football Preview: The Washington State Cougars

With college football right around the corner, I have been busy interviewing other Pac-12 editors around FanSided nation and asked them what they expect from their teams this year. Last week we looked at the favored Pac-12 champs, the USC Trojans. This week, Zona Zealots will take a look at one of the many teams in the Pac under the helm of a new coach and in search of a new direction: The Washington State Cougars

I asked lead editor Josh Davis from “All Coug’d Up” to see what he had to say about new head coach Mike Leach and crew:

1. Who are the most dangerous returning players on offense?

Sr QB Jeff Tuel 6’3, 223 lbs: Good poise, good mobility, great leader

Jr WR Marquess Wilson6’4, 183 lbs: Pac-12’s most receiving yards in 2011

2. Who are the most dangerous returning players on defense?

Jr Cb Demante Horton 5’10, 174 lbs: Tied for Pac-12 lead with 4 ints

Sr DE Travis Long6’4, 256 lbs: Second team All Pac-12, 42 tackles w/ 12 for loss, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble in 2011

3. Which freshman player do you expect to make the most impact right out of the gate?

RS Fr LB Darryl Monroe 6’1, 213 lbs: Should be starting weakside LB, so he’ll have the most impact good or bad.

4. Which player from last year will the team miss the most?

LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis: With the loss of the other two starters due to team rules violations, AHE will be most desperately missed in the middle of the defense.

5. What is one major aspect of your team’s gameplan that you expect to be different from last year?

Aggressive play calling in close games, especially in the redzone. Last season Coach Wulff and staff seemingly played conservatively in the redzone, playing not to lose the game. Leach will not go out that way! He is a coach that would rather blow the game open than try and create a cushion and hold it.

6. What is your biggest concern heading in to the season?

That the players show up at the beginning of the year without a chip on their shoulder. They need to go out and prove something to the nation because I don’t think anybody is taking them as a serious threat still. They have the attitude of “Yeah the story of Mike Leach and Marquess Wilson is nice but there are too many immediate problems for the Cougs to be very good this year”. That would make any team a little chippy, however with all the local affection and praise, I’m not sure they’ll see themselves as underdogs. The WSU Cougars are simply not the kind of team that will come in and beat people just because of their coach. They’ll have to earn every win with veteran leadership and a willingness to be aggressive.

7.What game are you most excited about and why?

Everyone is excited about the BYU game as the first game of the season. That’s the game I’m most interested in right now too, although the Utah game intrigues me as well (WSU took the Utes to OT last season and both teams are practically returning everybody). But I want to see that the Cougars are a different team right out of the gate. The BYU game is very similar in my opinion to SDSU last season, when the Cougs had the game and then frittered it away in the late stages of the second half. My question is: How will the players handle the pressure when BYU makes the game a fist fight?

8. What is the overall expectation of how this team should finish?

Overall the expectations are 6-6, with a high mark of 7-5. I’m going to give the Cougs an expectation of 7-5 though, with a high of 8-4. I don’t think people understand just how close this team was to being a 7-5 team last season. The offensive skill position talent is immense, and the defense possesses a handful of play-makers. Another factor is that I don’t think people realize how tough it is to win at Martin Stadium when the fans are rockin’, as they will be this Fall. The last time fans were this excited about this team, the Cougs rallied to the 2004 Holiday Bowl victory over Vince Young and Texas. The talent was a bit higher quality across the board, but there are more highly talented individuals on this year’s team. Anything less than 7-5 for me is a disappointment.

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