To say it’s been a rough couple of months for Mike Leach might be an understatement.
First his athletic director left for Nebraska. Then his team ended the season by getting thumped by rival Washington in the Apple Cup and in the Holiday Bowl by Michigan State. After publicly flirting with taking the Tennessee job, that kind of blew up in his and the Vols’ then-athletic director’s face. Starting quarterback Tyler Hilinski tragically committed suicide in a death that sent an absolute shock throughout the Cougars community as well. And as far as his coaching staff, he may have just lost his fifth assistant coach and third to a Pac-12 rival this offseason.
FootballScoop is reporting that Wazzu inside receivers coach Derek Sage is leaving the staff to take a similar position on Chip Kelly’s UCLA staff in Westwood. The young coach has developed several good players during his time on the Palouse and prior to hooking up with Leach he coached three seasons at Toledo and was at Wyoming prior to that.
Sage becomes the second staff member from Washington State to head to the Bruins after linebackers coach Roy Manning was named UCLA’s special teams coordinator last month. Also out the door are defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (to Ohio State), running backs coach Jim Mastro to Oregon and offensive line coach Clay McGuire to Texas Tech. Strength coach Jason Loscalzo also left to join the Chicago Bears.
While the team has experienced some historic success on the field the past few years under Leach, things will be a lot different in 2018 with a host of new faces and names on the coaching staff going forward.
The turnover on Mike Leach’s Washington State staff is continuing — this time to his former coaching stop, Texas Tech.
Both FootballScoop and Sports Illustrated are reporting that Cougars’ offensive line coach Clay McGuire is leaving the Palouse to head back to re-join the Red Raiders in a similar position.
McGuire is an Air Raid veteran, having both played for Leach in Lubbock and coached under him there too. He spent six years with the Cougars as their offensive line coach recently and handled running backs at both East Carolina and Texas Tech prior to the move West. It seems like he will likely wind up coaching the backfield for Kliff Kingsbury with Brandon Jones already installed as offensive line coach for the team.
The departure of McGuire will only add to what will be a very different-looking staff at Wazzu in 2018 after running backs coach Jim Mastro was hired by Oregon this offseason and Ohio State plucked defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
On Thursday evening, Washington State gave linebacker Logan Tago its Community Involvement Award for the 2017 fall semester. They even sent out a press release about it.
Under normal circumstances, this would be:
1) A nice thing for Tago.
2) Not at all remarkable on our site.
Except these aren’t normal circumstances.
This story, as Deadspin pointed out, actually begins in Sept. 2016, when Tago was arrested after being accused of stealing a six-pack of beer from a man on a Pullman, Wash., street and striking the man in the head, leaving the man concussed.
Tago pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in order to avoid a felony robbery charge. Tago’s plea called for him to spend 30 days in jail… and perform 240 hours of community service.
He was suspended from the team at the time, but returned in 2017. He appeared in all 13 games this fall, recording one start, while collecting 24 tackles and three TFLs.
This isn’t to say that the arrest couldn’t have served as a wake-up call for Tago, that he isn’t a changed man, or that those 240 hours didn’t produce any good for the community. All of those things can be true. But it’s odd that Washington State didn’t acknowledge that Tago’s volunteer hours weren’t exactly voluntary.
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk will not get the chance to impress NFL scouts in the Senior Bowl this weekend, but he will be OK with that given the circumstances. Falk reportedly took himself out of the Senior Bowl on Friday so he could fly back to the west coast and attend the funeral services for former Cougars teammate Tyler Hilinski.
Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times reported the news via Twitter.
Before making the decision to leave Mobile, Alabama to attend the funeral services for Hilinski, Falk was wearing Hilinski’s uniform number for Senior Bowl practices. It was Falk’s intention to raise awareness about Hilinski, who died in an apparent suicide attempt last week.
No replacement is expected to be made for Falk’s roster spot given the late timing of his departure and the game being played on Saturday.
Washington State received some much-needed good news on Thursday as one of the team’s best defensive players looks like he’ll be back on the Palouse for the 2018 campaign. The Seattle Times is reporting that the NCAA has confirmed to the school that linebacker Peyton Pelluer was granted a sixth season of eligibility for the upcoming season.
Pelluer had started 34 games for the Cougars but needed surgery to repair a fractured foot he injured during a game against Oregon State. Because he played in only three games (and really just two and a half), he was able to petition for a medical redshirt year and was subsequently granted it by the NCAA office.
The senior will once again be a team leader for Wazzu’s defense after the departures of assistant coach Alex Grinch, All-American defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa and most of the linebacking corps. The Cougs do have a new defensive coordinator in Tracy Claeys but Pelluer’s role probably won’t change all that much in 2018 as he looks to be the face of the unit once again.