Leach, Manziel, Russell and Washington Face Challenges in Coming College Football Season
In an interview with Jeff Thurn of ESPN 99.1, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Brock Huard talked about the challenges facing coaches, players and teams in the upcoming college football and NFL seasons.
A University of Washington alumni, Huard thinks that despite an easier schedule from a year ago, the Huskies will face considerable challenges to improve the 7-6 record they have had the past three seasons. One of those challenges will be improving at the line of scrimmage.
"The whole conversation is the line of scrimmage. That's where it's at. Your linebackers, your safeties, your corners, your receivers, your quarterback, your tailback, your tightend - lot's of talent, plenty of NFL guys - but for them to get over that hump in this division, in this conference, it's going to be at the line of scrimmage," said Huard.
"And that's where I think they can get to 9 (wins) with the way things lay out, especially if they get that first one against Boise. But to really do damage and compete with Oregon and Stanford they still have a ways to go up front."
Challenges also face rivals Washington State. Huard thinks that controversial coach Mike Leach was "absolutely the right hire" for the school, but that he will face considerable challenges in his second season leading the Cougars. One of the biggest challenges is the very division the team plays in: the Pac-12 North.
"One of the toughest divisions in all of football. SEC East and SEC West are ranked near the top. The Pac-12 North can rival those and compete with those," explained Huard. "I think (Leach's) track record is pretty good... but I think this conference is a little tougher than it gets credit for, this division in particular."
"It's going to be a real challenge for him to overcome an Oregon, to overcome a Stanford right across the mountains, which is a pretty established program with a new stadium and lots of resources. And Mike Riley's not going anywhere."
That being said, Huard says there will be chances for Leach to make his mark.
"There are opportunities. He will be able to fill that roster with wide receivers, scat backs and DBs and everything he is going to need to do to air it out, but it's going to be a daunting task."
The key for Leach, according to Huard, will be time.
"If they give him time, he's going to compete very hard."
Time, however, may be the one thing that former quarterback, and arguably biggest NFL bust, JaMarcus Russell doesn't have. When asked about the possibility that Russell could resurrect his career, Huard thinks the game has passed him by.
"From the shoulder down he could just fling the football so effortlessly. But the game has evolved," explained Huard. "The game is played from the neck up. I think the RGIII's, the Lucks, and the Aaron Rodgers and Brees -- now Brady and Manning do it in a different ways, much older and nowhere near as athletically what so many are -- but you gotta keep the play alive, you gotta be creative. You gotta either do it with your mind our your legs. And that's where a) it's been so long, and b) those were not particular strengths of his anyways. I think it's going to be an uphill climb."
Another quarterback who could face an uphill climb is current Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and that is because the hill - or the bar - has been set so high.
Manziel, who, according to ESPN had the highest Total QBR of any college quarterback in the last 10 years, could have trouble achieving the same level.
"I think that's going to be a reach," said Huard. "I think he lost some of the personnel around him. I think he can have a very productive year, but to repeat statistically speaking... I think it will be a bit of a challenge to get back to where he was last year."
To hear what Huard had to say about what may face an openly gay football player at the college and NFL level, listen to the complete interview: