WSU opens spring drills Thursday

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm •  Published: March 26, 2014

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State is coming off its first bowl game in a decade as the Cougars begin spring drills on Thursday.

The 15 practice dates will conclude on April 29, and the annual Crimson and Gray Game is scheduled for April 26 at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.

Coach Mike Leach welcomes back 36 returning lettermen, including eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense, from a team that finished 6-7 last year. The Cougars lost 48-45 to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.

"We've got to go to one every year," Leach said Wednesday of bowl games.

Back for his senior season is quarterback Connor Halliday, who last year set WSU single-season records for completions (449), attempts (714), passing yards (4,597) and tied the school record with 34 touchdown passes.

"He's got to keep developing, keep improving, developing chemistry with him and his receivers and his command of the offense," Leach said.

Washington State also returns its top eight receivers, including All-Pac-12 honorable mention River Cracraft. Returning receivers Gabe Marks, Dom Williams and Vince Mayle each caught seven touchdown passes last season.

Also back is WSU's leader in all-purpose yards, senior running back Marcus Mason.

Washington State returns seven starters from a defense that forced 30 turnovers last season, tied for second in the Pac-12. Top returnees include junior defensive lineman Xavier Cooper, who had five sacks, and junior linebacker Darryl Monroe, who had 94 tackles last year.

The biggest loss is All-America defensive back Deone Bucannon.

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