The Pac-12 blog didn’t make it to Pullman, Wash., this spring, but we’re making up for it, talking with Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday in June.
Halliday, as a junior, threw for 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns with 22 interceptions and completed nearly 63 percent of his passes. Here is what the senior quarterback had to say about his team, his offseason and his coach:
What has your offseason been like?
Halliday: Busy. This is my fourth summer, so it’s a lot of the same stuff -- a lot of running, a lot of lifting, and we throw 7-on-7 three days a week. I lead that, and it has gone well. I think we’ve had a great offseason since the bowl game.
Is there anything you can do to make the 7-on-7s more competitive to help the younger guys?
Halliday: We do actual drives. We keep track of scores and our defense has to stop us -- it’s a point for us if we score, it’s a point for them if they stop us. We have to go 60 yards to score. We start on the opposite 40.
For you personally, what were the biggest steps you wanted to take during this offseason?
Halliday: I think my biggest deal was gaining a little weight. I think I have a good concept of the offense now and I think I know what coach [Mike] Leach wants from me. So my biggest deal was gaining a few pounds. I was about 180 pounds last year, and I’m 200 to 201 pounds now. That has been nice to have that extra weight on.
Washington State lost so many contributors on the offensive line after last season, what has that position group’s progress been like this spring?
Halliday: It has been great. They’re really young, but they’re really talented. I think that’s one thing people don’t quite see yet. Everyone asks me about how they’re doing because they’re young, but they’re the most talented group that I’ve ever played with. They’re going to have some shortcomings because of inexperience, but they’ve worked their butts off and I think the sky is the limit for this offense the next couple years. I wish I was a little younger because we’ve got everybody coming back at receiver [in 2015] other than Vince [Mayle], and then everyone on the O-line will be back. Whoever is playing quarterback the next couple years will be given the keys to a pretty nice car.
All of your top WR targets return in 2014, how much have you guys grown as a group?
Halliday: I couldn’t say enough good things about that group. Isiah Myers didn’t get to participate this spring, but he has come off that and looked great this summer. Vince Mayle is a completely different player than he was last season. I think everybody will be surprised by how far he has come along. Gabe Marks is looking great. You can go down the line and everybody is making plays. Robert Lewis will be a guy that I think will surprise a lot of people. He didn’t play last year but he should get some reps early in the season. He’s a quick, speedy guy. Our top five guys, I believe, could play anywhere else in the Pac-12.
Speaking of the Pac-12, it’s full of talented quarterbacks. Does that push you at all because the conference is becoming known for that, or is it like a Pac-12 QB fraternity?
Halliday: I think it’s cool to be a part of that. Most of us are looking to have a shot at the next level and I think the guys, it’s fun to compete against each other. I know Sean Mannion and I were always bumping back and forth against each other in [Pac-12 leading] passing yards last season. So that was always kind of cool to check up on, see how he did. Obviously, Marcus Mariota should be a top-five pick next year and [Brett] Hundley's another great guy. You can go down the list. It’s a privilege to be a part of a conference that has such great depth at the quarterback position like this. I also don’t remember the last time a conference in college football has had six guys that have a chance to play at the next level all playing at one time.
Washington State just finished the $61 million football operations building, the Cougar Football Complex. You’ve only had the facilities a few weeks, but have you noticed how or if they’ve changed the program?
Halliday: I think it’ll change recruiting. You look at the football stadium -- I got here before the press box was even up, it was a little red high school press box up there. To see the change that has happened in our football stadium is unbelievable. With the new facility we’re on par with any other school in the conference. The only reason a recruit wouldn’t want to come here now is them not wanting to go to a small town. I understand that, if they want to stay in a city. But other than that, there’s no other reason why you wouldn’t want to come to Washington State.
What part of the build was most surprising to you?
Halliday: The locker room. If you took out the actual lockers in that building, you could probably run 80-yard sprints in it. I’ve been in some nice things when I was being recruited and this is the nicest thing I’ve ever seen. When this was being built everyone kept saying that and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’ll be nice but this is Pullman, Washington, it’s not going to be something crazy.’ I never thought in a million years that something like that would be built here in Pullman.
Now, on to your coach. He has been known to say some pretty hilarious things. What’s the funniest thing he has ever said to you during practice?
Halliday: His big deal is our receivers using their hands to get off a press or to get open, running a route. And our receivers have a hard time with that sometimes or we have a hard time with press coverage. So he’d say, ‘Gabe Marks, he doesn’t use his hands so the next generation, his sons and his sons’ sons are going to end up looking like t-rexes without any arms, because he refuses to use them.’ So, if you want your sons to have arms and do things with his hands then you should use your hands.