During quarterback Connor Halliday’s time with the Washington State Cougars, there have been trials. There have been tribulations. There have also been glimmers of hope.
The same can already be said for this season in which the Cougars have serious potential to make an impact in the Pac-12 Conference. Head coach Mike Leach recently hired one of his former quarterbacks to help the team this season, but that quarterback has an unusual, “hands-off” sort of role.
The new hire is former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell. He started for three seasons under Leach, and during his college career, Harrell threw a total of 134 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. However, he is prohibited by the NCAA from offering any kind of technical advice related to the sport at any time. This restriction is due to the fact that the Cougars already have nine assistant coaches. Because of this, Harrell cannot coach in a traditional way.
Harrell’s value is obvious, but it is limited. Harrell’s title is an offensive analyst, meaning that he can help the current coaches devise game plans that fit with the players on the team. Sometimes players, especially quarterbacks, are products of the system the team adopts.
Halliday, who is now a redshirt senior, has one final shot at leading his team to college football glory and also for improving his draft stock. He could possibly benefit from a few changes in the playbook, or a different approach from the coaches in teaching plays to the quarterbacks and receivers.
Harrell can also talk to players about anything unrelated to football, but then again, any good friend can do that.
There is, in fact, a downside to having Harrell helping the team in a limited capacity. He can’t teach anything about football, which is a slippery slope when it following the rules of the NCAA. To the league, a violation is a violation, and there is often no pardon for the gray area.
Halliday will be tempted to ask Harrell for advice about the Air Raid and certain plays the team runs. Any player who wants to improve would be tempted to do such a thing. Harrell cannot give Halliday any sort of athletic tips, even during a dinner together after a practice in the fall, if one follows the rule exactly.
That being said, Halliday must continue asking Leach and the other coaches for advice. This isn’t a bad thing, seeing as how the entire coaching staff is qualified and Leach himself never had a losing record before he came to Washington State. Yet, Halliday led the nation in interceptions last year, meaning that the current coaches are not helping him to achieve his full potential. Something needs to be done, and if Harrell was able to teach Halliday a few things about the Air Raid, success might begin to come abundantly.
With all the positives that Harrell potentially brings to the team, the ultimate outcome is discouraging. If Halliday cannot ask Harrell for help related to anything on the field, Harrell’s presence is wasted because of an NCAA restriction. The Cougars would do well to either find a way to maximize Harrell’s ability and knowledge, or they should allow him to pursue other endeavors that make his qualifications more noticeable.