March 25, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Washington State begins the task of trying to rebound from a disappointing 2014 season when spring practice opens Thursday.

The Cougars will have 15 practice dates in Pullman and play the annual Crimson and Gray game on April 25 in Spokane.

Fourth-year coach Mike Leach returns 41 letter winners from a team that finished 3-9 last season. The Cougars opened with losses to Rutgers and Nevada and never recovered. Their wins came against Portland State, Utah and Oregon State.

But athletic director Bill Moos said he is quite satisfied with the progress of the football program under Leach.

''Mike Leach football is entertaining,'' Moos said this week.

The Cougars had three sellouts at Martin Stadium last year and played to 93 percent of capacity there, Moos said.

Last year's record was disappointing following a 2013 season when the Cougars broke a decade-long bowl drought, Moos said.

But the Cougars used a lot of young players, suffered from defensive woes that led to the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Breske, and lost record-setting quarterback Connor Halliday to a broken leg for the final four games of the season, Moos said.

Alex Grinch was hired from Missouri as the new defensive coordinator, and installing his defensive schemes will be a big part of spring practice.

In other staff changes, Graham Harrell is the new outside receiver's coach, and special teams coach Eric Mele was promoted in the middle of last season.

Halliday and top receiver Vince Mayle (106 receptions for 1,483 yards) have graduated. But seven starters return on offense.

That includes the entire offensive line. Led by Joe Dahl, an All-Pac-12 Conference selection, the line helped the offense break records last season. Washington State led the nation in passing offense (477.7 yards per game) while throwing for a school-record 5,732 yards.

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