What Gardner Minshew’s commitment to Washington State means for the Cougars

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Former East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew has been an active commodity this offseason, as college football team’s jockey for graduate transfers; specifically quarterbacks.

Minshew, who left East Carolina for personal reasons and has two years to play one, committed weeks ago to play his final season at Alabama, joining the likes of Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. Minshew has stated, he wants to be a football coach after his playing days, so this decision is more than just playing football.

You would obviously like to play as a competitor, but also find yourself a good spot to learn under supreme coaching, and he would definitely had the second at Alabama, with a chance to crack the two deep.

Enter Washington State and Mike Leach to the sweep stakes, who are in desperate need of a quarterback after the tragic loss of Tyler Hilinski back in January.

The Cougs have a couple of quarterbacks on the roster and the future on campus in four – star quarterback Cammon Cooper; but zero game experience is on that roster. Enter Minshew, who has the junior college experience of taking a team to a National Title, and two years at East Carolina in the AAC; arguably the best Group of Five conference in the land.

If Minshew wanted a year to play and make the most of it; he likely just made the best move on the chess board. Minshew told Sports Illustrated’ s Bruce Feldman,  “This is an opportunity to compete for a (starting) job on a very good team with a staff that I’ve always looked up to and respected,” he told SI Tuesday. “I’ve got goals as an (aspiring) coach but also as a player, and my goal right now is to get a shot in the NFL. And I think this will give me a good opportunity at that.”

But can we quantify potentially what this means for Minshew and for Washington State? Well of course we can; that’s what we do here on this site so let’s take a look at both.

Last year we had Washington State as our 7th best Pac-12 team in our analytics and we projected them to finish 7-5 with losses to Oregon on the road and Stanford. The Cougars finished the regular season 9-3, two games off our mark; but bucked our prediction with a great performance on the road at Oregon and then a close win at home against Stanford.

The two big equalizers was coaching and quarterback play. Mike Leach has elevated a program he took over in 2012 after Paul Wulff and Bill Boba saw a combined 7-8 losing seasons from 2004-2011.

Leach started his Washington State career with three straight losing seasons himself, but has since recruited at a better rate, found quarterbacks to play his brand of offense, most recently NFL talent Luke Falk, and has now won 26 games in three seasons in Pullman.

While we are two weeks from a full drop of our 2018 analytics, we will continue to drop nuggets along the way and today is one of those days.

Leach comes into 2018 as our fifth best coach in the PAC-12 with an analytical stamp of 10; our average coaching stamp for 2018 in the country is 3.75, so this puts him above average and places him currently as the 20th best coach in the country, and he’s in the same company as the likes of Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M or Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech.

On the recruiting trail, the Cougars have the 48th best roster talent in the country, 8th best in the PAC-12, behind the likes of UCLA, USC, Oregon, Washington and more.

But – Leach has used the quarterback as his great equalizer. In his six seasons at Washington State, his quarterback(s) have averaged 4,837 yards, 37 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions annually. Do the math, and that’s a ton of throwing and catching.

The Cougars return their top four pass catchers from a year ago, some experience at running back and need experience at quarterback to almost ensure a fourth straight year of eight wins or more.

Minshew could be that answer, as he is rated our 25th best quarterback on our Power Five scale and 47th best overall Division One quarterback with an analytical stamp of 11.1. Our average quarterback is defined by a value of 8.3 this year, which puts him above average. Our average quarterbacks as a reference are guys like Alex Hornibrook at Wisconsin, or D’eriq King at Houston.

We originally a month ago had Washington State finishing 2018 at 6-6, as quarterback was a huge unknown, but now Minshew bumps their HourGlass profile 11 spots and by a possible value of two to three wins. Games against Utah, at Colorado and at home against Arizona are coin flip games for Washington State and games we were showing almost definitely losses, but having an established quarterback, helps push them over into an extended win column in some of these games.

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